CUMBERLAND - I have often heard the old saying that “his/her personality filled the room,” but I don't think I ever witnessed it until this week.
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
CUMBERLAND - I have often heard the old saying that “his/her personality filled the room,” but I don’t think I ever witnessed it until this week.
On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of sitting in on a dress rehearsal for the musical “Cabaret” at the Embassy Theatre in Cumberland. I had been invited to see the show by Trish Morgan, one of our loyal contributors, and I knew some people in the cast, so I was excited to take a rare evening off and see the show.
For those of you who have not yet been to the Embassy (Wednesday was the first for me), it is a small, intimate venue and the historic stage seemed just perfect for the dark tale involving the rise of Nazi Germany and how many in a divided Berlin found release from reality in the decadence of the Kit Kat Klub.
The “activities” at the Kit Kat Klub - as well as events that take place outside the club - are presided over by the Emcee, a character made famous by Joel Grey in the movie version of the musical.
In the Embassy version, the Emcee is portrayed by Danny Durr, a product of Cumberland who has moved on to New York City to make his mark in theater - both onstage and by teaching the craft of dance.
And this is where the big personality comes into play.
The Emcee is a flamboyant, manic, raucous, sexy, over-the-top character who sees all, knows all, and helps guide the audience and characters through the uncertainty of pre-war Germany.
When Durr, dressed either in seductive straps or slinky evening gown, steps into the role as the Emcee, inhibitions disappear and his personality does, indeed, fill the room.
He plays to the audience perfectly, never misses a beat during the intricate musical numbers, and slyly makes several societal points while leading the characters through the show, the shows-within-the-show, and their lives in general.
The Emcee’s favorite at the Kit Kat Klub is Sally Bowles, made famous in the movie by Liza Minnelli.
In this version, Kimberli Rowley plays Sally, an endearing yet tragic character who chooses the comfort of performing at the Kit Kat Klub as an alternative to facing what’s going on in the real world.
Although Kimberli (who also choreographed the show, by the way) does an exceptional job with the iconic character, it is her voice that fills the theater, especially as she steps to the front of the stage and sings “Maybe This Time” and “Cabaret.”
She says in her biography in the playbill that “Cabaret” is her favorite musical, and it definitely shows in her performance onstage.
Also impressive in their characters are Nicole Halmos, as Frau Schneider, the landlady who conveniently looks the other way when things get a little spicy between
the Kit Kat girls and their sailors. Frau Schneider is able to find her own love, however, in the quiet fruit seller Herr Schultz, portrayed by Mark J. Perman.
When things heat up between the Nazis and the Jews, however, she tragically realizes their marriage will not work.
The tender scenes between the two, and the songs they sing to one another (“It Couldn’t Please Me More” and “Married”) are just beautiful.
Then there’s Cliff, the “novelist” from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who falls for Sally Bowles. Portrayed by Timothy Bambara, Cliff is on the surface a naive young many looking for some excitement in Berlin, but listen carefully and you’ll catch on to some comments which leave you wondering if there isn’t a lot more lying under that surface.
Stephen Gumtz is Ernst, who strikes up a friendship with the American but soon begins to use his new friend as a means of helping him advance his belief in the Nazi movement.
Cliff catches on to Ernst’s true intentions, however, and the reveal is what convinces the young man to return home to Pennsylvania. Whether or not he can convince Sally to go with him, however, is another matter.
Other cast members of note include Aimee Conley as Frau Kost, Brittany Eberly, Sophie Davis, Jessica Seminerio Grapes, Emily Haworth, Skylar Spanburgh and Chelsea Conley as Kit Kat girls, and Jesse Wilson and Brett Reel as Kit Kat boys.
All do a wonderful job in their musical numbers, keeping the stage alive with music and sexiness.
And now a word of caution: In director Tom Valentine’s own words, this version of “Cabaret” is a “seedier, darker, and sinister version different from what many remember in the Joel Gray movie.”
There are some definitely adult topics and adult humor. Leave your young kids with a sitter when you go see “Cabaret.”
But definitely go see “Cabaret.”
The show opens tonight with a red carpet gala and continues on Saturday and Sunday this week and again on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 28-30.
Friday/Saturday times are 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets can be reserved by calling 240-362-7183 or by visiting www.eventbrite.com.