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‘Cabaret’ gets set to take stage at Schwab Auditorium

by on February 02, 2017 12:34 PM

UNIVERSITY PARK — An enthusiastic group of revelers drink, dance, joke and sing while trying to deny the emergence of unspeakable horror and oppression lurking just beyond the dull glow of lights that never quite brighten their lives.

Welcome to 1930s Berlin, the end of the Weimar Republic and the beginning of the faint stirrings that heralded the birth of the Nazi party.

FUSE Productions, under the direction of Richard Biever, will present the Kander and Ebb classic “Cabaret” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, through Saturday, Feb. 18, at Schwab Auditorium on the Penn State campus.

The cast consists of mostly local performers, but also two professional actors. Melissa Hart will play the resilient Frau Schneider who runs a boarding house. Seth Tucker will play the emcee of the Kit Kat Klub, a seedy symbol of a society consumed with pursuing pleasure. Local residents Cat Rokavec, Tyler Sperazza and Tom McClary will play Sally Bowles, Cliff Bradshaw and Herr Schultz.
The show opens with the emcee welcoming everyone to the Klub with the song “Wilkommen.” He urges patrons to leave their troubles "outside!" In here, he insists, "Life is beautiful!"
In the film version, Joel Grey made this role iconic with a combination of gender-bending malevolence and gleeful deviance. Expect creepy leers and chortles as it becomes apparent that the Klub doesn't so much welcome its guests as swallow them.

Sally sings and dances at the Klub. She leads a hedonistic life in a hedonistic city and surrounds herself with hedonistic people.

"She doesn't care what anyone thinks," Rokavec said, "she'll get what she wants and she wants attention from men."

Writer Cliff Bradshaw comes from America, hoping to find material for his work. Boy meets girl when he hits the Kit Kat Klub and encounters Sally. The usual trajectory of the expected plot hits too many bumps and hairpin curves to turn out any way but disastrous. Cliff's bisexuality and Sally's narcissism keep the pair drinking, partying and doing anything they can to try to convince themselves that they work as a couple.

"He has to distance himself," according to Sperazza.

Sally's accidental pregnancy and its subsequent termination drive the wedge further between the two and they can't salvage the relationship.
"But he thinks he's socially aware," Sperazza continued, "and he sees the conditions going on around them."

Rounding out the main characters, Frau Schneider and Herr Schultz have their own doomed romance to work through. The Jewish gentleman Schultz runs a fruit shop, and the two bring a grace and maturity in glaring contrast to the drama fueling Sally and Cliff's relationship.

"Along with Fraulein Schneider, he serves as a contrast to Sally Bowles and Clifford Bradshaw," McClary said. "His love for and with Schneider may be less passionate and dramatic than the others', but it is potentially more lasting and true."
In the late 1960s, Hart played the role of Sally Bowles on Broadway under legendary director Hal Prince. And, she has story after story of those days.
"Sally is flamboyant and charming," Hart said of the character, "her amorality and self-absorption were very wearing and that made it a challenge."
Schneider, on the other hand, "is the voice of a lot of people in Germany," she continued, "she has survived and she has spirit."
The sinister menace of Nazism always lingers just behind the curtain. Each character deals with this reality in their own way.

In the final song, “Cabaret,” Sally tries to convince herself of her own words. She can't quite do it. She has a desperate tone, indicating she can no longer believe that "life is a cabaret."

Yet, the emcee once again maniacally insists that we've left all our troubles outside as he bids us an ominous "Auf Wiedersehen."

If you go

What: “Cabaret”

When: Feb. 16, 17, 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Schwab Auditorium, Penn State campus

Tickets: $15-$30; visit or call (814) 380-8672









Ann is an Arts and Entertainment correspondent for the Gazette.
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