By Matthew Bramlett |Arts & Entertainment Editor|
The performing arts center at CSUSB was transformed into a seedy, backlit Berlin nightclub on June 1 during the Theatre Arts Department’s rousing rendition of “Cabaret.”
The play, directed by Tom Provenzano, chronicles the life and times of a group of people either working at or associated with the Kit Kat Klub, an establishment known for its devil-may-care attitude and unbridled, taboo-annihilating cabaret performances. Based on a semi-autobiographical book written by Christopher Isherwood named Goodbye to Berlin, the play was eventually transformed into an award-winning film in 1972 that made Liza Minnelli a star.
As the free-wheeling and decadent days of the Weimar Republic begin to come to an end, the denizens of the Klub try to keep the fun alive while the Nazis slowly rise to power and the world they’ve come to love crumbles around them. “I’ve wanted to direct this play since I first came to this school,” said Provenzano.
The student actors and actresses in the performance all did a magnificent job, particularly Kiersten Olsen as the decadent and playfully ignorant British singer Sally Bowles and Eric Barnard as the Emcee.
Barnard in particular stood out from the rest of the cast. His Emcee was dark, mysterious and brooding with eyes aflame with questionable degrees of sanity. He was an omnipotent force that seemed to glide and lord over the festivities that happened throughout the production.
Chaz Feuerstine, who played the main protagonist Cliff Bradshaw, was also wonderful. Feuerstine nailed the classic look and mannerisms of a clueless and corn-fed American boy looking to gain inspiration by writing a novel in Berlin. The stark contrast between Bradshaw’s traditional all-American values and Bowles’ libertine lifestyle was enthralling to watch.
Two other actors that deserve praise are Chelsea Bishop and C.J. Armstrong as the doomed lovers Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. Their story of a love that becomes increasingly forbidden brought a tragic and human contrast to the antics of the Klub.
One of the most impressive aspects of the production was the set itself. The Ronald E. Barnes theatre was completely transformed into the delightfully dark Kit Kat Klub. Select members of the audience actually found themselves a part of the show, with the actors regularly interacting with them throughout the production. Harlan Jeglin and his associates deserve huge amounts of praise for putting a set like that together.
The play itself looked to be based on the 1993 London revival version, due to some key scenes in which I am not at liberty to reveal (Sorry, no spoilers here). These scenes serve to pack more of a dramatic punch and add more back-story and ambiguousness to a couple of characters in the production, which serves the flesh out the story as a whole.
Provenzano and his crew did a fantastic job on this production. Everyone involved mas made “Cabaret” absolutely worth a look.
“Cabaret” runs from June 1 through June 10, with performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from $15 for general admission and $6 for CSUSB students.