When, due to the pandemic, the curtain came down and the lights went out on Broadway, so too did Long Island’s theaters shutter their doors, leaving behind lonely, darkened sets, untouched props, racks of costumes and broken dreams of stardom.
Such was the plight of Babylon’s 500-seat Argyle Theatre that had successfully opened in 2018, thanks to the vision of father and son partners, Mark and Dylan Perlman, to create a professional Broadway-caliber theater combining talent from Actors Equity together with local talented performers.
In September, as restrictions eased in New York enabling the proverbial “show to go on” and allowing theaters to reopen, the eight-time Tony Award-winning and eight-time Academy Award-winning “Cabaret” was ready to go and finally up and running!
Running is an understatement… from the moment one walked into the theater, even before the first act began, the dazzling set, appointed with sparkling chandeliers and a cabaret stage right out of the late 1920s, greeted the audience.
Set in pre-World War II Berlin as the Nazis were steadily gaining power, a ragtag group of performers of every persuasion inhabit the Kit Kat Klub. The adjectives sexy, bawdy, tawdry come to mind as the opening number “Willkommen” is sung by The Emcee (Jon Peterson), who together with the Boys and Girls of the Company, clad in skimpy leather and revealing lace, pivot and purr, bringing viewers to the precipice of excitement as their song culminates with the introduction of the star of their show, Sally Bowles (Dana Costello).
Sally romances American writer Clifford Bradshaw (Andy Tighe) while he rooms, writes and gives English lessons to German soldiers introduced to him by Ernst Ludwig (Brian Owen) at Fraulein Schneider’s (Suzanne Grodner) boarding house, whose other boarders are her admirer, fruit grocer Herr Schultz (Fred Frabotta), and Fraulein Kost (Lily Tobin), who admires sailors a bit too much and too often!
“Life is beautiful!” says the Emcee playfully, as he tragically leads us through those painfully turbulent times where anti-Semitism, homophobia, food shortages, and Nazism are so artfully addressed. Issues of love, extreme loss, and survival echo all too closely in today’s news headlines.
Director Evan Pappas and his co-director and choreographer, Sara Brian, have brought us the highest-quality production. Every detail, every song, every dance catapults viewers into a well of emotion. Peterson, Costello and Grodner’s numbers are truly stellar and can easily bring one to laughter, or to tears.
“Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!
Fremde, etranger, stranger.
Gluklich zu sehen, je suis enchante,
Happy to see you, bleibe, reste, stay.”
“Cabaret” is outstanding entertainment with a provocative score by Kander and Ebb, book by Joe Masteroff, based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood.