Paul Araquistain thrills as the flamboyant Emcee.
I just attended my third show at Sunnyvale Community Players, which once again did not disappoint. This is closing weekend of the final show of their 41st season, Cabaret, which takes place in 1930’s Berlin shortly after WWI and in the midst of the Nazi Regime. As the Director and Choreographer, Lee Ann Payne alludes to in her Director’s Note, most of the characters of Cabaret could never conceive of anything horrible going on around them, as they live in blissful oblivion, going to party after party. And Lee Ann brings up a powerful question, “what would you do?”
As the lights come up, we are welcomed by a very charismatic, Emcee, Paul Araquistain, who introduces us to the Kit Kat Klub. “Leave your troubles outside… We have no troubles here! Here life is beautiful… The girls are beautiful…”
When I first laid eyes on the Kit Kat Girls, I was in complete dismay. I expected “beautiful girls” like the Emcee said. These were girls with straggly hair, glossed over eyes, torn fishnets, and bodies of every shape and size. However after I got over my initial shock, I found this ensemble quite humorous and entertaining.
These girls were amazing. I have to give all of them props, because they kicked serious butt as the singing and dancing girls of The Kit Kat Klub: Michelle Beyda-Scott, Denise Lum, Veronika Olah, Melissa Palmieri, Kaeli Quick, Lea Simon, and my personal favorites for never breaking their wonderful, over-the-top characters: Valerie Valenzuela and Cheryl Ringman. Also memorable were the ensemble of shirtless men.
Enter Sally Bowles, (Emily Bliss). Sally is a careless, carefree cabaret singer who as per usual forces herself into the life of another naive man, an American writer, Cliff, (Sven Schultz), who let’s her talk him into letting her stay with him. Sally distracts Cliff from his writing with wild parties and the likes, but Cliff doesn’t seem to mind. Emily and Sven are wonderful as this unlikely couple whose happy times turn dark.
The kind, but stern Fraulein Schneider (Linda Piccone) owns the boarding house where Cliff and the sassy, seductive woman of the night, Fraulein Kost (Cindy Powell) rent rooms. Matt Tipton does a masterful job portraying Herr Schultz, the innocent and meager Fruit Shop owner who falls in love with Fraulein Schneider. I can’t get over how cute Matt’s characterizations are as this sweet and caring man, not to mention impressive, considering Matt is about thirty years younger than the character!
Also dark is the fate of Schultz and Schneider’s pending nuptials. Schultz, who is a Jew, has the attitude that all will be well, but Schneider does not see it that way. She thinks that because of the Nazis, she will lose everything if she marries a Jew. Fear gets in the way of her happiness.
Fear also gets in the way of Sally’s happiness. She seems to know herself too well from her past entanglements and ruins her relationship with Cliff. Cliff returns to America where he finally begins to write his book, based on the good and bad times he experienced in Germany.
I feel that the ending of both relationships could have been more emotion evoking, since the story has the capacity to really make you feel for these characters, especially the emotional intensity of Sally’s destiny and past. However, that was the only thing lacking in this magical production of Cabaret.
I can’t help but think about Director Lee Ann Payne’s question: “what would you do?” Although in modern day America, we are not going through something as horrible as the Nazi Regime, we do have our fair share of political problems. Do we each have our own versions of the Kit Kat Klub? Ways of escaping; like television, movies, or Facebook? Do we get involved to make a change; do we use positive thinking to affirm that the world is at peace and getting better every day? Or do we live in blissful oblivion like the patrons of the Kit Kat Klub? Is life really a Cabaret?
Cabaret through May 15th at Sunnyvale Community Players
Emily Bliss shines as the reckless Sally Bowles