“Cabaret” at the Warehouse Theatre

Yesterday afternoon Eliza and I attended the first matinée performance of “Cabaret” at The Warehouse Theatre.  This was the first performance of the Warehouse Theatres 2012 portion of their 2011 – 2012 season.  It was also the first (and maybe only? I have to check) musical of the season.  Additionally, “Cabaret” is unquestionably the big name, well-known performance of the season.  It was a wonderfully enjoyable musical, with all the great acting, directing, and set design I’ve come to expect from the ever impressive Warehouse Theatre.

I believe that there is a unique double-edged quality for any theatre in choosing to perform a well known play or musical like “Cabaret.”  On the one hand, the theatre can enjoy an almost certainty of a large audience turn out, as audiences enjoy seeing things of which they are familiar and knowledgable about.  However, this knowledge can be hazardous for the theatre.  The audience has more fodder for criticism if they have seen the performance before, or are, in the least, familiar with what it is.  As such, I suspect, that “Cabaret” demanded an even more intense attention to detail and quality from The Warehouse Theatre.  They did not disappoint.

Personally I have never been all that into musicals, not because I think they are poorly done, but more so because I find something about them distractingly absurd.  We do not live in a world in which people randomly break out into song and dance, and so it strikes me as odd that such a popular form of performance would portray things exactly that way.  While I can always follow the story of a musical, I tend to find it more difficult for me to achieve my preferred level of suspension of disbelief, because every time somebody begins to sing or dance I once again think, “things don’t happen like this.”

All that being said, I found “Cabaret” to be very enjoyable.  The close proximity of The Warehouse Theatre’s stage setup (nobody sits more than twenty feet from the stage area) really works well for this performance, allowing the audience to feel intimately involved throughout.  As far as my ears could discern the singing by all the actors and actresses was spot on (please note that my ears are not remotely classically trained, and as such might not be the best indicators of musical quality).  So also was the choreography superb, with tight consistency, and great exploration of the available space.

As a story “Cabaret” is unquestionably challenging for the audience.  It deals with a world and characters that are less than adequate.  It concerns a history, a very real history, of how we, as people, can allow horrible things to creep in, take control, and threaten our very future.  Juxtaposing the dark elements of the story with the joyous singing and dancing, creates a uniquely exhilarating and disturbing experience.  I’d forgotten just how dark the end of “Cabaret” is.  It was pulled off spectacularly at The Warehouse Theatre, enough to cause me to feel a chill through my body, and a sense of existential dread in my soul.  On top of all that, hanging on the wall by the exit were the ever profound words of George Santayana, reading, “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  It made walking back out into the light of the early Sunday evening, a strange and surreal thing.

As always, The Warehouse theatre’s design elements, in both costumes and set, were flawless.  The costuming was at once conventional while at the same time shocking (which is precisely what is needed for a show like “Cabaret.”).  The set was a tight space, constraining the acting to a small area to work in, yet the simple addition or removals of a few props here and there, allowed it to be a very dynamic and interactive stage.  Musicals are an additional challenge to any set design, as the space must be carefully tailored with the knowledge that people, often many at a time, will be dancing upon it.  I saw none of the actors trip or stumble while performing, even considering that many of them were in heels, and so I have to believe the space was very ideal for this kind of show.

All around The Warehouse Theatre once again has delivered a wonderful performance.  As I get further and further into the 2011 – 2012 season, I am more and more convinced that we, living here in Greenville, are very lucky to have such a professional and talented playhouse in our midst.  If you are around and want to catch a good show, “Cabaret” is well worth it.  Tickets have been running fast however so if you want to go see it try to get them soon.  “Cabaret” will be running through February 18th.

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~ by Nathaniel on January 30, 2012.

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