That's high praise for director Dan Kelley's take on the venerable musical, which was a Broadway smash in 1966 and a Oscar-magnet movie in 1972. On a bisected set — the upper level is a walkway and the lower level is three doors bookended with two entrances — Kelley has produced tableaux that slyly suggest those earlier works. It's strange, but this show, which runs two hours with a 15-miunte intermission, forms its own visual and aural language. It feels evolved, particularly with the burlesque-imbued choreography by Ben Solmor.
But the story is the same. Set in Berlin in the 1930s as the Nazis begin their rise to power in Weimar Germany, the plot follows American novelist Cliff Bradshaw (Pierre Tannous) and his relationship with Sally Bowles (Katherine Amadeo), an English cabaret singer at the seedy Kit Kat Klub. "Cabaret" has a pseudo-narrator, Emcee (Ronen Bay), a master of ceremonies at the nightclub who serves a dual purpose: He's a nasty and naughty snapshot of Germany's decay, and he furthers the action in diegetic songs such as "Willkommen," "Money," "If You Could See Her (The Gorilla Song)."
"So terrible and tawdry," Cliff says gleefully when describing the nightspot. He could also have been describing the boarding house where he finds a cheap room, and where the subplots, which are very different from the film's, take place.
For the most part, the cast members sing the John Kander/Fred Ebb score (hits include "Don't Tell Mama," "Mein Herr," "Maybe This Time" and the title song) with the right shadings of rawness and pensiveness. And yet some songs come off a tad underpowered. If you sit close enough, you can see the concentration in the actors' eyes, as they calibrate their volume to match that of the canned music.
The lighting, while for the most part perfectly in sync with the decadence depicted onstage, is a hair late with some cues, robbing one or two scenes of sharp flourishes. Some members of the chorus, in small speaking parts, don't even attempt a Euro accent.
But these are quibbles. "Cabaret" is staged brilliantly, imaginatively and stylishly.
"Cabaret" will run through March 15 at the Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Road, in Coral Springs. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets cost $38 to $42. To order, call 954-344-7765 or go to StageDoorTheatre.com.