Best Stage Musical

Cabaret, Kalliope Stage

Listening to Liza sing "Cabaret" on the radio, the uninitiated might mistake it for an ode to sybaritic nightlife and rollickin' good times. But put that tune in its proper context, and the song becomes a desperate grasp at freedom as the fist of fascism slowly strangles the life out of pre-World War II Germany. Kalliope Stage took plenty of chances with its production of Cabaret -- from emphasizing the androgynous sleaze of the MC (brilliantly played with a simpering sneer by John Paul Boukis) to a chorus line of girls who looked as if they'd been up all night in the Flats. As usual at Kalliope, an immensely talented cast directed by Paul F. Gurgol handled each song with aplomb. But what stood out was the stunning overall effect: from the rancid feeling of the space itself to the spooky and disorienting ending (lights up, actors freeze, find your own way out). Anyone who saw this remarkable show can still count the goose bumps.