“Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome / Im Cabaret, au Cabaret, to Cabaret.”
Oct. 16-Oct. 19
Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday & Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 2 pm
202 Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
Tickets from $10-$28
The time is the early 1930s, just before the rise of the Nazi party. The place is the sordid, yet intriguing, Kit Kat Club located in Weimar Berlin. And the show is, of course, “Cabaret.”
“Cabaret” opened on Broadway in 1966 and was an overnight success. Over the years it went through many various revivals and even spawned a movie in 1972 starring Liza Minnelli (“Arrested Development ”). The production won a Tony Award for Best Revival in 1998 thanks in part to the incredible cast, which was led by the talented Alan Cumming (“The Good Wife”), who brought the show back to Broadway in early 2014. And now, the latest group to take on the musical is the University’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
The main plot of “Cabaret” revolves around two couples. Cliff Bradshaw, an American, trying to write his novel, travels to Berlin, where he stumbles upon Sally Bowles, a British singer at the Kit Kat Club; the two instantly hit it off. They soon begin living together in a boardinghouse run by Fraulein Schneider, who soon falls in love with one of her other tenants, Herr Schultz, an elderly Jewish fruit-shop owner. The remainder of the musical shows how each couple navigates the rapidly changing and increasingly dangerous political climate as the Nazi party slowly gains control.
The audience is led through the show by the unnamed Emcee of the club, a comic, dark and sometimes rather sexual character.
“The Emcee and the Kit Kat Boys and Girls are really acting as a Greek chorus throughout the show and are motivating a lot of the action,” said Joe Locarro, the show’s director and a visiting professor at the University. “They do interact with the characters in the scenes from time to time so I think that it really brings it all together in the way that the Emcee is controlling the entire evening.”
One of the major themes throughout the show is sexual identity, as Berlin was known for being rather accepting of all forms of sexuality during this time period. The amount of overt sexuality present in the production, though, depends solely on the director, with the 1998 revival as well as the 2014 restaging of said revival being much more sexual than earlier productions. For SMTD’s interpretation, Locarro felt there was no need to be blatantly sexual.
“I felt that it doesn’t really help the story personally,” Locarro said. “It still has all the bump and grind, but not as much groping.”
Because so much of the show takes place within the Kit Kat Club, several structural changes were made to the stage to enhance the atmosphere for the audience within the theatre.
“I wanted to make this production as environmentally relevant as possible. I wanted to transform the theatre as much as we could,” Locarro said. “So we built the stage over the orchestra pit and tried to create a very intimate setting as it would be in a club.”
But the stage was not the only thing added to the production to make the theatre feel more like a real cabaret. Several historically accurate cabaret songs will be performed on stage as audience members take their seats.
“We wanted Catherine Walker (Adams), the musical director, to do a pre-show, so we’ve actually added six characters to the show that aren’t normally there, and then those characters are singers and patrons of the club,” Locarro explained. “What happens is they start off on stage when the audience is coming in about 15 minutes before the show starts and they are singing a number of period pieces and period songs in German, French and English, and we wanted to give the feeling that we’re in a club.”
While the show has numerous songs that are fun and catchy, Locarro believes the show’s overall message will be what sticks with the audience the most, especially today in a world rife with political and social discrimination.
“Oddly enough I was driving to rehearsal and I drove by a number of people holding these large signs saying ‘Boycott Israel’ and things like that, and they were doing this right in front of a synagogue and to see that in this day and age was shocking,” Locarro said. “So I think the story that this musical tells is very important and the sad reality is that history tends to repeat itself, so we need to keep reminding ourselves of the importance of things like this.”