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THEATER REVIEW / 'CABARET' : Kit Kat Klub Brought to Vivid Life


A chilling view of Nazi encroachment on German politics in the late '20s, "Cabaret" is among the few musicals to feature savage social commentary and become a lasting hit. Twenty-three years after the show's Broadway debut, "Cabaret" still has much to offer contemporary audiences. And the current production at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, which closes Sunday, is worth the trip.

Paul Ashman-Heine stars as would-be novelist Clifford Bradshaw, an American soaking up atmosphere in Berlin as he writes. K. Leigh Sandness plays jaded English chanteuse Sally Bowles, the object of Bradshaw's affection, and Brian J. Harper is the amoral master of ceremonies at Berlin's decadent Kit Kat Klub.

Director Michael Arndt stages the show in the university's Little Theater, a rectangular building that's rearranged for practically every production. For this show the central set--the Kit Kat Klub--extends to where actors and some audience members do double-duty as the Klub's kustomers. The rest of the audience is seated on risers against the wall opposite the stage, and the Klub's waiters guide the audience to their seats.

On one side of the main stage, a turntable-mounted platform holds sets for the Klub's bar; a tiny Berlin apartment occupied by Bradshaw; a railroad car, and the hallway of the building owned by Fraulein Schneider (Deanna Lynn Milsap), where Bradshaw lives. All in all, it's a most impressive use of the facility. Cheryllynn Carter is credited as scenic designer.

High marks too to Lolita Ball's costumes and Barbara Wegher-Thompson's choreography. Both are very effective, and the Kit Kat Klub's production numbers are amusing indeed--until the punch line of "If You Could See Her," which brings the Nazis' anti-Semitism into brilliant focus. Shaun Travers is credited as makeup supervisor, perhaps the person who arranged for the master of ceremonies to eerily resemble Liza Minnelli, who played Sally in the film version of "Cabaret."

The principal cast members are fine, as are Scott Mansfield as Jewish butcher Herr Schultz, whose romance with Fraulein Schneider parallels that between Bradshaw and Sally Bowles; Jennifer Joseph as Fraulein Kost, who entertains what seems to be the entire German navy in her apartment, and Samuel Cooper as the suave, somewhat mysterious Ernst Ludwig, who introduces Bradshaw to Fraulein S. and the Kit Kat Klub.


"Cabaret" continues through Sunday at the Cal Lutheran University Little Theatre, 60 W. Olsen Road in Thousand Oaks. Performances are at 8 p.m. tonight through Saturday, with a matinee Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8. On Saturday, a pre-show German meal catered by Marriott will be served on campus, with cast members serving as waiters. The dinner theater package is $20 per person, and advance reservations are necessary. Regular $8 tickets are also available for Saturday's performance. For reservations and information, call 493-3410.

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