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Ominous warning in Owosso Community Player's 'Cabaret'

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Perhaps you vaguely recall the 1972 movie version of “Cabaret,” which featured a dazzling Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles.

Now, the 1966 Broadway play that preceded the movie, is being performed by the Owosso Community Players.

“Cabaret” is the dark coming-of-age-story of a young American writer immersed in the ominous culture of Berlin, Germany, as Hitler and the Nazi party is rising to power.

Sam Sommer is Cliff Bradshaw, the writer, and shares the lead roles in this musical with Adam Woolsey, the Master of Ceremonies, and Megan Mitchell as Sally Bowles.

Sommer has the most challenging of the three lead roles. His character is low-key and untheatrical, and yet Bradshaw is the glue that holds the story together. Sommer’s last words in the play, delivered in poignant, measured tones, is a statement of the times, “It was the end of the world, and I was dancing with Sally Bowles.”

Woolsey and Mitchell suck all the air out of the room. Woolsey as the emcee of the “depraved” Kit Kat Klub, infused his character with a malevolent, satanic presence that foreshadows the coming of the Nazis. Mitchell powers up a manic portrayal of Bowles.

Not to be outdone, Anna Owens and Bill Henson, in the supporting roles of Fraulein Schneider, Bradshaw’s housekeeper, and her suitor, and Herr Schulz, the Jewish fruit and vegetable vendor, confirm that an aging couple can belt it out with the best.

The storyline of “Cabaret” comes home most effectively at the end of act one, where the entire cast gathers at a party to sing the hopes of Nazi sympathizers in “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”  One can easily imagine a counterpart if “Make America Great Again” was set to music. Oy!

Set design by Dirk Rennick and Dan Wenzlick is deliberately off-kilter — steps to balconies revealing backstage rooms, a crooked light bulb frame creating a stage within a stage. Erica Duffield continues her unbroken history of innovative choreography with a grim scene in which the Kit Kat dancers mimic Nazi soldiers goose-stepping.

There is a fourth lead in this musical, the 15-piece orchestra, led to perfection by Carl Knipe. Music soars and subtly ebbs as vocal emotions require whispers.

We see in “Cabaret” the rise of a political environment that is intolerant of differences; a belief, that all are others except for a select few. A warning to the rest of us.

 

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