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‘Cabaret’ makes dazzling debut at Studio Theatre

Ladders hang from the ceiling in a small, dark room dimly lit by an array of mismatching chandeliers from times gone by.

A woman in knee-high fishnets catches your eye. She smiles. A man in knee-high fishnets catches your eye. He winks. A wide array of characters are sleuthing about, all vying for your attention.

Audience members of “Cabaret,” are quickly thrown into the world of a 1930’s Berlin nightclub. Before the show begins, ensemble members are on stage to greet, flirt with and tease audience members as they take their seats.

“Cabaret,” directed by Kari Hayter, is a California Repertory production that made its debut at the Studio Theatre Feb. 21. The remarkably entertaining premiere was sold-out and the cast was energized throughout the entirety of the first and second act.

According to freshman theatre arts major Spencer Moore, the cast barreled through an intensive rehearsal schedule.

“We were all in here for six hours a day, getting to know each other, cranking it out,” Moore said.

The work spent in rehearsal paid off on Thursday night when the energetic cast put on an engaging performance, despite mild-mannered reactions from the audience.

Moore plays Clifford Bradshaw, an American author seeking inspiration for his latest novel in the lively city of Berlin. He quickly falls for Sally Bowles, a local nightclub singer, played by sophomore Rachel Post.

“[Sally] is particularly close to my heart,” Post said. “To be honest, I hadn’t seen the show before I auditioned, but I love Liza Minnelli and I love her interpretation of the role in the movie. It’s such a classic piece of theatre.”

Not only do the characters of Sally and Clifford battle their own inner demons. In the second act, they are introduced to another unavoidable problem in 1930’s Germany: fascism.

“Even though this took place years and years ago back in the 1930’s … I hope people realize that what happened then is starting to repeat itself in a lot of ways and this could maybe be a bit of a wake-up call for some people,” Moore said, speaking on the central themes of the show.

The cast of characters in “Cabaret” all seek refuge in entertainment in order to avoid the dark reality that awaits them outside the club doors. Post said she finds this central theme of the show extremely applicable to our current political moment.

“We’ve seen a lot of hatred enter the mainstream in our society and we’re bombarded by all of these things happening, so we’re forced to find distractions,” Post said. “‘Cabaret’ reminds us that as much as you distract yourself, the higher powers that be have a plan for you that you can’t avoid, so pay attention.”

For Moore, the role of Clifford seemed a lot at first, but after months of rehearsal, he confidently took the stage and delivered a strong and stoic performance.

“It was a lot of rehearsal hours and a lot of memorization while trying to maintain the emotions [of the character],” Moore said. “I think the hardest part was probably just how vast this show is.”

It’s no surprise that a show of this length could seem daunting for a performer at first, but Moore said he was up for the challenge.

“This was a really intense, big part, which is an amazing experience,” Moore said.

For Post, her love of musicals, kept her pushing forward to premiere night, where she delivered a performance that would make Liza proud.

“I love musicals, I think it’s such a beautiful medium to express so many different things about the way that we feel and act. It’s ethereal, it’s magical, you step in and you’re transported to another world,” Post said.

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