Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

An Uneven but Jubilant Cabaret

Elegant Moscow. Sentimental Moscow. Witty and charming Moscow. Where do you go to find it?

Right there in the heart of the city, on the corner of Pushkin Square at the Bat Cabaret. Where Grigory Gurvich, the big man with a big mission and an even bigger heart, works the kind of magic that has the power to shape a city's personality.

Since reopening the legendary pre-revolutionary theater in 1989, Gurvich has made it a mecca for the elite; a haven for the fashionable. His first two shows, "The Reading of a New Play" and "We Tap About Moscow" -- both written and directed by the man himself -- show off his extraordinary flair for mixing music, humor, history, politics and autobiography into a honey-laden brew that intoxicates without ever leaving a hangover.

Now, to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his theater's revival, Gurvich has mounted "100 Years of Cabaret," his tribute to the styles of entertainment he loves best: French torch songs, American dance and Italian comedy. All of them are introduced by Gurvich himself, who easily moves back and forth between his roles of emcee and occasional actor.

Let's say it up front: This one doesn't have the flow of the earlier productions. As a kind of overview-of-the-genre show it was planned that way, of course. When Gurvich introduces an aria sung by the utterly divine Natalya Trikhleb, he says flatly: "Why shouldn't I have opera in my variety show if that's what I want?"

He's right, of course. And boy, can Trikhleb sing! But with a structure like this, the show has to jump start its momentum again after almost every number.

Another problem is a minor slip in Gurvich's usually exquisite sense of timing. Several skits -- such as a one-armed Frenchman joining with a one-armed German to play the accordion -- straggle on long after the punch line has been hit; some are packed with more filler than fun.

But Gurvich has the ultimate trump card up his sleeve: his own personality.

Call him the sultan of suave, the wizard of wit, or the king of charisma, but when he takes the stage to the slinky accompaniment of Roman Berchenko at the piano, he soothes everything over. He isn't just the show's author, he is its heart and soul.

Meanwhile, amid the uneven collection of sketches, some are as good as ever. The best include a wildly energetic medley of American pop from Elvis Presley to Chubby Checker; some thunderous, top-flight tap-dancing; and a beautifully done interactive film skit that has actors climbing onto and off of the screen ? la Federico Fellini or Woody Allen.

But the star is Gurvich. Were there such a thing, he would be Mr. Moscow, the man who brings warmth and respect to the town he loves. And, a few slips notwithstanding, it is always a pleasure to watch him do it.

"100 Years of Cabaret" (Sto let kabare) plays Nov. 6, 8, 21, 22, 28, 29 and 30 at 7 P.M. at the Bat Cabaret, 10 Bolshoi Gnezdikovsky Pereulok. Tel. 229-8661. Running Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes.