6th Street Playhouse does CABARET


Reviewed by Jeffrey R Smith of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

The 6th Street Playhouse of Santa Rosa has always been full of surprises although nothing in recent memory could possibly prepare the average theatre aficionado for their current opus: CABARET.

The show is based on the script by Joe Materoff and contains many memorable hits by lyricist Fred Ebb and composer John Kander, but such origins are only the launching pad, the chrysalis, the springboard, for this stunning production.

Fasten your seatbelt and press your occipital bone into the headrest, you are about to be accelerated back to the complacently decadent days of Berlin in the 1930s where fatalism, political apathy and resignation were repackaged as joie de vivre.

Director David Lear has skimmed the cream de la cream of theatrical talent from every stage west of the Petaluma River: this show reveals an unflagging attention to detail from Klieg lights to Casting and on to Costuming.

And speaking costumes, unless you are a regular at the O’Farrell Theatre, you are not likely to have seen the fashion line-up that Tracy Hinman Sigrist has in store for you: gentlemen, fasten your chin-straps, your jaw is about to drop.

Scenic designer John Connole has you smelling the bratwurst and tasting the Veuve Clicquot before the house manager reminds you—in a thick Prussian accent—to turn off your cell phone and unwrap your candy.

Connole’s set design seems to optimize every square centimeter of the Sixth Street Stage; he boldly experiments with what photographers call depth of field: his set seems to recede back to the firewall upstage and to cantilever into the audience downstage; unless you’re wearing 3-D glasses, you are never going to see a set design push the limits of Euclidean Geometry like this.

Connole has embellished the set with murals—done in sepia tones that reflect the time and madness of a rising Third Reich; the murals are astonishing: they should be auctioned at Sotheby’s after the show closes.

Mood swings are everything in this show: half the characters are bi-polar, the rest are manic; Lighting Designer Theo Bridant cleverly works his subtle craft to the max: subliminally changing the emotional climate with daring bursts of color suddenly flooding the stage and suffusing the actors with torrents of red and blue.

Just as the insouciance of the cabaret is contrived, a buffer from the truth of the rising Nazi tide, Theo Bridant’s lighting, seemingly heavy handed at times, symbolizes how hard the patrons are working to ignore the omens.

Choreographer Tony Gianchetta should be commended first and foremost for his courage: thanks to Bob Fosse, CABARET is possibly best known for its impeccable choreographic standards: an audience has been preconditioned to expect nothing less and Tony delivers in spades: from the synchronous chorus lines, to the bawdy ménage a trios and on to the superlative solo performances of Marjorie Rose Taylor: this show is buffed and brilliantly polished.

Expectation and past experience inevitably place tremendous pressures on the performers in CABARET: the movie CABARET earned Fosse four nominations for Oscars: it was flawless.

Any actress that has the chutzpah to take on Sally Bowles knows she is up against Liza Minelli, the definitive Sally, who won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her unforgettable role in CABARET.

Marjorie Rose Taylor more than measured up to what is arguably the most challenging role in show business: she was absolutely dazzling.

When Miss Taylor performs the title song—reaffirming her decision to remain with the cabaret and to leave the straight life behind—the audience is rocked: this reviewer had chills, rushes and the hairs on the back of his neck standing like a cockatoo’s feathers.

If this show were an Olympic event Miss Taylor would get a 10 in acting, a 10 in singing and a 10 in dancing.

Rarely is this much talent ensconced in one up-and-coming actress; what is truly noteworthy is that Miss Taylor is clearly prepared to augment her prodigious natural talent with tons of hard work; paradoxically her stage presence and dazzling finished product seem nearly effortless.

The show is nothing short of smashing; it will pry you loose from Bill Fosse and Liza Minelli; henceforth you will remember Tony Gianchetta and Marjorie Rose Taylor.

For tickets, call 707-523-4185.