The UT Department of Theatre and Film will transform its Center for Performing Arts Center Theatre into the Kit Kat Klub, the tawdry hot spot from the 1930s that is the setting for the musical “Cabaret,” to make audience members feel as though they are there.
The story of “Cabaret” centers on the employees and patrons of the Kit Kat Klub, a nightclub in Berlin. The characters are searching for fame, love and sexual freedom, as the lurking shadow of Nazi Germany begins its ascent.
Directed by Theatre Lecturer Irene Alby and choreographed by Michael Lang, a resident choreographer/artistic director for the Toledo Ballet, the University production presents the popular 1998 Broadway version of the musical, which was based on the book by Joe Masteroff, the play by John Van Druten, and stories by Christopher Isherwood, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.
UT’s “Cabaret” will be accompanied by a live chamber orchestra and feature favorite musical numbers, including “It Couldn’t Please Me More,” “Willkommen,” “Don’t Tell Mama” and “Two Ladies.”
The UT production will involve audience members before, during and sometimes after the show. The Department of Theatre and Film is collaborating with the Department of Art to create an art installation just outside the Center Theatre. Alby is working with Barbara Miner, associate professor of art, and her students to create an immersive experience in which audience members get a sense of what it was like to live in the era that gave rise to the Nazis.
“In subtle ways, people can be co-opted into behavior that they might otherwise be surprised by,” Miner said. “Our part of this project is designed to highlight just how insidiously unacceptable behaviors can work their way into our society.”
The immersive experience continues in the theatre through digital cinema. Holly Hey, UT associate professor of theatre and film, and her students are creating moving image content that will become part of the performance.
“What interests me about ‘Cabaret’ is that it shows how complacency and denial can lead to intolerance, dictatorship and, ultimately, even human disasters as horrible as genocide,” Alby said. “Complacency exists in the U.S. today. Consider public response — or lack of response — to the action of the National Security Agency, the surveillance of online companies, face recognition software, the shrinking of the middle class, infighting among political parties and, from the creation of extremist, fringe parties.
“In ‘Cabaret,’ the characters all respond to the Nazi experience in different ways. Some drink and have fun and escape the truth; others realize what is going on, but feel powerless to stop it. The character Cliff eventually wakes up. This is what we hope the audience will experience – a kind of awakening to the truth,” Alby said.
The middle of the Center Theatre will have tables that are part of the set and are available to members of the audience, making them “extras” during the performance. Food and beverages will be available for purchase for patrons to take into the theatre.
After the opening night performance Friday, April 4, the director, cast and show designers will come onstage to meet with the audience and field questions.
“It’s a fun and engaging opportunity for the audience to connect with the people who made the show and find out the reasoning behind certain aspects of the performance,” said Dr. Edmund Lingan, associate professor and chair of the UT Department of Theatre and Film. “It’s also a great way for the audience to share how well those ideas reached them.”
Come to “Cabaret” Friday through Sunday, April 4-6 and 11-13, and Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19. Curtain time is 7:30 p.m., with Sunday matinees at 4 p.m.
Tickets — $15 for table seats in the Kit Kat Klub, $12 for theatre floor seats, and $10 for balcony seats —can be purchased online at utoledo.edu/boxoffice, by calling 419.530.2375, or by visiting the Center for Performing Arts Box Office. Group discounts available.