Life Is A Cabaret!

The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts presented the premiere of the memorable Cabaret, the music to which was written by John Kander. The production was exquisitely stunning, with great effects and vocals. Starting from the Emcee's beguiling smile to the emotional outbursts of the unreserved Sally Bowles and the naivety of Clifford Bradshaw, the show left the audience in tears.

"Even the orchestra is beautiful..."

Skyler Sims-Dickson performed the role of the Emcee with lithe dance moves, exhibiting powerful body language through willowy motion. The opening of the show was brightened by Skyler's charismatic stage presence.

Fraulein Schneider was performed by the exceptional Hope Nelson. During So What?, is was evident that she is a great actress, and despite her playing a character on the older side of the age spectrum she gave Fraulein Schneider a youthful energy, emphasizing her love to Herr Schultz (Ben Stacy).
Lucy Murphy, performing the role of Sally Bowles, intrigued the audience with her zestful performance of Mein Herr. Being one of my personal favorites, I had very high expectations for this song and all of them
were satisfied. Demonstrating her ability to perform complicated choreography and difficult vocals at the same time, Lucy depicted the sensual Sally Bowles persuading her multiple suitors to forget about her after the "fine affair" was over. 

Two Ladies, performed by Emcee, Lulu, and Bobby (Skyler, Mara Schumann, and Isaac Edejer) was very silly comic relief with little meaning to it other than sheer entertainment. It was much called for comic relief and gave the audience quite the laughs.


Tomorrow Belongs To Me, performed by the remarkable Daniel Mitchell, was a short, yet meaningful musical number. I especially enjoyed the echoey effect produced by the microphone during this musical number, foreshadowing the impeding doom the country was about to face. As the young, aspiring Nazi boy sung the song of his people, the Emcee covered the boy's mouth at the very end of the phrase "tomorrow belongs to me", pronouncing the words "to me" instead of the young boy. At this point, the thematic development of good versus evil became clear. The Emcee looks eerily wicked and the young German boy looks angelic and innocent, but the roles are actually reversed. As the concept of good and evil become commingled, it becomes hard to tell who is good and who is bad. This is done on purpose to demonstrate how the Nazis believed in their goodness. They are winning; therefore, they are good. But in reality, the Emcee represents the common people who would fight against the evil power, and eventually win; and the Emcee covering up the young German boy's mouth and pronouncing the words "to me" instead of him manifests this important theme. 

Maybe This Time, performed by Lucy, was honestly a blast. The unwavering courage evident in Lucy's performance was more than the usual share of teen angst. She embarked us on a journey of Sally Bowles' explosive personality, digging down to the roots of Sally's secret grief and misery. A close friend of Lucy's turned to me after she had finished Maybe This Time and said: "That, just then, was Lucy. That wasn't Sally Bowles; it was Lucy." 
Money is another one of my favorites, and this musical number was to some extend a comic relief as well, but it also made a strong point that women like Sally Bowles loved money so much that it no longer mattered to them how they earned it. Sally was truly surprised when Clifford Bradshaw (Jackson Paddock) refused to accept money from Ernst Ludvig, (Joe-Joe Kelly), for helping him smuggle. This difference in mentality between Sally and Cliff were part of the issue and conflict they eventually began encountering in their relationship. 

During the reprise of Tomorrow Belongs To Me, the intensity build up was spectacular. Following the climax of the fight between Ernst and Cliff over politics, Fraulein Kost decided to keep Ernst from leaving the party thrown by Schultz and Schneider. Mackenzie Rohan, performing the role of Fraulein Kost, surprised the audience by taking an accordion and performing the patriotic song previously sung by Daniel Mitchell. Gradually, all of the different characters onstage began stepping in, and by the end of the first half the audience was sprawling underneath a groundbreaking and heart-pounding wave of dazzling chemistry between the performers. Round of applause to Mackenzie for playing the accordion and singing at the same time. You go, girl!

