Chico State’s Music Theater Department manifests must-see theater


Matt Bates

Mundo Ballejos as Emcee. Photo by Matt Bates.

The sound of old, big band jazz plays from a small speaker, creating a natural reverb that fills the room and manifests an eerie vibe, something straight out of the twilight zone. 

Student actors and actresses are strutting around the floor scantily clad, and making eye contact with the audience. The hanging lights fill the place with beautiful blue lighting, adding to the ambiance.

Welcome to Cabaret!

Ali Hoghoughi (left) playing Clifford Bradshaw and William Morse (right) playing Ernst Ludwig. Photo by Matt Bates.

Presented by Chico State’s Department of Music and Theater, and directed by Matthew Teague Miller, associate chair of the department of music & theater, Cabaret was originally brought to life by Joe Masteroff who wrote the book. John Kander wrote the music and Fred Ebb wrote the lyrics. 

Cabaret is an adaptation of “I Am A Camera” by John van Druten, and the book “The Berlin Stories” by Christopher Isherwood.

Chico State students, older adults and elderly people filled up the sold-out show on Oct 12. 

The first half of the show was 90 minutes, followed by a 20-minute intermission and then concluded with a 50-minute second half.

Not knowing anything about the Cabaret, I knew I was in for an epic night.

The play was intimate, due to the crowd being close to the stage and the play being on the same level as the audience. The stage was considered immersive, according to Miller, and allowed spectators to interact with the actors and actresses throughout the play.

While the play had its share of strange moments, Cabaret exceeded my expectations, and was entertaining, emotionally powerful and truly surreal at points.

The first part began with a musical number led by the incredible and most entertaining Mundo Ballejos, playing Emcee, whose character basically acted as the host of the play and introduced us to the night.

A fifth-year senior musical theater major at Chico State, Ballejos was one of the best actors in the play. He was able to balance his dancing, singing and humorous persona, leaving everything out on the stage.

His ability to pull off some of the dance moves with the high heel shoes he was wearing was amazing. 

In fact, all the actors and dancers were incredible and demonstrated great skill. Ballejos also filled in as other side characters. 

Act 1 introduced us to all the recurring main characters, and began to tell the story of Cabaret.

Clifford Bradshaw is one of the main characters, played by Ali Hoghoughi, a writer from America who decides to stay in Berlin and becomes emotionally entangled with Sally Bowles. Bowles, a British nightclub dancer, was played by Arianna Nelson. Both Hoghoughi and Nelson were phenomenal on stage and really sold their characters, seemingly blurring the line between the actor and the role they were playing. 

Nelson said the cast met Monday through Thursday after their classes, as well as on Sundays. This was evident through everyone’s on-stage chemistry and the crew’s ability to work as one well-oiled machine to create a wonderful production.

Arianna Nelson playing Sally Bowles. Photo by Matt Bates.

“We auditioned the first week of school and started rehearsals the second week of school,” Miller said.

Other important characters included: Fräulein Schneider played by Skylar Wondrusch, Herr Schultz played by Zach Troutman and Ernst Ludwig played by William Morse.

The conflict starts to snowball at the celebration of Schneider’s and Schultz’s engagement. Bradshaw’s friend Ernest Ludwig discovers Schultz is Jewish, leading us to find out Ludwig is part of the up-and-coming Nazi party and then begins to harass the couple, and ruins their night. 

Act 1 ends by reaching a completely dream-like moment, with the jazz backing band beginning to play out of key. The frantic, oddly rhythmic music creates a truly surreal, almost hallucinogenic experience. 

The cast then breaks into a Nazi chant with a swastika projected on the giant wall behind them.

After the intermission, the shorter Act 2 began.

In Act 2, Bradshaw and Bowles split due to Bradshaw’s disgust for the Nazi Party, reading the writing on the wall that Germany was about to change. Bradshaw chooses to leave, but Sally decides to stay.  

The most emotional moment was the ending music number where the cast stripped down and stacked piles of their clothes and shoes, meant to represent the many victims of the Holocaust.

Overall, Cabaret was executed well, and engaged the crowd throughout the whole night.

The only two complaints I had about the play was how short Act 2 was, leaving me wanting a little more. 

The second problem was an uncanny laugh track that took away from scenes, to me it only made some scenes funny because the laugh track was humorous itself. 

Cabaret proves that Chico State’s music theater department are devoted to their craft and are dedicated to creating nights to remember. 

If you would like to attend one of these strong performances Chico State’s department of music and theater will be presenting “The Three Musketeers.”

Though it’s a new story with a different cast, Chico State’s music theater department has proved they are fully capable of putting on a stunning and entertaining show.

The play will transpire on Nov. 9-12 at Wismer Theatre in the Performing Arts Center room 135. 

For Chico State students and children the event costs $8, but will cost $20 for adults and $18 for seniors.

To purchase tickets please visit University Box Office website or call at 530-898-6333.

Mario Ortiz can be reached at [email protected] or @realnameismario on Twitter.