Review: Theatre Arlington's CABARET is Provocative and Life Altering


Book by Joe Masteroff
Based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Co-Directed by Sharon Kaye Miller and Steven D. Morris
Produced by Theatre Arlington

Reviewed by Natalie Shaw

Back in 2008, I began my career in education, teaching sixth grade English. (Yes, I realize that I'm dating myself.) The first book on my list of novel study was Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. I can remember my own sixth grade school year with my English teacher, Mrs. Leiser, who played a video documentary for us, one day, with survivors of the Holocaust, who were brave enough to tell their stories. I listened, intently, with my eyes glued to the screen and my ears wide open. I couldn't believe what they were saying, and I had questions, so, so soooo many questions. Questions like, how could something like this happen? How could we let it happen? Why would anyone do such a thing and why did they hate the Jews so much? Of course, I asked my teacher. All of the students in my class asked these questions. Mrs. Leiser couldn't answer. She didn't know. Nobody knew why, she said. It's possible that, at that time, there wasn't a lot of information to find out about it. It's also possible that she knew, but didn't want to scare us. (I don't fault her, either way. I'm sure she had her reasons.) But, I wasn't satisfied. Maybe my classmates were satisfied with that, but I wasn't. I dedicated myself to knowing all I could know. One day, when I had my own children, or had my own class, I wouldn't tread so lightly, keeping the answers to myself to avoid conflict. There were many more teachers, about my age, who are just like me. We were listening to the documentary, but we weren't satisfied. In 2008, with new curriculums in place, we were teaching it, talking about it and determined to always teach it and talk about it, and especially, never forget it. 

Cabaret, likewise, does not tread lightly. It is the wake up call that we all need, reminding ourselves to never forget. Act One begins, much like a fun party, set in 1930s Berlin, Germany. Seth Paden*, our sensational Emcee for the evening welcomes us to "Za Cabaret" with a catchy "Willkommen" number. Paden hosts a high-spirited, over-the-top party, with himself and the Kit Kat Girls (Tilda Grace, Donovan Marie Lawson, Candice, Arianna Reed and Jayden Russell) as our entertainment. Dressed in seductive, scantily-clad bodices, fish-net stockings, and silky bottoms, the audience is either immediately intrigued, or immediately put-off, depending on your perspective. (Should you be put off, rest assured, they've only just begun!) The life of the party, and most famous of the Kit Kat Girls is Sally Bowles, played with an intuitive child-like spirit and spunk by the amazing Presley Duyck.* Her first number, "Don't Tell Mama" is the anthem to every young woman discovering her own sexuality and independence, making her relatable right off the bat! Soon, we meet an American would-be-writer, Cliff Bradshaw (played charmingly by Micah JL Brooks*) who makes acquaintance with Ernst Ludwig (played profoundly by Dallas Theatre Journal Access Artist, Andrew Nicolas) who proves to be very resourceful to Cliff's needs while he stays in Berlin. Cliff meets Sally, and a tender love story unfolds between them. A parallel love story, and perhaps much more profound one, is that of Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider. Co-Director and Theatre Arlington's ExecutiveProducer, Steven D. Morris* plays Herr Schultz, and, oh, how special it was! I've often wondered at his acting talents, and witnessing his directorial methods being personally put into action onstage was simply tremendous! Fraulein Schneider is played with maternal grace and beauty by Theatre Arlington's returning matriarch, Deborah Brown*. Morris and Brown are simply remarkable together, exhibiting a delicate affection between their characters that is sure to break your heart. For you see, all is not well.  Act Two takes a much more dramatic turn, with Nazi influences among our beloved characters and this fragile storyline.

I will never, in my entire life, forget this production. Stories like this are life altering; provocative; moving; close to home. We may want to believe that war only happens in other countries; that things aren't as bad as they seem; hard times and political influences will all blow over. But, there is no erasing it. There is no end to it's traumatic effects along our family lines. This too, shall, in fact, not pass. We will live with our decisions and our choices for the rest of our lives and pass the trauma on to our progeny. Perhaps we will learn to cope. Perhaps we will begin to heal. Hope is never all lost. But, we won't get back what we have, in fact, lost. Indeed, this has never been more true than it is today! 

I urge you to see this production-- not only for the incredible talent that resides within it, but for the message it sends to all who need to be reminded. Let "Let's us never forget" be forever honest and true. Cabaret will run through March 3. Tickets can be purchased at and they are selling fast!

Y'all Enjoy!

Natalie Shaw

* indicates artists who are members of Actor's Equity Association

Audience Rating: Mature for sexual content, violence and racism
Running Time: 2 hours with a 15min intermission
Accessible Seating: Available
Hearing Devices: Available
Sensory Friendly Performance: Not Available
ASL Performance: Not Available
Noises and Visuals to Prepare For: Scantily-clad dressed dancers, violence, Nazi symbols and banners used, Hitler salutes, audience interaction with an actor in a gorilla costume