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Life is a 'Cabaret' in Bremerton
Even without doing research, one probably knows a bit about post-World War I Germany. It was a time of monetary trouble and depression, with little relief in sight.
“People were so depressed and poor that the cabarets came about to try and give them a relief from their lives,” said Rana Teresa Tan, director of Bremerton Community Theatre’s upcoming “Cabaret.” It’s a timely production, relatable amid the effects of today’s struggling economy. The show opens at 8 p.m. tonight, April 2.
“Cabaret” is based around a true story, coming from the 1951 play “I am a Camera,” which stems from Christopher Isherwood’s earlier novel, “Goodbye to Berlin.” The play is set in 1930 at the frowzy nighttime Kit Kat Klub, where British performer Sally Bowles encounters American would-be writer Cliff Bradshaw.
As Germany began paying reparations for its part in the war, Germans burned their useless money for heat while reeling from devastating inflation and a ruinous market. A frenzied cultural uprising began as theaters attempted to breach the bleak atmosphere, and writers made their way to Berlin to try their hand at the art.
“Cabaret” also follows the ill-fated romance between German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz. The club’s slick-tongued master of ceremonies, and the songs sung by the women who work there, create a veritable soundtrack for the money-poor and down-and-out.
Tan said the theater’s production is rooted in the stage version of the story, not the over-sequined Liza Minnelli vehicle made for celluloid in 1972. Tan did a substantial amount of research, and has kept the show as true to its time as possible. The war and its aftereffects were felt in her own family, she said.
Tan’s aim is to create an illusion for the audience, to make them feel as if they, too, sit in a Berlin nightclub, resting their weary minds from worry.
“Yes, they are going to be entertained,” she said, “but I’m hoping they’re going to leave the theater wanting to see more and really thinking about that time.”
Amy Musselwhite and Eric Richardson lead the cast of 23, fresh from turns as Marian and Harold Hill in Silverdale’s “The Music Man.” Both underwent a physical transformation for their new roles; Musselwhite, who lends her clear vocals to Sally, cut and died dark her hair and Richardson, as Cliff, takes on a role unusual to his “nice guy” repertoire.
Unassuming as the American writer in post-war Germany, Richardson absentmindedly flicks the deep red tassles of his Kit Kat Klub tablecloth — a singular set detail of many that looks wickedly authentic — when along comes Sally, leggy and beautiful and desperately confident.
“A whim, haven’t you ever had a whim?” he asks her.
“Constantly,” is Musselwhite’s sublime reply.
Sylvia Shaw lends her perfectly furrowed brow to Fräulein Schneider: “Oh, a novelist,” she exclaims to Cliff, as if she herself had just won a grand prize, “Oh, you will be most famous.”
Raymond Deuel is a deliciously harried Ernst Ludwig, a lanky, tweed-coated con man of sorts who tempts Cliff with the money that can be made smuggling Parisian perfumes.
“Leave your troubles outside, we have no troubles here,” singsongs Master of Ceremonies Eric Spencer, with big vocals. “Here life is beautiful, here the girls are beautiful.”
Among his stage audience is a young woman with a look of dull exhaustion. She settles into a chair as if it’s the first time she’s sat down all day, and props her elbow on the seat back. Her gaze flickers around the room, tense and quick as the ashes falling from the cigarette that dangles from between her fingers. Soon even she is engaged in song.
The production also ushers in new heights for the theater, its stylized spotlighting joined by new set features including a hazer machine.
Learn more about the production and purchase tickets at www.bremertoncommunitytheatre.org. The show runs at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. Sundays through May 2. Tickets are $15, or $10 for children under age 12 and $12 for seniors, students and military. Find the theater at 599 Lebo Boulevard, or call (360) 373-5152.