BareStage's 'Cabaret' Demands Attention

 Photo: Riley Bathauer

Photo: Riley Bathauer

In BareStage’s production of Cabaret, actors, technicians, and musicians come together to achieve a powerful, nuanced representation tracking the devolution of characters caught up in the sexy, carefree world of the cabaret scene of the Weimar Republic. The narrative follows Cliff Bradshaw, an aspiring novelist, who moves to Berlin in 1931 where he meets cabaret performer Sally Bowles and submerges himself in her seductive lifestyle. Their aimless life together is undermined when these initially shallow characters are challenged with sobering complications and the rise of the Nazi regime.

 Photo: Riley Bathauer

Photo: Riley Bathauer

The show’s women-dominated cast delivers a punch. As the Emcee, Sofie Fier introduces the audience to the raunchy, rakish atmosphere of the Kit Kat Club with gyrating hips and plentiful sexual innuendos. Fier, along with the rest of the Kit Kat Dancers, own the space, engaging the audience with pointed stares and animated, energetic physicality. Each Kit Kat dancer possesses their own distinct brand of sex appeal. The variation of tones in characterization gives each dancer distinct individuality, coming together to create a multi-faceted representation of the troupe as a whole. Under the multi-colored lights, the audience is transported to the seedy, provocative ambiance of a 1930s cabaret. The opening number “Willkommen”  captures the audience’s attention and holds it for the entire duration of the show.

Sally Bowles, played by Kacey Mayeda, truly shines bright in this production. She gives stunning portrayal of a naive young woman clinging to her romanticized image of the glamorous femme fatale amidst the challenges of poverty, pregnancy, and political unrest. What makes her performance truly exceptional is the subtle character arc she creates for Sally that mediates between this hollow, grandiose persona and the undercurrent of tension that disrupts and challenges the provocative, superfluous lifestyle she wants. Her most beautiful moments arise as Sally breaks away from her stock desires to contemplate a more difficult, conventional path. One such moment is “Maybe This Time,” when Sally considers keeping her baby and settling into domesticated life with Cliff Bradshaw instead of following her usual course of action. In the show’s opening night performance, the emotionally charged rendition was met with a standing ovation by the audience, demonstrating Mayeda’s absolute command over her character.

 Photo: Riley Bathauer

Photo: Riley Bathauer

Fraulein Shneider and Herr Shultz, played by Daryanna Lancet and Ethan Glasman, are a joy to watch. This dynamic duo brings a much needed levity to the tense, orchestrated environment of the cabaret scene. Their sweet disarming humor gives the audience comedic relief that counteracts the dominant erotic overtones of the show. For a pair of young actors, they achieve the admirable feat of convincingly portraying an elderly couple. Both emote specific physicality, such as Glasman’s walking with limp and the rigid way he holds his frame. Even his chosen positioning of his hands contribute to the image of an old man feeling the effects of arthritis. While the age of Lancet’s character came across through her calculated movements, she also moves throughout the space with a poise and purpose embodying mannerisms of an earlier period, contrasting the Kit Kat dancers who move about capriciously. Beyond providing comedic relief, Shneider and Shultz anchor the narrative in the reality of the time period with the emergence of the Nazi party. Their love story is threatened by the rising fascist regime that punctures the cabaret circle’s oblivious, pleasure seeking habits and forces them to confront not just reality but also their relationship to this reality that endangers their friends’ safety and happiness. Lancet and Glasman give a heartwarming performance that takes the audience on a emotional journey.

BareStage truly delivers in this electric production. What really comes across from the show is the absolute conviction from all involved. All the actors’ characterizations attain a level  of multidimensionality, through choices that range from adopting an accent to recicitating dialogue in German. The decisions feel deliberate and genuine to the characters they represent.

The mark of a great production team is when an audience member does not notice the technical aspects because they are executed seamlessly, and they did just that. The spotlights and the range of multicolored lights all work cohesively to emphasize a particular character or reflect the given mood in a scene. The orchestra is completely on point and their playful banter with the cast, specifically the Emcee, works to integrate them as members of the 1930s cabaret club setting. BareStage’s lively production is definitely one not to be missed. The show is playing in the Choral Rehearsal Hall April 20-22 and 27-29.

TheaterVictoria Mariolle