Nashville Rep's Cabaret | Theatre Review | ArtsNash
Jenny Littleton and Co. Perfectly Marvelous in Cabaret - Evans Donnell of ArtsNash
Those involved in bringing the Joe Masteroff/John Kander/Fred Ebb classic to throbbing life in the Johnson Theater black box have done a fine job capturing the largely dark, somewhat gritty and sometimes raunchy aspects of the 1998 revisions to the show that first hit Broadway in 1966. I saw the 1998 New York revival, and Nashville Rep’s production mostly matches up quite nicely with my happy memories of that presentation.
I’m not saving the best for last – Jenny Littleton’s bravura performance as Sally Bowles is one of the best in her distinguished career. Yes, she was nominated for a prestigious Jeff Award for her critically-acclaimed work during Doyle and Debbie’s eight-month run in Chicago, but Nashville folks that have seen her in that show and others know she’s one of the most talented and versatile actors to grace our stages in many years.
There are a multitude of moments to which I can point that make me rave about Littleton’s performance – from Sally’s emotionally-charged dialogues with Clifford Bradshaw (played with an earnest sweetness by Patrick Waller) to putting the electricity into hellzapoppin’ renditions of “Mein Herr” and “Maybe This Time” she clearly conveys the joys and sorrows of her character’s existence. But it’s her delivery of the title song in Act II that I will remember as long as I can recall anything I’ve ever seen in a theater.
Her voice and body trembling, this “Cabaret” provides no jaded-but-jaunty tribute to a philosophy of life; Littleton’s Sally is a wounded animal that cannot mask her pain any longer, and that pain claws its way out of her until it pierces and thoroughly penetrates our ears, eyes, minds and hearts. I thought I’d never see a better take on that number, or on the character of Sally, than Natasha Richardson’s Tony Award-winning portrayal; at Saturday’s opening show I did. Thank you Ms. Littleton.
As the Emcee David Compton is a devilishly delicious delight. Costumer Trish Clark has outfitted him much as Alan Cumming was in that 1998 revival; suspenders but no shirt is the order of the day (along with rouged nipples) for his main look, although clothes for all occasions – and both genders – ultimately find their way onto his slender frame. The 51-year-old actor delivers high kicks that would challenge performers 30 years his junior, and creates an appropriately playful, sensual and mischievous mood from the start.