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“Cabaret” is a haunting musical at the best of times, but watching it right now at Contra Costa Civic Theatre, it feels downright ominous. Set among the denizens of a seedy nightclub in 1931 Berlin, the 1966 musical’s exuberant decadence is increasingly darkened by the shadow of the rising Nazi party. The normalization of hateful rhetoric is chilling enough now that we know all too well where that leads, but it’s heartbreaking to hear so many people in the show just shrugging it all off as “politics” and figuring it’ll blow over soon.
Based on Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel “Goodbye to Berlin” by way of John Van Druten’s 1951 play “I Am a Camera,” “Cabaret” was the earliest and biggest hit for the songwriting team of composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb (“Chicago,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman”), with a libretto by Joe Masteroff (“She Loves Me”), The story centers around a young American writer (Brian Kamps’ almost aggressively bland Cliff Bradshaw) struggling to write a novel while fascinated by the hedonistic English cabaret singer (Annika Bergman’s unstoppably charismatic Sally Bowles) who has unilaterally inserted herself into his lace up ballet flats toddler life and into the cheap room he rents, There’s a bittersweet subplot about the budding romance between kindly landlady Fraulein Schneider (cheerily benevolent Scarlett Hepworth) and elderly Jewish fruit-stand proprietor Herr Schultz (sweetly mild-mannered Aaron Malberg) with an obvious element of foreboding built into it..
What makes “Cabaret” so bewitching is, of course, the cabaret. Bawdy and catchy, playful and tinged with dread, the memorable song-and-dance numbers keep on coming, including “Willkommen,” “Don’t Tell Mama,” “Mein Herr,” “Money” and, of course, “Cabaret.” Those songs are a decadent delight in CCCT artistic director Marilyn Langbehn’s production that opens the El Cerrito community theater’s 58th season. Perched atop an arch in Randy Wong-Westbrooke’s nondescript set, the small band led by musical director Tania Johnson lends some instrumental oomph to the cast’s spirited vocals.
Presiding over everything is Cameron La Brie’s leering and charmingly sinister Emcee, interspersing the bits of plot with gleefully risque ditties, Costumed by Lisa Danz in torn fishnets and lingerie, the slinky Kit Kat Girls and Boys ably assist with playfully suggestive dances choreographed by Allison Paraiso-Silicani, The Emcee also takes on other minor roles in the story, often menacing ones to remind us over and over of the horror to come, Tim Holt Jones also injects a note of unease as a jolly German traveler who befriends Cliff a little too eagerly, So does Alexis Lane Jensen as a brazen lodger who’s always bringing sailors into her room and is lace up ballet flats toddler eager to make trouble with the landlady..
The grim, grotesque humor of the piece is part of what makes it so effective, but its best moments (and some of its best songs) embody a defiant lust for life, heedless of consequences. It’s a swell party while it lasts. Contact Sam Hurwitt at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him at Twitter.com/shurwitt. By John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff, presented by Contra Costa Civic Theatre. Through: Oct. 22. Where: Contra Costa Civic Theatre, 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito. Running time: 2 hours and 25 minutes, one intermission.
BERKELEY — Comedian Lisa Geduldig and Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center are launching a new monthly comedy series, The inaugural event, at 8 p.m, Oct, 12, will benefit the Redwood Empire Food Bank, which supplies shelters in Sonoma County for people displaced by fires, Ashkenaz is at 1317 San Pablo Ave, at Gilman Street, Related ArticlesPG&E’s wildfire-linked $5.5 billion mega loanReport: SoCal Edison lines spark 2017 Thomas FireCamp Fire: Dispatchers some of the unsung heroesOvertime pay soared at Cal Fire as record wildfires burned across stateOpinion: PG&E is committed to changes to keep customers safeThe lineup on Thursday lace up ballet flats toddler for “Comedy at Ashkenaz! A Political Comedy Night” will feature New York political comedian Scott Blakeman, and Bay Area comedians and activists Yayne Abeba, Aundré the Wonderwoman, and Geduldig, who is the creator of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy — Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant..
Tickets cost $15 and $20 and are available here through Eventbrite. “Comedy at Ashkenaz” will be a monthly series, with a different theme and comedian lineup each month, Geduldig announced. All of the proceeds from ticket sales to Thursday’s show will go to Redwood Empire Food Bank. “REFB has been working around the clock to determine the most effective responseto the devastating fires throughout Sonoma County,” Geduldig’s said in a release. “They have been asked to provide critical food to shelters throughout Sonoma County for residents displaced by these fires. Truckloads of food have already gone out to various evacuation centers. In addition, they are working to ensure that those who needed food assistance before the fires are still able to access their help.”.
BERKELEY — As Berkeley prepares to lace up ballet flats toddler celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day, and its own pioneering role in proclaiming the holiday a quarter-century ago, a developer group’s mixed-use proposal at the West Berkeley Shellmound site, which many Native Americans hold sacred, is under city review, An all-day powwow and Indian market in Martin Luther King Jr, Civic Center Park on Oct, 14 is co-sponsored by the city and the Indigenous Peoples Day Committee, starting at 10 a.m, with a dance exhibition featuring Native California and Aztec dancers, The Grand Entry will..