Is it possible to reinvent a show that’s seen two Broadway
revivals, an iconic film and countless college stagings? If you ask
the directors of MUSKET’s production of
“Cabaret,” they’ll answer yes.

Fine Arts Reviews
Robin! What are you doing looking at me for? (Courtesy of MUSKET)

If you’re looking for blindly happy musical theater, look
elsewhere. If you’re looking for a story with depth,
“Cabaret” has it in spades.

Imagine Berlin, in 1930. The Third Reich is rising and the
country is deteriorating, but in a cabaret called the Kit Kat Klub,
citizens can elude the outside world … sometimes. Searching
for writing inspiration, American Cliff Bradshaw visits the German
capital and stumbles upon the club, where he meets Sally Bowles, a
bewitching nightclub performer. They fall in love, as does his
landlady and a widower, Herr Schultz. The problem: Schultz is
Jewish and the Nazis are gaining status. Issues of power, race and
culture are set against a backdrop of eccentric characters ranging
from an idealistic politician to the bizarre entertainers of the
Kit Kat Klub.

Director Meghan Randolph and assistant director Ricky DeNardis
have wanted to produce this show for a year. “It’s our
baby,” says Randolph, who was drawn to the play’s
emotion. The two are borrowing features from four major
adaptations, including the 1972 film directed by Bob Fosse, which
has probably influenced every production since. Although the
directors and the choreographer were drawn to the dark elements of
the most recent revival in 1998, they believed that much of the
sexual content was purely for shock value and inappropriate for Ann
Arbor audiences. Thus they’ve chosen to use the script from
the 1987 remake.

Unlike most musicals, in “Cabaret” the orchestra
isn’t relegated to the pit; they’re onstage and in
costume. Although it might be tempting to use only musical theater
students in such a dance-reliant show, the cast comes from a
diverse set of disciplines. Vocal and musical theater students who
join law, business and nursing students. Each of the 18 cast
members has key moments in the production.

“It was important that they understand this period,
understand why there was this abandon, this sexual freedom,”
Randolph says.

But it would be a shame to overwhelm the poignant scenes at the
heart of the musical with sexual glitz. Integral to the play is the
juxtaposition of life — what is outside of the cabaret
— with what happens inside the club. Both worlds reflect and
merge into each other. “It’s a historical piece,”
says DeNardis, “and it’s ambiguous in a way that will
leave you thinking as you walk out of the theater.”

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