Oklahoma City Theatre Company says 'hello' to Berlin with 'Cabaret,' a scaled-down musical 

8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Oklahoma City Theatre Company
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N. Walker

Oklahoma City Theatre Company has opened its ambitious season with "Cabaret" in CitySpace at the Civic Center Music Hall, which could very well resemble in size and claustrophobia whatever dives sparked Christopher Isherwood's novel "Goodbye to Berlin," an inspiration for this musical set in the early-1930s Berlin demimonde.

The out-of-tune piano in OCTC's production fits the Kit Kat Klub atmosphere perfectly, and a little stage smoke would have been even better.

When a director has superior material to work with, her battle is half won before she begins, and in "Cabaret," director Deborah Draheim is working with one of the great American musicals. The intimate space limits her to a small stage, a few chairs, several tables and a four-piece combo, but this does not mean the production feels skimpy or incomplete. "Cabaret" lends itself exceptionally well to this type of production, although Draheim has cast 13 dancers, about twice as many as are needed. Audience members in the front row could get a high heel up the nostril.

She mustered a cast with no great singing voices, but most of the actors are adequate singers, and a couple have real character. None other than David Mays plays the emcee. I don't recall ever seeing him in a musical, and I also don't recall ever seeing him do anything less than a top-notch job. His character embodies the decadence of 1930s Berlin as depicted in Isherwood's stories. Mays gives a performance of nuance and detail, right down to his rouged and black-eyeliner-outlined nipples.

Paul Mitchell, who made such a fine impression earlier this year in Carpenter Square's "Reefer Madness," plays Cliff Bradshaw, a struggling American novelist who comes to Berlin ostensibly to write, but inadvertently gets mixed up with Nazis.

Laura Ann Dougharty is Sally Bowles, the cabaret singer with bobbed hair who hardly bothers with Mr. Right and skips directly to Mr. Right Now, one of whom happens to be Cliff. Dougharty's Sally comes off for much of the show as annoyingly childish and overly dramatic, although one can see how the character is written that way. Later, her Sally shows intestinal fortitude, which could be interpreted as either ruthlessness or desperation "? maybe some of both.

"Cabaret" has a couple of interesting supporting characters in Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. Josh Irick is appealing as the poignant Schultz, a German Jew who considers himself more German than Jewish, which the audience knows will be fatal for him in the end. Lilo Foster does a fine job as Schneider, a hardworking German who, in some ways, may be a victim of the Nazis herself. "?Larry Laneer

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