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‘Cabaret’-‘Come Hear the Music Play’
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Director Brett Moellenberg says that many of “Cabaret’s” songs written by John Kander and Fred Ebb take place outside of the story, as if to comment on the piece itself.
   
Thursday, January 19, 2023
 

STORY BY KAREN BOSSICK

PHOTOS BY NATALIE BATTISTONE

In 1966 “Cabaret” took the stage, titillating audiences with its story of the hedonistic nightlife at the seedy Kit Kat Klub in Berlin and a love affair between an American writer and English cabaret performer.

The Spot black box theater will turn into the Kit Kat Klub next week as The Spot performs the musical. The Spot will present “Cabaret” Thursday, Jan. 26, through Sunday, Feb. 5, at The Spot, 220 Lewis St. in Ketchum.

 
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The cast of “Cabaret”—without makeup.
 

When “Cabaret” opened, audience members walked out, due to the musical’s perceived immoral content, which prompted Julie Andrews to decline the role of Sally Bowles. But audience members returned to their seats as reviewers heaped praise on the musical, and the Broadway production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards as the song “Cabaret” became one of the most recognizable of all showtunes.

“The musical has endured so long in large part because of its sex appeal,” said Director Brett Moellenberg. “It sells well. But I also think the songs are memorable, the characters are iconic and it is set during such a fascinating moment in time.”

Indeed, “Cabaret” is set in a seedy Berlin nightclub as the Roaring Twenties is giving way to the rise of the Third Reich. A leering, ghoulish Master of Ceremonies played by Grant Carey welcomes the audience, assuring them they will forget all their troubles. And the dark, heady, tumultuous life of Berlin’s natives and expatriates becomes even more complicated as they’re forced to make tough choices about their future given the rise of Nazism.

Cliff, a young American writer played by Alexander Molina, is taken with British flapper girl Sally Bowles who is played by Kristin Wetherington. Meanwhile, Fraulein Schneider, the proprietor of a boarding house played by Patsy Wygle, begins a romance with Andrew Alburger’s Herr Schultz, a fruit seller who soon finds his Jewish heritage interfering with love.

 
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Cast and crew sit down for one of their initial meetings.
 

David Janeski portrays Max, the proprietor of the Kit Kat Klub and Ernst Ludwig, a German smuggler who is revealed to be a Nazi. Aly Wepplo portrays Fraulein Kost. And the cabaret girls are played by Savini Barini, Megan Mahoney, Rachel Aanestad and Annabel Webster.

The show is being directed by Brett Moellenberg with music directed by R.L. Rowsey and choreography by Julia Bray.

“Cabaret” has a special place in R.L. Rowsey’s heart. He had the opportunity to work with John Kander, who composed the music for “Cabaret,” while directing a tour of the Kander and Ebb musical “Kiss of the Spider Woman” during the late 1990s. 

Kandar was rumored to be the nicest man in musical theater, Rowsey said. And Rowsey said he could wholeheartedly confirm Kandar’s generous and gracious nature.

“He was so supportive of my work on his show, so articulate about the thoughts behind his writing, about the specifics of his musical expressions and so helpful in his suggestions about how to tell this story over a long run,” Rowsey recounted. “I can just imagine that he would say of ‘Cabaret:’ ‘Be honest in telling the story.  Bring your whole selves into creating your version of the story. And enjoy the experience.’ ”

The music in Cabaret falls into several categories, which often brilliantly overlap, Rowsey said: Songs performed at the club, comments on the broad social/political climate of the era; and songs which move the story of the individual characters forward in good old musical theatre fashion. 

“Performance songs require a polish and presentational craft,” Rowsey said. “Songs which comment on the times have a drive and a very specific color about them.  The character songs seem to fold beautifully from dialogue into song. The opportunity to discover how they blend together is amazing. Kander and Ebb wrote songs which delight, entertain, charm, and at times challenge.”

Choreographer Julia Bray, who hails from Portland, Ore., said she drew inspiration from  contemporary underground Berlin club scenes. They’re a space where freedom of personal and expression and exploration of sexual identity and desire are celebrated, she said.

“What’s remarkable to me is that, after all it’s been through, Berlin has maintained a robust, creative, and raw night life—a place you go to find yourself and lose yourself,” she said. “The nightclub we’re creating in the musical ‘Cabaret’ offers the audience a taste of this liberation, while the narrative around the rise of Nazism and Facism reminds us of the dangers that still exist today in simply being authentically yourself.”  

Moellenberg hesitates to compare modern politics to the Third Reich of “Cabaret.”

“That said, I think struggle, pain and feeling left out of the conversation can lead to the rise of extremism, and in our country we see that on both sides of the spectrum,” he said. “In this piece, characters are trying to live their lives and express themselves honestly, while ignoring the political upheaval of the time. I do that. We all do that.”

IF YOU GO:

The musical starts at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26-28 with a 6 p.m. show at Sunday, Jan. 29.  It returns the following week with performances at 7 p.m. Feb. 1 and 2, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 3 and 4 and at 4 and 8 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 5.

The musical runs for 2.5 hours with intermission. It’s recommended for audiences 14 and older due to mature themes.

Tickets include two seats at a two-top table next to the stage for $120; and premium and standard tickets for $30 and $40. Tickets for those 30 and under are $20, available at https://www.spotsunvalley.com.

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