Barrington Stage Welcomes You to the Terrifying and Yet Magnificent World of Cabaret

Berlin, just before The War.  The Kit Kat Club is a seedy nightclub that is the setting for all types of debauchery: sexual experimentation, ambiguity, drugs, and, oddly enough, some amazing talent. American novelist Cliff Bradshaw has come to Berlin for inspiration and finds himself at the center of the beginning of the end of the world. Dan Amboyer, as Cliff, is the quintessential American tourist who is appalled and nauseated by what he sees around him. Amboyer gives a beautiful performance both musically and artistically.  

Photo by Daniel Rader

 Cabaret, the Kander and Ebb musical based on John Van Drutein’s 1951 I am a Camera, based on the semi-autobiographical works of Christopher Isherwood, has opened on the main stage of Barrington Stage. The story of love, desire, wanting, and burgeoning antisemitism is sadly as relevant in today’s world as it was in the time period about which it was written. Written over 57 years ago, Cabaret is frighteningly current with regard to attitudes about antisemitism and its worldwide rise.

Barrington’s Artistic Director, Alan Paul, has chosen this show as his inaugural directorial production. Paul brings out this incarnation based on the 1998 Roundabout Theatre revival with the support of an amazing cast, bravado, glitter, power and force. The show is at once captivating and terrifying. 

Photo by Daniel Rader

We follow the journey of Bradshaw as he meets Sally Bowles, the British ex-pat who has found a home as the headliner at the Kit Kat Club. Krysta Rodriguez’s Bowles is a tour de force. Her voice is incredible from her comic opening number, “Don’t Tell Mama,” to her personal anthem, the heart-wrenching “Maybe This Time,” to the final anguished notes of the title song she will hold you in the palm of her hands and take you on a musical journey of a lifetime. Out of the spotlight, Bowles’s character is filled with false bravado and the insecurities of a young child who chooses to ignore the world events around her. 

Bradshaw finds a home in the rooming house of Fraulein Schneider, an older woman whose main interest is survival, as presented by her song, “What Would You Do?” magnificently portrayed by Candy Buckley. She establishes a “close friendship” with one of her boarders, Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit store owner sensitively and lovingly portrayed by Richard Kline.   

Photo by Daniel Rader

The wonderfully talented ensemble is a mixture of cis, straight, gay, and gender-fluid performers that only add to the reality of the play. The story is led by Nik Alexander as the Kit Kat Club’s Emcee. The Emcee is at once the narrator, dispassionate observer, the audience, and a victim of the play. Alexander throws himself into the role totally. He is, however, the only performer with whom I had difficulty. His interpretation of the role is more cloyingly annoying than entertaining. His voice is more nasal and jarring than enticing and alluring. 

Wilson Chin’s scenic design, Rodrigo Munoz’s costumes, Philip Rosenberg’s lighting, Mary Schilling-Martin’s wigs, and Hannah Chalman’s make-up design all create a visually stunning picture for this world to play out. Katie Spelman’s spectacular choreography and Angela Steiner’s musical direction give this show the deserved icing on the cake. 

Photo by Daniel Rader

As we watch the influx of the Nazi influence and the appearance of the black and white swastikas on the bands of red, we are constantly thrown into the reality of where the world was heading.  As the audience sees itself, the mirrored backdrop at the show’s end goes back to the fundamental heart of the play and the most simple of questions: What would you do? As Cliff tells Sally, “If you aren’t against all of this, then you’re for it. Or you might as well be.” It was a time when many simply chose to close their eyes to the world around them and wrote it off as survival. 

The irony of the show and what Alan Paul and his crew have done so magnificently is made this world a stunning presentation of glitz, glamour, and terror.

Photo by Daniel Rader

Paul has done a masterful job of bringing Cabaret to the Barrington Stage. As just the second artistic director to the company, succeeding Founding Artistic Director Julianne Boyd, it is clear that Barrington is in excellent hands. 

Cabaret runs through July 8 on the Boyd-Quinson Stage in Pittsfield. For ticket information or reservations: or call:413-236-8888.

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