The musical Cabaret is one of those shows that checks all of the standard musical theater boxes, of dancing girls, show-stopping songs, and love stories, but also carries with it such a beautiful and haunting darkness that leaves audiences in awed silence at the show’s end. Prince William Little Theatre tackles this emotional monster of a show by Joe Masteroff, with music and lyrics by the incredible duo Kander and Ebb, and puts on an excellent production.
The story follows Clifford Bradshaw, a young novelist who has come to Berlin in the 1930s in order to find inspiration for his book. He quickly makes friends with Ernst Ludwig, a German national, and Sally Bowles, an English woman who works at the tawdry Kit Kat Club. Slowly Cliff begins to recognize the growing presence of the Nazi party and realizes that his new free lifestyle will not last for long.
Director, Music Director, and Set Designer Matt Scarborough, does a wonderful job in preserving the dark heaviness of the show, while making the most of the wildly funny and sexual moments, with lighting design by Ken and Patti Crowley aiding in maintaining the somber and often shady atmosphere.
Helping to anchor the show in its 1930’s Berlin setting was the costume design, by Susy Moorstein, and German accent coach, Ivy Elizabeth’s, work was evident in the believability of the performers accents throughout the show.
James Maxted plays the Master of Ceremonies. As the Emcee, Maxted is seductive and playful as he draws the audience into the story. He and his Kit Kat girls and boys sit along the outer edges of the stage and watch all of the scenes. Maxted, at first appears to be all sex and silliness but, as the show progresses, shows the more sinister side of the action. His best song “If You Could See Her” shows his duplicity perfectly as he sings about his love of a gorilla.
It’s these slap in the face moments that make Cabaret such an incredible show. The political undertones and highlights on social stigmas are just as poignant today as when the show was first performed in 1966, and Scarborough’s production does not miss a beat.
Katie Puschel does a smashing job as the illustrious Sally Bowles, who pushes herself into Cliff’s (Jared Dent) life and ultimately steals his heart. Puschel captures Sally’s reckless naiveté and charming appeal and, though her dance numbers are a little lack luster, Puschel’s voice is luscious and the choreography, by Caroline Simpson, does a great job of keeping the action and energy exciting.
Dent’s stiff and reserved Cliff is a great contrast to the loose and free Sally and the two make an unlikely but completely believable pair.
Ernst Ludwig, played by Aaaron Verchot-Ware is the unexpected villain. Befriending Cliff on the train to Berlin, Verchot-Ware is genuine and appears to be a valuable acquaintance to Cliff and Sally, until the truth of his Nazi political ties is revealed. This realization comes as an unwelcome surprise just as much to the audience, who has been taken in by Verchot-Ware’s sincerity.
Cliff rents his room in Berlin from Fraulein Schneider (Catherine Lyon), an older woman who has seen more than her fair share of hardships. She has a romantic connection with Jewish Fruit Shop Owner, Herr Schultz (Larry Keeling), and the duo have some of the sweetest and most heart-wrenching moments of the show, such as the song “Married” where they discuss whether to take their relationship to the next level, and then later on, in the “Married (Reprise)”, when the reality of the rise of the Nazi’s takes its toll. There were, unfortunately, times when it was not possible to hear Lyon or Keeling singing over the music but their wonderful chemistry compensated for any lost lyrics.
The ensemble is very strong and the crowd favorite “Two Ladies,” which the Emcee sings with Lulu (Sarah Elizabeth Edwards) and Bobby (Khoa Pham) in drag did not disappoint. There were moments when the stage seemed too crowded in some of the larger ensemble numbers but that never took away from the performance delivered by the actors.
Prince William Little Theatre’s production of Cabaret does a fantastic job of conveying all of the macabre subtleties of this political and sexually charged classic. The lesson of the ugliness in prejudice and self-righteousness are important even today and the cast drives this message home with their performance. Don’t miss this mesmerizing and moving production.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours 20 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Cabaret shows through July 24th, 2016 by Prince William Little Theatre performing at the Hylton Performing Arts Center-10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 993-7759, or purchase online.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 1: Aaron Verchot-Ware and Katherine Bisulca.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 2: James Maxted.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 3: Catherine Lyon and Larry Keeling.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 4: Katie Puschel & Jared Il-Pazzo Dent.
Kendi Mostafavi’s review of ‘Cabaret’ on DCMetroTheaterArts.