Review: Life is a ‘Cabaret’ in West Chester

The popular Broadway musical takes on new life in West Chester thanks to the Resident Theater Co.

The show highlights the strong performing repertoire of the actors and musicians who bring the John Van Druten play to life. When you think of “Cabaret,” Liza Minelli and Joel Grey come to mind ... but only until you see RTC’s version. Adriana Millbrath and Jesse Manocherian deliver hauntingly perfect portrayals of Sally Bowles and the Master of Ceremonies, respectively.

“Cabaret” is set in 1930s Berlin, as the Nazi party is gaining power, and follows Clifford Bradshaw (Christian Thomason in his first show with RTC), a writer from Harrisburg, Pa., who heads to Germany in the hopes of writing his novel. Much of the play takes place in either the risqué Kit Kat Club, or in the boarding house of Fraulein Schneider (Audrey Federici), and the characters in both serve to draw the audience into the story so successfully that it’s hard not to remember that this is just a performance.

In the beginning, the audience is introduced to the risqué Kit Kat Club by Manocherian as the emcee, who sings in a powerful voice that “In here, life is beautiful.” By the end of the performance, the emcee sings that same line, but the meaning has taken on something much more tragic.

“Cabaret” serves as an escape...until it isn’t. Without spoiling the ending, the final scene with the emcee will stay with you long after you leave the theater.

Every person on that stage – from the musicians to the Kit Kat Club dancers – delivers an outstanding performance. Millbrath portrays Sally, an Englishwoman who headlines the Kit Kat Club and charms her way into Clifford’s room and his life. She is an ingenue whose tragic decisions and blissful ignorance can be increasingly heard and seen through her performances. She also brings a touch of sophisticated humor, such as when she pulls eggs out of the pockets of her fur coat because, as she tells Cliff, “One never knows when one will craving for an omelet.”

Manocherian, as the master of ceremonies, is incredibly powerful in everything he does. As the performance opens, he greets the members of the audience in German, French, and English, pointing out people and drawing them into the performance. He transforms in front of the audience. When he appears toward the end of “Cabaret” and sings the song “I Don’t Care Much,” it’s truly haunting.

Thomasen as Clifford is well-cast as the seemingly bumbling American who winds up seeing the reality that those around him choose to ignore. Federici showcases her opera background as Fraulein Schneider. Along with Gordon Stanley, as Herr Schultz, they will charm you with their romance (oh, the pineapple!) and then break your hearts when they are faced with an impossible decision. You want to cry in frustration when Herr Schultz tries to rationalize an act of hatred committed on him, knowing all too well what it means.

Peter Reid Lambert as Ernst Ludwig was a surprise. His character was quite charming, and then quite despicable, even as he proclaimed that he and Clifford were friends in one of the performance’s pivotal scenes.

The Kit Kat Girls – portrayed by Phoebe Gavula, Alyssa Arcangeli, Nicole Calabrese, and Gabrielle Impriano – charmed the audience with their dancing, as did fellow dancers Bobby (a hilarious Jacob Schrimpf) and Victor (Ryan Lauer).

One of the hallmarks of this “Cabaret” performance was the musicians located on stage. They opened the second act with a rousing performance that had everyone applauding heartily. Kudos to the musicians who got to highlight their individual instruments. Their presence – and the music provided throughout – was astounding.

Tickets for “Cabaret” range from $25-$62. Shows are held at the following dates and times:

  • Saturday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 6 at 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 12 at 2 and 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 13 at 3 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 19 at 2 and 7 p.m.
  • Sunday, Oct. 20 at 3 p.m.

For more information, go online at rtcwc.org or call 610-356-2787. Uptown!  Knauer is at 226 N. High St. in West Chester. The show runs through Oct. 20.

 

 

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About Monica Fragale

Monica Thompson Fragale is a freelance reporter who spent her life dreaming of being in the newspaper business. That dream came true after college when she started working at The Kennett Paper and, years later The Reporter newspaper in Lansdale and other dailies. She turned to non-profit work after her first daughter was born and spent the next 13 years in that field. But while you can take the girl out of journalism, you can’t take journalism out of the girl. Offers to freelance sparked the writing bug again started her fingers happily tapping away on the keyboard. Monica lives with her husband and two children in Kennett Square.

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