In Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub the people were dancing and partying, but they were also fast asleep.
At least that’s how Cliff Bradshaw, a struggling American writer, looks back on his time in Berlin as the Nazi party gained more power and the German citizens turned a blind eye.
While Cabaret is known for its sexuality and extravagant dance numbers (there are plenty of both), it also has a strong commentary on the political status of Germany in the late 1930s.
The Fine Arts Department’s production of Cabaret is a fascinating and realistic trip to the years leading up to the Holocaust. It’s an expert mix of the serious and the fanciful, and the audience members will feel as though they have become a part of the cabaret.
When Cliff (freshman David Spadora) arrives in Berlin, he is swept up by the cabaret, just as the audience is. However, there is a trace of the depression the Germans are stuck in. Fräulein Schneider (junior Rose Lynn) exemplifies the downtrodden characters as she sings about her lost fortunes and learns “how to settle for what you get” in her song “So What?”
Eventually, Cliff falls for the beautiful Sally Bowles (junior Joanne Nosuchinsky), a young British woman who dances at the Kit Kat Klub. While the two move in together and play house, Fräulein Schneider is falling in love with Herr Schultz (senior Mike Hollinshead), a Jew.
While all the characters are blithe, the presence of the Nazis begins to sneak into the storyline, surprising both the characters and the audience. The growing threat of the Nazi party permeates the otherwise exuberant plotline.
It’s not until a swastika is on display that people realize what is happening. The Emcee (’02 graduate John Mintz) literally pops a balloon to signify the end of their nightly partying. Shortly after, Cliff attempts to drag Sally with him back to America, telling her “the party in Berlin is over … and it’s only going to get worse.”
Of all the characters, probably the most morally aware of what is happening is the Kit Kat Klub’s Emcee. He sneaks onto the stage between scenes, his voice echoing eerily out over the theater, and he walks into scenes at will, a sort of conscience for the characters of the play.
And laugh if you want when the Emcee sings “If You Could See Her” with a gorilla, but the end of the song will chill you to the bone.
Cabaret manages to balance the burgeoning love stories with grand songs, scantily clad women and the occasional goose bump-inducing scene involving growing Nazi support and control.
Throughout the play, audience members will see how the Germans have all been taken in by the Nazi propaganda simply by not questioning it.
The play is complemented by the acting, singing, wardrobe and music. Each character serves a purpose, from Herr Schultz’s trials as a German Jew to the cabaret girls begging for money. And the decision to bring back Mintz for the role of the Emcee was wisely made.
The whole theater really does seem like a cabaret with professional musicians conducted by Dr. Jerry Rife sitting on a platform above the stage.
The costumes are everything from matronly dresses for Fräulein Schneider and dapper suits and hats for the gentlemen to negligees for the Kit Kat girls and S&M bondage for the Emcee.
The stage is set for audience members to become part of the Kit Kat Klub, so don’t be surprised to see Kit Kat girls and boys flirting or joining you at your table.
The only slow points in the play come from the romance between Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. While endearing, the scenes can drag on. However, his character is important as the only Jew, and therefore the only “outsider” besides Cliff. Sadly, Herr Schultz is unconcerned, reiterating that he is German and political powers come and go.
The show Cabaret is undoubtedly a lot of fun for everyone with silly scenes such as the song “Two Ladies.” However, the musical’s darker undertone chills watchers when nearly the entire cast sings “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” fashioned after a German song sung by Nazi youth.
By the end of the play the Kit Kat Klub is a dull parody of its former self. The characters are the people of Germany, blindly following and not caring until it affects them personally. Everyone seems to follow Sally’s question of politics, asking, “What has that to do with us?”