Reviewed: Cabaret, DragOn (Closing), Two More Shows to See Now!

Jim Walker in Cabaret.
Jim Walker in Cabaret.
Sara Roshan Photography

Celebrate the first weekend of summer by catching some of the last shows of the theater season. Miners Alley's Cabaret is closing, as is the inventive DragOn at the Garner Galleria. Keep reading for capsule reviews of those shows, as well as two more on local stages.

Cabaret. Len Matheo’s Cabaret is by far the clearest, most intelligent and most exciting I’ve seen. The musical, which premiered in 1966 and has been through several incarnations since, is based on Christopher Isherwood’s autobiographical novel Berlin Stories, about his experiences in that city during the early 1930s, as Hitler was seizing power. In the musical, Isherwood’s stand-in is Clifford Bradshaw, a young American writer. Arriving in Berlin, he wanders into the seedy Kit Kat Klub and encounters all kinds of interesting characters, the most interesting being the androgynous Emcee and Sally Bowles, a flighty, hedonistic English singer. In many productions, the scenes at Fräulein Schneider’s boardinghouse — where Clifford and Sally’s storyline unfolds, along with the touching subplot between their landlady and her suitor, the fruit seller Herr Schultz — are far less vivid than the sleazy world of the Kit Kat Klub. But here these scenes are given full weight because the acting is strong. Clifford is often portrayed as an all-American kid, an innocent thrust into a decaying and decadent world, but Luke Sorge’s portrayal is deeper and more complex. Isherwood wrote Sally Bowles as a lost, narcissistic kid, oblivious to what’s going on around her, an untalented singer though an oddly mesmerizing performer. Adriane Wilson is very beautiful, and as a singer, she owns the stage. When she cuts loose on “Cabaret,” voice filled with defiance, pain, despair and perhaps a trace of affirmation, she blows the roof off. In the dramatic scenes, she’s most effective when silently reacting to others — you can read exactly what Sally’s feeling on her face. I liked the dedication and total immersion of the Kit Kat girls and boys. Also Tim Fishbaugh as the puppyishly smiling, ignorantly brave Herr Schultz, courting Kristen Samu's stern but ultimately yielding Fräulein Schneider with apples, oranges and — wonder of wonder in those gray times — a pineapple. I’ve seen some Emcees who are almost supernatural, leering embodiments of evil, but Jim Walker’s Emcee is quite evidently human. Tall and lithe, prancing and shimmying, delighting in other people’s pain, he rules the Kit Kat Klub with gleeful depravity, taking huge pleasure in his own outrageousness, grabbing breasts, butts and crotches. Large segments of the alt-right, America’s incipient fascist movement, have taken on cartoonish memes such as Pepe the Frog, priding themselves on their humorous use of irony. Walker’s hypnotically loathsome Emcee seems cut from the same cloth. Presented by Miners Alley Playhouse through June 25, 1224 Washington Avenue, Golden, 303-935-3044, Read the review of Cabaret.

Tyrell D. Rae, Stuart Sanks and Heather Hughes in DragOn.
Tyrell D. Rae, Stuart Sanks and Heather Hughes in DragOn.
Adams VisCom

DragOn. There’s only one word that can sum up DragOn, even if that word is a cliché: fabulous. Fabulous in the usual sense of glam, over the top, beats all expectations — which this show does, because the performances are killer, the atmosphere bubbles over, and the audience participation is exactly right. The divas know not only how to cut loose, but how to exert control so that viewers can yell, clap and laugh all they want without getting obnoxious. “Fabulous” is also the right word because if you go to the root — fable, myth, legend — you’re touching the show’s essence. For this world premiere, writer and professional nerd Jessica Austgen came up with the idea of linking the spirit of a drag show to that of Comic Con. We’ve known that fantasy and sci-fi are hugely influenced by myth and legend since Obi-Wan Kenobi advised Luke to use the Force in the original Star Wars. In DragOn, it’s called the Fierce. What elevates this evening beyond mere silliness — though it is very silly — is that the dialogue is self-knowing and smart, and the choreography and direction by Joel Ferrell are terrific. Best of all are the divas. Unlike some drag shows, which focus on envy and competition, DragOn presents an image of women that’s playful, confident and strong. And without spouting tiresome truisms about female solidarity, all the very different divas eventually unite as one to help young Bobbi reach her throne. Presented by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Off-Center through June 25 at the Garner Galleria Theatre, Denver Performing Arts Complex, 303-893-4100, Read the review of DragOn.

Keep reading for two more reviews.

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