A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW: “Cabaret” at Limelight Theatre in St. Augustine

St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre opened a revival of “Cabaret” (September 20 – October 21, 2018) on the Matuza Mainstage. The theatre is located at 11 Old Mission Avenue; ample free parking is available. Visit limelight-theatre.org or call 904-825-1164 for reservations.

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John Kander and Fred Ebb created this enduring musical, which received eight Tony awards after opening on Broadway in 1966. A film adaptation followed in 1972, which received eight Academy Awards. The story explores the rise of the Nazi Party in pre-World War II Germany, and is as relevant today as when it debuted over fifty years ago.

As you enter Limelight for your seat, you will find yourself welcomed to the decadent Kit Kat Klub with the Emcee’s “Willkommen.”

Afterward, we meet struggling would-be writer Cliff Bradshaw, an American who has come to Berlin hoping to complete his first novel. He is befriended by the older affable Ernst Ludwig, who recommends a cheap boarding house along with a visit to the Kit Kat Klub, which he describes as one of the hottest places in the city. Cliff is excellently portrayed by Brian Matthews, a Flagler College graduate and award-winning actor for his appearance in “The Maids” at the Kennedy Center.

After getting settled in his new quarters, Cliff is off to the club, where he meets Sally Bowles, a young British singer who is the featured performer; he offers to take her home, but she declines, saying it would make Max, her boyfriend and the club’s owner, jealous. However, she shows up at Cliff’s home the next day. She’s been fired, and has nowhere else to go. Cliff allows her to move in and their ill-fated romance begins. Sally, as portrayed brilliantly by Jacksonville actress Sadie Akers, is a complex character who sizzles as a singer, dresses conservatively on and off stage, and is addicted to drugs, liquor, and sex. And unlike Cliff, she is totally oblivious to what’s happening to Germany.

Actor Mike Beaman appears as The Emcee, who bursts upon the stage with a razor-sharp delivery filled with macabre gaiety, insinuating invitations, and gymnastics. He was initially fully dressed but later more or less bare-chested. “Two Ladies,” his song and dance number with two Kit Kat girls was very well done. And while Beaman has an extensive theatrical background as an instructor and director, this is reportedly his first on-stage appearance in five years.

A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW: "Cabaret" at Limelight Theatre in St. Augustine

A touching subplot concerns Fraulein Schneider (Regina Torres) who is carrying on a gentle love affair with Herr Schultz (Leonard Alterman), the Jewish owner of a small fruit store. Both are well known for their appearances on our local stages. They sing the lovely song “Married” in anticipation of their wedding, but we soon learn that their romance faces a tragic end as the Nazi movement expands; Schneider insists they part after an unknown assailant throws a brick through Schultz’s window.

Actress Elizabeth Bricknell provided a lot of the humor in this play as Fraulein Kost, the singing prostitute who loves sailors. Bob Mandzi is Ernst Ludwig, who smuggles money to support the Nazis from France.

The show has a great supporting cast. The very sexy Kit Kat Girls are portrayed by Francesca Bellavista, Samantha Jenkins, Bridgid Mullen, Izabella Unice, and Kimberly Zielinski. The Kit Kat Boys are portrayed by Caden Walters, Julien Dournaux and Isaiah Balzer (also Max). All appear frequently as dancers.

Limelight has a special performer in this show in Sascha Thorpe as Singing Boy, who belts out several lines of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” He began acting when he was six years old; he is now nine years old and has an impressive resume.

The band performed on an elevated platform on stage and included Sean Carroll-James Taylor (Woodwinds), Mitch Kolesaire (Bass), Brooks Clarke (Guitar/Banjo), and Lukas Weber (Drums). Shelli Long (Music Director) has been with Limelight for fourteen years; she also serves as Properties Mistress for the shows.

The production was directed by Beth Lambert with Harolyn Sharpe as Assistant Director. Missy Schmotzer choreographed the striking dance numbers. This is her second show for Limelight; she debuted with “Heathers: The Musical.” Bethany Paolini as Costume Designer created the edgy costumes. Lights designed by Carl Liberatore had a large role as part of the action. Jennifer Farrow kept all of this together as the Stage Manager.

We appreciated this interesting and unique production. The show is a reminder of a past we don’t want to forget, a past filled with terrorism, a play that merits repeated viewing. We highly recommend Limelight’s version; it is well acted and wonderfully sung.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.