Tuned Up

Updated versions of Godspell and Cabaret retain their freshness and relevance

The New Line production follows the lead of the recent Broadway revival in turning up the decadence factor; presumably this is more "honest," because it shows Berlin in 1930 in ways that couldn't be portrayed in 1966. But just because we can be more permissive nowadays, does that mean we have to be? In the opening number, "Wilkommen," the over-rouged, zombielike Kit Kat girls (and boys, in this production, who look as if they just got off their shift at Chippendale's) and their Emcee (Christopher Crivelli) perform enough pelvic thrusts and simulated oral sex for several productions. We're supposed to be shocked, shocked, but the gestures are so mechanical and contrived that they become boring and meaningless. Perhaps that's what director Miller intended: Sex has become common currency, as devalued as the German mark. But shouldn't decadence at least be a little fun?

Cabaret
Cabaret

Details

Conceived by John-Michael Tebelak with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz; presented by the St. Louis Black Repertory Company through April 15. Call 314-534-3810.
Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Sq.

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When the production plays to the material's strengths, it makes its points in ways that only musical theater can: the wistful "Marriage," with a lovely counterpoint sung by Deborah Sharn; the use of the Kit Kat songs to comment on the dramatic action; and the chilling "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" that closes Act 1. When you find yourself humming the tune at intermission, and then realize exactly what you're singing and how easily you bought into it, you know that the play still has something to say about the dangers of listening to too much cheerleading. We should all consider our answer to the question posed in Fraulein Schneider's song, "What Would You Do?"

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