A Belated Birthday Present

Denisa’s no longer really big on getting Stuff for her birthday or Christmas. (Not that she ever really was to begin with, but she’s even less now.) This year, she insisted she didn’t really want anything other than a trip to Sugarloaf to ski the day after her birthday. But we were given free tickets to the mountain for that, so how could that really count as a birthday present? So I bought her tickets to the touring Broadway production of Cabaret and promised a fun evening out.

The date of the performance was last night, and we traveled up to Bangor for dinner and then Orono for the show (at the University of Maine’s Collins Center for the Arts.) We ate dinner at Timber, a nice restaurant in Bangor that I’d eaten at a few years ago and wanted to revisit. I first ate there soon after it opened, and it felt to me like it’s really improved since then. (And it was very good the first time I went.) Great atmosphere and staff, and I had this Buckeye Tart for dessert that was one of my most memorable desserts in the last few years. A ball of peanut butter mousse encased in chocolate, on a chocolate tart, with caramel corn sprinkled over it. Worth every calorie, and if you’re up in Bangor for anything, I really recommend the restaurant.

Afterward, we drove up to Orono and walked around the campus for a bit until the musical was to begin. That morning, as I was looking into the final details of the trip, I discovered one key bit of information I’d missed when I’d bought the tickets. In the description of the show was a simple statement: “For mature audiences only.” I’d never actually seen Cabaret. I knew some of the music, I knew it took place in a seedy nightclub, but I didn’t know much more than that. It won the Tony for Best Musical, and this version won for Best Revival. I hadn’t really thought much beyond that.

So seeing that statement made me panic, just a bit. This was supposed to be a nice birthday present for my wife. What, exactly, had I bought tickets for? I researched the production some more and saw some of the costumes. They were definitely . . . seedy. I called Denisa in and showed her, warning her that the evening might be . . . a tad more risque than perhaps she’d been expecting. (Sigh.) But I’d bought the tickets, and how raunchy could a Tony-award winning production be?

Pretty raunchy.

That actually takes you to a chain of videos that contains pretty much the entire production. The televised version, at least. There were quite a few jokes that weren’t in the clips I browsed through just now. Hand gestures, body movements, etc. Someone had brought her three young daughters to the show, and I really wondered right off just how comfortable she was with that decision.

I’m not a prude (I don’t think), but some of this was quite over the top. Denisa wasn’t demanding we walk out, but she also was far from pleased with her birthday present for the first while. The production values were great. Fantastic singing and music. But the content was definitely designed to be as button pushing as possible. I wasn’t ready to give the show up, though. For one thing, I didn’t think a musical would win the Tony for Best Musical based solely on raunch. There had to be a “there” there, and I was catching glimpses of it as the show progressed. Much of it seemed symbolic to me, and there were undertones of larger themes at work. Themes I explained to Denisa at intermission, which helped her see where the show was coming from as well.

(We had seats in the literal front row, which I thought was a great idea when I bought them. The opening number of the second act has the Emcee coming out in the audience to interact with them, however. He came right up to me and almost had me dance with him, until he pulled a last minute switcheroo and danced with a guy three seats to my right. That’s one way to get the pulse pounding.)

The second act really came through for me. It took all that raunch of the first act and twisted it all, having it come together in a way that was quite moving. Very thought provoking in a way I don’t really want to spoil for anyone who hasn’t seen it. I was glad I didn’t have a full knowledge of the plot and the content going into it, so it could have an impact on me.

Overall, Denisa also enjoyed the show, though she said it could have done without a fair bit of the raunch. No need to push the envelope that far. But then again, sometimes it’s only when we’re put into vulnerable, uncomfortable positions that we actually can have thoughts have an impact on us. I’m still not sure where I come down on it. Not that it matters to locals. The show was there for just one night, and I doubt it’ll be in the area again anytime soon.

In any case, it was definitely a fun, memorable evening. Though I think I’ll screen the shows I buy tickets for Denisa’s birthday a bit more carefully in the future . . .

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