When theatre is well-performed, it entertains us. When theatre is emotionally resonant, it makes us examine our deepest selves. The greatest theatre is able to do both: to draw an audience in with a thoroughly absorbing story, and then sucker-punch us with a reminder of how very much in common we have with the people onstage, and how very little human nature changes.
Cabaret, presented this weekend at Bay City Players, is most certainly one of those shows.
Cabaret is an institution in the musical theatre community, but for the uninitiated: originally penned in 1966 by Joe Masteroff, with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb, Cabaret tells the intertwined stories of the citizens of Berlin at the beginning of the 1930s, and how their lives are affected as the Nazis begin their rise to power. The mature subject matter of the 1998 revival upon which this version is based makes it most appropriate for an adult audience.
Bay City Players’ strong vocalists never fail to impress, but the emotional intensity director Kurt Miller’s cast brings to the stage in this show is exceptional. From the energetic Kit Kat Klub dancers, to the wonderfully sweet Herr Schultz (Paul Lutenske) and Fraulein Schneider (Jessie Wood-Miller), to the dual powerhouses of Betsy Miller as Sally Bowles and David Bowden as the Emcee, every member of the cast is thoroughly invested in the world they’ve created, making their performances incredibly believable.
This ensemble’s vocal and emotional prowess is matched only by their impressive implementation of Ryan VanDenBoom and Kaitlin Brunette’s choreography. Dancing on a stage in what amounts to lingerie takes a lot of courage, but this ensemble makes it look effortless.
Behind (and sometimes in front of!) the set, the complex musical score is well-executed in the capable hands of music director Kevin Cole and his orchestra. They keep the pace of the show and its transitions clipping along, as does director Miller and Jim Pawloski’s simple, effective set design. Lighting design by David Newsham and sound design by Lucas Inman complement the action onstage well. Props are by Darby and Jerry Gwisdala, costumes are by Doris Perry and Elizabeth Dewey, hair is by Laurene Franjione and Randi Dalton, and make-up is by Judy Harper and Emilia Gnida, with hair and make-up design for Emcee by Ricky Altergott and Michael Canada.
If there’s one quibble I have in regards to this production, it’s that there are only three more performances for the audience to enjoy! A show of Cabaret’s continued relevance, performed and produced so well, should be experienced by as many members of the community as possible.
Cabaret is presented by Bay City Players July 26th and 27th at 7:30pm, with a matinee July 28th at 3:00pm. Tickets are available at the box office, by phone at 989-893-5555, or online at baycityplayers.org.