Theater or nightclub? "Cabaret" hits the Loeb Ex

by Kristina Latino

"What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a cabaret, old chum. Come to the cabaret."

These lyrics beckon characters and audience members alike to the Kit Kat Klub, a fictional nightclub in Berlin just before World War II, the historical event that serves as the backdrop for the classic Broadway musical Cabaret. For the next two weekends, the Loeb Ex will be transformed into this raucous nightclub in 1930s Germany, a place of love and loss, and the site of the terrifying rise of the Third Reich to power.

A winner of numerous awards since its opening in 1966, this musical has had many revivals, including in 2010 at the American Repertory Theater's Club Oberon. The director of this fall’s student production, Katherine Price ’14, saw the revival at Oberon two years ago and drew on that production when designing the current HRDC show.

"Many productions of Cabaret end up focusing solely on this dark view," Price says. "I feel like the show is more powerful when we enter the world of Berlin feeling safe, secure and completely attracted to the world we’re viewing. Then, when we realize what’s really going on, we’re even more shocked – yet scared and unwilling to leave it."

The HRDC production contrasts the light, glamorous and sexy side of the Kit Kat Klub in Act One with the terror of Nazi Germany in Act Two. The seductive plot addresses a horrible moment in history but also sheds light on issues that are still relevant and controversial today: abortion, homosexuality and promiscuity. Despite more than five decades of interpretation, Cabaret has achieved incredible longevity and continues to connect to multiple generations.

The 2010 Oberon revival had the advantage of being performed in a club space – audience members sat at small tables and felt as though they were at a cabaret club while they watched. In the Ex -- a much smaller blackbox space -- audience members sit around a bandstand, which acts as the production’s stage.

"It makes the environment very immersive and interactive, which hopefully makes the audience feel even more connected with the story we’re trying to tell," Price says.

The run of Cabaret is sold out but email to have your name placed on a waiting list.

[Caption: The cast of "Cabaret" strikes a pose during the musical's opening number. ]