It's probably wise to be reminded periodically about the tragedy that was Germany in the early 1930s as the Nazis were beginning their rise to power. Using John Van Druten's I Am a Camera, which was based on Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories, Joe Masteroff created a splendid book in which he chronicles the affairs of two doomed couples: Sally Bowles (Candice M. Clasby), an entertainer at the notorious Kit Kat Klub, and Clifford Bradshaw (Anthony Galleran), a failed American novelist; and aging landlady Fr채ulein Schneider (Sherry Domerego) and her beau, Herr Schultz (Max Orbita), the Jewish owner of a fruit market. Adding John Kander and Fred Ebb's lively yet evocative score, we have a durable production that changes enough in each new revival that it can be seen again and again.
One of the keys to the success of Cabaret is casting a great emcee, the tortured, androgynous figure who headlines the Kit Kat Klub's entertainment. In this case, Dennis Tong is an inspired choice, with a strong singing voice and a genuine magnetism and physicality that draws us into his seedy world. He is backed by an enthusiastic group of burlesque girls and guys (Brynne McManimie, Amanda Marzo, Lauren Kushin, Natalie Brooks, Laura Landry, Topher Mauerhan, and Paul Anderson), who pull out all the stops to capture the salacious dancing required (effective choreography by Michael Lopez). Domerego is also excellent as the "survivor" who gives up what might be happiness in marriage to maintain her status quo, turning down Herr Schultz, whose future is in jeopardy under Nazi rule. Clasby delivers a nuanced Bowles.
Director Jeremy Gable chooses to make the show a play-within-a-play, so actors are in dual roles and also appear on stage at the Kit Kat Klub as the rest of the story rolls out. Heidi Newell's costumes and Christina L. Munich's lighting design also punch up the theatrics.
Presented by and at the Hunger Artists Theatre Company, 699-A S. State College Blvd., Fullerton. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. (Also Thu. 8 p.m. Aug. 28.) Jul. 25-Aug. 31. (714) 680-6803. www.hungerartists.com.