PPAC's "Cabaret": Willkommen

The Cast of the revival of "Cabaret"
(photo: Providence Performing Arts Center)

Somewhere between Mason City, Iowa (forever enthroned in our minds as the birthplace of Meredith Wilson and The Music Man), and the Providence Performing Arts Center, an actress by the name of Alison Ewing spent quite a bit of time on various stages in the Kander and Ebb smash hit musical, Cabaret. She's performed several roles over the past couple of decades, including the part of Lulu on Broadway, the first National Tour and in Paris. In the current National Tour about to open in Providence (January 26-31), she's taking on the role of Fraulein Kost, who entertains (so to speak) a steady stream of visiting sailors in the boarding house where the lead character Sally Bowles (for which Alison is the understudy in this company) lives. Along the way she's also appeared in such shows as Mamma Mia!, Flashdance, Ain't Nothin' but the Blues, and Sweet Charity. She also plays in the “all-girl” band as Fritzie.

As anyone familiar with the original Broadway production or the subsequent film version will recall, this is the story of Sally (Andrea Goss) when she meets Clifford Bradshaw (Lee Aaron Rosen) at the Kit Kat Klub as she sings “Don't Tell Mama”. It is Germany just as the Nazis are rising to power. Based on the novel Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, in turn based on John Van Druten's play I Am a Camera, it takes place in the raunchy Berlin night club with a bizarre Emcee (Randy Harrison). Bradshaw, an American writer, also meets Ernst Ludwig (Ned Noyes) who offers him work and suggests he room in a boardinghouse run by Fraulein Schneider (Shannon Cochran). Later Sally arrives on Cliff's doorstep, having been thrown out of her apartment. The first act ends with a song that becomes a march with some sinister overtones, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”. In the second act, Sally and Cliff have fallen in love, and she confesses she's pregnant. Meanwhile, Fraulein Schneider catches her boarder Fraulein Kost (Ewing, as noted above) with her turnstyle of admirers, but Kost reminds her she's had her own dalliance with her Jewish suitor Herr Schultz (Mark Nelson). Sally tells Cliff she's gone through with an abortion, and he decides to leave Berlin, leaving her behind to sing of her choice of a life of freedom, unaware of the imminent descent of the Nazi stormtroopers. As he leaves on the train, Cliff begins to write of his experiences “at the end of the world”.

One of the anticipated delights of this stage version is the reinstatement of the romantic relationship between the landlady Fraulein Schneider and her lovely songs with Herr Schultz, “It Couldn't Please Me More (Pineapple)” and “Married”, both entirely cut from the movie. There is also a new song written for the Broadway revival, “I Don't Care Much”. In this iteration of the revival, Ewing is thrilled to be continuing in a show she has grown to love more and more, though she confesses that her “wannabe” role would be that of Mrs. Lovett in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. Meanwhile, she's having a ball, but, as the all-female band on stage might put it, “Don't Tell Mama”.

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