Friday, January 18, 2008
Cabaret in Rochester NY with Storm Large
Cabaret at the the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester NY is billed as "for mature audiences" and the buzz on the Ballzboard was that the decadence of Germany in the late Weimar Republic would be on full display from beginning to end. And with Storm Large playing Sally Bowles, one could bet that the houses would be packed.
The good news is that this production features a marvelous ensemble of performers, beautifully cast and expertly directed by Chris Coleman, of Portland, OR where this production began in the fall of 2007. Now in frigid upstate NY state, it goes on through Feb 17th and is well worth a trip to Rochester.
You may have seen Storm Large on network television a couple of summer's ago when she competed on Rockstar: Supernova. And if you are from the upper NW, you may have seen her with her band, the Balls playing at Dante's and other clubs. Storm has a voice that is powerful, yet capable of exquisite subtlety. She is tall (6 ft) and she is extraordinarily physical, especially in the sexual sense of the word. I didn't quite know what to expect from her in a traditional musical theatre role, and can happily report that she does not use her rocker or lounge-core persona at all in interpreting Sally Bowles. I had no problem believing that she was a 19 year old cabaret performer, but she does need to be a little more consistent with the British accent. (A dialect coach was hired for this production, and all in all, I thought the German dialects sounded quite good.)
Wade McCollum as the Emcee was appropriately fascinating and eerie, while Romain Fruge provided a suitable love interest for Sally. However, the stage slap tonight was really off -- oops! Chrisse Roccaro took the role of Fraulein Schneider and made her story as compelling as Sally's, maybe even more so, as she waited her entire life for love only to be made too frightened to accept it.
The staging featured the clever use of a revolve, that allowed scenes to flow from one to the next, while actors found ways to utilize the moving floor beneath them to great effect. The orchestra was first rate and cleverly hidden beneath a walkway that thrust out into the audience.
Cabaret is one of very few musicals that defies expectations. The title song, which seems like it should be a typical show-stopping production number, is instead infused with tragic tones and impending doom. There are no happy endings for anybody. I'd like to see this musical in rotating repertory with Ionesco's Rhinoceros. That would be a powerful one two theatrical punch against the dangers of conformity and giving in to fascistic tendencies. The pressure to avoid taking risks, to just simply give in to authority and not fight what is patently unjust is always present. There will always be a Fraulein Schneiderman who allows herself to be intimidated to the point that she will give up any chance of happiness because it is safer to do nothing.