MONTPELIER — “Cabaret,” the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical, manages to reflect the horror of the growing Nazi menace in 1929 Berlin while enjoying itself as a song-and-dance musical.
Lost Nation Theater’s fine production, which previewed Thursday at City Hall Arts Center, delivered both qualities for a deeply rewarding evening of theater. The singing and particularly the dancing were pretty spectacular, and the storytelling went straight to the heart.
The story is of a would-be novelist Cliff Bradshaw who has come to Berlin to find his muse. With the friendly assistance of local Ernst Ludwig, Cliff discovers and is seduced by the notorious Kit Cat Club — and its star, the British-born Sally Bowles.
Of course, Cliff falls in love with Sally and she with him, but she’s too much for him to handle. Cliff soon discovers that the people around him aren’t quite who he thinks they are – as the Berlin he believed in begins to disintegrate.
It’s a tale of Europe as it falls into decadence and World War II. The show has the dramatic flavor of Kurt Weill’s music and Berolt Brecht’s lyrics in “The Threepenny Opera” of 1928, just about the 1929-30 “Cabaret” is set in.
The Lost Nation Theater production may be its most lavish to date, and it wasn’t inappropriate. A consistently fine cast was directed by Tim Tavcar. The amazing choreography, a charismatic mix of original and the Bob Fosse by Taryn Noëlle, was danced with energy and flair. The singing was quite good, with a fine pit band and natural music direction by Patrick Wickliffe.
Noëlle also had the starring role of Sally Bowles, which she sang and danced with expertise and flair. In addition Noëlle’s Sally was layered and sympathetic. She was contrasted by the all-American naiveté Sam Balzac’s Cliff, who proved a fine singer as well.
The other romance proved a bit more tender, with Kathleen Keenan as Fraulein Schneider, Cliff’s curmudgeonly landlady with a heart of gold, and her warmhearted Jewish lover Herr Schultz, played by Bill Pelton. In fact there wasn’t a weak member of the cast. The boys and girls of the Kit Kat Club were a delight dancing and singing up a storm. Bailey Forman beautifully created the club’s atmosphere as the androgynous emcee.
Thursday’s preview revealed some issues that should be missing from subsequent performances. Occasionally the singers were over-amplified losing some of their voice quality. And it wasn’t quite up to pace.
The physical production was simple, with attractive and effective staging by Travis George, imaginatively and effectively lit by James McNamara. Charis Wolf’s costumes were imaginative and fit the bill.
“Cabaret” is one of the few musicals to successfully combine singing and dancing with a truly serious plot – and Lost Nation Theater tells it beautifully.