Theater / Film

Review: A ‘Cabaret’ For Today At Zoetic Stage

Written By Michelle F. Solomon
March 18, 2024 at 1:30 PM

From left, the Kit Kat Club cast of Zoetic Stage’s “Cabaret,” Lauren Danielle Horgan, Nate Promkul, Elijah Word, Lindsey Corey, Casey Sacco, Conor Walton, and Sara Grant, at the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami, through Sunday, April 7. (Photo courtesy of Justin Namon)

It’s 58 years since “Cabaret” debuted on Broadway and a show that has made the rounds locally more times than we can count (including national tours of the revival that have come through the Arsht). Which brings us to Zoetic Stage, the Arsht Center’s resident theater company where, it isn’t out of the question but not the norm for them to produce a musical that probably a dozen South Florida theaters have done.

So, there must be something new to be brought to the Kit Kat Club. And with this task, director Stuart Meltzer’s interpretation of “Cabaret” and his strong cast cohesively make the point: Have times changed – really?

Lindsey Corey on stage at the Kit Kat Club in Zoetic Stage’s “Cabaret.” (Photo courtesy of Justin Namon)

Without a script change, an update from its pre-World War II setting, or any sort of newfangled spin to make this show fresh, Zoetic Stage makes the story matter. It’s not merely a musical but a commentary piece. It must be pointed out that through the last half-century “Cabaret” has kept its popularity precisely for its way of being a reflection of America’s cultural climate.

But here, everything counts. Meltzer takes advantage of the spaces between where the 1930s storyline intersects with a contemporary parallel. The songs, as they should, hauntingly mirror what’s happening inside the microcosmic lives of the characters and are a larger metaphor for what lies ahead in the political context of the story. What is left to contemplate is how frighteningly relatable “Cabaret” is in today’s divisive climate.

It’s 1929 with a New Year’s celebration ringing in 1930.

It won’t be too long before Hitler will come to power in Germany. American writer Cliff Bradshaw (Teddy Warren) arrives in Berlin seeking inspiration for his novel and a cheap place to stay.

Robert Koutras as Ernst Ludwig befriends Teddy Warren as Cliff Bradshaw in Zoetic Stage’s production of “Cabaret.” (Photo courtesy of Justin Namon)

While on the train, he befriends Ernst Ludwig (Robert Koutras) who recommends a boarding house run by Fräulein Schneider (Laura Turnbull). He can barely afford the rent, but teaching English to Germans can supplement his income. His first pupil? Ludwig who is part of a partying pack at the epicenter of decadence in Berlin and a frequent visitor to the nearby debaucherous Kit Kat Klub. Bradshaw takes up his friend’s invite to the club, where he meets the cabaret singer Sally Bowles (Lindsey Corey). She moves into his world fast, both figuratively and literally, and soon their romance blossoms.

Meltzer’s touch is subtle, but his hand is there as the story unfolds with its many layers, including Schneider’s twilight-years relationship with a Jewish fruit store owner, Herr Schultz (Avi Hoffman), only to realize what life for her might be like if she marries a Jew; there’s the other not-so-jolly side of Ludwig, and at the center of it all is the mirrorball himself, the Emcee. Reflective of all that is going on, the Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Club (Elijah Word) is the lens for us to peer into anti-Semitism, homophobia, totalitarianism, and the cost of apathy.

Elijah Word as the Emcee sings the wrenchingly beautiful “I Don’t Care Much” in Zoetic Stage’s “Cabaret” at the Adrienne Arsht Center. (Photo courtesy of Justin Namon)

It helps that Meltzer’s cast is on the same page bringing what is obviously this director’s vision of “Cabaret” into focus.

Word isn’t the tuxedoed androgynous clown a la Joel Grey’s emcee nor is he the dark lord that Alan Cummings evoked in the revival. As the emcee he enters the club in sparkling heels and a shimmery skirt more like a contestant on Ru Paul’s Drag Race – the characterization fits and it works. (It’s obvious that costume designer Dawn Shamburger had a field day dressing this “Cabaret” emcee.) He knows how to play to the crowd. His Emcee is more an entertainer than a sinister bellwether. He is as over-the-top as called for in the raucous “Two Ladies” (with Lauren Danielle Horgan, also the show’s dance captain, and Conor Walton reveling in roles of hedonistic playmates), and the peculiar and always controversial “If You Could See Her” (with Casey Sacco wearing a long-billed bird mask and costume. Thank heavens the years of the tacky and offensive gorilla suit have been dispensed).

