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Cabaret, a review of the musical, at Sutter Street Theater in Folsom

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reviewed by Robin Aurelius

This shoebox theater is truly impressive for mounting a show as large and boisterous as Cabaret. The results were way beyond my expectations. From where I sat in the third row I could hear every nuance of every conversation, all the whispering anecdotes, and asides, the “sotto voce” solos, and all the dancers’ backsides. This is a long, long, show, and I was never bored.

Cabaret is really beyond operetta. It is a mini opera, a sardonic satire, and parody of life at the Kit Kat. Every piece of it meshes (and grates) excitingly. Connie Mockenhaupt has put a lot of pizazz in where the show needs it. The set is colorful and provocative, and very efficient for the dozen actors who prance wildly with each other on the stage. The seats are comfortable, and in the audience, it’s like being with family.

In the entre to the first act the dancers are lounging on the stage, getting ready for scene action. The maitre d’ whips them into shape for their langourous, suggestive, postures.

What the cast does is some very tight melodious choral works, with the most intricate dance steps to be seen this side of Broadway. The Berlin connection is real, the accents are honed to European levels. Kudos to emcee Mark Ettensohn for a dashing irreverent, whipper-in-shaper. This glorious maitre d’ is able to completely captivate both the audience and the dancers with his “shtick” singing and gyrating in three languages, while playing two (or more) sex roles.

The solos really take off. They hit the ceiling, go out the door and come back in, without any harshness. Remember in shoe box productions, no microphones. No CD’s for the chorus. It’s all there in the intense vocal training. Better than watching Glee.

Up front, at the piano, is Kate Janzen, the musical director. She’s got all the cues down, without having to wave her hand. Sometimes the cast comes over and lays down on the piano She never misses a beat, and, when the scene needs it, she adds her own jazz vamp until ready. She never plays too loud, so when the solos get personal and in your face, the music is right there following the plot’s mood.

The back story is about a waifish US guy Clifford Bradshaw (played by Elio Guiterrez) seeking to be an author in Paris. He falls in with some perfume smugglers, and can’t get loose of them. He is dragged into a lover’s triangle. His landlady falls belated in love with a Jewish fruit merchant. These two (Dennis Curry and Eileen Beaver) have some marvelous sultry, and foreboding duets which really ought to go mainstream.

Despite the cultural depravity of the era, and the shockingly bad behavior of the Nazi characters,

this musical succeeds in entertaining brilliantly, and making a strategic point, that even the best intentioned folks can be captured, compromised, and even silenced, by politics. The last scene of our US citizen taking the train back to his country is several minutes of supremely considerate and restrained stage direction.

Not a fault in all this, and much to exult in. Not to mention the Sutter Street neighborhood’s well known ambience with a wine bar, a rowdy beer bar, a refined beer bar with 15 craft brews, and and ice cream palace, all open for your delectation.

This production plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 4 PM till October 16.

717 Sutter Street, Folsom, CA 95630 Tickets : 916-353-1001.

Sutter Street Theatre’s "Cabaret" Promo Trailer from RJRUBY Productions on Vimeo.

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