Life is a cabaret. And MUSKET delivered a show set in Nazi Germany that made stark connections to America today. It was hard to walk away from the Power Center without realizing the many parallels that are still present, almost a century later, and it was certainly unsettling, which means these artists succeeded in delivering their message through an exceptional performance.
Wilson Plonk was a wonderful Emcee, setting the stage with the Kit Kat Klub girls and boys with many dance moves. The Emcee and Sally Bowles provided insightful commentaries as they performed at the club, the most striking number for me being “Money.” The Emcee started out as purely entertaining, being humorously risqué and joyously but as he became more distressed and terrified throughout the show, that unsettling fear about the actions underlying the show became more stark and drastic. When the Emcee held up the phonograph that played the recording of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”, with a solemnly grim and pained look on his face, my stomach dropped, but that was only the beginning. As Fräulein Kost and Ernst Ludwig sang the reprise with a haunting pride, Clifford Bradshaw’s horrified face explained it all. Later, the scene with the Gorilla in “If You Could See Her” was shocking and impactful in how ridiculous it appears and how implicit we all are in its perceived ridiculousness.
Caroline Glazier delivered stunning performances as Sally Bowles, not just in the Kit Kat Klub with the rest of her girls, but particularly “Maybe This Time” and the iconic “Cabaret,” where she was shaking with anguish as she belted out these words. Samantha Buyers and Aaron Robinson portrayed Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz very realistically, and their duets, “It Couldn’t Please Me More” and “Married” were very moving. I think their performances were the most exceptional and compelling, since these college students brought the pains of old age and young hopes very much alive.
The director Isabel K. Olson made an interesting choice with the ending, having the characters step forward and say the line that embodies their way of approaching and handling and going through life. In the program, she said it beautifully: “are we the audience to injustice or active participants working against it?” As Sally Bowles shrugs aside politics and chooses to live in ignorant bliss, Herr Schultz desperately claims that everything will be okay because he is a German and Fräulein Schneider laments that she has no other choice. As the Emcee reveals his concentration camp outfit, strobe lights go off and all the actors jolt in a horrifying final moment before the ghost light is brought onstage and the actors take a single bow, leaving the light, and its impact, behind.