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Cabaret at Cutting Edge Theatre is beautifully done (Review) March 13, 2017

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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Chalk up another wonderful musical for Cutting Edge Theatre in Stephanie L Dennehy’s production of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret. Seen at its sold-out final performance at the Nederhauser Community Hall in Sylvania, OH, the production was a solid bare-bones show that focused on songs, scenes, and the terrific talent that seems to follow Dennehy wherever she goes.

Let’s start with Jeffrey T. Foor’s remarkable Emcee — never missing a beat and spectacularly entertaining; Follow up with clear-voiced belter Katelyn Lesle as Sally Bowles in a heartbreaking performance. Add a solid Garrett Monasmith as Clifford Bradshaw and a particularly good Callie Keller as Fraulein Kost, whose room seems to be filled with sailors of many shapes and sizes (including some orchestra members, a clever touch!). Sarah Stierman was a fine Fraulein Schneider, and Michael Stierman sang Herr Schultz wonderfully.

The entire ensemble cast was terrific from top to bottom, including many Toledo-area regular performers – here they not only got to sing and dance, but also to frolic in the audience at times, and they seemed to have a great time – but more importantly, they were terrific singer/actor/dancers.

As this company continues to grow and prosper, look for improved set and lighting design – although I have to admit that seeing the show stripped down to the bare essentials like this was thrilling theater.

Highly Recommended.

Cabaret has concluded its run at the Cutting Edge Theatre where it ran from March 10th to the 12th, 2017.



Stirring, tight, intimate “Cabaret” at The Dio (review) September 23, 2016

Posted by ronannarbor in musical theater, Musicals.
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Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret has always been a musical theater masterwork. You are in for a stirring and tightly produced production at The Dio. In this intimate setting, the show feels particularly touching.

Steve DeBruyne directs and plays a terrific Emcee and he keeps the energy high and always on the move. There is clever use of minimal furniture and Matt Tomich’s set and lighting design is great. There’s a particularly creative use of the set during the production’s excellent final moments (the production uses the revival version of the show). Michelle Marzejon provides top notch choreography — this show moves. Norma Polk’s costume design looks fantastic as does Christopher Kamm’s hair and makeup. Brian Rose’s musical direction and 5-piece band are terrific.

Liz Jaffe acts and sings a particularly strong Sally Bowles and Peter Crist is perfectly marvelous as Cliff Bradshaw.  Jared Schneider is excellent as Ernst. Dale Dobson and Olive Hayden-Moore simply sizzle in the roles of Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider. Natalie Rose Sevick is a dynamic Fraulein Kost and doubles as a Kit Kat Girl. The entire supporting cast works as a tight ensemble and are all strong singer dancer actors.

If you’ve seen Cabaret before you’ll be truly surprised by what performing this show in a small intimate setting does for the piece. If you have never seen Cabaret you will be surprised by what a musical can say about the human need for connection even as your world is falling apart. Leave your kids at home, but don’t hesitate a moment to get your tickets before they are all gone.

Highest Recommendation.

Cabaret continues at The Dio through October 30th. 177 E Main Street, Pinckney MI (517) 672-6009 or http://www.diotheatre.com


Extraordinary “Cabaret” at the University of Michigan (review) October 17, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Michigan, musical theater, Musicals.
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The University of Michigan’s Musical Theater program in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance is generally known for producing the best local musical theater presentations. Every now and again, even they outdo themselves and their production of the revisal version of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret is one of those musicals.

Every aspect of this production is just right — from Joe Locarro’s direction and Ron De Jesus’s brilliant choreography, to Bruce Brockman’s outstanding set design (I’ve never seen the stage of the Lydia Mendelssohn so amazingly transformed) and Rob Murphy’s lighting design, and the great musical theater program student cast.

Taking the 1998 revisal and lightening it up a bit (the Broadway version is actually a bit darker, and certainly costumes its cast in much less) until the (heavy-handed but affecting) ending, the production has the audience engaged from opening note. My one regret is that the revisal cuts my favorite numbers from the original production: “Telephone Song” and “Why Should I Wake Up?” – though it does substitute the latter with the grimmer “I Don’t Care Much” later in the show.

