The tales of debauchery and excess during the final days of the Weimar Republic that gave rise to the oppression and destruction of Germany’s Third Reich found in the show “Cabaret” are community theater gold.
“Cabaret,” directed by John Munn, is a musical adaptation of the novel “Goodbye to Berlin” by Christopher Isherwood that chronicles the twilight of the anything-goes nights of booze, drugs and sex found in pre-war Berlin to the oppressive darkness brought by the dawn of Nazi rule through the eyes of patrons and dancers of the famed Kit Kat Klub.
Central to the show is the emcee, (played by Mauro Bozzo) as he inches scene after scene from the energized, fun-loving purveyor of decadence when the curtain rises to a frightened shell of humanity, knowing full well death nears as the curtain finally falls. Bozzo nails the iconic role with his uber-sized, lounge-act personality and power vocals in Act One that transform to kittenish childhood fear in the Act Two.
Mirroring that transition is the Kit Kat’s headlining dancer, Sally Bowles, (Elise Campello) as her nights of boozing and partying with anyone with an open bottle crash to an epic on-stage meltdown. Campello, a veteran singer, dancer and actor, brings her all to the sexy-turned-pitiful role.
Clifford (Niclas R. Olson) is a struggling American author who finds himself embroiled in German politics when he falls for Bowles and finds himself smuggling black market items for his “good friend” Ernst (Kyle Sinclair), from Paris to Berlin. The goods he shuttles by train are then sold to fund the Nazi Party. The role serves as part narrator of sorts as his warnings about the rise of Adolf Hitler go unheard until all is lost. Olson plays the role with depth and substance, without stealing focus from the storyline and sub plots that include the tails of a patriotic prostitute (Rachel Fitzgerald) who singlehandedly strives to service the entire German Navy as a way to survive, and the romantic struggles of their landlady (Rosalie Hilburn) and her aged paramour, (Joseph Grant) who fear of dying alone but worry about the rise of anti-Semitism more.
Toss in a few well-timed burlesque numbers by the lightly clothed Kit Kat dancers (Amanda Jackson, LaNita Hudson, Haley Kim, Kathy Kluska), and the show ties tightly together with a sexy vibe and increasingly obvious threads of danger.
The production of the John Kandor and Fred Ebb musical was in good hands with Munn’s direction, musical direction by Pamela Merritt Caldwell and choreography by Lexi Barnett. Munn is known for staging shows where every action has a reason and every prop has a purpose, while Caldwell and Barnett demand purpose-driven perfection. That comes in this show.
“Cabaret” runs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays through June 14, at Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St. Tickets and information are available at tacomalittletheatre.com and (253) 272-2281. Tickets are $15 to $25. This show is recommended for ages 13 and up because of its portrayal of drugs use, casual sex and dark themes.