Who knew that Bellport, Long Island could be reeling with such decadence and debauchery? Apparently the cast and crew at The Gateway Playhouse. Through this week, the nationally known summer theater is home to a fine production of Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret.
I admit to being biased before walking into the show. In my book, Cabaret stands as one of the finest Broadway musicals ever written. Although the original production in 1966 preceded my time in New York, I was fortunate to see the 1998 and 2014 revivals at Studio 54, both directed by Sam Mendes.
Once again, I was awestruck by this stunner of a show after watching it at Gateway. Quality wise, it is every bit as good as the Broadway revivals. Josh Canfield leads the cast as the Emcee, a charming but ultimately menacing host of the Kit Kat Club. In 1929 Berlin, Germany, life inside the hotspot is “beautiful.” Fading star Sally Bowles (Cortney Wolfson) fights to maintain her worth as she falls for visiting American writer Clifford Bradshaw (Steven Grant Douglas). The two shack up at Fraulein Schneider’s (Dorothy Stanley) boarding house, while Schneider finds romance in kindly Herr Schultz, (Steve Brady) a Jewish fruit vendor. Outside, fascism simmers as Germany soon finds itself consumed by a fascist dictator.
“Oh! This is your novel! It’s in German? Mein Kampf?”, inquires Bowles as she picks up a book from Cliff’s bed. “It’s not my novel. I thought I should know something about German politics,” he replies. “Why. You’re An American,” she says.
This verbal exchange seems minor, but essentially, it illuminates the oblivion of Americans and emphasizes our narcissistic sense of nationalism. It was a prevalent attitude which led to our naton’s lackluster response to the Holocaust. Sadly, it remains today. Life is great for us here, so why should we fret about our larger world?
There are several chills that will run through your spine during Cabaret, but in the wake of a sitting president who fears facts and nurtures disdain for others, it is especially ominous.
Canfield is terrific as a superficial friendly python who ends up strangulating his prey. Stanley and Brady are also standouts as aging lovers who face irreconcilable challenges. Together, they provided the sweetest and warmest interpretation I’ve seen. Wolfson also soars as the broken flower Bowles.
Director Larry Raben has assembled an incredibly sexy cast, each of whom deliver Lee Martino‘s choreography with style and finesse.
The Kit Kat Club disappears after Sunday, but the theatre is a stone’s throw from Fire Island. It’s well worth the time. On August 29th, Flashdance The Musical will thrust its way to the Gateway stage.
Cabaret runs through Aug 18th at The Gateway Playhouse 215 South Country Rd, Bellport, NY 11713. For tickets and information, visit https://thegateway.org/Online/default.asp