Wednesday night marked the opening performance of Cabaret at UB's Center for the Arts, and the show's cast and crew brought down the house. From the minute the curtain went up, audience members were grabbed out of their seats and sucked into the performance, and by the time all was said and done, they were on their feet cheering raucously for more.
Originally premiering in November of 1966 at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York City, Cabaret is the story of a young American novelist named Cliff Bradshaw who comes to Berlin in 1930 looking for "something to write about." Upon his arrival, Cliff is befriended by a local man and invited to a local nightclub called the Kit Kat Klub.
It is here that Cliff meets a young cabaret dancer named Sally with whom he falls deeply in love. As Cliff and Sally enjoy the decadent and wild nightlife of Weimar Germany, they continue to remain oblivious to the growing power of the Nazi party and its sympathizers, until everything falls apart.
Overseeing the action of the play is one of the most entertaining characters of the show – the Kit Kat Klub's master of ceremonies, played by music theatre major Taylor Frisina. The flamboyant yet intuitive nature of the emcee is the source of much comedic relief in the show, allowing him to observe the action of the show from the outside.
Despite the dark undertones of a growing Nazi threat, the show is quite funny. Dance numbers like "If You Could See Her," during which the emcee and a gorilla dressed in a tutu and high heels dance around the stage, left audience members holding their sides with laughter. Other notable numbers include "So What," performed by Fraulein Schneider, and "The Money Song," performed by the emcee and company.
In terms of production quality, the production crew hit one out of the park. The music for the show was incredibly well done, and the choreography was quite impressive. Scene transitions were handled with the utmost speed and efficiency, allowing for a seamless and cohesive theater experience.
The most remarkable aspect of the show was the sheer vocal talent of those involved in the production. The actors did an absolutely incredible job harmonizing with one another, and the musicians in the pit gave the show a very richly textured sound.
Standout performances include Eva Tashjian's portrayal of Fraulein Schneider, Cliff's landlady, and Michael J. Barattini's portrayal of Herr Schultz, one of Schneider's tenants. The interactions between these two characters are wonderfully endearing and are one of the highlights of the show. The on-stage chemistry between Tashjian and Barattini is real and palpable.
However, Frisina steals the show with his portrayal of the club emcee, bringing the leering and flamboyant character to life. His song and dance numbers are among some of the best in the show, and his footwork in high heels is truly impressive.
"The best part about these kids is their work ethic. They come in here every day for rehearsals to work hard and support each other. Who gets what role doesn't matter; they just want to work together to make a great show," said Music Director Nathan Matthews.
This work ethic is visible in the high quality of the show. UB's School of Drama and Theatre gave a truly laudable performance of Cabaret on Wednesday night. The cast and crew did a marvelous job working together to create a rich and entertaining experience for those in the audience.
Cabaret is playing in the Center for the Arts Drama Theatre through Sunday. Tickets are $18 for general admission and only $10 for students.