In Here, Life Is Beautiful

Originally published on August 15th, 2016, at
Republished at on March 6th, 2017.
Added to on October 30th, 2017.

My birthday was months ago. Early June, in fact; and I woke up that morning to an elaborate puzzle which took me from clue to book to clue to book in our home library, giving me a list of titles of which the first letters combined, in order, to spell “CABARET”!

Fast forward to this past Saturday (August 13th, specifically — for my own reference, because I will want to know that date someday), and the last part of my birthday present finally arrived! The wife and I set out to Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa to see…

Wait a minute!?! Is that Justin?!? The kid from Queer as Folk?!?

Justin’s the emcee?!?


Was Justin ever!

Randy Harrison (he’s not really named “Justin”, ‘though I suspect he’s been called that enough to be annoyed by it) stripped me of my QAF lens with the first notes of “Willkommen”. He didn’t have to fill the theatrical shoes of Joel Grey or Alan Cumming, because Harrison’s emcee brought his own boots — and they were big and black and imposing.

Which brings me to how this version of Cabaret differed from the 1972 film. Both share a timeframe: Germany, at the rise of the Nazi Party. Darkness and imposition are inherent aspects of the story, whether on stage or on screen. But the horror of that place in time — along with the horror of denial — was driven home much more effectively, for me and for my wife, by the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production than by the film.

It wasn’t even close.

Linda and I were both crying in our seats at the Segerstrom.

(Forgive the parentheticals. Consider them a lazy gal’s segue. But fellow theatre-goers: Do you really think it’s appropriate to applaud at the ending of “If You Could See Her”? I’m pretty sure it’s not. Take the term “punch line” literally, in this case. Like Herman, there’s nothing funny about that whispered bit of anti-Semitism.1)

Oh, and Andrea Goss? This Cabaret’s Frauline Sally Bowles?

Best. Mic drop. Ever.

I’ve heard Liza Minelli’s “Cabaret”. I’ve listened to Natasha Richardson’s version so much that it’s burned into my brain. But I’ve never heard the song interpreted the way Andrea Goss interpreted it for this production.

That performance, through both its power and interpretation, was the first swing of the hammer in the drive toward a finale where every nail. Hit. Home. Even the mic drop, itself (I may have been speaking loosely, but I wasn’t speaking figuratively), was powerful, impactful, and completely appropriate.

“Impactful”, in fact, is how Linda and I both described the play when we talked about it in the car, on our way home from the theatre. There was nothing vague about the ending of this story; no Nazis filmed through filters at the end of the show. Visually, aurally, (and yes, symbolically), you understand how this story ends.

We took Randy Harrison’s advice after taking our seats: We left our troubles outside.

We enjoyed the raunch and the spectacle and the slow turn of the emotional climate.

And we came away far more troubled than we were when we went in.

If you’d like to experience that disturbance for yourself, Cabaret is playing at the Segerstrom through the 21st of this month, with dates across the U.S. — and Toronto! — through mid-2017.