“Come hear the music play”: A preview of “Cabaret”

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Brianna Glenn

Leave your troubles outside and see Guilford’s production of “Cabaret” at Sternberger Auditorium, which has transformed into a functioning nightclub.

“When you walk through the door, you will enter the Kit Kat Klub,” said Stage Director and Professor of Theatre Studies Jack Zerbe. “You’ll sit at a table with three other people, and you can order soft drinks and watch the show with a cloth and lamp on the table. You’re an accomplice to the action.”

The production will immerse the audience in a cast of lovers and partiers carousing around decadent early-1930s Berlin. At the center of the ensemble is the flamboyant Master of Ceremonies, played by junior Will Batchelor.

“The Emcee and the Kit Kat Klub dancers are backdrop storytellers,” Batchelor said. “The Emcee himself is kind of a puppeteer, but he also watches and puts things in motion.”

The female lead is Sally Bowles, a British jazz singer at the Kit Kat Klub played by senior Elizabeth Wray.

“Sally has created a world she inhabits,” Wray said. “She’s very, very concerned with that world continuing to operate, and part of that is making sure she’s fabulous, marvelous, desirable — all of these things.”

One facet of that world is her lover, Cliff Bradshaw, an American expatriate novelist played by junior Lucas Blanchard-Glueckert.

“Cliff is like me in a lot of ways,” said Blanchard-Glueckert. “Everyone in the show is either British or German, but Cliff is just a guy from Pennsylvania. I’m from Ohio and I identify with his desire to discover what’s out there.”

According to Jim Bumgardner, the show’s musical director and continuing part-time lecturer in music, musicals can be a challenging production.

“Musicals are hard because you’re putting together so many art forms and you can’t be weak anywhere,” Bumgardner said. “You can’t be a weak singer and a good actor or vice versa and do a musical. You have to work on each piece until it’s quite good, and then you have to assemble it all on-stage and make it look integrated and natural.”

The music of “Cabaret,” which ranges from traditional ballads to hot jazz and a nationalist anthem, is organically connected with the plot, according to Bumgardner.

“The many different musical genres augment the action of the play and the character development, and it all works brilliantly,” Bumgardner said.

Senior Puja Tolton, who plays Cliff’s landlady Fraülein Schneider, agreed.

“I sometimes get annoyed with musicals where the music seems unmotivated and the cast just starts singing for no reason, but in ‘Cabaret,’ the music comes from what is happening,” Tolton said.

The intricacies in the plot of “Cabaret” have contributed to its long production history. While taking place in and around the Kit Kat Klub and showing the fun-and-games of the jazz age, there is a dark side to the play marked by the rise of the Nazi Party.

“‘Cabaret’ is a timely piece because it’s really about what happens if you stick your head in the sand,” Zerbe said. “If you’re all party-hearty and you treat life like a cabaret as the song says, the world goes to hell in a handbasket and the Nazis take over.”

The play exhibits how different citizens of Berlin reacted to the birth of Nazi Germany and how people react to changes in the world around them.

Wray said, “It’s easy to point fingers and say, ‘Look how blind these people were,’ rather than say, ‘How am I blind? How do I interact with my world?’

“I think Sally represents the normalcy of not being able to see the world objectively and what we would have to change in order to step back and see our world more clearly.”

But it is not all doom and gloom — after all, “Cabaret” is still a musical.

“We’re having a really good time,” Zerbe said. “I’m pushing people pretty hard in rehearsal, especially here at the end, but it’s been a fun ride.”

The show runs Nov. 9–10 and 15–17 at 8 p.m. in Sternberger Auditorium, or rather, the Kit Kat Klub.

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