The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 37.0°F | A Few Clouds



A Night in Berlin

By Amy Meadows

Staff Writer

MIT Musical Theatre Guild

Music by John Kander

Lyrics by Fred Ebb

Directed by Edmund Golaski G

Produced by Tree Raine ’99

Choreographed by Stephanie Sharo ’01

Starring Steve Niemczyk G, Welkin Pope G, Pete Chambers G, Jessica Brodkin ’03, Dan Lowrey ’02, and Jessica Hinel ’02

February 8, 9, and 10, 8pm

La Sala de Puerto Rico

Tickets:$6 for MIT/Wellesley students, $8 MIT Staff and Faculty, Other Students, Senior Citizens, and $9 General Admission

The Musical Theatre Guild’s Cabaret highlights the excesses and illusions of a group of pre-World War II Berliners. Despite Nazism on the horizon, the Kit Kat Club supports an alcohol-drenched, free-spirited patronage. From the viewpoint of a young American caught up in the collective denial of times, we see the onslaught of Hitler from all standpoints -- the young and the old, the idealistic and the pragmatic, the Jew and the Gentile.

On the whole, most of the main characters held their own with strong individual performances. Pete Chambers G as Cliff, the drifting American writer, brought strength and subtlety to a performance full of excess. As the earnest everyman, he gained and held the audience’s sympathy throughout the play. The view of the crazy Berlin world, after all, was his, and as his disillusionment grew, so did the audience’s.

As the foil to Cliff’s everyman, Sally Bowles (played by Welkin Pope G) was the over-the-top star of Cabaret. The overly dramatic elements of her character were perfectly appropriate, and she maintained the emotional believability and sincerity of her character. “Don’t Tell Mama” highlighted both her voice and self-assurance.

Jess Brodkin ’03 took the role of the disillusioned landlord Fraulein Schneider and transformed it from a crotchety old lady to a spunky, independent spinster forced into making painful decisions. In “So What,” “It Couldn’t Please Me More,” and “What Would You Do,” she elicited laughter and heartache from the audience.

Although in the beginning Steve Niemczyk G seemed especially nervous as the sardonic emcee, he soon glided into his role as chief commentator. He succeeded as the over-the-top performer in a play of over-the-top performances. However, he smoothly pulled off the allegorical aspect of Cabaret without making it too obvious or heavy-handed.

Other strong individual performances were by Dan Lowrey ’02, Jessica Hinel ’02, and Alan deLespinasse ’94. Peter Chambers G shined in the second act with “I Don’t Care Much” and “If You Could See Her.”

The individual performances were generally much stronger than the ones involving the whole production. The somber a capella version of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” was truly a highlight of the male cast, but there were few other triumphs with large groups of the cast. Furthermore, most of the large dance numbers like “The Telephone Dance” were long, awkward, and uncomfortable.

The first half was significantly longer and had a few dragging scenes. Much of the character development could have been made more concise by eliminating the awkward scenes. There were long stretches where little actually happened, and the plot stagnated. There were perhaps too many confrontations between Fraulein Schneider and Fraulein Kost and her sailors.

However, the most notable and interesting aspect was the success of the play’s staging. There were essentially two distinct sets on each side of La Sala de Puerto Rico, and the orchestra remained out front. The cast members went -- in character -- into the audience beforehand, chatting and raving about Berlin.

Moreover, there were several audience seats in cabaret-style, with round tables and drinks at intermission.

Overall Cabaret is a play with strong individual performances and a distinctive stage setup. It is smooth and original.