Chairs in a semi-circle and little round tables, plus a circular center stage and big old-fashioned bar, give the Aurora Fox Studio Theatre a cabaret look, specifically the Kit Kat Klub, circa 1931, Berlin, for “Cabaret.”
An uneasy feeling hovers over the small nightclub. Weimar Germany’s hedonistic approach to life was about to end as the Nazis came to power.
The club’s dancers, skimpily clad in black, with torn stockings and distinct personalities, come onstage and begin to exercise as the live band begins to play “Willkommen.” And we meet the extraordinary, androgynous character called Emcee (Matt Lafontaine), who narrates, sings, dances and ties it all together. Somewhat threatening, he seems to represent the approaching dark times.
Director/choreographer Danny Harrigan refers in a program note to “The Fosse Kaleidoscope that you will see” and the whole look of the show reflects early direction by the late Bob Fosse — in choreography and staging. Dark-rimmed eyes, exaggerated moves and a raw, sexy mood prevail in the club scenes.
Music by John Kander and Fred Ebb won the 1967 Tony for Best Score, and “Cabaret” also won for Best Musical. It is a strong piece that will challenge a director. Harrigan’s production captures the dark overlay, as well as some lovely music.
The four-piece band, led by Brandon Bill on keyboard, enhances the production, although on a few occasions, it drowns out a singer. On the whole, sound is well-balanced.
British singer Sally Bowles (Lindsey Falduto) moves between this seedy world and a potentially healthier one represented by American Cliff Bradley (Marcus Turner), a novelist who hopes Berlin will inspire him to write his next book. He falls in love with Sally and wants to take her to America, but she is unable to recognize the growing threat and returns to the nightclub instead. Chemistry between these two is a bit short.
The other heartbreaking romance is between Fraulein Schneider (Barbara Porreca) and aging Jewish bachelor Herr Schultz (Brian Trampler), as she chooses political safety over a chance at love.
Nazi presence comes through in the innocent-sounding song “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” which is chilling when one recognizes it. Characters Ernst (Rob Janzen) and Fraulein Kost (Maggie Tisdale) lead here and are increasingly sinister.
“Cabaret” is entertaining and challenging for adults — not appropriate for children. The relatively new Ignite Theatre company has taken another significant step forward.