By Pat Dowdell
Entering the theater doors, I slipped from the present to the past, landing in the Kit Kat Klub, one of the many 1930’s cabarets in Berlin. As I took my seat, I was greeted by cast members in period costumes, acting out their roles as German cabaret performers. This clever, whimsical banter set the tone for a great performance and united the actors with the audience. It is the epitome of creative and directing perfection!
The stage itself is the largest and most ambitious ever designed (design by Brian J. Proball), complete with 2 tiers above the stage floor, the top tier housing the 9 piece, expertly directed (by Andy Kust) cabaret band. It is precisely detailed with nothing left to the imagination. The designers and construction staff spared no expense, time, or effort to make this the grandest stage I’ve ever seen at Lyric Arts.
Each of the 20 cast members made us feel like we were a part of the cabaret audience itself. Director Matt McNabb has chosen this strong cast so perfectly that their movement, lines, and vocals were deliciously served up for our enjoyment while telling the story of life in Berlin and the changes to come. It is cleverly choreographed (by Jon Stiff) around the complex stage with expert sound (by Jeff Geisler) and lighting (by Dan Thorson), punctuating every movement seamlessly and guided the audience’s attention. The costumes (by Lisa Mangone) were authentically designed, bringing reality and acceptance to this uninhibited, flamboyant gay community as it existed in Berlin.
The beginning of the play was filled with fun, excitement and frivolity. By the end of the first act and throughout the second act, we see the beginning effects of Hitler’s forthcoming power and we become one with the cabaret performers. We feel the change and the pain that begins to negatively affect them and the German community at large. We see lives destroyed and witness a finale that is so poignant and stunning, the audience made not a sound but sat quietly, absorbing the devastation just witnessed. Coupled with this is our knowledge of how much worse life would become in the years to follow, not just in Germany but throughout the world. My tears and sadness were for a generation that would forever be changed through misguided force.
In the end, the standing ovation to the actors and the director was the highest compliment an audience can give, acknowledging the power of this play as it relates to our inner most sense of decency and humanity.
To say that Cabaret is a musical understates it’s power. It is tremendously exhilarating, thought provoking and emotionally driven. It is a tribute to the fragile, diverse, complex and ever-changing fabric of human life.
A Little Bit About Pat: Pat is a native Anoka resident and a recently retired teacher. Pat taught at Anoka High School for 25 years. In her spare time, Pat volunteers at Lyric Arts doing a variety of jobs.