By Kyle Esposito
Photo Credit: Mark Ashton, Madeline Ashton
Driving down to Orem for UVU’s production of Cabaret, I wondered what a show like that would be like in Utah County. Cabaret (Book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander, and lyrics by Fred Ebb) is about a burlesque called the Kit Kat Klub in Germany, as the Nazis were starting to rise to power.
It’s an interesting piece, with a lot to say. Oftentimes, however, the message gets lost under the sexuality and burlesque aspects of the show. This production, however, chose instead to focus on the characters and the politics of the setting. They didn’t shy away from the sexuality, but it wasn’t the sole star of the show, either.
Before even entering the theatre, you had to walk through a bit of construction to find the space. They decorated it in such a way that I was reminded of walking into a seedy dive bar. It set a wonderful tone. I entered the theatre to find a gorgeous and creative set. The set (designed by Madeline Ashton, assisted by Janice Chan) had four cleverly place platforms, with cabaret tables for the audience between the platforms and in the middle of the set. When scenes took place at the tables of the nightclub, the actors would go through the audience, giving a sense of having to fight through a crowd in an actual nightclub.
As the Master of Ceremonies (played in a fun and eclectic manner by Brennan Newkirk) welcomes the audience of the show to the club, the dancers come out and interact with the audience playfully. The choreography (by director/choreographer Rob Moffat, assisted by Kailey Azure Green) was lovely and engaging. There was a classic simplicity to it, while also impressing the audience with its technical difficulty.
The vocals were strong, overall. Unfortunately, you could hear some fatigue in a few voices as they tried to push through their songs. Nothing that a little rest can’t cure, though. The strength really came through in the choices they made as the characters. In particular, the dynamic between Clifford Bradshaw (Jordan Briggs) and Sally Bowles (Sam Sanduk). They beautifully played the friendship, the strained romance, and the selfish tendencies of each character. They were also able to make us care for these characters, connecting with each other at times and connecting with the audience. Their voices matched their characters wonderfully as each got a few moments to really shine in their songs.
This production isn’t the most family-friendly, but they do make this powerful story very accessible. Cabaret is famous for its sexuality. This show certainly had that, but it was never explicit. It teased and titillated, but never crossed the line into crass vulgarity. The numbers were used to convey that things are not simply black or white, but shades of gray. The song “If You Could See Her” has never been my favorite, but this production tapped into the message behind the silliness of the Emcee (Newkirk) dancing with a gorilla. It was a poignant teaching moment.
I would highly recommend a date night to go see Cabaret. It’s flirty and fun, but powerful and thought-provoking.
Utah Valley University Presents Cabaret Book by Joe Masteroff, Music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Utah Valley University (Noorda Theatre, Gunther Trades Building), 800 West University Parkway, Orem, UT 84058
April 13-14, 16, 19-21, 23, 26-28, 2018 at 7:30 PM, Matinee April 28 at 2:00 PM
UVU Performing Arts Facebook Page
UVU’s Cabaret Facebook Event