Set primarily in a nightclub in Germany during World War II, “Cabaret” combines the darkness of a Nazi-led society with burlesque-style dance to create a dismal, yet intriguing, musical experience.
As a part of the Festival of Fine Arts, the Florida Southern Theatre Department will show “Cabaret” in Buckner Theatre on February 13 and will run for two weekends.
While the show may not seem an obvious choice for a college theatre program, director and choreographer Scott Cook believes that the show is necessary and important in this day and age.
“Since the inception of “Cabaret,” the show continues to make a mysterious appearance on theatre producers’ and directors’ radars at precisely the right time in our political and national environments,” Cook said.“The show commands we listen, react and hopefully become more responsible with our lives long after the curtain comes down.”
Cook admits that there are pros and cons to serving as both director and choreographer, especially because of the amount of work involved in both jobs.
“‘Cabaret’ relies on so many layers of story-telling textures, so shaping choreography into actual life scenes gives me a sense of unity for my overall vision,” Cook said.
Dance is one of the most evident elements of the show, and the style used in the original show has become its own iconic style. Cook treats them as “extensions of story scenes, conscious and unconscious thoughts and satirical comment on the life scene played right before it.”
Unlike a typical musical, the songs and dances of “Cabaret” do not exist merely for entertainment value. These musical numbers work to convey the characterization and emotions of the characters in the show.
“The Kit Kat Club performers are not slick, professional dancers hired to create a dazzling, musical review,” Cook said. “They are desperate animals, trapped in a club that, if they don’t escape, will lead to their death.”
The Kit Kat Klub is overseen by the Master of Ceremonies, or the Emcee, played in this production by sophomore musical theatre major Liam Fisher. As this character narrates and dictates large parts of the show, Fisher is heavily involved in the Kit Kat Club dance numbers.
“A big part of the dancing for me is finding how it fits with the story and how it makes myself and other people feel,” Fisher said.
Originally played by Joel Grey, who won a Tony Award for the role, the Emcee is an omniscient and mysterious character. Overseeing the Kit Kat Klub, he contributes to many of the more shocking parts of the show. However, Fisher believes that the shock value is “exactly what theatre tries to be.”
“It is disturbing, frightening and meant to make people uncomfortable,” Fisher said. “On the other hand, it’s spectacular, stunning and amazing. It makes people feel and think. It’s not just a show that people come to enjoy. It’s meant to make people think.”
Junior Anna Weaver serves as co-dance captain for the show. Weaver was dance captain for “The Sound of Music” last semester, but she says that this show is very different. As a dance captain, Weaver has to work closely with the other dancers to get into the style. Since this show places such an emphasis in dance, Weaver called the dance call “so necessary.”
“There’s a lot of weird, complex dance going on…complex in the sense that not everything is your typical dance steps,” Weaver said. “He [the director] needed dancers who were not just technically talented…they had to be willing to dedicate themselves to the show. None of them are technically good dancers…that changes how we view the dance.”
While she admits the darkness of the show makes it difficult, Weaver is excited going forward in the process of the show.
“I’m so emotionally invested already because there are so many layers…there are so many things I’m going to discover in the rehearsal process, and I’m excited for it.” Weaver said.
Weaver says that the darkness and risqué nature of the show is necessary and applicable today. “It’s about people in this horrible time reverting back to their past desires because they have nothing else…They’re just trying to live out their last few months as best they can,” Weaver said. “It represents the dark side within everyone personally, and of society.”
Tickets are available at the Buckner Box Office or online, and they are free for Florida Southern students. There will be mature material, so audience discretion is advised.