Sometimes my cultural gaps are so glaring even my friends are shocked. So what?
Until tonight, I'd never seen "Cabaret." Not the movie, not a theatrical production, nothing. And I've been a theater-goer since I was a teen.
So thank you, Richmond Triangle Players, for mounting a production so compelling I feel like I didn't need to see it until now.
When Pru had e-mailed me asking if I wanted to go, I'd responded with something only slightly more articulate than "duh," so we two ladies had met at Garnett's for dinner beforehand.
Random conversation revealed that we'd both been wildly complimented about our hair, of all things, within the past few days. We agreed that was perfectly marvelous.
Arriving at RTP to find our seats were in the front row, Pru insisted I take the seat next to the part of the stage that extended out "because this is your first time seeing Cabaret."
Besides, she knows I like to see the actors spit and admitted she'd rather it landed on me than her. What would you do?
As we sat there chatting while the band played "Mack the Knife," actors began coming out on stage, talking, posing, prancing and laughing with each other.
At one point, one of the actors called out to the audience, "$2 for a spank" and when no one ponied up, dropped to 50 cents to slap the firm young buttocks of the actor being held in place.
Then, from the moment Chris Hester - in lipstick and eye makeup, his junk outlined with suspenders - came onstage as the Emcee, not just inhabiting but owning the character, I was lost in a story I didn't know acted by an exceptionally strong cast who gave no sign that it was preview night given their assured performances.
Even the set impressed with the band on the back-most, top tier, a middle level where often the Kit Kat girls or boys lounged, danced or sang and the main stage inches from our faces where I could see the body glitter and sweat dripping.
And don't tell Mama, but who doesn't enjoy scantily-clad women? Men in skin-tight pants? Simulated sex of every variation? Bodies bent in supplication?
Of course, it didn't hurt that the score is fabulous, so sweet songs such as "Married" masterfully sung by Jeanie Rule and Doug Schneider as the courting older couple tugged at the heartstrings while emotional blockbusters such as "Maybe This Time" had the audience calling out, "Belt it, girl!" to Nicole Foret-Obertleitner as Sally Bowles.
One of the unintended funniest moments came at the beginning of the second act when the emcee came out and asked for a girl to dance with him.
The first volunteer was a tipsy woman sitting behind us who'd kept up a running commentary the entire first act to the point that during intermission, the guy sitting next to her had told her date he needed to keep her quiet or he was going to do it (she was off getting more cocktails).
But she was the chosen one and after stumbling up the large step onto the stage, began dancing with the Emcee.
He asked her name and she said Helen. When he asked her where she was from, she answered, "Really?" and he said yes, really.
West Virginia, she shared. "Are you inbred?" the Emcee asked to raucous outbursts of laughter. There was really nothing funnier he could have ad-libbed at that moment.
I was unprepared for how dark the second act was as the realities of the Nazis taking power affected so many of the characters' lives for the worse, but it was the kind of potent reminder of history not to be forgotten that good theater sometimes offers up.
We left RTP blown away by the caliber of theater we'd just witnessed. And if it was this strong on preview night, imagine how incredible it will get with each night's repetition.
It couldn't please me more to experience theater this strong in Richmond.
What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play
Life is a cabaret, old chum
Come to the cabaret
If you don't, you're a fool. Or not a theater lover.