It was a time when a symbol of the nation had gone down in flames (blamed on outside radicals, but with evidence of an inside job), a democratic republic was dying, the forces of repression were gathering, and those whose beliefs or lifestyles put them at odds with the rising tide of nationalism were branded as unpatriotic, their loyalty questioned. In the midst of this lockstep blindness there was a club where forbidden pleasures were indulged.

jSally Bowles, the MC, and the boys of The Kit Kat Klub
Sally Bowles, the MC, and
the boys of the Kit Kat Klub
We're speaking, of course, of the Kit Kat Klub in pre-World War II Berlin, just as the Nazis were coming to power, the decadent yet compelling subject of the musical Cabaret, now facing sold out audiences at the Theatre on Broadway. From the moment you enter the club, and are shown to one of the many tables added for this production, until the fascists finally close it down, this production leaves little doubt that you have ventured into a quintessential smokey, seedy cabaret.

If ever there was anyone born to play the role of the Master of Ceremonies, Nicholas Sugar is it. Seductive, feline, shifting sexual identities at the drop of a hat, or other article of clothing, Sugar is the consummate libertine. His choreography, too, sparkles throughout. When joined by Melissa McCarl and Braddon McDonald in "Two Ladies," part of which is performed behind a curtain in silhouette, we are left bemused, wondering which end is up.

At the center of the Klub's floorshow is the English expatriate Sally Bowles, a hard living, fading chanteuse, whose talent nevertheless keeps customers running up tabs. Jodi Brinkman's mile-a-minute on-the-make moves and husky voice have all the trappings of what we would expect from a dive diva, her vulnerability well-hidden from a long history of disappointments. Brinkman's voice, too, reflects Sally's rough life, melodic with rough edges through "Don't Tell Mama," "Mein Herr," "Perfectly Marvelous," and "Maybe This Time," and finally decayed and without hope in the final reprise of the show stopper, "Cabaret."

Sally's demise leaves Jim Miller, the handsome and earnest, Clifford Bradshaw, high and dry. What is it that he sees in her? If she's just a duplicitous, strung out, small-time show girl, then what lifts the torch he carries for her? As the ultimate political decadence descends upon Germany, he finally has a story to tell and a heart worthy of the tale.

On the flip side of this high energy celebration of naughty and nice, Deborah Persoff and Joey Wishnia as Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz provide a poignant counterpoint to the struggles faced by the Klub performers and patrons, their courtship rent asunder by anti-Semitism; and the Kit Kat Girls and Boys and the hot septet keep the joint jumping.

The Theatre Group's lively production of Cabaret, directed by Steve Tangedal, runs through March 30th. 303-777-3292.


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