As patrons young and old filled Russell Auditorium on Wednesday night, hope and excitement were high. With a long-standing reputation preceding the Tony award-winning musical, GC’s production of “Cabaret” drew an impressive crowd for its opening night.
Students and faculty alike gathered in the theater. Frequent theater supporter Estefi Herrera reflected the mood of the crowd as she stated that she expected “high energy and high talent” from Wednesday’s performance.
Erin Lopez, who had seen a handful of GC productions, replied similarly.
“I expect to see the same caliber of performance as I have seen [from other productions]: good music, great dancing, a good stage performance. I never leave a GCSU production disappointed,” Lopez said.
After a brief but entertaining “warm-up” from the Cabaret girls and boys, director Karen Berman introduced herself and the stage crew. The house lights dimmed, and the stage was immediately brimming with action and seductive music as the opening chords of the first musical number, “Willkommen,” flooded the theatre. The initial energy of the master of ceremonies, Joshua Shepherd, radiated throughout the Cabaret dancers and was truly infectious throughout the entire performance.
The plot develops quickly and effectively as the audience is introduced to aspiring novelist Clifford Bradshaw arriving in 1931 Berlin with the intentions to write a novel. He is immediately exposed to the racy Kit Kat Klub, featuring an enticing Sally Bowles who steals the affections of Clifford.
While struggling in almost every aspect of his life, Clifford accepts an odd job from Ernst Ludwig, whom he had previously met on the train to Berlin. The details of the job go unmentioned, but it is soon evident that Ernst and his “jobs” have some underground political implications and Cliff becomes uncomfortable with his involvement.
Cliff and Sally’s relationship comes to a crossroads when she discovers that she’s pregnant, which is heightened by the sudden engagement of the German innkeeper, Fraulein Schneider, and the Jewish fruit-shop owner, Herr Schultz.
The beginning strands of “Maybe This Time” punctuate the increasing tensions as the stage and background marquee sign reading “KABARETT” illuminate Sally’s gripping performance. Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz’s engagement party highlights the Nazi undertones that have been present throughout Act I, working as a turning point in the plot as the guests sing “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” while Ernst sports a swastika armband.
Act II features a slightly faster pace as the true conflict of the plot is further revealed and developed. The setting and time period of the scenes become the most important detail in the plot, and the cabaret dancers’ costumes, while before mimicking the upbeat and decorative set and musical numbers, now reflect the somber mood of the second act.
Clifford decides to leave Berlin upon realizing the political corruption and blatant ignorance shown by his new friends and expects Sally to realize this as well and go with him. It is evident that the “party” from the first act is over and that the characters desperately need to face what’s going on around them, which they reject. The conclusion of the show is absolutely chilling as the once cheery characters walk in single file, shoulders slumped and feet dragging, across the stage.
The master of ceremonies looking on the audience adds to the disturbing concentration-camp imagery as he oversees the characters filing into the back doors, one by one. Sally gives one final look over her shoulder before she, too, leaves through the back doors, which slam as the lights go dark. As a final political stab, the master of ceremonies strips off his uniform to reveal a striped prisoner outfit. The implications of the final scene are heavy with despair and an artistic foreshadowing to the destruction the Nazi party will bring in Germany.
Overall, the performance was absolutely phenomenal. Each character contributed to the excitement, anxiety and heartbreak that was portrayed through the beautifully executed musical numbers. At the conclusion of the performance, audience members Herrera and Lopez both agreed that the talent seen in “Cabaret” exceeded their expectations.
GC student Spencer Slaton, who had previously seen the show performed on Broadway, agreed that the cast “did an excellent job of portraying the political tumult and edgy personas that characterize the story.”
In addition, the intricate set, costumes, makeup and lighting sequences each contributed immensely to the general perception, looking truly professional.
The GC Department of Theatre and Dance rarely disappoints, and with this equally entertaining and disturbing production, it will be difficult to resist returning each night the cast is performing.