Watching UM musical theater productions is a bit like watching a pre-Broadway tryout, since that is where many of these actors will end up, some sooner than others. I can’t imagine it will take long for this production’s Emcee, Mackenzie Orr, to land a role there. He is in a word, magnificent. I could not take my eyes off of him, whether he was performing one of his (many) numbers, or simply lounging about the Berlin-based cabaret set, watching, wordlessly witnessing a world disintegrating on the evenings just prior to one of humanities greatest human tragedies. What makes this musical work so well is that the audience knows how it ends, while watching and witnessing a group of people who have no idea what their future will (or will not) bring – and the suspense is palpable (and why the original production did not feel the need to tack on the ending later added to the revisal).

Isabelle McCalla is a beautiful Sally Bowles, and she is directed to play the part similarly to leading ladies on Broadway (think Michelle Williams, Natasha Richardson), somewhat subduing the original humor and sassiness of the part. Dylan Stasack plays Cliff Bradshaw with the bravado necessary to be one of the few people on stage who see where this world is heading; the other is Ellie Todd playing a wonderful Fraulein Schneider (she who understands that marrying a Jewish suitor, Kyle Timson as Herr Schultz, is not the correct choice at the time).  Brian Flores plays a dynamic Ernst Ludwig, growing from friendly English-student nebbish to something far far more menacing. The entire singing/acting/dancing cast is excellent.

Kudos to musical director/conductor Catherine A Walker for superb work with the diction and blend, and her spririted on-stage orchestra. Good work is also done by Jim Lillie in his sound design, where every word is audible, and every sound has meaning (where were you during Les Miserables last season, Mr Lillie?).

If you have seen Cabaret before in its reincarnated version, you will find it is all here, with a few added surprises. If you have only seen the original 1966 version or the 1972 film version, you’ll find this to be an altogether completely different experience, and if you have never seen the show, you are in the for biggest surprise of all. Cabaret made musical theater history when it opened on Broadway. To see it performed live-on-stage, where you become witness to a world spinning out of control while dancing and boozing the nights away, leaves you with a sense of something profound. When you see it performed this well, it becomes extraordinary.

Very Very highly recommended.

All tickets for Cabaret are sold out for the duration of its run. Cancellations, if any, might be available at the door, although expect a long line ahead of you.


Patti Lupone at Hill Auditorium — Review November 21, 2009

Posted by ronannarbor in Ann Arbor, Entertainment, Theatre.
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The first of the fall’s big local Broadway Events occured last night at Hill Auditorium, presented by the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan — Patti Lupone in concert (“Coulda Woulda Shoulda”).

Comprised of songs she has sung in Broadway productions, songs she could have sung, and songs she made her own with a special twist, the two-hour evening was thrilling, entertaining, and reminded the audience just what a Broadway Diva Patti truly is.

Starting the evening off by shouting “Go Blue” followed by an anti-OSU slur, she had the crowd in the palm of her hand from the first moments — what followed was pure Broadway at it’s best. “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” continues to amaze, and a set in which she sang songs normally performed by men on stage was fun and edgy.

The years have mellowed Patti. Her stories between song sets are tamer, and less obscenity-strewn. I’ve seen her perform many many times live now — on stage in Evita, Sunset Boulevard, Gypsy, Anything Goes…on stage with her cabaret show at NYC’s Bottom Line on two occasions, and in several other performances in NYC. She no longer shares stories of intoxicated travels while performing on cruise ships. This is a more refined Patti — a Patti that has literally seen it all, and then some.

She’s been performing the Coulda Woulda Shoulda concert now since 2007, alternating performances with her Patti Live concert, and a shared evening with Mandy Patinkin. No matter which incarnation of her concert you see, she’s a force to be reckoned with, and remains one of America’s musical theatre treasures.

Ann Arbor was treated to a taste of what makes her special — and what makes Broadway special. I rode out a migraine through the show, because she is a diva not to be missed. Brava Patti, Brava. Oh, and I agree….the Buckeyes DO suck…

And that’s the view from Ann Arbor today.