Come to ‘Cabaret’: CRT brings 1920s Berlin night club to the stage

Similar to the transportive quality of its earlier summer production of “Mamma Mia!”, the Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s second production in the Nutmeg Summer Series sent its audience on a journey through time and space--but with a less lighthearted storyline. CRT’s production of “Cabaret,” directed by Scott LaFeber, brought audiences to late 1920s Berlin and portrayed how life in Germany changed as the Nazis rose to power. 

The production of “Cabaret” was obviously much darker and grittier than CRT’s earlier production of “Mamma Mia!” but it was equally as impressive and well-produced. Great casting once again contributed to the show’s success. Both Laura Michelle Kelly and Forrest McClendon’s outstanding performances structured the production and gave other actors a foundation to build the show upon. 

As the Emcee, McClendon played a crucial role in the production. Not only did his character emcee the show at the Kit Kat Klub within the musical, but he also narrated the lives of other characters in the musical. McClendon’s performance was lurid enough to impart a sense of unease and impending doom for the characters, but it was also sexual enough to make audiences feel like they were at the actual Klub watching a cabaret. 

Kelly similarly shone in her role of Sally Bowles, a self-reliant woman who is the troubled star of the Kit Kat Klub’s cabaret. Kelly’s smart portrayal of Sally allowed audiences to sympathize with her character but not to pity her. Sally, as Kelly played her, was strong-willed and motivated. A talented singer, Kelly’s voice was clear, resounding, and powerful throughout the musical. Kelly had several impressive performances, including “Don’t Tell Mama,” “Maybe This Time” and “Cabaret.”

The chemistry between other actors also added to the story of “Cabaret.” A particularly well-played couple was that of Fraulein Schneider (Dee Hoty) and Herr Schultz (Jonathan Brody). The actors’ tender interactions with each other conveyed their characters’ deep feelings and only intensified the despair that the audience felt at the pair’s final dissolution. Though their characters might not end up together, these two actors shared some of the sweetest scenes in the musical, including “Married” and “It Couldn’t Please Me More,” in which Fraulein Schneider celebrates a pineapple that Herr Schultz has brought to her.  

The choreography of numbers like “Don’t Tell Mama” also added to the spectacle of the show. With choreography by Christopher d’Amboise, the Kit Kat dancers were able to show off their strengths in the routines to “Willkommen,” “Two Ladies” and “Money.” Their dance numbers invited the audience right into the Kit Kat Klub, making it feel as if the theater had become a cabaret in Berlin. 

Also transporting the audience to 1920s Germany were details like the actors’ accents and occasional German speech and song lyrics. Such careful attention to detail conveyed the cast and crew’s dedication to the show and to represent an accurate picture of Germany at the time. 

Overall, the show was a success. The actors’ chemistry and the spectacular songs and dance numbers brought the Berlin and characters of “Cabaret” to life right within the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre. The production will be running until July 21.

All images courtesy of CRTCabaretPR.


Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.santillo@uconn.edu.