For its first show at Penn State’s Schwab Auditorium, Fuse Productions will present the classic musical “Cabaret” Feb. 16-18.
“Cabaret” is based on a 1939 novel, “Goodbye to Berlin,” by Christopher Isherwood and a subsequent 1951 Broadway play by John Van Druten called “I Am a Camera.” Although most famously adapted into a 1972 movie starring Liza Minnelli, the original production of the musical ran for 1,165 performances from 1966-69. It has been revived three times on Broadway and four times in London. Musical numbers include well-known theater standards “Maybe This Time,” “Willkommen” and “Cabaret.”
Fuse’s show stars Cat Rokavec as Sally Bowles, Melissa Hart as Fräulein Schneider, Tyler Sperrazza as Clifford Bradshaw and Seth Tucker as the emcee.
“It’s a thrill to be working on this masterpiece of the musical theater — it seems more relevant than ever before,” said Richard Biever, producing artistic director of Fuse Productions. “We have an extremely strong cast, and audiences will be taken on quite a ride. We’re especially grateful to be working in the beautiful Schwab Auditorium for the first time.”
Set in late 1920s Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power, the story revolves around young American writer Cliff Bradshaw and his relationship with 19-year-old English cabaret performer Sally Bowles. Much of the story is set in the decadent, celebratory nightlife at the Kit Kat Klub, where the emcee oversees the seedy action.
The independent Bowles works at the Kit Kat Klub as a singer and dancer. She falls in love with Bradshaw because he is different than the other men she usually goes after.
“Her role in the show is special in that it represents the gray area of people who are fully invested in political affairs and those who don’t know what is going on at all,” Rokavec said. “She seems to have an idea of the uprising of the Nazi party but doesn’t take it seriously and thinks it doesn’t involve her.”
A sub-plot involves the doomed romance between German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor.
“As a person, he is sweet, funny, trusting and naïve,” said Tom McClary, who plays Schultz. “His affection for Schneider serves as a contrast to the other types of romantic feeling depicted in the play, and as a Jew he serves as a symbol of the approaching victimization soon to be perpetrated by the Nazis.”
In the play, Schneider has fallen on hard times, but she is a realist, and she has made a living renting rooms to boarders.
“I think romance is not exactly in her thoughts, but she does not deny those thoughts, either, for a time,” Hart said. “I am an optimist by nature, and I think Schneider is one as well until the hard truth of the economics in pre-WWII Germany shakes things up.”
Hart thinks the message of “Cabaret” is timely — that if we don’t pay attention to what’s happening around us, terrible things are bound to happen.
“If we don’t care about each other, in a compassionate way, then horrible things can happen to humanity,” Hart said. “In this exciting theater environment, things like ‘Hamilton’ are showing us we need to open our eyes and try and see history and people from a different perspective. I think this show does that as well.”
“The message I think this show conveys is to keep your eyes open — it shows us what happens when you take that to heart, and when you don’t,” Rokavec said. “It teaches us that we aren’t so different after all and that the similarities are what matter, especially in hard times.”
Rokavec thinks the show is always relevant and that no matter how many times it’s been done, it still always makes an impact.
“It reminds us to pay attention to what is going on in the world and not to become complacent,” she said. “This show is a prime example of what happens when you don’t pay attention.”
After two hours of stepping in and out of the characters’ shoes, Rokavec hopes the audience realizes that these vastly different people on stage had things in common too, just like in the world around them.
“We are all humans on this earth and we all equally deserve to live here,” she said. “I think the audience will experience some surprises and some material that may shock them — each member of the audience will have a response of some kind.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Fuse Productions’ “Cabaret”
- When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16-18
- Where: Schwab Auditorium, University Park
- Info: www.fuseproductions.org