Arts and Entertainment

'Cabaret' comes to Ovation! Musical Theatre Bainbridge

'Cabaret' opens at Ovation! Musical Theatre Bainbridge Friday, July 16.
— image credit: Photo courtesy Keith Brofsky

Cabaret” is a story about escape. Its characters retreat from post-war Germany to the underbelly of society. Like any theater show, its audience is given a peek into a world that, in many ways, is unlike their own.

But “Cabaret” is also a show with something to say; a universal theme more familiar to modern life that one might expect.

“It’s a wonderful show with a message,” said Ovation! Musical Theatre Bainbridge Artistic Director Ron Milton, who directs the production of “Cabaret,” which opens Friday, July 16, at the Bainbridge High School Theatre. “I try to do theater that improves the human condition somehow. This show really fits the bill.

“If you perform it right, there’s a message about people who are living in social situations, whether they’re Democratic or Nazis or Communists: What is it that makes people conform to the government’s ideology or tend to resist it? And what happens to the people in between that are just trying to survive?”

“Cabaret” centers on the Kit Kat Klub, a seedy German nightspot where the effusive Master of Ceremonies, played here by Carter Kight, promises life is beautiful. It’s an escape from the country’s war-torn streets and toppled economy, elements of a harsh reality just outside the club’s doors. It is at the Kit Kat Klub that brash Englishwoman Sally Bowles encounters naive American Cliff Bradshaw.

Bowles, played most famously by a 26-year-old Liza Minnelli in a 1972 movie version of “Cabaret,” was actually written as a 19-year-old, Milton said. For Ovation! she is played by Katie Donais McKinstry; Tavis Hamilton plays Bradshaw.

“He’s in life right up to his neck. He’s going 16 different directions at the same time and thoroughly enjoying it and it’s captivated him,” Milton said. “She 19 going on 30. Reality’s not a big part of her world. It seeps in at times, but she uses bravura and brasses her way through many different situations.

“The two characters collide. I think there’s great fun, there’s love, tenderness, and almost a form of tragedy.”

Then there’s the ill-fated romance between German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz, played by Marijane C. Milton and Todd Baylor.

“Cabaret” is based on the 1951 play “I am a Camera,” which stems from Christopher Isherwood’s earlier novel, “Goodbye to Berlin.” Its story was written by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. It debuted on Broadway in 1966.

Ovation’s production crew has used infused the hues of the 1920s and 30’s into the set, with realistic lighting and costumes from designer Barbara Klingberg, whom Milton called “very historically accurate.”

Milton, artistic director of Ovation! since its beginnings more than seven years ago, said he let his actors explore their characters so they could discover different emotional states. He prefers performances in small- or medium-sized venues, where a give-and-take between those on stage and those in the audience is more tangible.

“I am a very in-your-face director. I like the audience to realize they’re in the theater, I like them to feel the sweat from the performers,” he said. “Theater holds a crowning place in entertainment in that you can never recapture the ephemeral feeling of theater, because no two performances are quite alike.” WU

‘Cabaret’ opens Friday, July 16, at Ovation! Musical Theatre Bainbridge. It runs through Aug. 1 at the Bainbridge High School Theatre, 9330 NE High School Road. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $22 for adults, $18 for students, seniors and military and $15 for youth 12 and under.

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