MTH’s concert-style ‘Cabaret’ brings story to forefront

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In a slight departure from their concert-style format, Musical Theater Heritage presented the Kander and Ebb classic, “Cabaret,” but rest assured the MTH production continues to present full musicals in a different way with emphasis on the vocals, the dialogue, the message of the show and without the distractions of sets, scene changes, and many costumes.

As always, MTH produced another popular show with sell out possibilities for all remaining shows. “Cabaret” continues as a crowd pleaser. And the contrast among the Kit Kat Club, life outside the Club, the love stories, and the political unrest combine, creating a dramatic musical that always entertains.

Instead of a majority of the cast lined up at microphones, “Cabaret” only used a few actors at a time at the microphones. For the bigger numbers, yes, the mics are full, but for the intimate couple scenes, the mics are not full. “Cabaret” differs from so many other shows at that time because it contains darker material and more interaction between pairs of actors. And, it contains much more interesting characters than other theater of that time. “Cabaret” contains multiple story lines that converge.

The musical, “Cabaret” is based on a book, from the late 1930s, according to the website Wikipedia. The book for the musical was written by Christopher Isherwood, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. “Cabaret” in its initial Broadway run logged nearly 1200 performances according to a Broadway database.  As a musical, the show has spawned several revivals and ranks as the 25th longest running shows.

The show set in Berlin at the time when the Nazi Party was coming into power. Berlin was an open city. “Cabaret” contains scanty costumes, sordid characters, and sexual content far ahead of other Broadway shows. Homosexuality, abortion, open sex, smuggling, and the rise of the Nazi Party all figure in the mix for “Cabaret.”

The show focuses mainly on Sally Bowles and her relationship with an American scholar working on a book while traveling through Europe. Though Cliff Bradshaw struggles with his sexuality, he manages to impregnate Sally. The sub plot is the proprietor of the boarding house and a Jewish fruit merchant. The tension with Sally and Cliff contrasts with the emotional struggle with a German landlord and her Jewish love. The other piece is the emcee at the Kit Kat Club, “where everything is beautiful” and serves as an escape for the harsh reality.

The book to “Cabaret” sounds difficult, but when played out before an audience, it is easy to follow. The concept for Musical Theater Heritage puts the focus on the story and music. Those familiar with the MTH formats know and understand that concept. MTH finds the best voices in the metro to deliver high caliber performances. The performers use the strength of the story and the beauty of the music to form a tight production.

Stefhanie Weinecke definitely has the vocal power to command any show, but when teamed with the likes of John Cleary and Brian Paulette, expect to be amazed at the power of “Cabaret.” The show delivers the darker side of life in Germany before Hitler. Another strength come from the emcee, Thomas Delgado. Acting, singing, and dancing, Delgado sells the show by developing a strong on stage present. Not to be overshadowed, Deb Bluford and Daniel Lassley provide the tenderness and hope of forgotten love in triumph over loneliness. Their love brings the political unrest to a head when pitted against their relationship.

With MTH’s stellar cast, the show succeeds on all fronts. Stephanie Weinecke voices a beautiful/plaintive Sally Bowles, whose personal problems give her character needed depth. Surrounding and supporting Weinecke, super talented castmates include: Katie Bartow, Deb Bluford, Blane Brungardt, John Cleary, Thomas Delgado, Anthony Garbarre, Liz Golson, Laura Irwin, Daniel Lassley, Maggie Marx, Brian Paulette, Rachel Reese, Alisha Richardson, Bob Wearing. Creating the behind the scenes structure for “Cabaret,” the production team lists: George Harter, executive director; Chad Gerlt, chief operating officer; Sarah Crawford, producing artist director/book musicals; Jeremy Watson, Music Supervisor; Mindy Moritz, choreographer; Emily White, stage manager; Spencer Thompson, assistant stage manager; Kylor  Greene, lighting design; John Hileman,  sound design; Justin McCoy, sound technician; Beth Benedict orders, costumes and props; Chad Gerlt, set design; Tim Scott, production photos.

“Cabaret” continues at MTH through Nov. 20. As a pre-holiday treat, plan to order tickets before it sells out. Director Sarah Crawford knows what she’s doing when she puts these well-known musicals up for close inspection of story and lyrics. “Cabaret” never fails to impress. For ticket information, contact the Musical Theater Heritage website

Tags:  Theater, Performing Arts, Arts & Entertainment, Musical Theater Heritage, Crown Center, MTH, “Cabaret”, Kansas City, Kansas City Theater, Musical

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