When I write the word cabaret what comes to mind? Sultry, provocative, sexy, Nazis? Woah, what do the Nazis have to do with the cabaret? I’m not sure what their connection is to the wider cabaret tradition. However, they are certainly a main theme running through the musical “CABARET”.
Last Saturday, we went to ASU Gammage Theater’s season opening show, CABARET. Before the performance the only things I knew about the musical were: 1) Liza Minnelli was in the movie, and 2) it looked like Chicago (the musical). Other than those two things my mind was a blank slate.
The stage was in plain sight as we took our seats. About 5 minutes before showtime some performers began walking out on stage and stretching. They even scolded audience members who were taking pictures. At no point did a curtain come down so we always saw what was going on.
The band geek in me eagerly looked to the pit for the music but there was none to be found. And that’s because the orchestra sat on the second tier of the stage and they were all dressed as CABARET members. During select songs soloists would come to the front of the stage to perform. You heard it here first, they’re the sexiest orchestra on tour!
But for all the glitz, glamour, and provocation I was not expecting the Nazis to play so prominently. The musical begins with a dazzling and fun opening number and ends in sudden silence with the Nazis rise to power and the image of a German Jew’s murder. To be fair, the musical is set in 1929-30 Berlin, Germany. Walking out of the theater I had the ending image seared in my mind. And even though the musical is set in a time and country apart from mine there is no doubt it is applicable to modern day.
Here in the USA, people are pushing away from each other and shutting themselves off from different points of view. A mere 600 years ago the idea of a basic education and owning a book were laughable for the common man (and laughably absurd for the common woman). Right now, there is more information at our collective fingertips than ever before. CABARET has me asking myself, “when did we become so lazy as a society?” Why are people proud to be uninformed?
With the American presidential election mere weeks away, CABARET couldn’t be touring at a more appropriate time. Throughout the musical, the old German character (who is also Jewish) repeats his mantra that “the Nazi politics will pass” and die off. Scarily enough, he was wrong.
Thanks, CABARET, for reminding me to be wary of the hive mind.