REVIEW: Xavier Theatre’s Cabaret was ‘Perfectly Marvelous’

Photo courtesy of Mikki Schaffner | Cabaret, Xavier University Theatre’s last show of the season, received a glowing review. The show, set in 1931 Berlin, tells the story of an American writer and an English cabaret performer who works at the seedy Kit Kat Klub. Standout performers included Andy Girmann, Elyssa Girtman, and Hannah Sgambellone.

Out of all the theatre shows I’ve seen at Xavier (and I’ve seen quite a few), Cabaret may have been the best one yet. The story itself is powerful and intriguing, but when combined with an all-star cast, Xavier’s performance of Cabaret was truly spectacular.

Set in 1931 Berlin, Cabaret tells the story of an American writer and an English cabaret performer with the nightlife of the grubby Kit Kat Klub as the backdrop. At first, Cabaret seems like a story of provocative encounters and drunken nights, but it is later revealed to be a story shrouded in dangerous politics and complicated romance that still holds relevance today.

Cabaret is probably the most well-cast show Xavier Theatre has put on in my time as a student. Every performer felt carefully selected and perfect for their part. Andy Girmann was a charming, mysterious and heartbreaking Emcee as the show progressed. Elyssa Girtman as Sally Bowles put on an absolutely breathtaking vocal performance that left me in disbelief. Matthew Benedek was sweet and charming as Clifford Bradshaw, though I think both his and Girtman’s status as first-years were showing. With a bit of polishing on their acting, I think the two could easily become staples in Xavier Theatre productions.

Hannah Sgambellone, along with her convincing veteran performance as Frau Schneider, had the clearest and most believable German accent among the cast. Unfortunately, there were several points in the show where a character’s performance became more about their accent than the story. While this ultimately didn’t detract from the show’s impact, it did prove to be a hurdle that myself and other audience members had to jump over in order to understand the story.

What added to the production quality of Cabaret was the set. Well-constructed and versatile, the set took the show to the next level. From the catwalk stage built out into the audience, to the twinkling lights dotting the set, to the incorporation of the live orchestra in the audience’s view, everything about the Cabaret set was thoughtful and executed perfectly. The atmospheric quality of the set elevated the overall production of the show.

Xavier Theatre has been doing an incredible job with choosing and performing shows with stories and themes that permeate viewers’ lives long after they’ve left the theater. Whether it’s coming to terms with our nation’s bloody past, listening to stories of sexual assault or facing the discomfort of a dysfunctional family, Xavier Theatre has tackled these gritty and distressing tales with the utmost attention and care. Stories are supposed to make us feel something. And, as Xavier Theatre closed its season with Cabaret, I entered the breezeway with the feeling I leave with after any Xavier show: I am not the same as I was when I walked in.

By: Hannah Paige Michels ~Campus News Editor~