The UCSB theater, dance, and music departments (and collaborators from outside the performing arts majors) take on celebration and survival in a Berlin dance hall in their end-of-season musical extravaganza, Cabaret. Tucked into the Performing Arts Theatre, the production was intimate and darkly beautiful. Directed by Julie Fishell, Cabaret delivers a provocative vision of entertainment in times of decay and poses crucial questions about how humanity responds to social unraveling.
Greg Mitchell’s set design creates an art deco fantasy that highlights the era’s glamour and decadence, and Fishell’s staging gives audiences a close, personal look at the universe of the play. The thrust configuration transforms the theater into the Kit Kat Klub by bringing the floorshow directly to the audience, and scenes in the interior of the club give access to the characters behind the over-the-top club personas of the entertainers, from the Kit Kat Girls and Boys to international sensation, Sally Bowles (Cordelia Watson). With a big cast in a small playing space, Cabaret provides well-choreographed storytelling with plenty to watch.
While some of the emotional range of the show was subdued — for instance songs such “Cabaret” and “I Don’t Care Much,” which have potential to be shattering moments of resiliency in the face of catastrophe, never quite reach a point of being transformative — Cabaret delivers strong performances overall within a well-crafted presentation that is satisfying in its timeliness.
At UCSB’s Performing Arts Theater, Sat. May 26. Also plays Fri., Jun. 1-Sun., Jun. 3. See theaterdance.ucsb.edu.