The 2016-2017 season of Broadway San Jose comes to a spectacular end this weekend with a presentation of a Broadway classic, CABARET.CABARET, as a story is not something that is easy to love. It is gritty and it deals with the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. The characters are raunchy and raw manipulative and self-destructive and so many of them are generally unlikeable. The whole show is a mix of joyful song and raunchy comedy set against the backdrop of a dark time in history, but you keep watching. There is a reason it is such a lasting story.
Set in 1930’s, CABARET tells the story of an American writer named Clifford Bradshaw (a charming and earnest Benjamin Eakeley) who travels to Germany in search of inspiration for his next story. While on the train to Berlin, Clifford meets Ernst Ludwig (Patrick Vaill), a German who befriends him after Cliff helps him smuggle a suitcase across the border. In return Earnst refers him to a boarding house and the local cabaret, the Kit Kat Club.
After securing a room from Fräulein Schneider, Cliff decides to check out the Kit Kat Club. “Willkommen!” greets the Emcee (Jon Peterson) as a procession of Cabaret girls is introduced, each one a mess. Next on stage is the star of the show, Sally Bowles (Leigh Ann Larkin), who entrances Cliff with her “Don’t Tell Mama” performance. After the show, Cliff is quickly pulled into Cabaret life having both Sally and male band members both vying for his affections.
Before Cliff even knows what is happening, Sally is at his doorstep after being fired from the Kit Kat Club. Cliff reluctantly allows Sally in as he wants to focus on his writing, but he soon caves in and finds himself settling into a comfortable existence with her. When Sally finds out she is pregnant, Clifford convinces her that they should keep the baby and settle down, despite her not really knowing who the father could even be. Could this be a happily ever after story?
In parallel to the Cliff and Sally story, love is blossoming for Fräulein Schneider and the Jewish fruit stand owner, Herr Schultz. After being caught sneaking out of Fräulein Schneider’s room, Herr Schultz proposes. This is a love story you want to work out.
But happily ever after is not the theme of this show and both story lines quickly take a turn for the worse. Act two opens up with the Kit Kat Cabaret girls performing a song that evolves into a duck step signifying the rise of the Nazi party as well as increasing sympathizing by the Germany people. The tensions rise and come to a climax after Fräulein Schneider calls of her engagement to Herr Schultz. Faced with the rising tide of Anti-Semitism and of the Nazi party, Cliff pleads with Sally to return to the US with him. Sally, oblivious to the increasing unrest is lured back into cabaret life when she is offered her job back at the Kit Kat Club.
On the train to Paris, Cliff begins to write his novel, reflecting on his experiences: “There was a cabaret, and there was a master of ceremonies … and there was a city called Berlin, in a country called Germany … and it was the end of the world.”
CABARET is a great production. The performances are top notch throughout. does not leave you feeling good at the end. Jon Peterson as the Emcee delivers a performance as good as anything you could ever see on Broadway. Everything about the show from the performances, to the staging are top notch. But you will not leave the show feeling good about it. Even the curtain call, usually filled with joy and smiles and happy waves was somber. That being said, CABARET is a show that has stood up over time for a reason. It was a great end to another solid season from Broadway San Jose.
The San Jose engagement of CABARET is presented by Broadway San Jose and is playing now through June 11. Tickets are available at www.broadwaysanjose.com or at the box office located at the Center for Performing Arts (255 Almaden Blvd.) or by calling 800-982-ARTS (2787).