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STAGE REVIEW : Spotlight in the Wrong Place in ‘Cabaret’ : Long Beach theater’s production is more about frauleins and flappers than fatalism and fascism.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Long Beach Community Players’ “Cabaret” had its share of kinks on opening night--too bad they weren’t the right kind.

Instead of being held by the aura of a decadent society fiddling while Berlin smolders with fascism, too often what got your attention were the little staging miscues that can subvert any production. Actors bumped into scenery, the pacing was all fits and starts and, at one point, a player even made his entrance by knocking on a door after he was invited to come in.

Oh, well, these lurches should be fixable by the end of the show’s run. Beyond the technical lapses, though, is director Martie Ramm’s banal approach to the musical’s shadowy subtext.

The John Kander (book), Fred Ebb (lyrics) and Joe Masteroff (book) show may focus on the lives of fluttery chanteuse Sally Bowles (Alicia Irving) and her writer-sweetheart Clifford Bradshaw (Charles D. Machalicky), but the real story is the rise of Nazism in morally exhausted Germany.

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“Cabaret,” which is based on stories by Christopher Isherwood and John van Druten’s play, “I Am a Camera,” is ironically, comically dark. The libertine, innuendo-jazzed entertainments at the Kit-Kat club where Sally works are just the outward signs of a society trying to ignore the evil rising around it.

At Long Beach, however, the Kit-Kat is just too tame. Even with M. Scott Nine’s monochromatic sets, this blithe environment is more about frauleins and flappers than fatalism and fascism.

Jim Graft’s master of ceremonies (the role Joel Grey just about called his own, especially in the 1972 movie) doesn’t have the leer of a bandleader-for-the-damned; instead he wears the giggly grin of the guy wearing the party lampshade. His chorus line doesn’t create many illusions, either--they just look like nice girls dressed up in mildly suggestive outfits.

Irving does deserve credit for trying to give Sally twin layers of mystery and combustibility, but even her portrayal lacks a clear amorality that would suggest the character’s contradictory impulses.

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As for Machalicky, he’s as all-American as a hot dog with nothing on it, and nearly as bland.

If you can ignore the show’s overall timidity, there are a few voices to enjoy. Graft, Irving and Glenn Koppel as Herr Schultz stand out with their clear, confident deliveries.

‘Cabaret’

A Long Beach Community Players’ production of the musical by Joe Masteroff, John Kander and Fred Ebb. Directed by Martie Ramm. With Jim Graft, Charles D. Machalicky, Reed Boyer, Mark Schuliger, Ingrid Nuernberg, Gay Storm, Glenn Koppel, Alicia Irving, Trisha Burson, Linda Klett, Sarah Lang, Jenny McGlinchey, Susan Skok, Karina D. Wasnick, Virginia Rush, Greg Borrud, Marie Madera, Paul Erik Davis, Kent Helwig, Christopher Jones, William Kohl and Edward Richman. Sets by M. Scott Nine. Lighting by Art Brandt. Costumes by Don Siechert. Choreography by Martie Ramm. Musical direction by Elizabeth Justice. Plays Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and reopens Jan. 3, playing Fridays and Saturdays through Jan. 25, with a 2 p.m. matinee performance on Jan. 12. At the Studio Theatre, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. Tickets: $12 to $14. (310) 494-1616.

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