By Brandon Stauffer
Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome!
The Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden Utah touts a motto of “Professional Standard, Community Spirit,” and their production of Cabaret is everything they stand for. As you walk into the theatre, you are welcomed by friendly faces and a welcoming staff. I immediately felt as if I was part of their family.
Cabaret is set in Berlin, early 1930s in the Kit Kat Klub, where the party is led by a Master of Ceremonies, who opens the show by saying, “Leave your troubles outside! So – life is disappointing? Forget it! We have no troubles here! Here, life is beautiful.” Truer words could not describe this moment in history as the Nazi Party begins to grow stronger and take power in Germany. The show continues in counterpoint between the Kit Kat Klub, which serves as a metaphor for the political climate of the time, and the life of an American writer, Clifford Bradshaw who comes to Berlin to write his novel but is soon swept away into a love affair with the Klub’s leading lady, Sally Bowles.
From the moment I walked into the theatre, I was completely immersed in Cabaret. Trent Cox’s set design was perfection; there was no question what kind of “Klub” I had entered. Center stage has such an amazingly authentic and ingenious plan, it’s hard to explain. Come see the show and you’ll see what I mean.
For the pre-show, the bar came to life with the Kit Kat Girls and Boys as they meandered around the set. I totally believed I was looking in the window of this 1930s Klub, waiting for their “show” to begin.
The lights dimmed. I must admit this is the moment in any show I get the most nervous, hoping that I am about to see something great. Enter the MC, played by Joshua Samuel Robinson, and I was completely engulfed. His portrayal of this character seemed so effortless, yet he never stopped working. I never wanted him to leave the stage, and for the most part he didn’t. I believed everything he did was a true moment for his character. Like a true MC. he sang beautifully, his comedy was perfect, his dancing was on point, and his presence on the stage was brilliant.
From that moment on, I wasn’t watching a show in a theatre in Ogden, Utah. I was in Berlin, Germany in the 1930s watching the Kit Kat Girls and Boys live their lives and exist in and out of the Klub. The ensemble was brilliant as they traveled between numbers and scenes with ease, they existed not only in the Klub but also became the frame for all the scenes outside the Klub. They stayed in character, they were invested, and they were excellent in their roles.
On a train, we meet Clifford Bradshaw (Nathan Allen Vaughn) and Ernst Ludwig (Sterling Allen.) Both men bring a certain power to their roles that continued throughout the show. Ernst becomes to the audience the leading growth in the Nazi party and he brought the perfect amount of power and empathy to the role. I wanted to like him but knew I shouldn’t. Clifford, on the other hand, was so easy to like. Vaughn made Clifford accessible and so easy to love and root for that I wanted more of him and his story.
The story quickly shifts back to the Kit Kat Klub where Sally Bowles enters and sings the seductive song “Don’t Tell Mama.” Sally, played by Kelly Tansey, is the perfect addition to the show. Kelly brings the party to life–she is the party. She is a beam of pure fun every time she enters the stage. She is able to walk the line of living in the and out of the Klub with perfection. She is without a doubt the perfect leading lady to this show.
Director Trent Cox brilliantly gives the show a meaning, a place, and the perfect cast–one of the best I have seen in a long time. Under his direction, the Kit Kat Klub and its attendees stay onstage for almost the entirety of the show, and in character, they frame and watch the counter story that is set outside of the Klub. Choreography by Talese Hunt was nothing less than astounding; it was perfectly placed in and out of the Klub. Kelsey Nichols’ costumes added to each scene with dazzling detail and were perfection in authenticity. The music direction by Rick Rea, sound by Eliza Hayne, and lights by Daniel Pack all completed the production in a way that added to the story. I never lost my suspension of disbelief.
Cabaret at the Ziegfeld Theater is a glorious piece of theatre, but not recommended for children. The work of art that has been created the Ziegfeld Stage should be celebrated and should not be missed. Go, spend the night with the brilliant MC and the rest of the cast and enjoy theatre with a professional standard, and a community spirit.
Tickets are available at www.zigarts.com or by calling 855.ZIG.ARTS. Cabaret plays in Ogden through June 2 – 24th, Friday– Saturday 7:30 PM. Saturday 6/17 2 PM