Few L.A. theater companies can rival North Hollywood’s Crown City in multiple-extension long runs, the latest of which is their ground-breaking revival of Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret, now entering its fourth SRO month, and if past CCTC hits like Danny And The Deep Blue Sea, A Big Gay North Hollywood Wedding, Company, and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change are any indication of what’s ahead, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cabaret running well into 2015.
Director Gary Lamb’s re-imagining of the past-and-present Broadway smash as narrator Clifford Bradshaw’s remembrances of his stay in pre-WWII Berlin as told by the Kit Kat Klub performers themselves continues to prove both a perfectly marvelous introduction to the K&E classic and an exciting revisit to those who’ve enjoyed the musical even umpteen times before.
As for those who’ve attended Crown City’s Cabaret anytime since its September opening, multiple cast changes make a return visit well worth the price of admission.
Michael J. Marchak graduates magna cum laude from the role of Ernst to Cabaret’s most iconic character of all, that of its ubiquitous Emcee, and an eye-opening performance it is, even for those like this reviewer who have followed the handsome young triple-threat’s career since his student days at USC. Marchak sings with pitch-perfect pipes, acts with seductive sex appeal, and reveals the darker shadings of a young man whose blond, blue-eyed Hitler youth good looks may not be enough to save him from the Holocaust yet to come.
A sensational Shayna Gabrielle continues to anchor the production with her sizzling rendition of Sally Bowles, John Ross Clark remains a seasoned charmer as Herr Schultz, Katie DeShan’s uninhibited Fraulein Kost is still a sexy scene-stealer, and though soon to depart, Annie Sherman’s Frenchie is every bit as zesty as she was on Opening Night. (Sherman gets extra kudos for her perfekt bilingual pre-show announcements.)
A return visit to Cabaret allowed this reviewer to catch a couple of performers whose alternates debuted on Opening Night. A first-rate Jason Peter Kennedy adds darker shadings to Bobby, and never more so than in “If You Could See Her” and Kris Coffman is a delightful stage presence as a gender-bending Hans.
A half-dozen or so cast replacements allow the show’s already established performers to forge new relationships and add new shadings to their multifaceted work.
Joe Mendick is such a dynamic, assured presence as Cliff that no one at last night’s performance could have guessed that this was his very first outing in the role (following a single “put-in” rehearsal). Trust me, you’ll be hearing much more from this young Christian Slater who sings as terrifically as he acts, and whose L.A. theater debut comes only months after his graduation from the prestigious Carnegie Mellon School Of Drama.
Choreographer Lisaun Whittingham makes for a splendid cast addition both as seen-it-all Frau Schneider and as her sassy Cabaret counterpart Rosie, Rachel Osting’s cover girl looks are matched by her song-and-dance prowess as Helga, and Aryan ideal Mark Ostrander fits neatly into Ernst’s shoes.
Anyone who’s seen Sam Mendes’s gloomy/grungy long-running Cabaret revival (back on Broadway this year) or the many imitators that followed owes it to him-or-herself to catch Crown City’s production if only to witness another director’s inspired vision.
Whether you’ve seen Cabaret umpteen times (I’ve seen ten productions in all) or this is your very first visit, I suggest you follow Sally Bowles’ advice and “Come to the Cabaret!”
Right this way, your table’s waiting!
Click here for my Opening Night review.
Crown City Theater, St. Matthew’s Church, 11031 Camarillo St., North Hollywood. Through February 22. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00. Sundays at 3:00. (No performance Saturday January 17.) Reservations: 818 605-5685
December 27, 2014