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The Kit Kat Klub is open at Spindrift Players for the early summer, and it is just as intense and edgy as it has ever been. This version of Sam Mendes 2014 interpretation of Fred Ebb and John Kander's production of CABARET is on stage through May 28th at the Pacifica Ca stage.

Directed by the clever Marin Rojas Dietrich, this production is enhanced by a stellar cast. The Mendes’ revival made Alan Cumming a Broadway star as the iconic Emcee. CABARET is based on the play “I Am Camera” that was inspired by Christopher Isherwood's 1939 portrait of Sally in "Goodbye to Berlin".

I first saw the original version as a teen with Joel Grey and Melissa Hart at the Curran Theatre; however, the musical has changed a lot over the years to highlight the darker side to focus on this end of freedom of art - the story about the “The Night of the Long Knives” and Hitler's takeover of Berlin.

The Spindrift Players are celebrating CABARET’S 51st year with this excellent visit to the famous Kit Kat Klub in pre Nazi Berlin featuring Bobby Bryce as the Emcee and the wonderful Marah Sotelo as Sally Bowles. Sotelo is a show stopper as the classic Bowles, yet Bryce plays the Emcee a bit low key and lets the supporting cast shine. Director Marin Rojas Dietrich says “ On our first day of rehearsal, I told the cast that we would delve deep into finding the truth in every moment of the story.” Dietrich dedicated this production to the memory of those who died in the Holocaust “and in the honor of all those using their voices to be heard. Resist.”

The revolutionary groundbreaking two and a half hour show is still a mix of vaudevillian cabaret performances at Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub with a story following the lives and romances of several folks who live in 1929/30 fall of Berlin. As the story progresses, the rise of Hitler impacts both the Klub and these characters. With the focus on the rise of Nazism in Germany, CABARET might risk bringing current fears of our own current Trump world. The sold out audience was entranced with landlady Fraulein Schneider played by the endearing Patti Appel and fruit store owner Herr Schultz’ played by the amiable Scott Solomon in an engaging love story. It is a sweet older couple love story perfectly mixed by the tragic romantic story between Sally and American writer, Cliff Bradshaw, played by the superb Gary Craig Schoenfeld.

Cast member and costume designer Lisa Claybaugh created a rich look for the cast with sexual undertones for both the male and female characters, but especially for the Emcee and his/her Victoria Secret leather chaps look. Marah is goth cute, yet a dark Sally who is enchanting. Her Sally is the most memorable I have seen, and is way too talented for the likes of the Kit Kat Klub. With all various versions this groundbreaking musical has thrived since 1966 with its amazing score on Broadway and around the world, Director Dietrich brings a smart and poignant take with this Cabaret.

Photos by Christopher Sotelo, Wigs by Sharon Ridge

Dialect Coach Richard Newton, Producer Mae Linh Fatum

The stunning ensemble includes local favorite Jeffrey Ramos as Bobby, who is terrific in “Two Ladies” along with the frisky Oliva Cucco as Lulu in which they bring a sizzling sexual edge to this number. The sexy ensemble of Kit Kat Girls and Boys are fashion perfect and all very talented since all the cast is on stage most of the time.

The girls are “Each and every one a virgin. Ooh, you don't believe me?” says the Emcee. The sexy Kit Kat girls include Cheril Ellingson, Olivia Cucco, Nicolina Akraboff, Alexandra Mays, Lisa Claybaugh and Cat Imperato. The other boys along with Ramos include the riveting Carlos Guerrero and Joshua Beld. Their main numbers "Don't Tell Mama", "Mein Herr", and the Act 2 Opening number brings the Kit Kat Klub an explosive climate of doom. The keen Jason Bustos is Max the club owner and keeps fight director Dave Maier’s action choreography authentic.

A few songs from the original book were cut, like “The Telephone Song.” This version has also been streamlined with a simple one level set design by Dutch Fritz. The set has a cozy Kit Kat Klub that also transforms to the boarding house Cliff rents from Schneider. Under the direction of Dietrich, the set is simple but the stage remains busy with movement as it opens for both the Klub and Clifford's room.

Bobby Byrce may have missed the mark as the Emcee but he is also the eye catching Choreographer. Bryrce’s sizzling choreography is magnetic with Fossie passion and charm that hypnotized the audience with the iconic CABARET songs "Willkommen," "Money", and "If You Could See Her”. Dietrich is also the Music Director and his keen three piece band keeps the ensemble pitch perfect with Dana Bauer on wind instruments and Jeff Wheeler on drums.

Sotelo, as Sally in her grand fur coat and ease of swallowing raw eggs, expertly navigates the moving anthem “Maybe Next Time” which is one of the highlights for the dark evening. Her vocals in the iconic number “Cabaret” is so very poignant - she clearly tells the story of her downfall - this is the best version of this song I have seen since Liza M made it an Iconic hit in the 70’s. Sotelo’s voice is provocative and emotional invested.

Appel and Solomon as the two older lovers that are touching together and bring their cute and enduring “It Couldn’t Please Me More” (more popularly known as the Pineapple song) a new meaning to our modern issues, and the song always wins over any audience. The impressive Appel is stellar in her performance of "What Would You Do?" the end of line tragedy of the times of this CABARET.

Schoenfeld is a lost innocent as the romantic Cliff who is in constant struggle with his sexuality and his moments with Bobby played by the winsome Ramos. But he truly shined in his intense scenes with Sally. Their duet “Perfectly Marvelous” was adorable and perfectly showcase their immense chemistry. The feisty Cat Imperato plays Fraulein Kost, the overworked prostitute that has the perfect comic timing with the Sailors and scares us with her reprise rendition of “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” and her love for Nazis. The dapper Marc Gonzales as Ernst showed a provocative transformation as he reveals his Nazi side and his seduction of Cliff.

Dietrich’s excellent direction is intense, erotic, and fully realized, and his use of the very strong Marah Sotelo is the key to the remarkable power of this production. It is also not a disappointment to see Bryce and dance captain Carlos Guerrero‘s choreography honors the late Bob Fosse. Lighting designer Miranda Steinberg uses the classic runway lighting and shadows on the dark edges of the Fritz’s wonderful set. Set builders Gary Smith and Mel Bratz kept the wood frame look authentic and Lindsay Schultz’s props included the classic club chairs, dial phones, and classy barware for Sally's famous raw egg drink. The Spindrift company rarely uses microphones since it is a black box setting, but sound designer and actor Gary Craig Schoenfeld kept the classic Sally Bowles “Cabaret” a show stopper.

The final moments make it clear that we are about to be overpowered by the darkest forces in history. The Nazi anthem "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" shouts out with defiance and destruction. The Emcee baits us, as he flirts with the audience members, teases the crowd making us squirm and taking us into this death chamber . CABARET still speaks to us and our current, contentious political climate, making this company a most important reason to visit Spindrift Players this spring season. The instant round of cheers from the sold out weekend audiences was well deserved; this CABARET is not to be missed. Next up for PSP is the play BECKY’S NEW CAR that opens July 14th and the classic INTO THE WOODS which opens August 25th.



Written Joe Masteroff, Music by John Kander

Lyrics by Fred Ebb

Stage and Music Director Martin Rojas Dietrich

Choreographer Bobby Bryce

Now Through – May 28th

PSP Theater

1050 Crespi Drive, Pacifica, CA

Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Sunday at 2 p.m.

2.5 hours with one intermission

Photos by Christopher Sotelo

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