There’s only one classroom on campus where students are trained to be seductive showgirls and flamboyant fellows: the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre. But the Ring’s production of Cabaret has a lot more depth to it than the cleavage of a bustier.
“This is a very important story and it honors people who died in the Holocaust,” says Vince Cardinal, the show’s director and producer. “I want to make sure that we’re telling the story with honor and that people are getting the whole story and not just some snappy musical numbers.”
Set in 1930s Germany, Cabaret revolves around the Kit Kat Klub, where the decadent nature of the period is juxtaposed with the looming economic and political crisis. It also foreshadows the subsequent persecution of Jews, homosexuals and other “impure” groups.
Just hours before the show opened Wednesday night, Cardinal, chair of the Theatre Arts Department, is sitting in his office, reminiscing on the genesis of the production.
Originally, the theatre department planned to produce Annie Get Your Gun, a musical representing the Americana ideal, to coincide with the presidential election. But it soon became clear that the show’s music and dance style wouldn’t provide the challenge that theatre students needed.
“We do shows because we’re educating students,” Cardinal said. “We always pick according to that mission as opposed to what our audience would like or what would sell students. The question is always, ‘What’s going to be best for these students at this point in their education?'”
Choreography and musical challenges aside, Cardinal says he became even more convinced that Cabaret was the ideal show to produce this election year once he noticed parallels between the political climate of Germany in the 1930s and recent developments in the United States, particularly the uncertainty surrounding the economy.
“Look at the situation in Berlin in 1930. There was ethnic strife, the economy was going down the tubes, the people had lost faith in government and there were a number of different factions,” he said. “And then people were trying to making a living while all of this is going on around them. It’s certainly timely.”
Becca Kote, who plays leading lady Sally Bowles, says her job is “finding the tragedy in what was happening historically and the joy of trying to make people happy in a time of terror.” Anyone who has seen Liza Minelli’s famed performance in the 1972 film adaptation knows that playing Bowles is a physically demanding job.
“This is the most singing I’ve done in a show before,” Kote says. “I’ve had to take care of myself really well. I’ve been kind of a nun lately. I have to go home after rehearsal and just not talk and do my work. It takes a lot of discipline to do a show like this.”
Molly Robinson, a junior, plays the role of Fraulein Schneider. Every night in rehearsals, Robinson has had to put herself in the mindset of an elderly woman who worries about the repercussions of marrying the love of her life, a Jewish man.
“When we do the finale, a lot of people come off stage with tears and a little worked up,” she says. “You have to learn where it ends and you have to train yourself to let it go or else you’ll really mess yourself up. You have to know, as an actor, that that was on stage. There’s gotta be a difference between your home life and your stage life.”
Cabaret closes on Saturday, Oct. 11. Tickets can be purchased at the Ring Theatre Box Office from 12 to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information call 305-284-3355 or visit www.as.miami.edu/theatrearts/ring/.
Weeknights & matinees:
Regular admission: $18
Seniors, UM faculty/staff/alumni: $16
Friday & Saturday nights:
Regular admission: $22
Seniors, UM faculty/staff/alumni: $18