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REVIEW: 'Cabaret' holds surprising performances

Aaron Krumholz as Ernst Ludwig, left, and Xavier Salaja as Clifford Bradshaw act out a scene from "Cabaret" during rehearsal earlier this month at the Pepsi-Cola Theatre for the Performing Arts in Mitchell. (Chris Huber/Republic)

Mitchell Area Community Theatre has once again brought a familiar show title to the musical stage, with the production of "Cabaret" by Masteroff, Kander and Ebb.

The story is played out at the end of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler's Germany and strikes many chords (or social discords) evident today. Director Melissa Vatter-Miller has brought together a multi-generational cast to take on tough topics like anti-Semitism, discrimination and more.

The individual stories and themes here, of star-crossed romances, poor choices and the rise of the Nazi Party, play out well through the musical numbers. The majority of the action takes place in a seedy Berlin nightspot, the Kit Kat Club. An androgynous Emcee, played in stellar fashion by the remarkable Devin Carey, performs numerous naughty musical numbers backed by a chorus of dancers. The star of the cabaret, Sally Bowles (Leslie Warnke), is a British expatriate seeking fame, fortune and the next free drink.

One of the strongest actors was a bit of a surprise to me. Xavier Salaja, an 18-year-old Plankinton High School senior, brought character and conviction to the American writer, Cliff Bradshaw. In the hands of another high school student, this role may have rung hollow, but Salaja has found exactly the right tone of naivete and the need to rapidly grow up as circumstances change quickly.

The other romance, and the one more doomed by outside events than inner struggles, involves ACT veterans Pat Buechler, as landlord Fraulein Schneider, and Roger Allen, as Herr Schultz. Both bring a very believable depth of emotion to their roles and a sad sweetness to their affair.

Aaron Krumholz plays Ernst Ludwig, the friend-revealed-as-Nazi, most convincingly, and you find yourself wishing it wasn't true. Donna Dunn's Frau Kost is another surprise: she reveals the terrible secret to Ludwig that will change things for everyone.

The musical accompaniment was another high point. On stage at the top of a balcony, this small cadre of musicians brought every song and piece of music alive. And, since the music is such a large part of this show, I offer a "bravo" to the Kit Kat Klub Band and musical director Jenna Callies. The same goes for lighting and sound, as well.

You will find yourself engaged in many of the familiar musical numbers from the score, including "The Money Song" and "Tomorrow Belongs to Me." I anxiously awaited Warnke's delivery of the eponymous "Cabaret" and she did not disappoint. Choreography is a large part of "Cabaret," and this was also very well done.

The costumes were period-perfect, with perhaps the exception of Warnke's star turn during "Cabaret," where the bright green gown appeared out of place.

Don't take your eyes from Fraulein Schneider as she sings her plaintive finale, "What Would You Do?" And the "Finale Ultimo" will have you asking yourself, if you had been an "ordinary German," what would you have done?

If, somehow, you are unfamiliar with "Cabaret," you should know to leave the children at home. There is a bit more than innuendo here, as well as the exploration of some serious issues.

of "Cabaret" at the Pepsi Cola Theatre this weekend will be: 7:30 p.m. on Friday; 7:30 p.m. on Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are on sale at the theater or more information is available at 996-9137 or