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Cabaret’ delivers a phenomenal show

Gabriela Leskur | Monday, November 18, 2013

I’ve been to PemCo’s musicals and the FTT departments’ plays before, but the collaboration between the two in “Cabaret” was a whole new experience and a wonderful experience at that.

Set in 1930s Berlin, “Cabaret” switches between two main locations: a boarding house and a risqué nightclub, called the Kit Kat Klub. The chorus throughout the show poses as the erotic dancers of the Kit Kat Klub, led by their Emcee (sophomore Anthony Murphy) who narrates the entire musical. Donning sparkly pasties, Murphy did his best through his outlandish behavior to acclimate the audience to the extreme sexual nature of the show. At times, this was difficult.

For example, the opening number had an immense shock factor and probably made some people uncomfortable who did not know they would be seeing a musical where most of the cast members are wearing only their underwear. However, once the audience realized the extent of sexual references and gyrating that would be occurring, a sense of calm returned – except to the old woman sitting nearby me, who continued to look forward in disapproval.

The cast did a wonderful job allowing the sexual nature of the show to serve the deeper meaning in the plot. In the first half of “Cabaret, it appeared to be simply a show of fun and games. It would be easy to write off the musical as merely sensual, sensational entertainment. Songs like “Two Ladies” epitomized this, with the Emcee partaking in mimed group sexual positions with a woman and a man dressed in drag. However, right before intermission the audience was shown that this musical deals with much greater issues -primarily, the Nazi regime.

By setting the musical around a nightclub, “Cabaret” takes a raw, original take on the plight of various types of individuals in Germany right before the Nazis came into power. The main storyline follows Kit Kat British showgirl Sally Bowles (played by senior Brigid Clary) as she falls in love with an American named Cliff Bradshaw (played by junior Chris Siemann) who has come to Berlin to teach English and work on a novel. Clary truly captures the character of Sally Bowles, expertly weaving rich depth into what might appear to be a somewhat naïve and selfish woman. Her solos stole the show, especially her heart-warming rendition of “Maybe This Time” and her heart-breaking performance of “Cabaret.” Siemann compliments Clary well and their characters’ relationship, while odd, is believable.

One of the side stories is that of the boarding house mistress Fraulein Schneider (played by senior Mary Wheaton), and her lover, Herr Schultz (played by junior Brian Scully), who happens to be a Jewish fruit seller. Wheaton and Scully stole the hearts of the audience in their phenomenal portrayal of pure love between two lonely, aging individuals. Their duet about love found in sharing a pineapple led to an audible “awww” from the audience, or from me at least.

The dancing by the Kit Kat girls and boys brought a true professional edge to the show that was icing on the cake.

“Cabaret” is nothing like I’ve ever seen before. The show wove a genuinely poignant story of love and loss in Nazi Germany with extensive sexual content, without making it seem overdone or explicit. The actors were all phenomenal and my friends and I may have shed a tear as we walked out. The epitome of a theatre-goers dream.

Contact Gabriela Leskur at gleskur@nd.edu