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The recent production of Cabaret at H-MAC represents immersive theater at its best. Similar in style to the recent working pie shop revival of Sweeney Todd, Cabaret is performed in a small, dark, (slightly sketchy) bar. Patrons sit at small tables, with drinks in hand, as the action unfolds in front of them, behind them, above them, and every once in a while, on them.

Greg Athanasatos stars as Clifford Bradshaw, an American writer traveling 1930's Europe seeking inspiration to write his next big novel. One of the best things that Athanansatos does with the part is leave the audience questioning his level of innocence. He plays the part with great moral ambiguity which is a perfect fit for a show filled with grays rather than blacks and whites.

While living in Berlin, Bradshaw makes the company of singer, Sally Bowles played by Lindsay Bretz-Morgan. Ms. Bretz-Morgan gives Sally immense strength and independence. She has a great voice and displays real confidence and attitude as she slithers around the stage, on the bar, and among the audience.

Chad-Alan Carr embraces the sinister, yet sexy Emcee. The Emcee is a very challenging role, the audience should like him but not fully trust him. The Emcee is both part of the action within the Kit Kat Klub, while at the same time commenting on it directly to the audience. (Not unlike the Leading Player from Pippin, a role that Carr has also played in the past). Carr does an astounding job of devolving from charming to chilling over the course of the show. His second act number, If You Could See Her was one of the most disturbing things I have seen in the context of musical theater in a long, long time.

Chris Kapp and Samuel Eisenhuth play Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, respectively. Their chemistry is solid and their relationship very believable. Other stand-outs of the cast include Ashely Stepp as the sexy, but dangerous Fraulein Kost, and Rogan Motter, playing against type, as Ernst Ludwig, this closest thing this show has to a traditional villain.

The singing and dancing were consistently strong. The eight piece orchestra was tight and well-rehearsed. The rest of the cast all created very distinct and believable characters which significantly increased the depth of the overall performance.

Two pieces of constructive feedback. The German accents were a bit inconsistent. Perhaps take a cue from another show set in a similar time frame-director's notes for The Diary of Anne Frank strongly discourage any accents at all. Which makes sense, since no one, at least in that show, spoke English at all. Additionally, the pacing of the first act was a little slow. Granted, part of the pace stems from the structure of the story, since there is a lot of exposition to cover.

Cabaret is a dark, sophisticated musical. It astounds me that it found success on Broadway during the same era of Hello, Dolly! and Bye, Bye, Birdie. Nevertheless, I am grateful. H-MAC should be commended for bringing this important show to Central Pennsylvania. It's themes of fear, intolerance, and distrust of others are more relevant now than ever.

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From This Author Rich Mehrenberg