From our Cohorts: Cabaret Opening Night
Opening night (December 6th 2019)
One of the great things about being in the Cohort Club is that one gets to see the evolution of a production from its earliest beginnings all the way through to opening night. In the case of Cabaret I was able to attend the earlier rehearsals but, unfortunately, had to miss most of the technicals (i.e. rehearsals on the theater stage with costumes, etc.). In a funny sort of way this only increased the impact of opening night. Having observed the cast work through various scenes and transitions in the rehearsal room (in mufti, as it were) it was all the more striking to suddenly see them in their costumes. It was rather like seeing colorful butterflies emerge from their chrysalises. In an actual performance the transitions from one scene to the next, perhaps involving rearrangements of furniture and props on stage (often executed by the cast themselves), are something that an audience takes for granted, unless there’s a snafu. Given the multi-component complexity of a musical like Cabaret, it made me appreciate all the time that was spent in rehearsals on planning and executing the various transitions.
As for the opening night performance itself: terrific. The cast was bursting with energy and all the famous numbers did not disappoint—with Sean Patrick Doyle as Emcee providing the nexus of energy for many of them. Also, of particular note, to me at least, were some of the moments between Herr Schultz and Frau Schneider. Their singing and acting captured the poignancy and hopelessness of a relationship that was doomed by historical forces beyond their control.
Indeed, the show is not just entertainment, it’s about a terrible period of history, still within living memory, and Ms. Bruner’s production was able to express that in terms that can resonate today. Once Ernst Ludwig’s Nazi affiliations were revealed at the end of the first act, the second act captured the sense that the party was over for the Kit Kat Club and a new, grim reality was dawning. Certain points in the second act (such as Herr Schultz’s statement that “…the Nazi’s will take nothing…” and that he was a “good German…”) elicited responses from the audience reflecting that recognition. And catching some snippets of conversation among audience members after the show indicated that there were some with family histories that had been strongly impacted by that era.
It would be easy to pour paeans of praise on the cast and director and choreographer, but today I want to give a big shout out to the other key contributors to the show: the musicians and the stage management team. The band’s playing was inspired and their “concert” before the second act was superb. I could have listened to the band all night. Assembling all the moving parts to create a show that runs like clockwork requires a master horologist behind the scenes who puts together all the pieces ranging from the largest cogs to the smallest screws. And that craftsman is the stage manager, Dominick Ruggiero, ably assisted by his crew. Fantastic job!
Michael T., Cohort Club Member