Photos by Johanna Austin via AustinArt.org.
Just a 15-minute walk from North campus, up North High Street, stands the Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center. Uptown! has a 2019-2020 season packed with musicals, vocalists, bands, a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show and more.
Currently playing is “Cabaret,” a musical that runs October 4–20. Kristin McLaughlin Mitchell is the director for this production and the artistic director for Resident Theatre Company (RTC). In her opening night speech, Mitchell reaffirmed RTC’s mission, which hopes to bring “New York Theatre to Chester County.”
In 1966, “Cabaret” was originally brought to musical form with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The original Broadway production earned various Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score. Since then, there have been multiple revivals, a movie starring Liza Minnelli and a myriad of productions both in the U.S. and internationally.
“Cabaret” sets itself in late-1930s Germany. The characters all revolve around a tawdry, kitsch nightclub called the Kit Kat Klub. The indefinite host of the club is the eccentric, unabashed Master of Ceremonies or “Emcee” (Jesse Manocherian). The main attraction at the club is Sally Bowles (Adriana Giselle Milbrath) a sultry British singer and dancer. Cliff Bradshaw (Christian Thomason), a budding American novelist and English teacher, just happens to stumble in one night with the help of his new German friend Ernst Ludwig (Peter Reid Lambert). What ensues are the usual sins of lust, greed and wrath. Yet these sins seem petty when juxtaposed to the rise in power of the Nazi party which proves itself to be an unrelenting evil force at play in the background of the show.
The events of the plot are set to an intoxicatingly ‘30s American jazz score. While watching the production there are tons of notable songs. Love duets include “Perfectly Marvelous,” a cute, convincing musical number performed mostly by Sally, “It Couldn’t Please Me More (A Pineapple),” comedically sung by Fräulein Schneider (Aubrey Federici) and Herr Shultz (Gordon Stanley) and “Married,” a sweet profession of love between Fräulein Schneider and Herr Shultz. Solo numbers include “Maybe This Time,” a hopeful ballad, “Cabaret,” a haunting denial of love and politics both from Sally, “What Would You Do?” where Fräulein Schneider explains her heartbreaking reality, and “I Don’t Care Much,” a painful, deconstructive piece performed by Emcee. In addition, there are many thrilling ensemble numbers which pay homage to famed choreographer Bob Fosse with use of chairs, angled poses and syncopated hip thrusts.
Interspersed throughout the production are compelling conversations between the characters. These scenes drive the plot forward as the actors/actresses take the wheel to immerse themselves further into this rapid, hedonistic setting and the ever-looming destruction of pre-World War II Germany. All of the cast have been directed on their accents by dialect coach Chase Byrd. Hearing the authentic accents from all of the German characters, as well as Sally’s British accent, helps to extent the seemingly realistic but imaginary circumstances of time and setting in this production. Further, characters are clothed in 1930s garb in the style of costume designer Kylie Stetler. The integration of vintage-women styles like drop-waist dresses, finger waves and pouty red lips extend belief for this production further.
For more information on showtimes and ticket prices go to uptownwestchester.org.
Alix Duncan is a second-year student majoring in women’s and gender studies. AD944380@wcupa.edu