By Daniel Skora
1931 was a volatile year in German history, and Berlin, its capital, was a city in flux. The armistice following the First World War a decade earlier had left the German people economically depressed and politically divided. In less than ten years they would be at the center of a second great war initiated by their Nazi government that would put untold pressures on the people. To assuage the stress of those in-between years, Berlin became a city of bawdy entertainments and sexual licentiousness. “Cabaret”, the Broadway hit that premiered in 1966 and would subsequently be brought back for several revivals, is a musical that recalls both the nightlife of that bustling city and its looming political unrest.
The Dio is currently presenting a smashingly good rendition of the show whose 1998 revival still ranks among the top 25 of most attended Broadway musicals. Steve DeBruyne directs and also plays the character Emcee, who is both master of ceremonies at the play’s Kit Kat Klub and narrator of the musical as a whole. The Dio’s production nicely captures the play’s excitement, political intrigue, and sensual depravity.
Having come to Berlin to find inspiration for his work, English writer Cliff Bradshaw (Peter Crist) crosses paths with Ernst Ludwig (Jared Schneider) a German businessman who suggests Cliff stay at a boarding house run by Frau Schneider (Olive Hayden Moore). This he does, and with a little encouragement from one of the other boarders, visits the Kit Kat Klub, where risqué entertainment is provided by a chorus of exotically attired females (Katie Lietz, McKara Bechler, Natalie Rose Sevick, and Lydia Adams) and an equal number of enticing males (Nick Pettengill, James Fischer, Brian E. Buckner, and Victor McDermott). Headlining the show is an American, Sally Bowles (Elizabeth Jaffe), with whom Cliff begins having an affair. The musical develops significant political overtones when Cliff, desperately in need of income, begins transporting contraband between Paris and Berlin for Ernst, and the German woman Schneider accepts a marriage proposal from Herr Schultz (Dale Dobson), a kindly Jew who runs a produce store. Eventually, the gay atmosphere inside the Kit Kat Klub becomes unable to hold at bay the insidious political climate brewing on the streets outside and a day of reckoning for the German people and the world would soon become a reality.
Though time and the changing mores of culture have mitigated the impact of the show’s sexuality, “Cabaret” remains a provocative show. The character of the Emcee is a devilish amalgam of ghoulish allure and bi-sexuality. DeBryune lets it all hang out with his masterful portrayal. In whiteface, and suspendered like an exotic fireman more interested in turning up the heat than putting out fires, he weaves in and out of the proceedings like a provocateur bent on corrupting all who cross his path. The suggestive costumes of the ladies and the leering glances of the male dancers are evidence that at the Kit Kat Klub, temptation is not easily overcome by virtue.
“Cabaret”, with book by Joe Masteroff, has a lively and emotional score with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fredd Ebb. The Dio’s production features several fine performances by: Hayden-Moore (“So What”) joined by Dobson on (“It Couldn’t Please Me More”); Jaffe on “Maybe This Time” and with the Kit Kat Girls on (Don’t Tell Mama”); DeBruyne on “If You Could See Her” and with the Kit Kat Girls on “Money”; everyone gets a chance to contribute on “Cabaret”, the show’s finale and lively signature song. The Dio’s five piece band is conducted by Brian Rose. Choreography is by Michelle Marzejon, costumes are by Norma Polk. Set, lighting, and sound design are by Matt Tomich.
The dining part of the show is handled by Chef Jarod. The menu for “Cabaret” features Jarod’s Signature Fried Chicken, garden salad, brussel sprouts, boiled potatoes and, to compliment the show’s German theme, sauerkraut and sausage. The buffet is served before the show, desert at intermission, and the food has always proven to be delectably delicious.
“Cabaret” runs through October 30th. For tickets and information call 1.517.672.6009 or go online to www.diotheatre.com. The Dio – Dining and Entertainment is located at 177 E. Main Street in downtown Pinckney.