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Venturing to the dark side: A Review

Following My Muse
Robert T. Nanninga
Surf City Times
March 8, 2003


When I heard the North Coast Repertory Theatre was staging a production of Kander and Ebb's CABARET I was intrigued to say the least. It's a small space better suited for small dramas and drawing room comedies, but with Sean Murray at the helm I was certain a scaled down interpretation of the classic musical was worth a look.

As usual the NCRT minimalist approach was used to the fullest. Marty Burnett's set design wins for best supporting player. The rundown intimacy of a Pre-war Berlin nightclub serves as perfect backdrop for a fine ensemble cast. The work of musical director and band Leader Don LeMaster is wonderfully nuanced. The trombone work of Kit Kat girl Lizette Kent was a highlight as well. But then again I'm a sucker for a lady with a horn.

An actors musical this is CABARET as David Lynch would envision it. Raw and rough around the edges the economy of cast worked well and the supporting players delivered on numerous levels. Linda Libby as Fraulein Schneider gave a standout performance. Tough yet tender, Ms. Libby centers the production with an every woman sensibility. Challenging audience members is K.B. Mercer's portrayal of third-rate entertainer Sally Bowles. One of the better actresses working in San Diego County, K.B. has stripped away the Minelliesque glamour to expose a false joy born of desperation so integral to the role of Sally.

Rough and raw around the edges this was not a glossy musical. Through lighting design, stage direction, and the lascivious mugging of the Master of Ceremonies, Jeremiah Lorenz, the end result of this very adult production is a fevered dream bordering on a nightmare. The only misstep was the casting of Michael Cullen, who seemed woefully out of place.

Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, is well represented in the North Coast Repertory Theatre production of CABARET, as never has this story of the slow creep of Nazi terror been presented so up close and personal. I recommend this show, but be prepared to squirm under the glare of decadence.

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