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Civic Theatre Produces Truly Winning 'Cabaret'

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Civic Theatre produces truly winning 'Cabaret'

All the elements, starting with a very strong cast, mesh well in challenging musical



News Arts Writer

OK, time to go out on a limb: The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s production of Kander and Ebb’s musical “Cabaret” is perhaps one of the snappiest shows the A2CT has mounted in recent memory.

With some community theater, there are usually one or two standouts in the cast, while most everyone else brings varying degrees of talent to the stage. But at Thursday night’s opener, everyone was outstanding.

Set in pre-World War II Berlin,
“Cabaret” follows the intertwined lives of two couples trying to find happiness as the Nazis rise to power. Kit Kat Club singer Sally Bowles (January Provenzola) is involved with American novelist Cliff Bradshaw (Karl Kasischke), while her landlady, Fraulein Schneider (Kaarina Quinnell), falls in love with lonely Jewish German shopkeeper Herr Schultz (David P. Curtis). Setting the stage and tying the action together is the ambisexual M.C. (John Jarboe), who is in almost every scene. If writer Bradshaw is the play’s moral compass, this seductive character is his decadent opposite.

First, credit Ann Arbor Civic for resisting any temptation to tone down any of the show’s
racier elements. Second, hats off to director Chris O’Brien, choreographer Susannah Stempky, costume designer Carolyn Sutton and everyone else who worked to make this production unfold so smoothly.

To be honest, Provenzola at first didn’t seem to have the oomph to play Sally Bowles, but most doubts disappeared early in the first act with her strong performance of “Mein Herr,” and were eradicated by the second act, with her lovely, poignant “Maybe This Time” and a kickin’ rendition of the musical’s title song. She brings a vulnerability to the role that’s important if the audience is to rouse any sympathy for her at all.

As the M.C., Jarboe simply owns the stage, with his “Willkommen” opening the show on a particularly strong note. A theater student at the University of Michigan, he’s one to watch for in the next few years.

Curtis has been mostly absent from Ann Arbor stages lately, and that’s a shame. He sings beautifully, offering a gently nuanced performance as Schultz, his kindly demeanor and obvious love for Schneider making ensuing events all the more tragic. Quinnell, playing opposite, sings in a rich voice touched with the right amount of seen-it-all world-weariness.

Despite an errant horn here or there, the nine-member combo conducted by Ryan Hourigan did a noteworthy job, especially prior to the start of the second act, when its members got the chance to jam for a few minutes on a jazzy rendition of the show’s theme.

One final comment: As expected, when a swastika appears on an armband at the end of the first act, the mood of the show changes immediately. It’s important to remember why this symbol still has the power to send chills down one’s spine. May it always be so.

“Cabaret" continues at 8 tonight and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, at Mendelssohn Theatre in the Michigan League, 911 N. University. For tickets, call (734) 971-2228; for information, visit Reach Roger LeLievre at