Pennsylvania Playhouse stages a satisfyingly gritty and unsettling production of “Cabaret” through June 16 at the playhouse at 390 Illick’s Mill Road, Bethlehem.

Billed as an immersive production, entertainers from the play’s Kit Kat Club greet audience members as they approach the theater and inside the lobby before the show. Performers also roam around inside the theater posing on the railing and dancing on the stage prior to the show’s start. The five-person band, led by music director Liam Mulligan (a welcome return of live musician to the playhouse) are on stage and entertaining before the show, adding to the immersive feel.

Taking place in and around the 1920s Berlin nightclub, “Cabaret” explores the hedonistic lifestyle in the German city just before the suffocating dawn of the Third Reich.

The garish and bawdy Emcee of the club is brilliantly portrayed by Cody Jackson. The role is more a metaphor for Berlin’s decadence than an actual person, and Jackson makes it memorable. His knowing, sly, grinning Emcee gives off a slightly sinister vibe as he seduces the audience with outstanding performance of songs like "Willkommen," "Two Ladies" and “Money.”

Sally Bowles is an English ex-patriate performing at the Kit Kat Club. The night I was there Sally was played by understudy Lucy Moore, (stepping in for the regular Talia Sites), who gives the devil-may-care role a raw passion. Her determinedly chipper Sally was earnest on "Maybe This Time" and devastating on the signature title song “Cabaret.”

As Cliff, an American writer looking for inspiration in Berlin, Dylan Miller is engaging and likable. Unlike the self-deluded Sally, Miller’s Cliff slowly becomes aware of the chilling reality of the threat of the growing Nazi party.

Trish Kane Steele is adorable as the Fräulein Schneider, proprietor of Cliff and Sally's boarding house, who is strict on the surface, but underneath a softy. Steele’s “So What?” is delightful and her “What Would You Do?” is heartbreaking.

As Fräulein Schneider’s love interest, the Jewish fruit-seller Herr Schultz, Robert Torres is gentle and kind. The couple’s sweet, although doomed, romance is endearing and the two are appealing on “It Couldn’t Please Mr More,” and “Married.”

Moriah Faith is tough and practical as Fraulein Kost, one of Schneider’s tenants who is a sex worker and has a line on sailors in and out of her flat.

She has a harrowing solo on “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” joined by Shaun Hayes’ charming but dangerous Ernst Ludwig.

The ensemble who makes up the Kit Kat Club performers are all entertaining and attack the sleazy roles with enthusiasm.

Other cast members are Annie Westcott, Elisa Purizaca Carillo, Avante Kendall, Cindi Greatsinger, Cheryl Moritz, Mia Lobach, Johnny Bertone, Anthony Kompa, Elliot Mercedes, Joseph Mowad and Jim Wildin.

Director Kathy Pacheo nicely weaves the Kit Kat Club performances and the dialogue between the characters together. Anthony Mauriello’s choreography is fun, sexy and energetic.

The makeup by Milan Stevens is suitably garish and unsettling while costume designed Lucy Moth has dressed the cast in eye-catching and purposely tawdry costumes.

Other understudies are Andrew Maldonado as the Emcee; Denise Shelton as Fräulein Schneider; Paul Rossi as Herr Schiultz and Meghan McGorry, Will Windsor Wrwin, Malana Wilson Bethany Wentling as ensemble. The June 7 performance will feature the understudy cast.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. June 7, 8, 14 and 15; and 6 p.m. June 9 and 16.

Tickets are $25 for adults; $22 for seniors and $15 for students.

For information, call 610-865-6665, or go to