University of Northern Colorado opened the first musical of the 2019-2020 school year with Kander and Ebb’s vivacious and dazzling production of “Cabaret.”
Cabaret’s story follows the entertaining Emcee of the seedy Kit Kat Klub, played by musical theatre sophomore Danny Maguire, glamorous cabaret singer Sally Bowles, played by musical theatre senior Charlotte Movizzo, and her relationship with aspiring writer Cliff Bradshaw, played by Ethan Walker.
“Watching this show develop and grow in such a short time has been truly remarkable,” Maguire said. “Playing the role of the Emcee was a huge challenge to take on because the character is so different from myself and I really had to dig deep and break it down into pieces. But overall, I’m happy with the result and believe the hard work paid off.”
Maguire had the freedom to explore the character during rehearsal times.
“Bringing my own authenticity to this iconic role was definitely something that I worked on throughout the process,” Maguire said. “Between Joel Grey’s original performance, contrasting Alan Cumming’s more brute interpretation, I had difficulty finding how to bring my own take to the role. I was lucky enough to be given a lot of freedom and liberty to explore during rehearsals. This allowed me to play around and have fun with discovering who the Emcee is.”
Maguire prepared extensively for the role as Emcee.
“Being that the Emcee is arguably a symbol rather than a person, a lot of my character work was more imaginative,” Maguire said. “My research consisted of how society was at the time and place of which Cabaret is based. I created a timeline for who my character would have been in 1930’s Germany, which helped depict the overall arc of the Emcee. Based off the events that took place, the influence of politics, and the atmosphere of Berlin, Germany, I was able to create a realistic back story and timeline for the character.”
For Movizzo, portraying the role of Sally Bowles, a role originated by Jill Haworth and made famous by Liza Minnelli in the 1972 film version, was quite the adventure.
“Stepping into Sally’s shoes has given me a new understanding of what it might have been like to live in Berlin in the late 1920’s – early 1930’s,” Movizzo said. “This show has been incredibly rewarding because it has given me the opportunity to delve into the history from a first-person perspective.”
Movizzo did a lot of research throughout her personal journey delving into the inner world of an iconic leading lady role.
“She is such a unique and complex character that it forces you to reach deep inside yourself and bring about something that is completely unique and personal to you,” Movizzo said. “Because of this, no two people can possibly play her the same way. I did a lot of research on what the night life was like in Berlin during this time, and why people were so drawn to this city.”
Movizzo also found similarities between herself and Sally.
“At first glance I thought there was no way Sally and I would have anything in common,” Movizzo said. “However, as rehearsals progressed, I realized that her ultimate search for love, peace, and joy is something that many people, myself included, can truly relate to. Sally is smart and strong-willed, and although she makes many mistakes along the way, hers is a journey almost everyone can relate to.”
“Cabaret” is both a flashy and glamorous piece of theatre but also has an enormous amount of emotional turmoil and despair, resulting in a very powerful story, both for the actors and the audience. Finding the balance between both ends of the spectrum was no easy feat.
“I’ve found that the contrast between the flashy performance in the Kit Kat Club, and the emotional realism of Cliff’s experience in Berlin, is fascinating and is a main reason why Cabaret is such a timeless masterpiece,” Maguire said. “Having the Emcee on stage for the entire show is brilliant as it allows the audience to witness the cause and effect of these two, very different aspects of the show.”
Movizzo also realized how Sally experiences change throughout the musical.
“Sally is incredible at putting up a flashy, carefree front which can be seen more at the beginning of the show,” Movizzo said. “However, as she gets closer to Cliff she reveals her true self, and when she tries to put the mask back on at the end of the show, it crumbles in her hands. I’ve discovered that Cabaret is flashy in the sense that it represents how we as humans try to cover up our brokenness and pain with smiles and bright lights, but running away from the truth doesn’t make it any less true.”
“Cabaret” wouldn’t be as timeless as it is without brilliant costumes, and UNC’s costume shop puts an incredible amount of work into creating clothing that not only fits within the style of the production but also helps the actor’s character flourish. “Cabaret’s” costumes were designed by Mason Alexander Stanley.
For Stanley, seeing his work come to life onstage is a dream come true.
“This is by far the biggest show I’ve done, and seeing it all come together after weeks and weeks of work is so extremely fulfilling!” says Stanley.
When it comes to productions, there’s just as much work that goes on offstage as there is onstage.
“I did all kinds of research!” Stanley said. “You have to know about the clothes of the time, the politics of the time, the economy of the time, etc. My inspiration came from everywhere, especially 1929. At that time, we had the drop waist boxy look of the 20’s and the slim, sexy look of the 30’s as well. I played a lot with merging both silhouettes! I think there’s power in bringing emotional quality to the story through the design. So making sure I’m balancing history and its purpose is incredibly important. ”
When it comes to his favorite costume, Stanley had a lot to choose from.
“I hate to pick favorites because I spend an equal amount of attention to all of them,” Stanley said. “If I had to, though, Sally’s green chiffon high low dress! It’s the first time we see her in real clothing in the show, and it’s an incredibly striking dress that shows her daring and frivolous nature, but still showing that the girl’s got class.”
Movizzo said Stanley did an incredible job designing costumes for Sally.
“Our costume designer Mason has done an incredible job of designing costumes that beautifully follow the arc of Sally’s character, as well as the arc of the show,” Movizzo said on the joys of mirroring Sally’s sense of style with her vivacious nature. “I will admit there is something about throwing on a garter belt and an extravagant ostrich feather boa that has really allowed me to take on Sally’s eccentric personality. I have seven costumes!”
Putting on a musical is no easy feat. An incredible amount of time and work goes into UNC’s productions and it is no surprise that the calibers of the shows are of such high quality.
“Cabaret” runs October 31-November 10 in the Norton Theatre.