Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle
Just when you thought there was nothing novel a director could do with CABARET, acclaimed Bay Area Director Hector Correa turns a fresh new corner with this great musical.
Now through April 29th, the Larkspur Café Theater—housed in American Legion Hall Post 313—will be stepping back to antebellum Berlin.
If there is something called original intent, outside of conservative judiciary, Hector may have discovered it for this classic piece of Berlin decadence of the 1930s.
For the last forty years, the glitzy Liza Minelli version of CABARET has set the standard mistakenly adhered to by musical theaters across the country; such misguidance erroneously obscures Joe Masterroff’s theme and tenor.
Hector Correa runs the low brow sleaze factor of the Kit Kat Klub up to where it rightfully belongs; every pair of mesh stockings worn by the tawdry Kit Kat Girls has more runs in it than an exhibition baseball game.
In this production, the Kit Kat Girls seemingly sing and dance as an avocation while they are waiting to find work of the prone variety.
Sally Bowles is not inching her way toward Broadway nor eying Hollywood; Sally is in a slow graveyard spin, side-stepping the London working class life and unconsciously trying to catch up with Elsie back in Chelsea.
Elsie is Sally’s tragic role model, not because she was talented or met with any modicum of success, but because she pickled herself in booze and pharmaceuticals rather than growing old gracefully.
Cliff Bradshaw, the wannabe writer who falls for Sally, is a liberal arts major from Harrisburg PA living off the easy pickings of a bourgeois family who would prefer to keep him out of town.
Cliff’s typewriter and passport are his tickets to puerile stalling, protracted adolescence, a sense of purpose and one star bisexual tourism.
Ivan Harding does a marvelous job as Cliff; portraying a convoluted and confused pseudo bohemian who has more aspirations than literary ideas.
Corinne Proctor is absolutely and tragically stunning as Hector’s rightfully scaled down, diminutive version of Miss Sally Bowles; she has a frantic, delusional quality—like Blanc Dubois—tthat speaks of gin and amphetamines and says more about her departure from reality than any journey towards a musical career.
Unlike the movie version, Hector’s Sally is pathetically small time—a legend and a diva only in her own mind—but admittedly talented given the scale of expectations in the cabaret.
Miss Proctor has a great voice and will undoubtedly go places; on the other hand, her character Sally will scorch her vocal cords drinking gin straight from the bottle and will ultimately sound like Jimmy Durante, Tony Clifton or Carrie Fisher.
The clientele of the Kit Kat Klub are two bit hustlers, scam artists and survivors of the Weimar Republic who are lucky to have two marks to rub together.
Hector Correa is a genius; he has the artistic courage to turn CABARET around, establish it as a fitting metaphor for the doomed Third Reich; to send Cliff scampering home to Harrisburg; and, to set Sally on a clear trajectory to join up with Elsie in the big rehab in the sky.
If you want to unlearn everything you know about CABARET, this is your chance.
Great music by Diego Garcia on Keyboards, Amy Bryan on Drums, Alex Garcia on Sax and Clarinet and Noah Riccardi on Bass provide a lively backdrop for Sally’s free fall and Cliff’s retreat back into reality.
Rediscover CABARET as it was meant to be.
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