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MCing the Holocaust

Francis Jue
Willkommen: Francis Jue, as the Kit Kat Club emcee, welcomes decadent customers to a final fling before the Nazis take over.

Photo by David Allen

A new 'Cabaret' restores the edgy historical thrust of musical

By Anne Gelhaus

THEATREWORKS' production of Cabaret at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts provides the perfect counterbalance to the Anne Frank exhibit now on display at the civic center next door. While the latter pays tribute to one girl's triumph of spirit in the face of the Holocaust, the former acknowledges the willful detachment that pervaded German society in the late 1920s and early '30s, a lack of humanity that paved the way for the Nazis to come into power.

In the show, the decadent denizens of Berlin play at the Kit Kat Club, while another sector of the population burns with the desire to restore Germany to glory. Even in the midst of the club's wine, women and song, an aura of menace--artfully conveyed by Francis Jue as the Kit Kat's enigmatic emcee--hovers over the proceedings.

Jue heads a superb cast; all the characters, from Sally Bowles (Liana Young) to Fraülein Schneider (Lucinda Hitchcock Cone) to the chorus girls, are realized to their fullest potential. Even Bobby and Victor (Tim Bohle and Paul Araquistain), the Kit Kat's most openly gay regulars, make an impact in their few scenes.

Director Robert Kelley has left Joe Masteroff's book intact, so that unlike the famous but defanged movie version, the homoerotic overtones are preserved. This is fitting, since the plot is based on stories by Christopher Isherwood, a famous author and gay activist who died in 1987, and it heightens the audience's awareness that most of the club's population--even those who embrace Nazism--will probably become victims of the Holocaust.

The production looks beautiful, from Allison Connor's stylish costume designs to J.B. Wilson's seedy but alluring sets. Lita B. Libaek deftly leads the orchestra through Kander and Ebb's score, giving resonance to the familiar music.

There are a couple moments in the show when all these aspects come together to great effect. Toward the end of the first act, after the New Year's Eve celebration, Jue's rousing rendition of "Money" and the Hilter youths' gorgeous, yet frightening anthem "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," the stage is littered with a mix of confetti, coins and Nazi propaganda fliers. The combination graphically depicts how all these elements played a part in the coming genocidal horror.

The other such moment comes after the final curtain, when the swastika banners have been unfurled on either side of the proscenium, giving audience members the uncomfortable feeling of having just attended a rally. The feeling lends credence to the show's message that "if you're not against all this, you're for it."

Cabaret plays Tuesday at 7:30pm, Wednesday­Saturday at 8pm (plus Oct. 26 at 2pm), and Sunday, Oct. 27 and Nov. 3, at 2 and 7pm through Nov. 3 at the Center for the Performing Arts, Castro and Mercy streets, Mountain View. Saturday, Oct. 26, at 2pm. Tickets are $20-$28. (415/903-6000)

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From the October 24-30, 1996 issue of Metro

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