Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts provided a thoroughly entertaining performance of “Cabaret,” leaving the audience more concerned about today’s political situation than when it entered the Newhart Family Theater. “Cabaret” displayed a poignant criticism of ignorance to social and political issues through elaborate song and dance by a talented and entirely student-based cast.
The musical by lyricist Fred Ebb, composer John Kander and playwright Joe Masteroff is set in 1930s Berlin with the Nazi regime on the rise. The Kit Kat Klub, a seedy nightclub, is the setting for a majority of the story.
At the start of the musical, the lights dim and the club’s Emcee (John Drea) welcomes the viewers to the Kit Kat Klub, telling them to leave their worries and troubles outside. He proceeds to introduce the Kit Kat Girls and Boys and they enter the stage one by one in their revealing, black lace attire. The dramatic opening number, “Willkommen,” proved the cast was here to impress.
This scene marks the beginning of an interactive show filled with not-so-subtle sexual innuendos.
The first act of “Cabaret” focuses on the budding relationships of Sally Bowles (Alexa Haynes), a performer at the club, and Cliff Bradshaw (Jimmy Mann), an American writer, along with Fraulein Schneider (Sophie Hamm), the owner of the boarding house where Cliff is staying, and Herr Schultz (Will Colley), a Jewish fruit shop owner.
The first act’s final scene marks a shift in the show’s tone from a fun night at the club to a political debate of considerable proportions. As characters argue about whether or not supporting Nazis is “just politics,” the show leaves the viewer thinking about whether or not they’ve had a similar conversation in more recent occasions.
“Cabaret” utilizes breaks between scenes to show a glimpse of the lives of the everyday German citizen walking about, not just those associated with the club. These transitions are a unique way to show how the era’s problems affect the public.
The budding relationships between the characters begin to deteriorate in the second act, showing the effects of the continued climb of the Nazi regime.
After Schneider breaks off her engagement with Schultz because he’s Jewish, the Emcee sings “If You Could See Her.” As he sings to a girl in a gorilla mask, the song ends with, “If you could see her through my eyes, she wouldn’t look Jewish at all.” The line was jarring but necessary, pointing out how horrendous and ridiculous the treatment of Jewish people was at the time.
The director of the show, Sarah Gabel, commented on the line saying, “The comment should hit you as how denigrating and taking away rights the Jewish people, and by extension any group of people, is like treating them as animals.”
As the show comes to a close, the Emcee reenters with a makeup-less face and fully clothed in khaki attire, a shock to the audience as he spent the whole show with dark makeup and no pants on. He removes his coat to reveal a Nazi uniform and proceeds to speak the same lines he opened the show with.
“Ladies and gentlemen, where are your troubles now?” he asked the audience.
Those everyday Germans make a return with a terrified screech followed by a crowd of them being forced into a train car set to leave for a concentration camp. While the car was built into the set hidden in plain sight, the heart-wrenching screams of those being forced seemed all too real.
The Emcee proceeded to give a Nazi salute and the rest of the cast, filling the stage and the isles, followed suit.
Gabel chose to have the Emcee as a Nazi, as opposed to heading to a concentration camp, differing from previous adaptations of “Cabaret.”
“I wanted to make a statement about not recognizing what can be happening around you,” she said. “The characters don’t take the rise of the Nazi’s seriously or they don’t see it for the threat it is, as an audience we also did not recognize the threat through the Emcee.”
It took the audience a few moments to applaud, as it seemed difficult to celebrate after the abrupt ending.
However, the stunning performance of the cast was cause to celebrate. All the student actors took to the stage with confidence. Their talent kept the audience engaged and attentive, allowing them to properly convey the messages they sought to tell.
“Cabaret” was a bold choice for one of Loyola’s spring musicals. With ideas such as “it’s just politics” and the rise of an oppressive regime ringing relevance to American politics today, the musical gives people a chance to see how these phenomena play out from an external perspective. Though controversial, conversations on these topics are necessary and “Cabaret” helps push them artistically.