Masteroff, Kander and Ebb's musical, "Cabaret," is the final production of this year's SummerStage in Terre Haute. For the show, director Kristin Kundert-Gibbs has turned ISU's New Theatre into a cabaret complete with a small thrust stage for the Kit Kat Club's floor show, small tables, chairs and a live band.
"Cabaret" is a cautionary tale about American, British and even German innocence as the world sleep walked while Naziism was on the rise.
Peter Papadapolous played the American, promising novelist, Cliff. Papadapolous handled the transition as Cliff is first fascinated by Berlin's exotic nightlife and then appalled. Cliff falls in love with an English singer, Sally Bowles. Sally is a doomed cynic who thinks that she is a realist. It's a tough role to play and SummerStage's P.J. Monson was only sporadically effective at grasping the desperation of Sally.
"Cabaret" also offers a second love story, love between an older man and woman, that is even sadder than Cliff and Sally's. Gigi Jennewein-Fenlon played the crusty land-lady Fraulein Schneider and Peter Haberer was Herr Schultz the Jewish fruit merchant. Like Cliff and Sally, these two fall in love, but the grinding growth of Naziism forces them apart. The most moving moments of the ISU production of "Cabaret" were those when Fraulein Schneider with bitter realism stiffles her own joy as she sees that their love can't survive in the new era despite Herr Schultz's optimistic protestation that he is really a German.
Mark Douglas-Jones as the Emcee of "Cabaret" was a whole show unto himself. From the laddered hose of his stockings to the full length black gloves and his high silk hat, Douglas-Jones was alternately appealing and appalling. He was ably supported by the other denizens of post Weimar Berlin Decadence with special notice to John Blair as an outrageous Kit Kat Club boy, Anni Hine as an especially inventive Kit Kat Club Girl and Alex Miller as the club's host, Max.
"Cabaret" is a dramatic show that seems to have been getting meaner and meaner over the years. The ISU production does a nice job of balancing the serious with the comic, of keeping things mostly on the light side, but still meaningful. Throughout "Cabaret" Kristin Kundert-Gibbs direction moved things fluidly into, through and out of scenes. Jessica Hayes costumes were always very much a part of the story and a set that had the Kit Kat Club girls dressed as the coinage of different countries got a separate round of applause. Kathy Anderson-Dittman was the music director and led the orchestra.
The ISU SummerStage production of "Cabaret" directed by Kristin Kundert-Gibbs plays Friday and Saturday nights at seven-thirty.