Jody Tuso-Key – Managing Editor — June 3rd 2022
Good always overcomes evil, and even though the COVID pandemic has been a dark spot in recent history, Atlanta Opera reimagined its content and persevered through the pandemic, providing programming which allowed for social distancing and stunning digital content to keep us entertained and connected with the arts. Out of this tumultuous time, the opportunity to reimagine performance art rose like a phoenix from the ashes, and the Atlanta Opera has continued to provide cutting-edge entertainment to Atlanta patrons. Their latest offering the “Come as You Are” festival at Pullman Yards, part of the Opera’s Discoveries Series has transformed the recently renovated Pullman rail car renovation facility turned Atlanta entertainment venue into the KitKat Klub for their stunning version of CABARET, which opened last night and runs until June 19th.
First off, this is a Speakeysie MUST SEE! I would recommend you reserve a table up front, or at least find a seat up close, as you’ll be completely involved in the immersive experience which includes a balloon release during the New Year’s Eve scene and a spray of German Marks out of golden guns during “Money Makes the World Go ‘Round”. Performers also mingle among the audience members who become characters in the show as patrons of the late 1930s Berlin Cabaret. At the risk of using too much alliteration, it’s a sublime smorgasbord for the senses (who am I kidding; I love a good alliteration)!
First, let’s give kudos to those folks behind the scenes that make the magic happen. Director Tomer Zvulin’s reputation precedes him, and the innovation he’s known for continues. The massive 3/4 thrust runway style stage by scenic designer Alexander Dodge flanked simply by an old Victrola sets the scene and the tone which is enhanced expertly by lighting designer Marcella Barbeau. The projections designed by Nicholas Hussong and Nick Chimienti are a remarkable mix of live shots and pre-filmed montages that add to the performances. Costume designer Eric Teague and wig and makeup designer Melanie Steele transform this 20th century cast into late 1930s citizens of and visitors to Berlin, Germany with glamour and glitz. Conductor Francesco Milioto leads a large band/orchestra to which one of my favorite choreographers, assistant director Ricardo Aponte, interprets intricate dance numbers, mixed well by sound designer Jon Summers.
On to the performances: One thing a performance of CABARET needs to be successful is a delightful Emcee. Curt Olds is that enchanting performer and carries the daunting task of a character that invites the audience in while holding them at a safe distance with effortless expertise.
Aja Goes’s delivers a powerful performance as Sally Bowles, bringing all the guts and gusto the role requires. Sally is a headliner at the Cabaret; a headstrong Brit who doesn’t look too far into the future or take life too seriously. Opposite Aja is Billy Tighe as Clifford Bradshaw, the American author who finds himself tangled in Sally’s intricate web. Clifford’s part doesn’t demand much in the way of vocals, but when Tighe does sing, his voice is smooth and delightful. Both Aja and Billy are making their Atlanta Opera debuts, and I hope we will see more of them in the future.
Along with an underlying subplot, there is a parallel plot in this story with the love affair between Her Schultz and Fraulein Schnieder. Anthony Laciura as Her Schultz blew me away with his beautiful voice. He’s been on the opera scene from a young age, having appeared at the Metropolitan Opera over 800 times. Atlanta is truly lucky to have such a talent grace our stages. Joyce Campana at Fraulein Schnieder is as much an asset to the Atlanta stage as Laciura, having performed all over the country as well as internationally. Her beautiful mezzo-soprano is smooth and full. The two had an authentic connection and chemistry which is essential to the story.
Other Key-noteworthy performances include Debrorah Bowman as Fraulein Kost/Fritzie, Jacob Attaway as Herman (one of my favorites from Aurora Theater’s recent performance of CINDERELLA), and Max Cook as the haunting Boy Soprano. The rest of the ensemble was also incredible and came together to tell a raucous, yet inherently deep story.
Atlanta Opera’s “Come as you are” CABARET is a performance you won’t soon forget. If you haven’t yet, purchase your tickets at https://www.atlantaopera.org/tickets/. Parking is available on-site and can also be paid for in advance or at the lot. There are beverage trucks as well as a concession stand where you can purchase food/drink packages in advance as well.