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Marist Cabaret Review

Love is a major theme throughout art. One could argue it is the most important and relevant to our lives. I have noticed a trend in MCCTA performances this year thus far: all have discussed love. Almost, Maine demonstrated the joys and pains of love, A Midsummer Night’s Dream satirized infatuation while stating that love is spontaneous and unpredictable, and Snow White and the Seven Fairy Godmothers proved that people in love do not need to stick to societal expectations. Cabaret was no exception.

 

MCCTA and the Marist Theatre Program performed John Kander and Fred Ebb’s Cabaret Wednesday, Feb. 22, through Sunday, Feb. 26. Matt Andrews directed and Jim Steinmeyer was the scenic designer, a pairing that proved an effective collaboration. Steinmeyer understood the concept to its fullest, and designed a simple but very unique set. The marquis lights framing the band and the spiral staircases brought me to the nightclub without an elaborate set.

 

Cabaret features a “the heart wants what it wants” mantra. This message is fun and comedic at first, and then profound later. Numbers like “Two Ladies” highlight the playful nature of the show, while the “impossible” love between a German gentile and a German jew during the rise of Nazism makes a statement with more punch. Love does not bow to discrimination, people love whom they want to love, as touched upon in “If You Could See Her” with the metaphor of the Emcee and a gorilla in a wedding dress dismissing criticism.

 

The direction was solid. A choice I especially liked was the shocking and abrupt reveal of the Nazi emblem on Ernst Ludwig’s arm (played by Alex Philbin). The flashy burlesque aspect of the play distracted from the fact that the Nazi Party is taking over Germany at the time, and makes the commentary on the Holocaust that much more striking. The shift from raunchy fun to very serious social drama could have used a bit more development in the second act, but the fast change seemed intentional.

 

The acting in Cabaret, overall, was very immersive. It is not surprising that Brian Bocanegra gave a great performance as the Emcee, but it is difficult to not be impressed with his energy. Inspirations from Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show and Alan Cumming in the Broadway version of Cabaret rounded his performance, but did not hinder him from adding a few hints of his personal flavor.

 

Another standout was Liana Frasca’s Fraulein Schneider, the reserved innkeeper that falls for Eddy Lee’s Herr Shultz and faces the dilemma of his Jewish heritage. Her accent was one of the most convincing of any I have ever seen by an amateur actor. Her emotions were subtle, and never overdone, which was a welcome contrast from the showy nature of the inhabitants of the nightclub. Her old-timey singing voice made her as much a part of the cast as a part of the set, grounding the show in the 1920s.

 

Mena Buscetto as Sally Bowles was a smart casting choice. Her more androgynous, adult, foreign nature separated her from the rest of the Kit Kat Club dancers. She brought an interesting element to the table.

 

As with Midsummer, the background acting was integral to the tone of the show, and it ended up being phenomenal. The mixture of types of performers allowed for each member to make a statement. Katie Morreale, Julia DiMarzo, and Isabella D’Addario embodied a twisted innocence, an almost perversion of youth, that the Emcee comments on: “They are a bunch of kids playing in their bedroom, getting wilder and wilder.” Tara Kinsella, Melissa Kleiman, and Melissa Mandia were more sultry, mature figures. Rebekkah Colclasure had an excellent stage presence, and was sure to be noticed whenever she was in a scene.

 

Jack Norkeliunas and Fred Darcy were both memorable and high-energy additions to the cast. Their short stage time was efficiently used. Ikponmwosa Pat-Osagie was incredibly intimidating yet effortlessly cool as the owner Max.

 

Despite an excellent speaking voice and proven chops (he was great in Midsummer), Quincy Brown’s Cliff Bradshaw did not fit into the world of Cabaret. His delivery for the most part was too devoid of personality, and when the role called for emotional spikes, they were delivered unconvincingly.

 

The costuming and lighting helped create Cabaret’s atmosphere. The use of dichotomy of white clothes, usually symbolizing purity, worn by the Kit Kat girls was a great decision. The Emcee’s comment on the girls’ being virgins might be reflected in this choice. The Emcee’s costume was very memorable and fit his personality well. The clothes of characters such as Cliff Bradshaw and Fraulein Schnieder really cemented their characters. The scarce use of colored lighting, other than the ever-present gold of the club, made the final scene hauntingly disturbing. When the Emcee unveils his Jewish star and the dancers stand gravely behind him, an intense blue and purple douses them in sorrow. On a lighter note, the bright light behind the white screen in “Two Ladies” to create shadowed images was an inventive and hilarious bit.

 

Cabaret was an expectedly risque but surprisingly touching production. The acting, directing, set design, costuming, and lighting created an immersive experience in a believable world. This show was an example of good execution of a director’s concept. I blushed, I laughed, and I cried, but ultimately, I enjoyed MCCTA and Marist Theatre’s Cabaret.

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