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"Players Bring Life to ‘Cabaret’"


I must say, I haven’t been to many plays where I’ve genuinely liked the entire cast. Normally, in my opinion, there are always one or two actors who really bring down the overall performance, but not so in the College Players’ production of Joe Masteroff’s “Cabaret”. Each of the actors did such a nice job of playing off each other and delivering entertaining performances that I didn’t want to leave when the final notes had been sung and the last bow had been taken.

Set in late 1930’s Berlin, Cabaret is about a night club dancer who falls in love with an American writer. At first their relationship is carefree, but with the increasing Nazi presence, the couple and their freinds all have to make decisions about the eminate war and the growing discrimination of Jews.

The story starts with the Emcee, played by Joe Ledbetter, welcoming the audience with the help of a group of garter belt wearing, scantily clad Kit Kat girls and one Kit Kat boy, wearing a sparkly cod piece. While spanking and groping his way through the play, Ledbetter gave such an entrancing performance. Looking like a hallucinogenic nightmare out of Moulin Rouge with his pasty skin and over made face, you’re never quite sure what to make of the Emcee and who, or what he is. Even when he has you in a fit of laughter induced by his ribald and sexually innuendo laced jokes, there’s still this creepiness about him that never really allows you to feel at ease in his presence.

The main set of lovers in this play did a fantastic job adding depth to the overall performance. Sally Bowles, played by Jessy Knudsen, and Clifford Bradshaw, played by Stephen Steelman, portray the classic miss-match couple. Sally Bowles, who is dripping with so much sex that her middle name should be Pussygalore, falls for the mild-mannered, sweater vest wearing Clifford Bradshaw. Knudsen was a pleasure to watch. She does a remarkable job every time she sings. The notes effortlessly escape her mouth, especially when singing the title song. Steelman’s portrayal of the worrywart fuss-pot writer Cliff is very likeable. He does a good job of not coming off as weak while still keeping the characters naiveté intact. Together, Steelman and Knudsen really sparkle. They’re really believable as that couple that everyone knows is going to crash and burn in a fiery brilliance. There is a point in the play where they lie to themselves and pretend that they can make it. They’re so convincing that they even make the audience believe too. But a sequence of events takes place and every one wakes up and face the fact that these two love bird were meant to fly solo.

The other couple in the play, Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, are just adorable. There’s nothing like watching two corny people fall in love. Played by Meghan O’Connor and Mike Fatum, the two did wonderfully at exuding the insecurity that is present when two awkward people fall for each other. The absolute most superb part of their affair was their duet of “Couldn’t Please Me More.”

While watching this performance, I was truly charmed by the characters. The emcee, Sally and Clifford, and Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz were a pleasure to watch. But my absolute favorite character was Fraulein Kost. Even though she’s not on stage nearly as much as the other characters are, when she’s there, you really pay attention to her. Gina Robak, who plays Fraulein Kost, brought great vivacity and character to this lovable whore. Even though she looks a hot mess (she wears a robe that barely covers her unmentionables and her head looks like it threw up red hair), she’s still amazingly charming. For most of her time on stage Fraulein Kost is either about to see a “customer” or has just finished with one. She has this “Yeah, I’m a prostitute” attitude that is just absolutely endearing. Robak’s depiction was quite amusing to watch.

With actors that are reach-out-and-touch-someone close, great live music, not just dirty but down right grimy jokes and Kit Kat girls who are too busy dancing to put on some clothes, the College Players rendition of Cabaret (which is also the last production to be performed in the Gill Theater) is sure to delight. - San Francisco Foghorn - http://www.usfca.edu/foghorn/archive/4-28-05/cabaret4-28.html


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San Francisco based Ledbetter spins his own strange flavor of Freak/Carnival/Americana/Folk played with equally anomalous showmanship. Comparisons often lead to one to believe that if Tom Waits & Jacques Brel had taken it upon themselves, one day in 1969, to go on a bender and corrupt as many folk singers of the era as intoxicatingly possible. . . Ledbetter might very well be the love-child of their crusade.

Ledbetter is multi-instrumentalist with training in musical theater and the ninja arts under Sensi Yoshi McTarnahan at the Conservatoire for Drama & Ninpo in Southern Sri Lanka. Exercising great discipline, Ledbetter never combines the two arts even when confronted with an uncouth audience member talking during his set. He tames his fists of fury and drowns the conversation with the ancient Loud Singning Monkey technique.