Monday, August 02, 2004

Leben und Leben Lassen

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Cabaret is not an easy musical for the audience. The first act opens cheerily (though a bit tawdrily) with a cabaret act presided over by the Emcee of the Kit Kat Club in Berlin. It's New Year's Eve, 1929, and the city is a roaring party, perhaps a veneer over the deep depression looming over Germany following the crash of the American stock market the same year. Things, though difficult for the characters, are not desperate. As Frauline Schneider tells us, things aren't great, but, "So what?" They'll get better.

The first act develops the dual love stories of Clifford Bradshaw (our protagonist, an American writer) and Sally Bowles (a British singer working at the Kit Kat Club), and Fraulein Schneider (the proprietress of the boarding house) and Herr Schultz (the Jewish grocier, who lives in the boarding house). Things are going well between the two couples; Sally has become pregnant, and, rather than perform an abortion as she has in the past, she decides that, perhaps, "Cliff" will be the man for her. Meanwhile, the shy Herr Schultz proposes to Fraulein Schneider to counter claims of impropriety.

Unfortunately, this happily trending scene (interspersed with vivacious dancing by the members of the Kit Kat club) turns sharply for the worse in the final scene of the act, when Ernst, Cliff's first companion in Berlin, disrupts Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider's engagement party by singing (and gathering with him most of the guests at the party) the Nazi party song, Tomorrow Belongs to Me.

The second act proceeds downhill from there, with each couple breaking apart due to the increasing presence and influence of the Nazis. The show ends, finally, with the Kit Kat band sputtering to a clattering halt as Emcee removes his overcoat to reveal a prisoner's uniform, with a yellow star of David above an inverted pink triangle, above the underlit faces of the characters.

Cabaret gets its point across, no doubt about it. Although drenched in not-merely-mainstream sexuality, including drag, polysexuality, homosexuality and prostitution, there is still an undercurrent of sweet innocence, as portrayed by Schneider and Schultz' love affair. All of which is submerged in the rising tide of fascism.

Boulder's Dinner Theater, as always, did a wonderful job with the show. A.K. Klimpke, who I've seen a number of times, most notably as Applegate in Damn Yankees!, did a very convincing job as Ernst Ludwig, and I was impressed by Brian Mallgrave, who played Emcee.

If you get a chance to see the show, do so, but be prepared to leave depressed.
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