Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome to the Cabaret

The Cabaret has a field of complex characters in the conflicting period before World War II in Germany. Although the songs are sometimes fun and exciting, the story is much more dramatic and the actors, students of the University of Illinois, do an excellent job of conveying the layered emotions of their characters.

The actors and musicians at the end of the performance.

Written by Grace Chen

When we first walked into the theatre, the orchestra was already playing music that fit the era. It established the mood of the musical early on and it told me that I was going to be transported to the early 1900s in this musical. The light jazz that blended into the start of the show mimicked how an actual audience member of the Kit Kat Klub probably felt and the Welcome song served as an introduction to the role of the Klub to the story.

The orchestra playing before the show.

The songs that the characters of the Kit Kat Klub were all quite sassy but the ones Sally sang while working there showed some vulnerability and helped establish her as a character. We found that she was a young soul with many uncertainties about the world through her singing. The songs that Fraulein Schneider sang were about her life story and what’s she’s learned throughout the years. Her songs with Frau Schultz revealed her inner insecurities as well as information on the dynamics of her relationship with the man. As the last act is entered, there is a dramatic shift in mood as the Nazis are taking over. All the songs are sadder and more empty, a reflection of the Nazi regime during World War II.

The musical had about five sets that showcased different places around Berlin. The first set we see is the train station. They cleverly had a moving stage to show the movement of the train and to make the transition between scenes smoother. They also had two big set pieces that depicted the hotel, the Kit Kat Klub, and the engagement party. These are all distinct places that had different purposes. The train station only appeared at the beginning and end of the musical showing both an arrival and the departing of the show. The Kit Kat Klub showed the beginning and end of the relationship between Sally Bowles and Clifford Bradshaw. The hotel grew the relationships between the characters showing the ups and downs between Sally Bowles, Clifford Bradshaw, Ernst Ludwig, Fraulein Kost, Fraulein Schneider, and Frau Schultz. Lastly, the engagement party hosted the climax of the performance with Clifford’s realization that he was working for the Nazi’s and that Frau Schultz was a Jew. The sets themselves were grand but the events happening at each place carried a lot of emotional weight.

My ticket in the theatre.

The Cabaret is a musical written in 1966. The last show performed at the Krannert Center was last night, however, you can watch it online as there was a movie made in 1972 that has the same story.

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