Time to Remember
You'd be doing yourself a favor by going to Gulf Coast State College's latest production of Cabaret . Utterly entertaining and enjoyable, peppered with strong performances and a live onstage band, this is a strong showing from GCSC's theatre program.
Garret Poladian brings strong dancing skills and bold sexuality to the role of the Emcee and has some lovely moments especially at the finale but I wish the choreography throughout matched his skill set. His emcee is prettier than most, a casting choice that undermines the seediness of the character, but it still works well. High school student Ben Whitmer gives a sturdy if slightly stiff performance in the role of the Yank writer Cliff which is one of the more difficult roles- the character itself is written rather blandly. Mr. Whitmer lends a nice strength to the role and a very resonant speaking voice. I look forward to his future endeavors. Savannah Wambo - the lovely young actress who plays Sally - has a sturdy set of pipes and a sweet disposition onstage. Unfortunately, I think this talented ingenue would be better suited for a character that lets that innate goodness sing through. Sally is a pill poppin' , booze swillin', life of the party girl with loose morality. Ms. Wambo is just too nice to convincingly play that.
One of my favorite performances came from Jessica St. Hill as Fraulein Schneider, the boardinghouse owner. Strong voice and lovely nuanced acting, her portrayal brings poignance and heart to Schneider and has a sweet chemistry with Christian Sullivan as Herr Schultz. Kaitlynn Millsap gives a nice turn as the bawdy prostitute Fraulein Kost, and Jason Betz brings humor and scary sweetness to the role of Ernst (I say scary because the reveal mid show that he is a Natzi officer chills even more so because Betz plays him with so much charm.)
The stage expanded over the orchestra pit was uneccessarily large. Mostly it created an alienating distance in the generally cramped and intimate settings of the Kit Kat Klub (The telephone song was like watching a tennis match as you pinged back and forth from either side of the stage to follow the song.) Actually , any time scenes took place at the tables in the club, I found it hard to follow where the dialogue was taking place. The boarding house sets were nice, but instead of doing a huge hallway , I would have preferred a unit representing Herr Shultz's fruit stand/shop.
The biggest thing missing was dirt. The overall feel of the production from the performances to the set was clean and safe. The show could have used a heavy slathering of sleaze- from the club to the , you know, Nazis. This is disturbing material that felt a bit sanitized. The chilling "Tomorrow belongs to me" loses impact with the vastness of the set. The distances made it feel safe, and Caberet should never feel safe.
Director Jason Heddon does a fine job at bringing strong performances from his talented cast. He has chosen to focus mainly on the original script of the show, forgoing the revisions of the revivals. In this he loses two very good numbers , "Maybe This Time" and "The Money Song". Energywise, these additions were sorely missed as the last half of the first act tends to drag.
I was not a fan of the choreography, but I know it is hard with mostly untrained dancers. The thing I would have love to have seen differently was the approach. The Kit Kat girls work in a seedy decadent dump of a club. Their dancining doesn't have to be chorine polished- this ain't 42nd Street- but make it looser, fill the measures with movement, and have the girls commit to the 4th rate style of the club. Glory in the ineptness. Embrace the awkwardness, That would have played better, in my opinion.
These are my nit picky quibbles for an overall strong show. Just next time, please leave the grime.
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