‘Cabaret’ at Adventure Theatre Musical Theater Center by Lauren Katz

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Last night, I saw a production so strong, that I forgot it was student-run until I looked at the program after the show. Adventure Theatre Musical Theater Center’s Cabaret featured acting and directing choices that far surpassed any of my expectations.

Eitan Mazia as the Emcee in 'Cabaret.' Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Directed by Max Talisman and musically directed by Brigitte Dill, Cabaret takes place in Nazi Germany, and follows the love story between Sally Bowles, a Kit Kat Girl, (Carley Rosefelt) and American writer Clifford Bradshaw (Noah Kieserman). The Emcee (Eitan Mazia) serves as the narrator-figure, and creates the connection between the dazzling world of the Kit Kat Club and real-world Germany that is quickly succumbing to Nazi control.

Bill Pressly’s set was simple, consisting of an elevated stage with a staircase on the side, and an extravagant arch on top that served as the entrance to the Kit Kat Club. Movable set pieces such as tables, chairs, and a couch were carried onto the floor space in front of the stage in order to represent Cliff’s bedroom or the train. The set was beautiful and created a nice distinction between the club and the ‘real world.’

Adin Walker and Kelsey Spencer’s choreography was creative and energetic. The featured dancers were extremely talented and I especially enjoyed the creative incorporation of props and set pieces into the choreography, such as the suitcases in “Mein Herr.”

Stephanie Blitz’s make-up designs were just as interesting -specifically, the gradual change in the Emcee’s make-up caught my interest. As the “perfection” of the Kit Kat Club began to unravel and the politics of Germany slowly became a reality, the Emcee’s make-up started to smear, until the final moments of the show when the red of his lips closely resembled blood. I felt this choice on Blitz’s part was inspiring.

Talisman’s vision for this show blew me away, especially considering he’s only 18. Cabaret already has brilliant writing and features themes that many people in my experience have tried to ignore, such as Nazis and prostitution. Talisman took these topics, and forced the audience to accept them. For this reason, one of the strongest moments of the show was the final scene. The stage was dark except for one small beam of light. Mazia walked through the audience towards the light in a Holocaust uniform with a yellow star and a pink triangle attached to his shirt. As he walked, the sound of a moving train rang through the theater and an explosion of white dust fell from the ceiling. The staging was subtle, and the intensity of the scene, however, left me speechless, something I rarely experience when I see theater productions.

It takes talented actors to successfully convey such a powerful show, which was the case in this production. The ensemble carried strong vocals and helped move the story forward. The principal actors were just as impressive, but there were a few in particular who caught my eye.  Though it was a small role, Sean Watkinson was hilarious as one of the girls in “Two Ladies.” I already knew he was a fantastic dancer, but his comedic acting helped push the performance over the top.

Rosefelt brought a new spin to the character of Sally Bowles. I enjoyed her bubbly and naïve approach to the character, and her singing abilities were absolutely sensational from her first solo of “Don’t Tell Mama” straight through to her rendition of “Cabaret.” Rosefelt and Kieserman’s duet of “Perfectly Marvelous” was adorably sweet, and their chemistry helped create a couple that I wanted to see succeed. Lauren Goldberger’s comedic acting abilities shined through her portrayal of Fraulein Schneider. The accents in the show can present difficulties, but Goldberger’s German accent was spot-on.

Mazia’s portrayal of the Emcee left me in awe. The role is extremely demanding, but Mazia took on the role with such talent, I found it difficult to believe he was only in high school. I was impressed by his ability to switch from outlandish comedy as seen in “Two Ladies,” to an eerie and almost evil character as seen in “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” However, the quality that wowed me above anything else was his ability to convey the intense themes of the show, such as the anti-Semitism in “If You Could See Her,” and the heavy ideas of the Holocaust in the last scene.

Carley Rosefelt (Sally Bowles) and Noah Kieserman (Clifford Bradshaw). Photo by Bruce Douglas.

Adventure Theatre Musical Theater Center’s production was a major success. Cabaret is a difficult show for a group of high schoolers to perform, but these students tackled the show with a high sense of professionalism and talent. I look forward to seeing what else these students have to offer in future productions and look forward to Max Talisman directing more musicals.

Running time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.

Cabaret has one more performance tomorrow – Sunday June 10, 2012 at 2 PM – at Adventure Theatre Musical Theater Center at the Mullitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab at the Olney Theatre Center – 2001 Olney Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, MD. The show is almost sold out, but for more information on tickets, go online.

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