The cast of the play Cabaret set out to deliver a wonderfully unique performance filled with spinning set pieces and music that only enhanced the performance.
Written by Willa Wu
The play Cabaret is set in Berlin, Germany, from 1929 to 1930. Initially, I was a bit surprised at the choice in the time period. After all, this was before Hitler’s rise, and after the financial crash of 1929. However, the director’s note in the program provided insight on the choice; the “in-between” space, as Latrelle Bright, the director calls it, is “a space where one can almost imagine maybe, it could have gone another way.” The play, although set during a time where the Nazis held some power, focused rather on the love triangle that was created.
I was impressed to see that the orchestra was placed right on the left hand side of the stage. Rather than have them be in the dark or invisible, they had a spotlight on them at all times, and provided the background music for the musical. Cabaret was shown in the Krannert Center for Performing Arts on March 07, 2020 in the Tryon Festival Theatre.
Music in Cabaret
The music began the performance; the Kit Kat dancers and the cabaret singer delivered an upbeat performance that was also at times humorous. The mood in the very beginning was happy, and the mood changes throughout the play was shown through the beat of the music. For example, when Sally Bowles sang “Maybe This Time” when she found out about her pregnancy, the tone subdued to one that was more somber and serious, rather than the happy tones emitted through the songs sung at the parties. “Maybe This Time” truly showed Sally’s desire to be in love and settle down. In addition it is also the first time we see Sally, whose life seems to be a never ending party, reveal the true person she is underneath. In the other scenes prior, Sally is only shown to be someone whose only purpose is to party. The pregnancy that she experiences then changes her entire view, which is shown through the song choices.
When the set transitioned, it wasn’t done the same way as many plays do, where stagehands will come out and move the set pieces themselves. Instead, it was done by rotating the pre-made mini stages around, and felt much more natural and put together. One of my favorite parts of the use of their sets was when the right hand side of the stage had a hallway set and the left hand side of the stage had a hotel room set. When the characters moved between the two, they all took the same route, making it look like the hallway set and the room set belonged together, and functioned as so. In addition, they continuously referred back to the same set throughout the musical, allowing the audience to become familiar with the layout of the set and storyline. The minor details were what made Cabaret an unforgettable play. The attention to transitions between scenes wear seamless, and allowed the characters to switch between sets by placing them on the stage at the same time.
The songs and set pieces, in my opinion, are the best aspects of Cabaret. The storyline is also unique, by making it a part of an “in-between” era in the 1930s. By focusing on the love triangle in the musical rather than the rise of the Nazi party, it shines a light on the other aspects of life that still continued like normal during this time period.