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Reboot Theatre Company makes a fierce comeback with Cabaret

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Heather Refvem and Vincent Milay as Sally and Cliff — Photo by Colin Madison Photography
Heather Refvem and Vincent Milay as Sally and Cliff — Photo by Colin Madison Photography

Queer- and Transgender-led Reboot Theatre Company has made a fierce comeback with the musical Cabaret, now taking place at the Theatre Off Jackson.

The organization originally announced the production back in 2019, but three weeks into rehearsal — in March of 2020 — everything shutdown due to the pandemic.

Cabaret is a Broadway classic, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The musical features a live band and is set in Berlin's Kit Kat Klub, a center of culture and sex in the twilight days of Weimar Germany.

Director Jasmine Joshua noted that Cabaret was originally chosen to show the slow creep of fascism ahead of the 2020 presidential election, and that the diversity of the cast is reflective of that of Weimar Berlin.

Joshua's focus for the reboot of Cabaret was to examine how privilege intersects with activism: at what point did one notice something was wrong and what could be done about it, and what do people with differing privileges and varying levels of social capital do when faced with white supremacism?

Natalie Moe, June Apollo Johns, and Viviana Garza — Photo by Colin Madison Photography  

The performance
If you've never been before, the Theatre Off Jackson is a very intimate setting, which actors of Cabaret use to their advantage by traveling up and down the aisles that spill through the audience to the stage.

Sexuality also spilled throughout the performance through revealing clothing, such as titty tassels that swung around vigorously (and majestically) during dance numbers. The attire of the Kit Kat Dancers consisted of silk, feathers, and garters. Costume designers Fantasia Rose and Katrina Hess did an excellent job helping audience members to travel back to 1930s Germany through the characters' clothing.

June Apollo Johns, in the important role of the Emcee, interacted with the audience during scenes where the actor would traditionally ignore the audience, which I found to be utterly charming and delightful.

(top) Marlee Squires, Natalie Moe, James Stanford, Viviana Garza; (center) Heather Refvem, Kevin Tanner; (below) Alexei Cifrese — Photo by Colin Madison Photography  

I was also blown away by the musical numbers, 20 in total. The Kit Kat Dancers kicked high, and all cast members used the space of the stage fully — there was never a gap during dance numbers. The tone and vocal range of the singers left me stunned. I particularly enjoyed listening to Heather Refvem, who plays Sally Bowles, sing.

We've all heard of smooth criminals, but have you heard of smooth transitions, let alone seen one happen before your eyes? The transitions from scene to scene in this production occur so naturally that I almost couldn't believe my own eyes. Actors would generally begin a scene transition near the end of a musical number, so rearranging the stage was incorporated into the song — how cool!

Having lived in Austria, where the national language is German, I was impressed by the pronunciation of German words and phrases interspersed throughout the musical. I also enjoyed listening to and comprehending a language I used to speak every day. But if you are unfamiliar with German, the actors do their part to clarify phrases through their actions, or by also relaying the phrase or word in English.

I also found myself laughing out loud when a gorilla dressed in a hot pink tutu appeared on stage and went on pointe, as is done in ballet. Again, I could not believe my eyes.

Reboot Theatre Company's first production in three years, Cabaret, is not one you want to miss, because... "What good is sitting alone in your room?"

Cabaret runs through May 14. Ticket prices range from $5 to $27. For more information, visit https://reboottheatre.org/.