by VICTORIA HENLEY
Powerful, haunting, sensual and gripping, The Atlanta Opera’s production of Cabaret brings to life the iconic musical set in 1930’s Berlin.
Based on the play by John Van Druten (with music by John Kander), “Cabaret” arguably gained much of its international fame and acclaim through the 1972 film, starring Academy Award winner, Liza Minnelli.
Bringing to life the whimsy, grit, and grandiosity for which the musical is beloved, The Atlanta Opera’s production is performed with a passion, vigor, ethos, and intimacy that is rarely seen in a grand -scale theatrical production.
Produced as part of the “Come As You Are Festival,” which holds the objective to create an atmosphere of openness and a sense of welcome for all people, “Cabaret” is a sublime choice for this movement. It addresses the ugliness of disenfranchising others who may be different from ourselves.
“Cabaret” opens by introducing the Emcee , who guides the audience throughout the evening’s journey at the seedy “Kit Kat Club,” an establishment built on a foundation of booze, drugs and debauchery.
Sally Bowles, the headlining burlesque performer who hails from London, takes the stage with her glamorous performance art and undeniable charisma.
Across town, Clifford Bradshaw, a poor American novelist in search of inspiration for his next book, checks into a room in a boarding house run by Fraulein Schneider.
Bowles and Bradshaw cross paths at the Kit Kat Club and form an instant connection, after which the novelist finds the down-on-her-luck Bowles at his doorstep begging for a place to stay.
The two begin a chaotic and tumultuous relationship, resulting in the ultimate clash of cultures and lifestyles, as well as a pregnancy which may be the only hope of keeping the independently strong-willed couple together.
Sally, dismissed from her job as the Cabaret’s headliner and Clifford, in between novels, find themselves in desperate need of cash flow impending their baby’s arrival, when Ernst Ludwig, a strapping, confident local approaches the American author with an intriguing job proposal: to make periodical excursions to Paris to retrieve suitcases from a mysterious group of men, then bring them back safely and unopened.
The carefree lifestyle of our principal players is threatened by the infiltration of Nazis, determined in their mission to eradicate the Jews, carrying out the demented orders of their tyrannical despot leader, Adolf Hitler.
Lighting, costuming and eerily morose tones from the symphony evoke the inevitable doom that is to follow, as Berlin falls prey to the evil grasp of totalitarian rule.
Stunningly acted and flawlessly executed, “Cabaret” is, at once, a rousing, romping celebration and a grim reminder that while avoiding reality is possible, the consequences of avoiding reality are not.
Executed with an unparalleled synergy among the cast of dancers, actors, singers, and orchestra, The Atlanta Opera’s production of “Cabaret” creates a palpable chemistry with the audience, filling the air with an electricity and excitement that cannot be denied.
Billy Tighe (a highly decorated performer best known for playing Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon” and as an original company member of 2013’s Tony Award winning, “Pippin”) portrays the role of Clifford Bradshaw with an inimitable realism, and an effortlessly smooth delivery.
Aja Goes dazzles in the starring role of Sally Bowles, with a vivacious stage presence, soaring mezzo soprano vocals, and dynamic timing.
Other standout performances include Curt Olds (a sskilled baritone who has performed leading roles in a vast array of productions ranging from “Cats” and “The Mikado,” as well as most recently in The Atlanta Opera’s production of “The Pirates of Penzance”) as the larger -than- life Emcee.
Joyce Campana (mezzo soprano) brings intense emotion and gravitas to the role of Fraulein Schneider.
Anthony Lacirua (a skilled performer with over 800 Metropolitan Opera credits to his resume, including a role opposite the legendary Luciano Pavarotti) is impossibly charming and heartwarming as the mistreated Herr Schultz.
Lee Osorio and Deborah Bowman bring intensity and harshness to their roles of Ernst Ludwig and Frauline Kost/Fritzie, nailing the nuances of some of the play’s most heart-wrenching moments.
Fourteen-year-old boy soprano, Max Cook, stuns with airy and soft, yet powerful vocals.
The cast of dancers carry the show with impeccable timing, gorgeous movements, and impressive synchronization, guided by the leadership of dance captain Gwynn Root Wolford (who also played Frenchie.)
Conductor Francesco Milioto cements his status as a rising star within the industry.
Erik Teague transports audiences to the seedy underbelly of 1930’s Berlin with show-stopping costume design.
Operating under the exceptional leadership and unwavering guidance of visionary stage director, Tomer Zvulun, “Cabaret” was at once, a wildly entertaining romp and a somber reminder to not blind oneself to the darker elements of the world around you.
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