In the second act, Word shows his emotional range: the spotlight captures him alone on stage for the torch song, “I Don’t Care Much,” and as he sings the lines “I don’t care much/Go or stay/I don’t care very much, either way,” his voice is mesmerizing, the already poignant lyrics heart wrenching.

It would help if the actor slowed down his Emcee delivery to be understood better from the stage to the audience.

Lindsey Corey as cabaret singer Sally Bowles in Zoetic Stage’s “Cabaret.” (Photo courtesy of Justin Namon)

“Cabaret” does belong to Sally Bowles and Corey makes it her own. There are no shades of Liza Minnelli’s madcap movie portrayal; this Sally is complex – she’s a lost soul looking for herself in everyone else. Corey has you hang on Sally’s every line, every note. She doesn’t belt out a “show tune” in the title song but brings out the nuances that speak to the conflicts inherent in human nature.  A slight criticism (and ever so slight) is the believability of Sally’s British background; the accent occasionally wavers.

Warren (so captivating in GableStage’s recent “Old Wicked Songs”) plays his Cliff earnestly as the innocent-turned-realist whose eyes become open to the stark realities of a crumbling Berlin.

Lindsey Corey as Sally and Teddy Warren as the American novelist in Berlin, Cliff Bradshaw, in Zoetic Stage’s “Cabaret.” (Photo by Justin Namon)

Koutras’s Ludwig is perfectly giddy but turns on a dime when his convictions are threatened, Sara Grant is a standout as Fraulein Kost, the boarder who has too many sailors coming in and out of her room, then turning serious as a devout German for the song “Married.”

Nate Promkul’s vocal purity in the acapella “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” creates the juxtaposition of what will become the show’s Nazi anthem.

Real-life husband and wife Hoffman and Turnbull as the fruit seller and rooming house owner bring wonderful life to characters that are often secondary. Hoffman’s humble Schultz is engaging, filled with a gentle soul that makes you want his world to be rosy (it isn’t). Turnbull’s “So What” early in Act 1 is handled with a veteran’s skill, not merely delivering a song but revealing the character, who will ultimately be tasked with the most emotional and affecting storyline in the piece.

Real-life husband and wife Avi Hoffman and Laura Turnbull wax poetic on a pineapple in the song “It Couldn’t Please Me More.” (Photo by Justin Namon)

Ben Sandomir is dastardly as the sly club owner Max and is solid stepping in and out of other small character parts. Walton as Kit Kat Club girl Helga and former Cliff lover, Bobby, is wonderful comic relief.

Michael McKeever’s scenic design (once again a traverse stage with the seating on either long side of the rectangular playing area) is much like the configuration in Zoetic’s recent “Wicked Child.” Special cabaret tables that patrons can purchase for VIP seating are close to the stage on either side. The design doubles just fine as the Kit Kat Club and Cliff’s rented room. A stage left area hosts train scenes among others and far stage right is the Kit Kat Club performers’ dressing room with lighted mirrors.

Properties design by Nathasha Hernandez fits the period, lighting design by Becky Montero is appropriately dim for the mood but never loses sight of the players for the audience to see. Exceptional choreography working with Meltzer is Herman Payne who displays, but doesn’t overuse, Bob Fosse’s influence.

Casey Sacco, Lauren Danielle Horgan and Sara Grant are denizens of the Kit Kat Club in Zoetic Stage’s Kit Kat Club. (Photo courtesy of Justin Namon)

Kudos to the Kit Kat Club band led by Eric Alsford with Tom Stancampiano, Jason Pyle, Rochelle Frederick, Martha Spangler, Michael Dorfman and Collin Dobbs who are hidden behind a large sign as part of the set. Had there been a way to reveal them during club numbers it would have complemented the atmosphere.

Whether you’ve seen the movie version of “Cabaret” or on stage in one of a slew of productions, Zoetic Stage’s “Cabaret” is worth a return visit to the Kit Kat Club, especially now.

WHAT: Zoetic Stage’s “Cabaret”

WHERE: Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

WHEN:  7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, through April 7.

COST: $65 and $85, which includes cabaret-style seating and a complimentary wine or beer.

INFORMATION:  305-949-6722 or

RELATED EVENT: Sunday talkback follows the matinee performance on Sunday, March 24. is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music, and more. Don’t miss a story at

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