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Review: 'Cabaret' at the Met Theatre

June 25, 2009 |  7:45 pm


Only the insensate would deny the scope of "Cabaret" at the Met Theatre, a surefire theatre-party event. This revival of Sam Mendes' revision of the 1966 Kander and Ebb classic is certainly resolute.
Mendes deconstructs Joe Masteroff's libretto so that Weimar-era Berlin unfolds inside the Kit Kat Klub, with bar service and stage-side tables. Scenic artist Victoria Bello splashes Klee-inspired tones across the set, where the pansexual Emcee (co-producer Eduardo Enrikez) and his raucous girls and boys launch a "Willkommen" that portends a head-spinner.

The concept, however, requires immersive verité, at which director Judy Norton and choreographer Tania Possick only half succeed. Nor can musical director Greg Haake's competent combo equal the immediacy of Mendes' cast-supplied accompaniment.
Kalinda Gray is valiant as Sally Bowles, suggesting Donmar Warehouse originator Jane Horrocks. Still, the musical load, which includes Liza Minnelli's 1972 film numbers, taxes her. Mendes' deletions render Michael Bernardi's Christopher Isherwood surrogate overly functional, and Enrikez is tireless but not exactly enigmatic.

They and the whole ensemble work their bottoms off, but the mix of élan and chill is askew. The decadence becomes affect, the growing Nazi presence erratic, so that Danielle Soibelman’s piping “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” solo out-creeps the ensemble's stark Act 1 closer. When Fraulein Schneider (Annalisa Erickson) gives “What Would You Do,” easily “Cabaret’s” most conventional number, more punch than Sally’s title song or the Emcee’s final shocker, we’re at an off-kilter Kit Kat.
Such imbalances won't trouble audiences seeking a unique evening out. Theatrically, they denote a determined yet utilitarian Walpurgisnacht.

-- David C. Nichols
"Cabaret," Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 9. $34.99-$50. (323) 957-1152. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Photo: Eduardo Enrikez as the Emcee and the Kit Kat dancers. Credit: Andrew Yount.