Cabaret
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Joan Marcus

Life is no longer the Cabaret it was in earlier versions of this hit Broadway musical. Life has taken a distinctly darker turn under the direction of Sam Mendes. His Cabaret is living on the edge of a great abyss, a similar edge to Hitler's Germany right before the outbreak of WWII. Cabaret entertainers may be trying to be up beat and make their audience feel good, but we quickly see through their escapist façade to the pain that dwells within.

If you go to musicals to be uplifted by a number of song and dance numbers that at least give you the illusion that all is well in the world, then this Cabaret is not for you. Even in the first act where the song and dance numbers are seductive, they are seductive to the point of being disturbing. We are drawn in to a cabaret where anything goes - alcohol, drugs and all forms of casual sex. Are we in Berlin prior to WWII or in San Francisco today? Actually, with a set and music that is as modern as it is old German, we could be in either place, thus driving home the question, if this cabaret attitude led to the rise of the Nazis in WWII, then what are we headed for today?

It's interesting that Mendes doesn't overplay the Nazi card. "It's become a cliché," Mendes said in a recent Time interview. "You can't act the beginning of Nazism with a knowledge of the ending. The point is to show how seductive it was, to draw the audience in."

And this is exactly what Cabaret does; it draws us in to a generation that's falling apart while pretending to be a feel-good generation with no cares or worries in the world. It's a brave new step in musicals that forces us to take a hard look at where we've been and where we're going and that singing our troubles away resolves nothing.

For tickets and information to this touring production of Cabaret, starring Andrea McArdle and Jon Peterson call (415) 551-2000 or visit www.bestofbroadway-sf.com.

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