Moral, ethical and sexual boundaries were pushed this past week as the student-run organization TCNJ Musical Theatre (TMT) performed the renowned and scandalous musical “Cabaret.”
“Cabaret” was based off of a book written by Joe Masteroff and first appeared on stage in 1966.
The production has won a Tony Award for best musical, and the movie, starring Liza Minnelli, even won an Oscar.
The show takes place in an abandoned boarding house in Berlin, Germany, just as the Nazi party is coming into power in the 1930s.
The struggle and sadness during this terrible time in history was only a small fraction of the complicated emotions that encircled the characters of this musical.
Even though the setting was at the dawn of the Holocaust, many of the overarching troubles that the “Cabaret” characters faced are still relevant to today.
This musical revealed the harsh realities of discrimination against race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation and dealt with the social constructs of poverty, unemployment, prostitution, pregnancy and conflicting politics.
The play opened up with a bare-chested figure hanging from a noose. The scene then quickly dissolved into the memories of the figure, the Emcee, as he remembered the life he once knew.
“We are all ghosts retelling the story in an over-the-top-manner,” said senior communication studies major Monica Blumenstein, who played the lead female role, Sally Bowles. “This is a play that was written to push the limits of the actors and the way society thinks.”
In his memories, the Emcee introduced the audience to a cabaret called the Kit Kat Klub — a place where gender lines were blurred and only happiness and times of celebration remained.
“Leave your troubles outside. In here, life is beautiful,” the Emcee said to the audience.
The Emcee, also known as the master of ceremonies, was the flamboyant character of the cabaret Kit Kat Klub who narrated the play, as he stalked in and out of the holes in the walls of the set, peering into the lives of people he once knew.
This challenging character was played by theater veteran Adam Ziering, a junior special education and math/science/technology double major.
“All of the characters really had a lot of depth and layers,” Ziering said. “I am still figuring out the character (the Emcee).”
The character of the Emcee specifically helped to retell the complicated and shortly-lived love story between Sally Bowles, a former Kit Kat dancer, and Clifford Bradshaw, an aspiring American novelist.
Other prominent characters included a German landlady who fell in love with a Jewish man, a Nazi soldier who smuggled items from France into Germany and a resident who loved lonely sailors and often butted heads with the landlady.
Just as the Kit Kat Klub is often described as being a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, the set design skillfully mirrored that concept. Holes were carved out of the framework of the walls in the set, allowing the characters to interact both in a scene and on the outskirts of a scene.
The simple yet innovative set design added depth to the play and gave the actors more freedom in their creative process of moving about the stage.
The promiscuous characters raised a lot of eyebrows and brought about a lot of laughter in this production as well. The “Cabaret” cast — especially the Kit Kat dancers — was susceptible to everything from sweet kisses to grabby hands.
The audience especially enjoyed when the bald-headed Emcee walked onstage in a series of hilarious costumes that ranged from suspenders adorned with bow ties to a dress and high heels.
While the ending of this play has had many adaptations, the TMT cast did an excellent job bringing the memories of the troubled Emcee, who wore a yellow star, full circle by having him end the play as it began … a fallen chair and a rope.
Overall, the TMT cast and crew completely immersed the audience into the many unique and conflicting perspectives of “Cabaret,” creating a world of eccentricity, sexuality and a flashy dose of humanity.