Cabaret, set in Berlin in 1930, may be more relevant today than when it first premiered in 1966. Act one is a thrill ride as the audience is asked to leave their troubles behind, yet there is an undercurrent of menace as we are reminded of what is to come. Act two is a spiral into what will be the darkest days of modern history as the audience experiences the shock and devastation that is the rise of Nazi Germany. Director Kurt Miller says it best in his note, “Cabaret [. . . .] asks us to consider the extent of our own complicity in “otherizing” people who don’t look or sound like us.” Bay City Players’ production of Cabaret is timely and a must see.
It is no surprise that the choreography by Ryan Vandenboom and Kaitlin Brunette is sexy, vibrant, and powerful. The Kit Kat girls and boys are precise and energetic in their execution of that choreography in each number. Also no surprise that the singing and orchestral music, directed by Kevin Cole, is very praiseworthy. Betsy Miller as Sally Bowles showcases her beautiful voice as she passionately belts each song. At the age of eighteen, we all are excited to see just how far Miss Miller will go as she ventures into her post-secondary theatre career. It is almost a shame that Cliff Bradshaw only has two songs, however Andrew Fergerson’s silvery voice made his moments of song very engaging. The orchestra, conducted by Cole, is ‘beauuuuuutiful” and it is especially enjoyable that the Emcee brings them on stage. It is also enjoyable that Bay City Players uses its monitors to show the orchestra perform the entr’acte. It gives these talented musicians deserved recognition and also provides the audience something to watch besides their phones.
The chorus of Cabaret is very strong. From top to bottom, each member is fully committed and their efforts match their talent. Each number succeeds in its intention because these performers are so immersed into their characters and the world they have created. This immersion was on display even in the scene changes. A beautiful example of exactly how you use characters to transition between scenes, the actors stay in character while moving the wonderfully simple set pieces, thus keeping scene changes efficient and the audience engaged.
While the cast is very talented and many strong performances are given, three deserve special recognition. David Bowden as the Emcee is edgy, baudy, and delightful, with just a dash of menace. His performance is passionate with the subtle moments necessary for the audience to view him as a person, not just an entertainer - making the final scene appropriately heart-wrenching. Paul Lutenske as Herr Schultz and Jessie Wood-Miller as Fraulein Schneider are equally successful in evoking the audience’s emotions. Lutenske and Wood-Miller give grounded performances with real moments. We rejoice at the exchange of a pineapple, our hopes are smashed by a brick through a window, and our hearts sink when Schneider gives back the crystal bowl. All of this is possible because Lutenske and Wood-Miller portray a love that cannot withstand the threat of the events marching upon Berlin.
The light design by David Newsham created the appropriate moods and included some particularly moving artistic pictures. Lucas Inman’s sound design had a wonderful balance with the orchestra and the sound effects were masterfully executed. Additional credits include Rita Gnida (Dance Captain), Anne Kukla (Assistant Director), Jeanne Cadena and Anne Kukla (Stage Managers), Kurt Miller and Jim Pawloski (Set Designer), Darby and Jerry Gwisdala (Props) Doris Perry and Elizabeth Dewey (Costume Design), Laurene Franjione and Randi Dalton (Hair), Judy Harper and Emilia Gnida (Make-Up), as well as the numerous crew members without which we know productions are not possible.
This is a dedicated and talented group of artists and volunteers. You will be thrilled and moved by Bay City Players Cabaret. Please DO tell Mama to get her tickets in advance though, chances are shows will be sold out!
Performances: July 26 and 27 at 7:30 and July 28 at 3:00
Tickets are available at the box office, by phone 989-893-5556 or online at http://baycityplayers.org/tickets/