There’s never been a show quite like“Cabaret.”
It explores heavy political issues like the rise of Nazism, many of its songs are drenched in cyncism, its settings are seedy and the ending — spoiler alert — is not only sad, but ominously tragic.
And yet “Cabaret” is a highly entertaining show constantly revived and reinvented. (It’s on Broadway right now.)
Somehow the creators of “Cabaret” (music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb and book by Joe Masteroff) were able to mix laughter, tragedy, rousing songs and sexuality together to create a show that hits a nerve. Almost 50 years later, it still does.
“Cabaret” opened Thursday at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center and this production packs a punch.
Based on the revival by Sam Mendes, the show has a darkness and rawness to it that draws you into the decadent world of Berlin and the Kit Kat Klub in the years before the Nazis came to power.
It is a place to forget your troubles and ignore what is going on around you.
Sally Bowles (Martha Wasser) is the star performer at the club, though she is barely hanging on.
She falls for Cliff Bradshaw (Sean Deffley) an American (from Harrisburg!) who has come to Berlin to write a novel. She invites herself to move into his room in the boarding house of Fraulein Schneider (Tricia Corcoran).
The Kit Kat Klub is a seedy place and the Kit Kat girls and boys are pretty seedy too. Kudos to costumer Kate Willman and choreographer Kristin Pontz for making it work so well.
Running the show is the Emcee (Nick Smith) who tells everyone to leave their troubles behind and jump into the abyss.
Tawdry, decadent and slimy, the Emcee serves as the commentator to the story that unfolds between Sally and Cliff and Fraulein Schneider and the Jewish grocer, Herr Shultz (Gene Ellis), who wants to marry her.
Unfortunately, Smith isn’t quite tawdry enough. You never quite believe he is truly entrenched in the muck of the Kit Kat Klub. He works hard to get there and has his moments, but it never quite gels.
Corcoran and Ellis are wonderful as the older couple, whose romance is sweet and fragile and doomed in a world that is about to destroy itself.
And both Deffley and Wasser have some strong scenes as they connect and clash.
Cliff is the only one who seems to see what is crashing around them. He is befriended by Ernst, played by Preston Schreffler, in a sublte and knockout performance, who we discover, in a devastating scene, is a Nazi.
Rounding out the strong cast is Elizabeth Kindbom, who plays Kost, a prostitute who has a room in the boarding house.
At first the cyncial comic relief of the show (we constantly see her with different men she introduces to Fraulein Schneider as her cousin or brother), Kost turns dark and frightening and Kindbom is fantastic in the role.
Music director Zach Smith does a great job with his seven piece band. One key to the success of the show has always been the fantastic songs.
Director Ed Fernandez deftly brings the power of “Cabaret” to life. The jokes are bawdier than ever, the Kit Kat girls and boys are skankier than ever and the goodness that does exist in this dangerous world is more fragile than ever.
Just keep in mind, “Cabaret” is not for kids. It is an adult show through and through. One that may shock you, make you think and entertain the heck out of you.
IF YOU GO
When: runs through Nov. 1
Price: $20 - $30
Location: SharadinBigler Theatre, 20 Cocalico St., Ephrata