The Entr'acte was a nice intro to the second half. It didn't arouse as much controversial emotions as some of the vocal number did, permitting the audience to recuperate from the intensity of the explosive first half. The solos within the Entr'acte, celebrating the art of instrumental music, added spice to an already intricately captivating and intimate orchestral part. Round of applause to Maestro Brian Kohn who led the orchestra with vigor and passion. The orchestra played a key role in the plot line, enchanting the audience. 
If You Could See Her Through My Eyes, performed by the Emcee, was a little mockery of the time period's mentality, and although it served as a comic relief to some extent, it once again emphasized the downfall of the situation as Fascism was rising to power.

Hope's performance of What Would You Do was a very heart-felt and exuberant song. Hope demonstrated an older woman's grief with the energy of a young woman. Engrossing with her artistic powers, Hope kept the audience in tension as Fraulein Schneider, desperately in grief, questioned the younger generation as to what they would do if they were presented with the same conflict as she was. 

Cabaret, performed by Lucy Murphy in the most emotional way possible, was an outburst of uncontrollable passion. The way Lucy built up to the climax was spectacular, and the listener could clearly hear the wretched soul of Sally Bowles torn apart from the inside. Sally knew that if she had her baby she would not be able to continue her possible musical career. She sings about how "life is a cabaret", implying that this is all that she wants in life. She loved Cliff, but she loved the stage more, and Cliff was beginning to stand in her way . Lucy perfectly depicted this internal conflict Sally Bowles goes through during this song. As a captivating dramatic effect, Lucy tore down the microphone pole at the very end of the musical number and the lights suddenly went out. The tech crew worked flawlessly. A round of applause to Paul Kwapy and the tech crew!

Finale, mostly led by the Emcee, was an excellently put together conclusion to the entire show. It started out very similar to the beginning of the show, but after the journey that the audience was embarked on by the performers, the similarity between the end and the beginning had an eerie quality to it. The curtain then went up in the same manner as two hours earlier, but now there was no lively music and no girls and boys frolicking about. No lights. No excitement. Only fog, hinting at the historical content of the time period.

Ron S. McCan, the director of this spectacular show, wrote that Cabaret "is a picture of the human experience in one of the darkest moments of our world's history". McCan also wrote that "[i]t was important to us that we create fresh interpretations of these iconic characters and musical numbers. Each member of our ensemble and production crew went on a journey of growth and personal strength during the creation of this production with one goal: to be truthful in our storytelling".

The premiere was a blast, and if you're interested in seeing any of the other shows I recommend that you snatch up your tickets now! There will still be performances on March 12th (tonight!), 18th, and 19th at 8 pm and at 2 pm on March 13th and 20th. Purchase your tickets at www.sfsota.org/cabaret

Director: Ron S. McCan
Choreographer: Elizabeth Castenada
Musical Director: Erika Weil
Conductor: Brian Kohn
Technical Director: Paul Kwapy
Producers: Brian Kohn, Colleen Ivie, and The Friends of SOTA
Dialect Coach: Elizabeth Carter
Fight Choreographer: John Bailey
Costumes Department Head: Annette Ribeiro
Hair and Makeup: Jenny King-Turko and Susan Stone
Scenic Painting: Jay Kotcher
Consruction Supervisor: Stephan Gaudreau
Electrician: Brendan Peter Kierans
Visual Arts: Jeff Castleman
Publicity/Art Direction: Julie Glantz
Ambassador: Anne Yanow

Click here for a list of the performers.
Round of applause to the technical crew and orchestra!

Orchestra:
Jia Lin Li on piccolo and flute; Georgia Chau, Sameer Elliot, Elijah Goldman, Moses Pippenger, and JP Wong on clarinet; Miles Haimovitch, Kenneth Roberts, and Keevan Tallon on saxophone; Nicole Anderson on oboe; Eli Isaacs and Max Braun on french horn; Ido Baruch, Daniel Goldman, Parker Rowe, Janis Sturmann, and Jamie Valtin on trumpet. Kieran Briden and Roman Kouznetsov on trombone; Redger Parker on percussion; Erika Weil on piano; Faith Lam and Lucy Nelligan on violin; Crystal Gong on viola; Isabel Dobrev and Atticus Simmons on bass; and Ruby Pruett on harp.


P.S. If you happen to attend one of the upcoming Cabaret shows, and I imagine you will, make sure to check out Cole Sisser's bio ;) 

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