Sunday, June 4, 2023

“Willkommen! Bienvenue!”: A review of MTSU Theatre’s rendition of “Cabaret”

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Featured Image Courtesy of MTSU Theatre and Dance Department

Story by Stephanie Hall

What do you do in times of adversity? Do you merely ignore everything, because it’s not directly harming you and it’s easier that way? Or do you punch a Nazi in face and then get out of Berlin.  

Middle Tennessee State University’s Theatre and Dance department performed “Cabaret” over the weekend in the Tucker Theatre. It played from Thursday, April 6 to Saturday, April 8.

“Cabaret” tells a story about the danger of complacency during adversity. The musical is set in The Kit-Kat Club, a nightclub in Germany’s pre-World War ll. It follows Clifford Bradshaw (played by Bo Bryan), a young American writer in search of the inspiration for his novel, and Sally Bowles (played by Mary-Beth Mangrum), a British nightclub singer performing in Berlin.  

Throughout their story, we see performances from The Kit-Kat Club, with the character scenes interspersed throughout. The set designers took advantage of it by including tables in the audience where different characters would sit and watch the show with the audience. While the first act makes it fun to look back to see the characters, the second act makes it downright terrifying.  

While the first act is a sweet love story with fun, colorful performances, the first act ends with the reveal that Clifford’s first German friend is actually a Nazi. This is when you’re reminded of the time period of the show, instead of enjoying the singing and pretty costumes.  

Act two is where suddenly every performance and scene are constantly reminding you that Hitler is coming to power. As you try to enjoy the fun performances from The Kit-Kat Club, you look over and see two Nazi’s just casually sitting in the audience as well. Enjoying the show with you. It makes you anxious.

The two relationships that developed in the 1st act crumble under the Nazi regime in act 2. Clifford wants to leave for America while Sally wants to stay in Berlin. Bryan does a great job throughout, but the scene where he tells Sally they are going to leave was so tense, it had me on the edge of my seat.  

Fraulien Schneider (played by Vanessa Jarmen) is the landlord, and she falls for Herr Scholtz (played by Garret Holt), who is Jewish. They have many sweet moments and the songs are some of my favorites. Especially in the scene where they got excited over a pineapple, I found myself rooting for them.  

However, in act two, with a beautiful performance of “Married” (Reprise) by Holt, they break it off due to the impending threat of the Nazi party. 

An odd but incredible performance was by the Emcee (played by Christian Newton) and a person in a gorilla costume in the song “If You Could See Her (The Gorilla Song).” Newton, as the Emcee, was either performing on-stage or watching the show on the platforms.  

He’s like the persona of the audience, looking excited when Sally and Clifford as the two get close or laughing at Fraulein Kost (played by Reaghan Hall)’s antics. Most heartbreakingly, watching helplessly as Fraulien Schneider tells Herr Scholtz that it is unsafe for her to be with him. And then reluctantly throws the brick through the window of his fruit stand.  

The ending though, was an emotional and heart-wrenching moment. As Emcee tries to look for the other performers and the orchestra (who have been on stage this whole time), he’s in a panic.  

Then he removes the coat and reveals a grey-striped outfit with The Star of David and a Pink Triangle. One to show that he’s Jewish. Another to show that he is gay. And then, as the drum roll plays, he clutches his eyes tight, as if breaking for impact. Then the lights go out.  

“Cabaret” is an extremely relevant show, especially now. It’s about how the Nazi’s used the hedonism and immorality associated with the night life of Berlin at the time to take control and punish those they felt were at fault. The lines about how “that would never happen here” being said by characters living in 1930’s Berlin rang eerily similar to the notions many say today. That would never happen here. It won’t go through. There is no need to worry.  

While this is the last show of the season, they ended it with a bang and a reminder that if we do not learn from our past, we are bound to repeat it in our future.  

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com. For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

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