By Candy Williams
The Theatre Factory’s 19th season-opening production transports its audience to the infamous Kit Kat Club in Berlin, where “life is a cabaret.”
It’s 1931, and the impending takeover by the Nazi regime is in the air, but reactions are mixed from the characters in “Cabaret,” according to director Scott Calhoon.
“Hope — or the loss of it — is approached differently by each person,” Calhoon says. “Some of them see what is going on, dealing with it in their way or refusing to acknowledge it, and some don’t really see what is happening at all.”
There’s Cliff (portrayed by Eric James Davidson), a writer traveling through Berlin, who loses hope and heads back home to America, and Herr Schultz (Leon Zionts) who chooses to basically ignore what is going on, believing it will all pass and he is safe because, “after all, what am I, a German.”
Sally Bowles (Victoria Brady) is a performer in the club whose sole focus is her career, while Fraulein Schneider (Beverly Price), who runs the boarding house where Cliff and Sally live, doesn’t like the changing political scene. Price of Greensburg is reprising her role as Fraulein Schneider, having played her character in past productions at Apple Hill Playhouse, Greensburg Civic Theatre and Stage Right.
“I have a strong affection and respect for Fraulein Schneider,” Price says. “As she proclaims, she is a survivor. She has gone through a lot in her life, but has picked herself up, learned from each heartache and moved on. She plays by the rules she learned growing up. In Nazi Germany, though, she finds that the rules she has always lived by are no more.”
Price says the Theatre Factory production shows that human nature tends to turn a blind eye to pending destruction and to fully live life as a cabaret.
The Master of Ceremonies (Scott Sambucco) “plays each character as a puppet master, leading them to their doom or salvation,” she says. “Since the stage is so close to the audience, they will find themselves drawn into the drama of these character’s lives.”
Brady of Plum says she wanted to portray her character in this show because “there is a little Sally Bowles in all of us. She has dreams and wants that are constantly being thwarted by the obstacles of real life, but she doesn’t let go of them. She wants to be in love so badly, but she is more in love with love than that very boring part where reality sets in and it’s just ‘regular.’ Sally refuses to be regular, which is the foremost aspect of her personality and the part with which I identify the most.”
Directing “Cabaret” is a special opportunity for Calhoon, who first heard the music from the show as a child listening to his mother’s original cast recording on vinyl, which he still owns.
“In some ways, it was what I based my early knowledge of what musical theater should be,” he says. “The show’s darker side and deeply moving songs, interspersed with amusing performances at the cabaret and the lighter songs of comic relief, set the tone for the type of shows I most wanted to be involved in.”