Cabaret, the enduring Kander & Ebb musical celebrating decadent pre-WWII Berlin, is coming next month to the Academy of Music. Study for the moody musical by checking out Philly's cabaret scene. "Cabaret's an immediate art form drenched in emotion and indulgence in a good way; there's a reason that it happens alongside several cocktails," said Dito van Reigersberg, the male actor at the heart of drag cabaret artiste Martha Graham Cracker. "It allows us to live in our feelings and to remember, mourn, celebrate, consider, cry out."
The bawdy Martha Graham Cracker is renowned for covering Prince and Gamble & Huff in drag. Yet, as inventive as the Pig Iron Theatre Company cofounder is, he has never offered Martha an original cabaret song cycle -- until now, with Lashed and its tale of love, loss, and library science (yes, you read that right). "I think it's sadder than the usual Martha," van Reigersberg said, "but funky and more consistent than a Martha show, which always runs off the rails."
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, SEI Innovation Studio Inside the Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St. $35-$45, kimmelcenter.org.
Known as the booming, flinty vocalist behind Philly musicals Assassins and High Society (to say nothing of comic theater events like Harvey), Ben Dibble balances family life with four to six stage roles a year. "Juggling three kids does not promote brain space to tell personal stories and craft an evening of song … but I have a lot to say about fatherhood and how it reflects on -- and in -- my work as a storyteller," said Dibble, who'll croon a dense lyrical mix of theater music and pop (think the Ink Spots and Otis Redding) while exploring life's bittersweetness. "It's about wooing my wife, maddening fatherhood, and stories of my own dad. If you have never had a conversation with me, by the end of my cabaret, you will have learned a lot about my life," Dibble said. "We'll be super close."
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, The Studio Theatre at the Arden's Hamilton Family Arts Center, 62 N. Second St. $30, ardentheatre.org.
8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dino's Backstage & The Celebrity Room, 287 Keswick Ave., Glenside. $40. dinosbackstage.com
Eddie Bruce and Paula Johns pour their hearts into love and relationship songs like Stephen Sondheim's "Being Alive" ("That's like a three-act play in itself," said Bruce) in an intimate space. "Cabaret to me presents music that has meaning to the performer that an audience can experience deeply … as long as the performer is able to leave the audience with a better sense of who he or she is at the end of the show," he said. "Honesty is crucial."
8 p.m. March 29-April 1, Dino's Backstage & The Celebrity Room, 287 Keswick Ave., Glenside, $40. dinosbackstage.com.
Stephen Sondheim's dark, comic concert of two brothers running across America from the Alaskan Gold rush to the Florida real estate boom of the 1920s gets a cabaret reading without staging but with all the intense personal drama.
March 31-April 2, Christ Church Neighborhood House, 20 N. American St. $30, 11thhourtheatrecompany.org.
The 1966 musical based on Christopher Isherwood's look at seedy Berlin nightlife, shadowy sensuality, and the rise of Nazism is given a gritty, abstract sheen courtesy of director B.T. McNicholl, who insists he's conjuring a mixture of romance and regret -- the very definition of cabaret. "Our Cabaret is now more relevant than ever: It's about the dangers of political apathy, extremists, and fear of 'The Other.' Where have you heard that recently?" This musical classic that feels ripped from today's headlines is about the sexy, uninhibited party that was Berlin in the late '20s, with its decadent Kit Kat Boys and Girls. "Young people also understand the vulnerability masked by all the revelry," said McNicholl. "They're living it now in 2017."