Cabaret, directed by Charlotte Steuter-Martin, is a musical that is both gaudy and sincere. Set in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi Party, the production explores the glamorous, yet gritty world of a cabaret and all those affected by its charms.
An able, scantily-clad ensemble led the brash songs, and their confidence was contagious. Their voices blended nicely, and were combined with inventive choreography designed by Lauren Olivia Hughes that was usually well-executed. Steuter-Martin’s spot-on casting and the inclusion of unique mannerisms made the chorus a pleasure to watch. They worked well as an ensemble, giving each other room to breathe and ensuring that everyone was featured.
The band stayed on top of the faster numbers, producing a smoky, brassy sound that added to the high-energy atmosphere. Slow songs were not their strong suit, and some musicians missed more subtle cues, affecting the audience’s emotional response.
The show’s Emcee, played by Marina Maye Gwynne, maintained her flamboyant character throughout the long show. The devilish look in her eyes never faded. Gwynne’s makeup was especially impressive and set a high bar, to which the crew rose with other characters.
Where other actresses might have given a shallow performance of Sally Bowles, Brooke Fenton understood her character’s depth and balance. She exhibited obnoxious behavior with a dismissive and self-centered air, and subtly revealed her more vulnerable side with realistic emotional transitions.
Costumes, designed by Olivia Belanger and Ariel Weiner, especially the emerald green pieces on Fenton, were truly stunning. Their attention to detail was one of the show’s highlights. Fenton’s hairstyle, however, was more glamorous than functional, and sometimes obstructed her face.
Fenton and Ian Kenny, as Clifford Bradshaw, worked well together, allowing their relationship to evolve as the show went on. Kenny had a rich, disarming voice and strong acting skills, as did Meg Collins, whose performance as boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider was powerful and heartfelt. Herr Schultz, played by Stephen Deturbide, had especially endearing facial expressions, and his character’s naivety was painful to watch.
Steuter-Martin’s skill as a director was most clearly demonstrated during a scene that ended with audio of one of Hitler’s speeches, the lights fading as his voice rose. The somber audience was left in darkness as their imaginations wandered, making for a disturbing experience that showed restraint and foresight.
German accents, lighting cues and choreography were not always precise, and some moments of dead air occurred during more complicated set changes. The well-designed set and Steuter-Martin’s direction achieved a lavish atmosphere that helped to diminish these errors, creating a world that is unapologetically messy, garish, and undeniably entertaining. Ernst Ludwig says it best: “It is awful. You will love it.”
Cabaret continues its run through Sat., Feb. 2. All performances are at 8 p.m. in the KTS Red Room.