Rated 4.0

The strength of this Runaway Stage production rests largely on the shoulders of its young and exceptionally talented male lead, Joshua James (Master of Ceremonies). He takes the show firmly in hand from the opening curtain, leading the troupe with both lasciviousness and grace on the emotional roller coaster that was Berlin in the last days of the Weimar Republic. As whatever remains of democracy dies, so too does the freedom to party.

James is astonishing, perhaps because his performance seems to flow so naturally from the character. He’s aided by the mighty voice of Amber Jean Moore (Sally Bowles), who does justice to the title song, and by the always-worthy Tevye Ditter as Clifford Bradshaw, the sexually confused American overwhelmed by Berlin’s chaos. Mary Young (Fraulein Schneider) and Nicolas Maggio (Herr Schultz) are heartbreaking as late-in-life lovers, separated by the winds of political change.

A versatile set incorporates the band into the stage. The only rough spot is the sound system, which seems determined to hiss and pop at the worst possible moment—in one case, rendering dialogue unintelligible. In spite of this technical handicap, however, this is well-done musical theater. Cabaret remains a thought-provoking reminder that, if you think your country’s going down the tubes, it probably is.