By Mara Capati
The company of Cabaret
“The entirety of this cast deserves many praises in their dedication to their characters, from historically and culturally appropriate depictions, to their German and English accents – you name it. This cast clearly put in a lot of work into their delivery and consistency.”
Cabaret is an American musical theatre classic that takes place between 1929-1930 in Berlin, Germany, during a post-World War I economic depression, at the beginnings of Hitler’s totalitarian regime and the rise of the Nazi Party. Struggling American author Cliff Bradshaw comes to Berlin to write a new novel. On his first night, he wanders into the Kit Kat Klub, managed by the enigmatic “Emcee,” and is introduced to a talented Cabaret performer and lost soul, Sally Bowles. As their romance blossoms, they are met with the harsh reality of an escalating antisemetic political state. At odds with whether they should leave or stay amidst rising tensions, Ernst, Cliff’s German friend, reveals himself to be a supporting member of the Nazi Party, and Herr Schultz, a fellow boarder at Fraulein Schneider’s guest house where Cliff and Sally reside, falls victim to a hate crime. This musical boldly explores themes of sexual liberation, discrimination, and poverty within the backdrop of looming political tragedy.
Director Mickey Nugent provides the audience a full immersion into the world and essence of true “cabaret theatre.” The success of this experience is in part due to the seamless cohesion of all the little details. From the simple and intimate staging to the historical world building, the audience is captivated by the beguiling plot that unfolds. Nugent elegantly transports audiences to a historic time that seems all too familiar and cruelly nostalgic for some, in its similarity to rising political and human rights concerns in the world today.
On the technical end, Pima’s sound system and balancing has significantly improved from the last production I had attended there this year. Actors were crystal clear, and wow – the balancing and vocal power of that ensemble! Transitions were smooth, with minimalistic, only-necessary set pieces, and interchangeable projection-panel images – the perfect simple setting for some not-so-simple narratives and storytelling.
The entirety of this cast deserves many praises in their dedication to their characters, from historically and culturally appropriate depictions, to their German and English accents – you name it. This cast clearly put in a lot of work into their delivery and consistency. You could distinguish any single role on stage, ensemble members included, and see the complex growth of the individual and the group, reacting to and processing the impacts of the trauma of a rising regime inciting fear, violence, discrimination, and murder against their loved ones, within their home country. While there were many honorable mentions of performers, I would like to start by highlighting the display of massive talent across the board. I’m not sure that I’ve seen this quality of talent as a whole at Pima Theatre in a few years. The choreography delivery of the Cabaret dancers, the unabashed movement and sensuality – all invaluable contributions to the world-building and undertone of this production. Nickole Custodio, who portrays the vivacious Sally Bowles, has a bright and long career ahead of her in the world of professional theater. She was an absolute delight to watch on stage, captivating the audience with her voice and range in character. My personal favorite vocal performance of the evening, though, hands-down goes to Julia Water’s vocal solo in “Married” as Fraulein Kost with the palettable yearning she depicts through skillful vocal control.
I was happily surprised to see an incredibly diverse cast for this production both in racial representation, genderbending presentation and sexual orientation. The actors portraying the ensemble’s male-presenting characters, Emcee and Cliff, were pinnacle to the successful depiction of sexual liberation in this production. I cannot sing enough praises for the incorporation of LGBT+ musical literature and characters into the Pima Theatre slate this year. It is important to understand the repressed nature of sexuality during those times, especially for those individuals who didn’t believe or practice heteronormativity. Those added stressors have great impacts on people within the LGBTQ+ community, in addition to the added stressors of your country being on the brink of war and persecuting innocent people. It genuinely brought tears to my eyes to see these characters on a Tucson stage, as we do not often see this type of representation in musical theatre productions in town.
I highly recommend that those who have not yet seen this production, come support the Pima Theatre program and its students. Pima Theatre’s take on Cabaret is evidence that the program is rising in ranks towards competing with the quality of a BFA level production and local professional musical theatre companies. I hope to see this production team keep raising the bar and keep up the great work. Today, Cabaret. Tomorrow.. La Cage Aux Folles? I say that in jest, however Pima Theatre’s line up also seems very promising, with Sunday in the Park with George, a Sondheim classic, coming up in March 2023.
Get your tickets for Cabaret and future shows at Pima Community College | Ticketing – Ticket Office Home (universitytickets.com). The show runs until November 20th, Th-Sat at 7 p.m., Sun at 2 p.m at the Proscenium Theatre on 2202 W Anklam Rd, Tucson, AZ 85709. General tickets are $15 and $10 for Students/Seniors/Military/Pima Employees/Groups.