Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 9, 2018

REVIEW: Theatre Guild of Hampden, Cabaret

Theatre Guild of Hampden, Hampden MA
through April 21, 2018
by Michael J. Moran

On entering the Greenhouse Theatre in Hampden, the audience finds itself in the dressing room of Chris Rojas’ scathingly louche Emcee, as he primps at a pink makeup table, in front of a full-length mirror, before turning, at show time (there’s no curtain), to welcome the audience, seated at cabaret tables, to the Kit Kat Club in 1929-1930 Berlin, as the free-wheeling Weimar Era gives way to Nazi Germany, with an exuberant yet foreboding “Wilkommen,” introducing a jaded assortment of dancers called the Kit Kat Girls.

Josiah Durham’s claustrophobic two-tier set, with only a few chairs, also becomes a train station and Fraulein Schneider’s boarding house, where aspiring American writer Cliff takes a room and soon meets other residents. One is scrappy English cabaret singer Sally, who moves in with Cliff after being fired by the Club, where they met the night before. Others are Herr Schultz, a Jewish grocer who is courting Fraulein Schneider; Ernst, a young German who befriends Cliff; and Fraulein Kost, a prostitute whom Fraulein Schneider catches hosting sailors in her room.

Hal Chernoff’s genial Schultz and Robyn Scott’s warm-hearted Fraulein Schneider are endearing in their tender duets “It Couldn’t Please Me More” and “Married.” Nazar Tracy’s frighteningly intense Ernst and Tracey Hebert’s deceptively ditsy Fraulein Kost are menacing in “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”

But the emotional heart of this production is Ally Reardon’s sensational Sally. A fine Lily Garland in the troupe’s “On the Twentieth Century” in 2016, Reardon has since completed a theatre degree at AIC, and her greater maturity is clearest in her show-stopping rendition of the title song near the end of the show. To witness her transformation from terrified waif at the start of the song to devil-may-care vixen by its close is to know this is a singing actress to watch.  

Director Mark Giza, choreographer Sandy Coughlin-Wedrzyn, and music director Tom Slowick’s three-man band have created a dark and chilling “Cabaret,” whose slide toward fascism resonates in 2018 America, especially in the shocking finale.

The run is currently sold out.