“This story resonates now more than ever. That’s why I wanted to direct it.”
John D. Poling is at the helm at “Cabaret,” opening Nov. 8 at Community Players Theatre. Set in Berlin during the desperate and decadent years following World War I, the musical follows a struggling writer looking for inspiration at a seedy nightclub, moving amidst the hedonism, apathy and totalitarianism of the early rise of the Nazi party.
“You cannot, as an audience member, sit out there smugly in those seats and say, ‘Oh, isn’t that an interesting, entertaining cautionary tale,'" said Poling. “Because the scapegoating of ‘the other’ is happening now more than ever.”
“While certainly we have nothing on the scale of the Holocaust, we certainly have groups that are being persecuted because of who they are and merely because they are ‘the other.’ If you ask yourself how far can something like that actually go, come to 'Cabaret' and see how far it can go.”
The award-winning Kander and Ebb musical has gone from stage to screen and back again. Much of the action takes place in the Kit Kat Klub, where grit rather than glamour rules.
“The set is very simplistic,” explained Poling. “There’s nothing particularly flashy about it, which is really true to how it would be in Berlin, Germany, because cabarets were unreputable. And you will see that with the performances and the costumes.”
“The only time I think that a respectable, mainstream Berliner would come to the cabaret would be when they are slumming, to see the other half, the bawdiness. That’s the impression that we want to give with this production. Maybe it’s in a basement somewhere.”
“It’s not glitzy by any stretch of the imagination.”
Center stage at The Kit Kat Klub is the Emcee. Poling decided to go with untraditional casting for this role.
“We have cast a female as Emcee. She is the host in the cabaret, but she’s also a kind of merry prankster who is there to kind of provoke people.”
“And she shows up in other scenarios within the show. She kind of transcends the world that we’re living in and is on this other plane of existence, as well. She’s there to not only provoke the rise of the Nazis, but she’s there to provoke us, as well, as audience members and maybe our own complacency about things.”
There’s no glitz in “Cabaret”, but the show offers a message that Poling hopes the audience takes home.
“I hope they are moved, and I think they will be. It’s a powerful production.”
Due to the subject matter, scanty costumes and rough language the production is essentially rated R. The shows runs Nov. 8-24 at Community Players.
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