The Clarence High School Drama Club will present "Cabaret" next Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The musical tells the story of American writer Cliff Bradshaw and cabaret performer Sally Bowles in 1930s Berlin, during the Nazis rise to power.
Centered at the Kit Kat Klub, where "life is beautiful," the show blends fun-loving musical numbers with the political history of Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic.
With music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, "Cabaret" became a hit after its original Broadway run in 1966. Numerous revivals of the show have since been performed worldwide.
" ‘Cabaret’ is a very political show, and it’s actually one of the ground-breaking musicals that dealt with controversy on Broadway," says Lou Vitello, director of the production. " ‘Cabaret’ took an entire concept and made the audience uncomfortable from beginning to end, which was the point of Kander and Ebb."
The show’s drastic contrast between a lighthearted Act I and an "almost oppressive" Act II emanates a strong message that, according to Vitello, is a strength of Clarence’s production.
"The point of this production is to take what might actually be relevant now politically and open up peoples’ eyes to what happened and why it happened," Vitello says.
The progression of the show is notably portrayed by the Kit Kat Klub’s master of ceremonies, who is played by senior Raffi Wright.
"Life is beautiful in Berlin, emcee is beautiful. Life is dying in Berlin, emcee is dying," says Wright. "The character shows tremendous dynamics throughout his time on stage in remarking flippant responses to challenging times, until he and the audience realize it’s too late for serious action."
The show’s contrast is also accentuated by the characters of Cliff and Sally, who are played by senior Justin McMullen and junior Sophia Sorrentino.
"He [Cliff] is one of the first people who becomes aware that there’s a problem," says McMullen. "He tries to force change, so it’s a little difficult to watch, because you see him do all of these things that are not true to him."
"Throughout the show, she [Sally] is faced with the realities of her life that she has been persistent to not worry about, and brushes them aside to maintain her cheerful lifestyle," says Sorrentino. "By the end of the show, she is confronted by a reality that is too much for her to handle, and in choosing to avoid it yet again, loses the love of her life, in a really emotional ending to the show."
Aside from the historical component of the show, which is a challenge for the actors, "Cabaret" delivers a strong vocal and choreographic component, which has also presented a challenge.
The script, music, choreography and costuming have been notably modified to make the show appropriate for a high school company and its intended audiences. Behind the scenes, dozens of students have worked around the clock for several months to enhance the show, dealing with hair and makeup, tech and assisting the directors. Some of these students built the show’s set, under the direction of Steve Merlihan.
"The set is a little more industrial," says Merlihan. "It has to be flexible, because we have to change settings so frequently. It’s also not a very cheery, whimsical set; it’s more straightforward."
A major component of the set is a large elevated platform, designed to let the pit orchestra play on stage. This is a unique aspect of the production, and allows the musicians to become an integrated part of the Kit Kat Klub.
All of the actors, crew members and directors have been working diligently for several months to make this show the best it can be, and hope that all of their hard work will pay off to deliver three exceptional performances.
"Every character in ‘Cabaret’ has or makes a choice, and we have the exact same choices today," says McMullen.
" ‘Cabaret’ teaches us that what we can’t do is hide out in the Kit Kat Klub and wait for it all to blow over, because once the fight comes to our doorstep, it’s too late. That’s what I think is so important about this show and that’s what I’m trying to convey."
" ‘Cabaret’ moves Clarence in a completely different direction for theatre," says Wright. "Every year is completely different and brings new magic to the stage. I want people to understand how important it is to be engaged and aware in a community to understand what exactly is happening. I want the audience to leave sad, but eager to love each other more, through anything we may face."
"Cabaret" will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on March 15, 16, and 17 at Clarence High School, 9625 Main St. Due to the historical and political content of the production, it is recommended for high school ages and older.
To purchase tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (716) 407-9050. More information can be found on the Clarence Schools website, www.clarenceschools.org.
Alex Renzoni is a sophomore at Clarence High School.