BWW Feature: CABARET at Majestic Repertory Theatre
The turbulence of today's world can be compared to the message of the musical "Cabaret." The award-winning play captures the turmoil of the times from the past transporting the audience to the present. The Majestic Repertory Theatre presents the intense production through Aug. 26.
Set in the sleazy Kit Kat Club in 1930s Germany, the creepy Master of Ceremonies (Anita Bean) warms the audience up, urging everyone to "leave your troubles outside. ... here life is beautiful ... the girls are beautiful ... even the orchestra is beautiful."
The dancers on stage are bored, tired, apathetic, and worn out with maybe the exception of one unattractive newbie who thinks she has broken into show businesses. However, then there is the star of the show, Sally Bowles (Charlie Starling), who is beautiful and talented but uses her sexual charms to secure work on stage.
Enter Cliff (Axel Knight), the idealistic American writer who happens to meet a German businessman, Ernst Ludwig (Andrew Young), while riding a train to Berlin on New Year's Eve. Accepting a stranger's kindness to help, he is referred to Fräulein Schneider's (Gail Romero) boarding house. Cliff opens his typewriter case and announces he is writing a novel. While negotiating rent, she sings her philosophy of settling. However, Fräulein Schneider is getting a chance for love with Herr Schultz (E. Wayne Worley), a Jewish fruit vendor who also lives at the boarding house.
Life in Germany in the early 1930s embraced decadence while people ignored the rising power of the Nazis and the signs of a coming dictatorship. The Emcee and two male dancers engage in a ménage à trios. The club offers telephones on the tables for patrons to connect anonymously, which really was available in Berlin's Weimar-era clubs and ballrooms. The metaphor should not be lost that today people can connect via apps (swipe left or right), dating sites, and texts hiding behind technology. Cliff first reconnects with Bobby (Randy Hemple), one of the male dancers at the club, with the obvious overtones of an intimate relationship. Then Sally calls Cliff at the club and later shows up at his board housing when she is fired and needs a place to stay.
The analogies of the songs and scenes are so profound. One of the best-known songs, "Money Makes The World Go Around," showcases what people will do for cash then and now. Cliff agrees to travel to Paris to pick up a package for Ludwig since as an American; it is less likely for his luggage to be searched. Another boarding house resident, Fräulein Kost (Katie Marie Jones), "hosts" sailors for payment while being admonished by Fräulein Schneider not to be caught as she looks the other way.
Later, Cliff and Sally are still living together, she reveals that she is pregnant, but she does not know the father and is willing to get an abortion. But while Cliff is reading "Mein Kampf" to understand Germany, he is also denying the signs of reality and imagines himself in love with Sally. "Maybe This Time" showcases her desire for stability and home despite the odds considering her lifestyle.
When Fräulein Kost catches Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz after a romantic tryst, he says the couple is engaged to be married. Afterward, he makes it clear that he was serious and Fräulein Schneider accepts.
But it is during their engagement party that it is revealed that Ludwig is a member of the Nazi party. He urges Fräulein Schneider not to marry a Jew, and when she explains that her fiancé is also German, Ludwig scoffs at her. The analogy is chilling considering the United States' immigration policies and the rise of hate groups. Cliff has also come to his senses and confronts Ludwig only be beaten up by Nazi gangs. At the party, the company sings "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," with overtly Nazi overtones raising the right arm.
However, one of the most chilling moments in the production is when the Emcee sings to a gorilla, "If You Could See Her (The Gorilla Song)" and says, "You wouldn't see that she was Jewish." The recent events of Roseanne Barr tweets about African-American Valerie Jarrett echo as the notes die down.
The engagement between Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz is broken with both reiterating that the Nazi movement will pass. Sally gets the abortion and returns to the club, rebuking Cliff's offer to move to the US with him. She asks instead for him to dedicate his book to her. As he sits on the train to Paris, Cliff takes out his notebook and begins writing his novel. The words, "There was a cabaret ... and there was a city called Berlin, in a country called Germany ... and it was the end of the world" reverberate around the theater.
While many productions present the final scene differently even though the message is the same, the scene interpreted by director Troy Heard left the audiences speechless before the wild applause.
Majestic focuses on giving young theatre artists an opportunity to build their skills as well as "find in Las Vegas the voices that will change American Theatre.
Majestic Repertory Theatre presents "Cabaret" through Aug. 26. For dates, times, and tickets, visit majesticrepertory.com.