EHCC theatre transforms into Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub
Any time you see Director Larry Reitzer’s name on a play or musical, you can bet it’ll be a winner, and his latest gem, “Cabaret,” is no exception.
“‘Cabaret’ has always been my favorite show and movie when I was growing up,” notes Reitzer. “Itʻs a beautiful, dramatic love story with incredible dancing and has one of the greatest scores. Being able to do it in a small, intimate black box theatre at the East Hawaii Cultural Center makes it even more powerful and inclusive.”
“Cabaret” is set in 1930 post-war Germany, ripe with political unrest. Nevertheless, Berlin prospered as a shelter for artists and bohemians daring experimentation like the musical’s two main characters, English ex-pat Sally Bowles (Kyra Gomes), and bisexual American novelist Cliff Bradshaw (Danny Randerson). Both struggle to find personal fulfillment.
The musical unfolds on the dance floor at the Kit Kat Klub, and the 120-seat venue was the perfect setting for immersing the audience in the atmosphere of the seedy Berlin scene. It’s New Year’s Eve, and we are “Willkommened” by the club’s sinister emcee (Chesa Greene), who acts like a savage ringmaster with her white-tipped cane, while scantily clad women and men whoosh by our faces only a few feet away.
Upon his arrival in Berlin, Bradshaw rents a room from spinster Fräulein Schneider (Erin Smith) and has several shady encounters with smuggler Ernst Ludwig (Charles Haynes). Ludwig is willing to help the struggling writer pay his rent if he brings back items from Paris.
Bowles and Bradshaw find many opportunities for romance at the boarding house, as do others like Fräulein Kost (Yisa Var), the unapologetic house prostitute. Landlady Schneider is infatuated with Jewish grocer Herr Schultz (Tom Mirenda), who regularly courts her with rare exotic fruit and is more than eager to share his bottle of schnapps. A marriage proposal soon follows.
The audience is drawn into the action during the Schneider/Schultz engagement party, where Ludwig sports a swastika armband and reveals himself as a Nazi. When he cautions her that marrying a Jew is not wise for her “welfare,” boot heels stomp the hard floor and keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
While Act I was lighthearted and enjoyable, in Act II we see relationships crumble as the characters pick their political sides, and Bradshaw is the only one willing to flee Berlin’s tawdry and terrible times.
There are several standout musical numbers, and Kyra Gomes steals the show with her performances of “Mein Herr” and the reprise of “Cabaret.” Unfortunately, it became more of a song of desperation rather than joy this time.
In the end, the audience cheered and gave a standing ovation to the cast. Many brought flowers for individual performers.
Actor Charles Haynes explains why “Cabaret’s” topics are as timely today as they were over fifty years ago when it was first produced. “The show covers gender identity, sexual orientation, and sexual identity. There’s also a political divide and empirical power in the plot. And just like these things are issues of today, there’s the issue of humanity and the heart.”
The ensemble features 20 singers and dancers and a total cast of 30. The show’s sets are by Nicolas Souza, lights by Ariana Bassett, costumes by Lizby, and makeup and hair by Mitch Hale. “Cabaret” is produced by Jason Green, Nicolas Souza, and Charles Haines for Hilo Education Arts Repertory Theatre (H.E.A.R.T.).
If the lead characters Haines and Gomes look familiar, you may have seen them recently in Reitzer’s productions “Avenue Q” and “Beauty and the Beast” at the Palace Theater. Reitzer’s next production will be “Lion King,” followed by “Home for the Hilodays” in December.
“Cabaret” is being performed through Sunday, August 14; however, the remaining performances are sold out.
Listen to an exclusive interview with Kyra Gomes, Charles Haines, and Larry Reitzer.
About the author: Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: ©2022 Steve Roby
Performance date: 06/August/2022
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