Adorned with writhing bodies and snare drum riffs, the seedy nightspot at the heart of the Keegan Theatre’s production of Cabaret is a cauldron of sin with a mischievous master of ceremonies stirring the pot. Dark but lively, funny and sad, the mix isn’t just right, it’s also satisfying, with plenty of flavor to spare.
Part omnisexual sideshow barker, part devious puppet master, the emcee (an absorbing Paul Scanlan) is tasked with arguably the most difficult—and most fun—role, and Scanlan clearly relishes the opportunity. The idea that his scantily clad host figure is somehow pulling all the strings is believable with the actor’s leading presence, searing gaze, and capable vocals. A pleasantly unexpected standout, Stan Shulman as kindhearted Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz steals his own fair share of scenes, leaving the audience rooting for his sweet, romantic subplot with a spinster innkeeper (Jane Petkofsky).
…the production is at its best when it’s steeped in all its rouged, writhing, spotlit glory. Scanlan commands a troupe of male and female Kit Kat Club dancers, decked out in clingy underthings and armed with a mastery of vulgar pantomime and come-hither stares, and it’s when that group takes the stage that the performances shine brightest.
….Songs like “Money” are the most captivating because they fuse the flashy sex appeal and choreography with a genuine rawness and pain.
In the Keegan’s intimate space, the energy of the seamy club shines through, even if the drama has a dark twist to it.