What good is sitting alone in your room when you can come hear the music play at the Ogunquit Playhouse?

“Cabaret” is back on stage.

The current production is based on the edgier 1990s Sam Mendes/Rob Marshall revival. The growing Nazi menace of the early 1930s is a palpable presence throughout and the sexuality of the characters is made more overt than in the original.

In this incarnation, “Cabaret” still proves to be one of the best. Every song and dance number, as directed by B.T. McNicholl, is memorable. From silly little ditties to heartbreaking ballads, the stellar cast of young and not-so-young stage and screen veterans make them special.

Much of the musical takes place at a Berlin club where a wildly insinuating emcee introduces acts and performs in suggestive skits and musical numbers that feature a corps of multi-talented performers.

Randy Harrison is a riveting presence as the sleazily ingratiating emcee who generates naughty laughs while offering snippets of commentary on the nature of the business he is in and of those who work with him. He masterfully brings you into his character’s orbit even before sympathy for his fate is fully drawn. Harrison carries off “Money” and “If You Could See Her” with the requisite sense of louche delight.

Club headliner Sally Bowles becomes acquainted with a traveling American writer named Clifford Bradshaw and an on-again, off-again romance begins.

Kate Shindle’s Sally retains a flicker of youthful hope despite a growing realization that continuing to star at the marginal Kit Kat Klub may not be a life-fulfilling plan. Shindle skillfully works the show-stopping “Maybe This Time” and the title song, drilling down to their emotional core.

Billy Harrigan Tighe delivers on his role as the not-quite-straight arrow Clifford, a young man drawn into the club life before gaining perspective on where Germany is heading.

Well-known actress Mariette Hartley is touching as landlady Fraulein Schneider. Her ill-fated romance with John Rubinstein’s Herr Schultz adds a softer lyricism on such songs as “It Couldn’t Please Me More” and “Married.” Hartley’s solo on “What Would You Do?” resonates with all the sad desperation of decisions made under the toughest of circumstances.

Noah Plomgren and Katrina Yaukey, as dangerous “friends” of the principal characters, further the growing unease as the social order begins to fall apart.

Yaukey also plays an instrument in the Kit Kat Band, as do all the chorus members in a remarkable display of talent, even as the “Boys” and “Girls” are made-up to resemble those still standing as a wild night nears an end.

The somber finale reminds us of what comes next. But this fine musical lives on.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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