Review: 'Cabaret' by Naugatuck Valley Community College Theatre

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • Connecticut Critic
  • Connecticut Critics Circle

Waterbury, CT - Naugatuck Valley Community College Theatre Department presented a big production of ‘Cabaret’ on their mainstage this weekend. The musical contains music by John Kander with lyrics by Fred Ebb and a haunting book by Joe Masteroff and it filled the NVCC stage with music, dancing and a thought-provoking story.

Director Burton Tedesco had a clear vision of how he wanted this production of ‘Cabaret’ to look and feel. The tawdriness of the Kit Kat Klub dancers was toned down a bit for this college production but was still sultry enough to get the point across. When the reality that Nazism was beginning to take hold of Berlin became apparent, the tone changed drastically and the ending could not have been more powerful. 

In his German-titled director’s notes, Mr. Tedesco reminds the audience that the author Christopher Isherwood (Cliff Bradshaw) wrote his book The Berlin Stories to immortalize real people who actually lived through this. He also writes that ‘Cabaret’ is about inactivity, “the consequences of people doing nothing, saying nothing...thinking that certain problems and issues don’t involve them…” 

Music Director Andrew Ardizzoia, assistant professor of music at NVCC, served his singers well as he ably conducted the excellent pit orchestra, which included Meric Martin on banjo, David Wilson on drums, and Jim Marbury on trombone. The score never sounded better. The choreography of Megan Boyd was well thought out and the dancers handled every step very well. 

Bill Cone is approaching the 40 year mark for designing sets for the productions of this institution and this set has to be one of his best. From the Klub to the movable pieces to the moving projections in the windows of the train, this set was impressive and the lighting designed by Jonathan Curns just completed the look. The costumes designed by Marjorie Tedesco had the look of the period and moved well with the dancers. 

I was warned that the Saturday matinee would feature the so-called “understudy cast.” Mr. Tedesco mentioned in his curtain speech that the group included ten talented young people already in the cast. He also shared the fact representatives of many four-year colleges were envious of the fact that NVCC boasts a theatre program so robust that it can support an entire cast of understudies. Kudos to the director for allowing the swings to go on, even if it was only for one performance.

Before we were even half-way through the first act I knew I would write that if this was the quality of the understudies, I can only imagine how amazing the first string actors must be. For this matinee, those performers took on another role, often the one that their understudy held. 

Chris Varanko played the role of Max, the owner of the Kit Kat Klub, but usually appeared as Ernst Ludwig. Jack Douglas (the other Herr Schultz) was Herman and Blaise Russo (Cliff Bradshaw at the other performances) played Bobby/Officer. Kat Lynch (usually Fraulein Kost) was Helga, Caitlin Galbraith (the other Sally Bowles) played Trixie. Sara-Grace Gardner played the sassy Fraulein Kost. The amazing Joshua Viltrakis was so endearing in the role of Herr Shultz and sang beautifully of course. Joseph Lowndes (usually Max) played Ernst Ludwig and Damian Luciano (usually Bobby/Officer) was strong in the role of Cliff. 

With apologies to Ms. Galbraith, I thought that Alizae Powell (usually Fritzie) was the perfect Sally Bowles. She made playing the character look effortless and sang the title song and all of her musical numbers so very well. I am so pleased that I was able to catch the fantastic performance of this WAMS grad in a leading role.

The talented dance ensemble included Mikayla Carrah, Melanie Dignan, George Hurdle III, Jade Johnson, Gilia Jose, Jessica Maher, Tiana Lopez, Colleen McGuinness, Crystle Sadowski and Myrania Shepherd. Ensemble members were Taylor Jasmine, Katie Steele, Alexander Tenbrink, Yvette Tucker and Ashley Velleco. 

Tom Santopietro, Anthony Lacerenza, Brendan Green, and Zachary Ruggiero played sailors visiting the fraulein, Jalon Copeland was Hans, Kevoy Somerville played Victor, Marissa Ryan was Rosie, Sara LaFrance was Frenchie, Samantha Mankowski was Lulu, Katie Steinbacher was Texas and Anna Nicole Doucette was convincing as the aging Fraulein Schneider at all performances. 

The emcee role was shared by three young men at the same time, each with a distinct look. Preston James, WAMS grad Gerald Mullings (who gave us great rendition of “I Don’t Care Much’) and Dayton Fenwick split up the lines and the songs. It sounds cumbersome, but it really worked well in this production. 

I am sure that the first string cast performances were just as effective as the matinee I saw, and these actors should be congratulated for sharing the spotlight with their castmates for this one performance that friends and family made a point of coming to see. 

Photo by NVCC Theatre Department