‘Cabaret’ conjures up images of a different era

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The decadent Emcee Leo Ash Evens sets the mood for the show as he rises up from a hole in the stage floor singing “Wilkommen.”

At once exuberant and darkly mischievous, the emcee right away leads an audience to realize things are not going to become sunny and carefree — as is often the case in stage musicals. Evens has played this role before and stands out as a symbol of pre-WWII Berlin’s seedy nightlife.

Storm clouds are gathering over Germany nightly as “Cabaret” by Kander and Ebb plays out at the Arvada Center, with its parallel stories of well-drawn characters — and its shocking finale.

Christy Montour-Larson demonstrates a sure hand as director, with a fine cast, a lively band and excellent production features: set, costumes, sound and lighting design, which blend into the production.

A Kit Kat Club Band is on a light-edged, raised stage, composed of actors with instruments — dressed in drag attire, while the other musicians are behind them. Curving stairs are on either side of the stage, joining in a walkway across the top.

One meets Sally Bowles (Kendal Hartse) and the chorus girls and boys, as writer Cliff Bradshaw sits at a side table.

Bradshaw is portrayed by actor Brett Aune, who once was a high school actor in Littleton and a frequent face in Denver area theaters for a number of years. He is a polished Equity member now, although this is his first appearance at Arvada Center.

His British writer character has come to Berlin to complete a book, apparently somewhat clueless about the political situation. Sally Bowles sees him as a possible answer to her many problems, and moves in.

Fraulein Schneider, Bradshaw’s landlady, and her elderly Jewish lover Herr Schultz are perfectly played by skilled stage veterans Billie McBride and Wayne Kennedy in a particularly poignant romance and aftermath. Gabriella Cavallero is the resident whore, Fraulein Kost, who betrays Herr Schultz as a Jew to Nazi businessman Ernest Ludwig (Jeffrey Roark).

“Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” the Nazi anthem sung by a sweet boy soprano voice is chilling at this point as the story takes a turn.

For many in the audience, this is a segment from a history book, but for some of us, it dredges up vivid memories. In either case, it’s a strong piece, well presented. Not appropriate for little kids, but it would reach teens who have only read a bit about the period.

If you go:

“Cabaret” by Kander and Ebb plays through April 17 at Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 1 p.m. Wednesdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays. Tickets start at $49. www.arvadacenter.org, 720-898-7200.

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