By Cailey Barnhart
Youngstown State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance has been working tirelessly throughout the semester to prepare for two weekend performances of the 1966 musical “Cabaret.”
The show takes the audience back to 1931 Berlin, just as the Nazis are coming to power. It follows American writer Cliff Bradshaw and his budding relationship with Sally Bowles, a cabaret dancer at the Kit Kat Klub.
Director Matthew “Maz” Mazuroski prepared the students to take on the dark historical undertones of the show.
“Most of them have probably heard about the Holocaust and what happened in the ‘30s and ‘40s, but not many of them know about some of the events that led up to the Nazis rising to power,” Mazuroski said.
He said they discussed post-World War I, the reparations the Germans had to pay, monarchies falling away and other factors that were coming into the political mix.
“There was a lot of unrest in Germany, and there’s lines in the play that touch on it,” he said.
Rosie Bresson, senior musical theatre major, is playing the Emcee, a role typically played by a male.
“The Emcee is at the helm of the show and is responsible for creating this kind of indulgent, really decadent world to kind of mask the rise of the Nazi regime,” Bresson said.
While discussing being cast in a role primarily played by male actors, Bresson said she’s enjoyed putting an androgynous spin on the character.
“I think it adds to the ambiguity of the show of how things are going to turn out by having the Emcee kind of floating all over the spectrum of gender and not just being a man,” she said.
With five to six rehearsals per week, the actors are challenged with discovering their own ways to get into character and prepare to play their part.
While Bresson makes character-themed Spotify playlists to get into performance mode, senior general studies major Nate Montgomery approaches his with vigorous character analysis.
Montgomery’s character, Cliff Bradshaw, is based on the real-life story of Christopher Isherwood, who wrote about his travels to Berlin leading up to World War II.
“For me, it was just learning who [Cliff] was and how he would respond to things, how he acts and his demeanor. As a whole, I would say I did a pretty good job, but our director, Matthew Mazuroski, has pushed me even more in the direction that I feel is appropriate for the character,” Montgomery said.
Maria Fenty Denison, the music vocal director for the show, is responsible for preparing the students for the musical score of the play.
Dension drew a contrast between last spring’s performance of “Into The Woods,” which has singing “almost like an opera,” to the darker, emotional feeling of “Cabaret.”
Because the show is set in Berlin, it features varying levels of German accents, English accents and emphasized American accents. The actors had to receive dialect coaching to be able to sing and speak in convincing accents.
“Some of [the actors] have German lines and some have to have different levels of sounding like they can speak German. There’s a language of phonemes, which are the symbols of sounds,” Denison said.
“As educated actors and singers, you’re introduced to the International Phonetic Alphabet. You can string the symbols together and learn how to pronounce something without knowing what it means,” she added.
The cast and crew note that due to mature themes and language, the performance may not be suitable for a younger audience.
Showtimes for “Cabaret” are Nov. 15, 16, 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available by calling the theater box office at 330-941-3105.