I could have listened to the songs and the band with my eyes closed and been perfectly happy last Saturday at San Jose Stage’s production of Cabaret. But, if I had closed my eyes I would have missed the beautiful way the stage pictures fell together like a 1940’s foreign film. Or a vintage photo shoot. Indeed, a lovely german poem, with Sepia-like visual prose accented with a more than slightly devient undercurrent. The poses striked were, gorgeous. Every corner of the stage a picture even when it wasn’t the focus of the scene. This show was gritty, vintage and ambient.
And, if I closed my eyes I would have missed the dancers playing musical instruments, and actors musically directing and singing. The unexpected mixing-it-up highlighted the versatile talents of the cast and worked well to help perpetuate that Weimar club feel. Era achieved no doubt, but for all that was good, sadly there were some really disturbing choices that left this production disjointed and confusing (and not in the good way) for me.
The acting. There were plenty of moments played for the drama and not the joke. I’ve seen this play and others like it that bring the drama home much more strongly when the laugh is played for and the audience themselves feels uncomfortable FOR laughing.This didn’t seem stylized to me but, rather, it was overly dramatic at inopportune times making the majority of acting (save a few performances) the real low light for me.
Additionally, I didn’t agree with the lighting and sound choices. If that’s what they even were. Choices or opening night glitches, they were too bold and jarring in a way that I felt really distracted from the great vocals and visuals. It interupted the storytelling rather than helping it along or giving it depth. It left nothing to discovery. The colors and echo were too modern. Too much Technicolor. Not metaphorical. Not functional. Just strangely out-of-place a lot of the time.
I think all of the above challenges attributed to the first act feeling long. Like, really long. Nearly 2 hours and it felt much longer. That was unexpected and I’m not going to lie, it made it very hard to stay focused and to enjoy the good things happening.
If you’ve never seen Cabaret, there’s enough good with this production that you’re likely to enjoy it. If you’ve seen it before, I question if this interpretation came together in a way that sets a theatrical bar. I’m going with a very solid 3 jewels out of 5 in the tiara for this production. Some lovely work showcased, but not as cohesive as I would have liked to see. Cabaret plays through October 23rd at the San Jose Stage.