Photo by Masako TobaruSex, politics, comedy. From the skankily dressed Kit Kat boys and girls to fascist fundamentalists to the decadent escapism of 1930s Berlin, the musical Cabaretis chock-full of dramatic possibility. Now playing at the Chance Theatre in Anaheim Hills, Cabaretis at its core a love story between Clifford Bradshaw (a meek American writer) and Sally Bowles (a vulgar and vivacious British cabaret singer), both struggling with money, the politics of a recently Hitlerized Germany, artistic creation and sexual freedom. We've also got the relationship of Clifford's landlady, Fraulein Schneider, and fruit grocer Herr Schultz, a Jew, whose love affair—modest and sweet—is opposed to the sturm-und-drangof Sally and Clifford's but turns out to be just as doomed. Framing the relationship stories, of course, is an astonishing cabaret show at the Kit Kat Club, a show that highlights, comments and elaborates on the ways that political tyranny and paranoia forced desire into an underground and, once there, flowered into the sordid orchids of post-Weimar decadence.
The current production of Cabaretat the Chance, despite claims to the contrary, seems very much like a remount of the 1998 Broadway revival: there are the revealing Kit Kat costumes, the minimalist set, an onstage band, and "cabaret table seating" in the front section of the house.
While this is a solid production with talented and frankly flawless singers—especially Erika C. Miller as Sally Bowles in the musical's most crucial role—the production's not as fresh as it could be. It hardly needs to be said that Cabaretis not your garden-variety Julie Andrews musical: it begs for provocative staging and unconventional choreography. Here, choreographer Kelly Todd has mistaken pelvic thrusts and boob-grabbing for ooh-la-la provocation. The only real creative—and, it turns out, satisfying—deviation from the revival is the decision to cast the enthusiastic Beach Vickers, an unskinny, less-like-Alan-Cumming-more-like-Nathan-Lane Emcee, whose antics and subtle improvisations give the production a little juice.
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Cabaret, The Chance Theatre, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (714) 777-3033; www.chancetheater.com. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Through Aug. 14. $22-$35.