McLean High School
Shimmering style. Sultry seduction. Shining smiles. Life is a cabaret . . . but is it? In St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’s production of Cabaret, we are forced to reflect on the vagaries of life when politics, religion and human desire converge. Willkommen to both a dream and a nightmare.
Cabaret is based on John Van Druten’s play I Am a Camera and Christopher Isherwood’s novel Goodbye to Berlin. The musical came together in 1966 when it opened on Broadway with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb and a book by Joe Masteroff. The production begins in 1930s Berlin as the nightlife atmosphere flourishes and political tension burgeons with the rise of the Nazis. During this societal awakening and unrest, American writer Cliff Bradshaw finds himself falling for Sally Bowles, a young and beautiful cabaret performer.
Ashley Webb (Sally Bowles) carried the production with her boundless energy and dazzling vocals. She entranced the audience with her first sensual entrance during “Don’t Tell Mama” and commanded the stage with vivid facial expressions and emotional reactions. Webb matched the talent of her marvelous acting with her memorable vocals, most poignantly during her vulnerable solo number “Cabaret.” Alongside the flirtatious Bowles was Louis Poirot in the role of Clifford Bradshaw. Poirot’s all-American character was believable and genuine, and his chemistry with the other actors onstage was engaging and purposeful.
Another spirited force was the Kit Kat Girl ensemble. They brought dance numbers to life with their synchronized movements and clean execution of choreography. One standout in the group was Lulu (Devin Lucas) who made excellent character choices and used her whole body to emote during lively group numbers. As the host of the production, Justin Harmon played the role of the Emcee with vigor and esteem. Harmon displayed a clear character transformation, beginning with an uplifting comedy routine and ending with a dark, depressing twist. Another character that underscored the more disturbing themes of the show was Ernst Ludwig (played by Max Mento).
Anna Fiscarelli-Mintz stepped into the role of Fraulein Schneider, the kind landlady, with confidence. Fiscarelli-Mintz demonstrated enjoyable interaction with her love interest (Herr Schultz played by Ross Monk) and demonstrated admirable vocals during the number “So What?” One of Fraulein Schneider’s more mischievous tenants, the provocative Fraulein Kost played by Jennifer Clogg, had excellent comedic timing and made the most out of her few appearances onstage.
Complementing the actors were equally commendable technical elements. The multi-level set featured a second story for the orchestra as well as multiple entrances throughout the space. The set was expertly painted using texture to add dimension to the stage. On the top level, the orchestra did a fantastic job of interacting with the various cast members, which enhanced the audience’s experience overall. The sound crew did a commendable job of balancing multiple microphones.
From the opening number where Berlin comes alive with parties and fun to the closing number where characters are beginning to realize their fate in Nazi Germany, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School’s enthralling production of Cabaret demonstrated that life is not always an occasion to celebrate; in fact, it can quickly take an ugly, fatal turn.
George Mason High School
Mein Damen und Herren, Mesdames et Messieurs, Ladies and Gentlemen! Put down the knitting, the book, and the broom – “Cabaret” has arrived on the St. Andrew’s Episcopal School stage.
Based on Christopher Isherwood’s 1939 novel “Goodbye to Berlin” and John Van Druten's subsequent play “I Am a Camera,” “Cabaret” has been enticing audiences since its Broadway premiere in 1966. Adapted to film in 1972, the musical has undergone three Broadway revivals and has garnered a total of twelve Tony Awards. Set against the backdrop of the decadence and sensuality of early 1930s Berlin, the story follows American writer Clifford Bradshaw as he travels to Germany in the hopes of finding inspiration for his novel and instead becomes tangled up in the life of the vivacious, mysterious cabaret singer Sally Bowles. Meanwhile, “politics” slowly seeps into the characters’ lives as Nazism begins to gain prevalence throughout the German state.
The students of St. Andrew's Episcopal School have delivered a commendable production of this mature show – a difficult task for performers so young. They succeeded in depicting both the fun and frivolity of the Berlin nightlife and the insidious seriousness of the growth of anti-Semitism – a theme particularly relevant today, considering the recent surge of anti-Semitic acts in our own country.
The production found a clear highlight in Ashley Webb, who gave life to self-described “rover” Sally Bowles. From the moment she slinked onto the stage in her first musical number, “Don’t Tell Mama,” Webb’s energy was striking and her vocals were fantastic, with a powerful, emotive belt. She perfectly executed Bowles’s unique blend of free-wheeling confidence and vulnerability, successfully transitioning between the lighthearted Sally of the first act and the pained Sally of the show’s end. This could best be seen in the stark contrast between Webb’s first phenomenal rendition of “Cabaret” and its darker, quietly tragic reprise.
Several other performers made similarly lasting impressions. Senior Justin Harmon shimmied his hips into the audience’s hearts as the energetic – yet strangely eerie – Emcee. His was among the most genuinely fun characters to watch, jauntily sashaying throughout the stage and lifting his knees for a sailor kick line. Meanwhile, the production received a dual dose of sweetness and tragedy through the courting and ultimate parting of elderly couple Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, played by Anna Fiscarelli-Mintz and Ross Monk. Their relationship was as sweet as their ending was heart-wrenching. Monk himself, meanwhile, demonstrated strong, smooth bass vocals, standing out in musical numbers such as “Married.”
Yet another major strength of this production lay in its pit band. Not only did many members of the band successfully play multiple instruments over the course of the show, but they also engaged with the onstage action, sitting on top of the set in full period costume and occasionally even venturing down to interact with the actors. Meanwhile, the production found notable success in its use of props, coordinated by Will Franzen. Items such as the 1930s-appropriate telephones in the nightclub made the onstage world feel complete.
The students of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School have created an accomplished production of “Cabaret.” While mindful of maintaining the veneer of joviality inherent to the story, the cast and crew presented a show that hit at the true calamity of the rise of Nazi Germany.