A dangerous mix of party and politics, “Cabaret” is the Hinman Production Company’s latest musical, transforming the Hinman Commons into the sultry Kit Kat Klub. Following the sexual indiscretions of an American novelist as he navigates the cultural tumult of 1930s Berlin, “Cabaret” is a tragic story that explores the eccentric comedic elements of the city. In a world where people are constantly asking, “Politics, but what has that got to do with us?,” “Cabaret” is an important example of the dangers of political ignorance. It’s one final party before the rise of the Nazis and an end to the cultural renaissance that had attracted many to pre-war Berlin.
One of the largest challenges that the HPC cast faced was using accents, as the story takes place in Germany. While many of the characters delivered their lines without much of a hitch, there were some bouts of conversation that seemed unnatural and forced. Having said that, these accents improved dramatically when the cast entered into song. For the most part, the musical numbers were delivered with surprising energy and artistry. What characters failed to convey in dialogue they made up for in the musical numbers, where some of the more touching and tragic moments of the musical are addressed. The cast seemed aware of their musical abilities and limitations and worked within them to perform in a fashion that avoided feeling forced and strained.
The dance numbers also conveyed this level of sensibility. Instead of trying to force the cast into overly complex dance numbers, the performance stuck to simplistic yet iconic techniques that kept the audience engaged in the energy and the spirit of the club.
Since amateur theater always has limited resources, it’s important to meter expectations, especially for musicals. But part of the appeal is also how the cast and crew overcome these limitations to deliver a worthwhile, genuine show. Especially regarding the technical challenges that HPC has to face, they work very hard to transform a single room into a stage. With “Cabaret,” the set was intelligently designed to allow the same backdrop for the Kit Kat Klub to be used for multiple settings. However technically effectual, this backdrop interrupted the immersion of the scenes that occurred outside of the club. Given what HPC has proven themselves capable of in the past, it stood out as one of the weaker aspects of the show.
While some of the acting fell flat in the grand scope of the story, Tyler Sparks and Stephanie Herlihy were definitely two of the stronger actors in the cast. Sparks, who portrays the outrageously flamboyant Emcee, fully embodies the sexual fluidity of pre-Nazi Berlin that the show means to underscore. Asking the question, “Is it a crime to fall in love?” Sparks’ performance is at times the most entertaining and the most tragic. Herlihy, who plays the English cabaret singer Sally Bowles, does a brilliant job capturing the excitement and loneliness of the cabaret, and her musical numbers stand out from the rest. If you’re even considering seeing the show, theirs are not performances you’ll want to miss.
“Cabaret” is a show that everyone should see at least once. The HPC staging has its limitations, but they do not detract outright from the gravity of the story. With performances on April 24 at 8 p.m. and April 25 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., “Cabaret” is wild party juxtaposed with immanent tragedy, and a story that should not go unheard. The cost of admission is $5.