Cabaret is a musical by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Joe Masteroff. The musical hit Broadway in 1966 and received 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical (
Cabaret is a musical by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Joe Masteroff. The musical hit Broadway in 1966 and received 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical (Playbill). The show is set in Berlin, Germany in the early 1930s during the start of the Nazis’ rise to power. While controversial, mainly because of its subject material, the musical received praise and stays relevant despite being 51 years-old. It has gone through different ‘versions’, though, as different songs and other production elements were added to the following productions (Simonson) The 1998 Broadway Revival Version was performed from September 29-October 2 at Shenandoah University as their fall mainstage musical, a school already known for performing more adult shows. It was directed and choreographed by Kevin Covert, musically directed by Rick Edinger, and starred Drew Becker, Kali Haines, Stephen Dransfield, Ashley Knaack, Christopher Goodwin, and many other talented performers. I knew virtually nothing going into it, which ended up making it all the more effective. Cabaret is a creative, unique, and shocking musical that was executed incredibly well and very effectively – exactly how I would imagine the show is supposed to be.
It starts out in a nightclub in Berlin called the Kit-Kat Klub, where a flamboyant narrator called the “Master of Ceremonies” (Becker) provides an introduction. Sally Bowles (Haines), a former member of the nightclub, is introduced. An American author named Cliff Bradshaw (Dransfield) crosses paths with Sally after he moves to Berlin, and they eventually fall in love. Another smaller plot point involves a Jewish fruit vendor named Herr Schultz (Goodwin), who falls in love with a German woman named Fraulein Schneider (Knaack). Despite its adult content, it is very energetic and comedic during Act One, with the MC providing his own songs/commentary throughout the show. Then, the show takes a major turn. Near the end of the first Act until the finale of the musical, the Nazis’ rise to power is showcased in many different ways. There are several different plot elements and metaphors that highlight the disgusting growth of Anti-Semitism during the time. While Act One resulted in positive, amused reactions from the audience, Act Two left the auditorium nearly silent, besides gasps at the more shocking moments. The Conservatory’s fall performance was incredibly effective, making for a brilliant show overall.
Personally, I still cannot take my mind off the show. It was undoubtedly strange, maybe sometimes a bit too strange. Almost all of those strange moments, however, had a purpose that uniquely and greatly added to the effectiveness of the show. A lot of the scenes are difficult to understand at surface level, but that is really the entire point of the show. Cabaret is a “concept musical”, meaning it bases itself on one central theme, usually expressed through metaphors (Rimalower). The metaphors in Cabaret deal with the rise of Anti-Semitism in the early 30s, which at many times can be shocking, but are still memorable and relevant in doing so. Besides the musical itself, I have to praise Shenandoah’s production as a whole. This is a very difficult and sensitive musical to pull off, but it ended up being to the level of Broadway productions. The production design, style, and direction was great, and the cast was insanely talented. Becker as the MC in particular gave an energetic, emotional performance that I didn’t expect. The show was directed & choreographed by Kevin Covert, the current director of musical theatre at SU. According to him, he thoroughly enjoyed directing it, but “It was a lot to bite off”.
He said that there was “a great deal more choreo in the show” than he expected. Upon this, because of the topic of the musical, there was a lot of researching of the time period involved. “It was different than the past few shows I directed because it dealt with a very specific time in World History,” and he wanted to make sure he “honored those facts”. As mentioned earlier, Cabaret is not an easy show to execute appropriately, and there is a lot that goes into choosing to perform a show like this. To him, “Cabaret is one of the greatest musicals ever written.” He also agrees that even with the musical being over 50 years old, “there are still issues that are timely,” which make it a brilliant choice to perform. He also said that, “We try to choose shows that we know have the student body to make it successful.” Anyone who saw the show would know that SU absolutely had the cast and crew necessary to make it a great show.
Overall, not only did Shenandoah’s production introduce me to a fantastic musical, but immersed and shocked me almost the entire time – which is even greater when knowing this was done at a college level.
“Cabaret Broadway @ Broadhurst Theatre – Tickets and Discounts.” Playbill, www.playbill.com/production/cabaret-broadhurst-theatre-vault-0000002056.
Culwell-Block, Logan. “50 Years of Cabaret: The Surprisingly Transformative Journey of a Classic.” Playbill, PLAYBILL INC., 20 Nov. 2016, www.playbill.com/article/50-years-of-cabaret-the-surprisingly-transformative-journey-of-a-broadway-classic. Accessed 9 Oct. 2017.
Simonson, Robert. “From ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ to I Am a Camera, A History of Cabaret’s Journey to the Stage.” Playbill, PLAYBILL INC., 11 Apr. 2014, www.playbill.com/article/from-goodbye-to-berlin-to-i-am-a-camera-a-history-of-cabarets-journey-to-the-stage-com-217158. Accessed 9 Oct. 2017.
Rimalower, Ben. “Game Changers: The Broadway Musicals That Shaped the Art Form.”Playbill, PLAYBILL INC., 29 Mar. 2014, www.playbill.com/article/game-changers-the-broadway-musicals-that-shaped-the-art-form-com-216661.