In the best casting news I have been privvy to in a long damn time, nothing has been better than the casting of Portland's very own red hot mama, Storm Large, as Sally Bowles in Portland Center Stage's production of Cabaret. I couldn't imagine a better match of stage role to performer if I tried. Even though PCS has been accused of "stunt casting", that is, casting a celebrity in the lead to as an audience draw as opposed to a seasoned stage actor, this time the gamble really paid off. Storm's natural stage presence, honed to perfection in her own years as a cabaret performer in her own write, perfectly adapts well to this show and ceratinly the boozy, coked-up chanteuse known as Sally. Her instincts are correct, even when she has to adopt a semi-British accent, which, honestly I had my own doubts concerning her ability to pull off. No worries. She manages quite well, thank you. Storm can't help but shine however in the musical numbers including the title tune, "Don't Tell Mama" and particularly "Maybe This Time". Her rendition of that song turned me into mush.
Actually, it was easier to accept Storm in the role normally associated with Liza Minnelli, who won an Oscar in the film version of Cabaret, probably because I had anticipated seeing my girl for the very first time on stage. I watched her out-shine, out-perform and out-class everyone on that insipid Rockstar:Supernova reality show last year. I've also enjoyed her various interviews on several local radio shows, particularly The Rick Emerson Show on KCMD AM 970. But sadly, I've missed her shows with her group The Balls and have vowed to catch her live somehow, somewhere. Well, wish fulfillment accomplished. Still, I gotta see her in concert. I owe to myself.
However, it was difficult to erase the memory of Joel Grey in the iconic role of the Emcee until I saw local legend Wade McCollum's performance. This amazing actor strutted around like a gargoyle that had just crawled off the cathedral and stepped into a titty bar. This guy is everything he is cracked up to be and without, this production would only be half a show.
The show, masterfully directed by Chris Coleman, amps up the raunch factor but maintains its timeless message. For example, that haunting ode to Nazi fascism, "Tomorrow Belongs to Me", begins as the recording of a young soloist on a gramophone then later transcends into a chilling anthem that ends Act I.
Cabaret is the first all-Portland production I've attended and sets the gold standard for anything I see here in the future. Storm should be proud to be a part of it, just as Portland, the town she calls home, is proud of her.