‘Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome’ to the musical ‘Cabaret’

Taylor Allan

On Oct. 25 at 7 p.m., the 1972 musical classic, “Cabaret,” opened in Redwood’s Little Theater with a cast across all four grade levels. Drama students worked on the production for two and a half months to present the piece focused on Nazi Germany’s jazz age. During this historical era, cabarets were a form of live entertainment that consisted of music,  comedy and dance, which are reflected in the play. 

Senior Riki Fontes plays Fraulein  Schneider, an older German woman who runs a boarding house in the show. For Fontes, the glamour made her gravitate to this production. 

Rehearsing the show before opening night, “Cabaret” cast members Alexander Berkowitz and Sam Hjelmstad practice their scenes. (Taylor Allan)

“‘Cabaret,’ [the musical], is so eye catching: lights, action, dance, Kit Kats,  singing! I was really intrigued by that,”  Fontes said. 

Set in the early 1900s in Berlin, the  musical is inspired by John Van Druten’s  1951 play, “I Am a Camera,” which was  adapted from the 1939 novel “Goodbye to Berlin.” The characters’ relationships center around the “Kit Kat Club,’’ a  frivolous Berlin night club, representing the outside influences of global, political, social and economic conflicts. The plot revolves primarily around an American writer, Clifford (Cliff) Bradshaw, and his connection to an English cabaret performer,  Sally Bowles. It also features Herr Schultz,  the boyfriend of Fraulein Schneider, as the older couple comes to terms with new  German nationalism in different ways. 

Freshman Ty Hauser, who is a part of the Kit Kat Club and plays Victor, a  cabaret boy dancer, detailed the process of developing the show. 

“The people playing the characters have such unique personalities and everyone is really invested in playing their characters to the fullest,” Hauser said. 

Taking inspiration from historical trends, actors do their hair and makeup
backstage to bring 1930s Berlin alive in the production. (Taylor Allan )

All of this hard work and production collaboration, including lighting, props,  sets, singing, dancing, acting and costumes,  are displayed throughout the shows that run from Oct. 25 through 29 at 7 p.m., with a matinee at 2 p.m. on Oct. 29. 

Although set in the first half of the 1900s, director and drama teacher Elena  Wright believes that “Cabaret” is current and relatable. 

“[‘Cabaret’ is] such a relevant musical for today. It is super fun for kids and it is a place where they get to do material that is more adult,” Wright said. “Each of the character tracks has its own lesson. There  are Sally and Cliff, the young lovers [who  go] through their own journey, and what  unravels them is very different than what  unravels the older couple [in the show].” 

Considering the mature themes within the musical, the actors researched historical context with a tactic called  DramaTurgy — which is often used in professional productions — enabling the actors to further understand the escapism and extreme nationalism so deeply embedded in the “Cabaret” characters’  lives. This research culminated in a series of presentations that the actors presented to their castmates. 

Senior Gracie O’Connell, playing Emcee, explained the importance of paying close attention to the show so as to not misunderstand any element. 

Both starring as Sally Bowles, Phoebe Putney and Calla Hollingsworth sing out the lyrics, “life is a cabaret.” (Taylor Allan)

“Something Redwood does really well is breaking boundaries of not only what people think high school theater should be,  but also how people perceive what can be done in theater,” O’Connell said. “A high  school production of ‘Cabaret’ is, in itself,  breaking a boundary, in the sense that [on  the] surface, it is a sexualized show, but  there are a lot of difficult messages [within  it too].” 

Junior Calla Hollingsworth, playing  Sally, has found her character to be not only fascinating, but engaging as well. 

“There are so many layers to Sally,” Hollingsworth said. “She keeps me on  my toes because she is such a complex and insane character [so] there is a lot to explore [in her story]”

Hollingsworth expects the audience to enjoy the show for its unique production and thrill. 

“The adrenaline rush you get on opening night is incomparable to anything else,” Hollingsworth said. “It is a really good show, it is exciting and we have a lot of fun on stage. People will be able to see that energy throughout.”