Cabaret’ staged to shock audiences
Meghan Thomassen | Tuesday, November 12, 2013
It’s opening night for “Cabaret” at Notre Dame.
Winner of the 1967 Tony Award for Best Musical, “Cabaret” will be the first full-fledged musical produced by the Department of Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) in 20 years. This will also be the first musical with a professional director, Nathan Halvorson.
The characters of “Cabaret” will sing and dance, but the content of this musical set in a 1930s Berlin nightclub is anything but light. Described as a dark and seedy show, “Cabaret” is bound to stun, if not shock, the student body.
Halvorson said that musicals are typically viewed as “happy, shiny things” that ring a little false compared to the harsh reality of the world.
“It’s a dramatic comedy that uses music and dance to enhance its story. I approach it as if we are approached Chekhov or Ipsen,” he said. “It’s really challenging material. Some of the things that the play explores can be threatening to people, but I think the play and we have striven to do it with class and respect.”
The two touchstone lines in the play for Halvorson are: “Why can’t the world live and let live?” and “It was the end of the world, and we were fast asleep.”
“To me the play is about waking up and living a conscious life,” he said. “It’s about an eyes wide open life, taking in as much as you can of what’s happening around you and how do you handle it? How do you deal with it?”
Halvorson said a lot of the students haven’t previously had a chance to do a musical at such a professional level.
“I think I scared them a little bit,” he said. “I treated them like emerging professionals, treating them how we treat people in regional theaters and tours. I was trying to take the stuff that they’re good at and expand their minds and push them.”The students are working really, really hard, and their hard work is paying off. … It’s crazy to me how focused and committed everyone is.”
Senior Marisa Vos plays Lulu, a lesbian cabaret dancer who falls in love with Rosie, another dancer at the nightclub.
“Working with Nathan has been fabulous,” Vos said. “He has so much to give, and he’s been a really great mentor in the whole process. I’ve done a lot of student theater, this is the first professional director I’ve worked with since coming to college.”
Vos said actors have to lose their personal biases when they climb onto the stage.
“In this case I have to lose my heterosexuality bias,” she said. “It was a matter of looking at my lover in the show as a human being rather than a gender.”
Vos said that because an outside director led the show, the musical was bound to be a little less “censored.”
“It’s supposed to be a little more risquÃ©, because that’s what makes it work,” she said. “The whole show is about finding truth and there are the Nazis and there are the people who work at the nightclub. … A censored version of ‘Cabaret’ wouldn’t do it justice.”
“There are some moments that might moderately scandalize some of the student body,” Vos said. “At the same time, I feel like the student body is more progressive than the administration is. We’re not pushing an envelope farther than it should be pushed.”
Senior Brian Scully, who plays Herr Schultz, the fruit shop owner, said the show is about disillusionment.
“All the principal characters really want the world to be perfect,” Scully said. “They want to be able to fall in love with each other and live great lives. But circumstances won’t allow it. Are you willing to wake up to what’s going on around you? Or do you want to stay in a fantasy and make life easier rather than real.”
Scully set the cast has rehearsed for over two months for this production. The muscle behind the coordination for all the rehearsals and collaboration with the department and DPAC, however, is senior stage manager Melissa Flynn.
Flynn said on day one of rehearsals, Halvorson threw his arm around her shoulder and said, “We are going to be best friends.”
Flynn said since this is her first time stage-managing a show with FTT, she greatly appreciates the resources provided by the department. She said she signed on last November, but they didn’t decided on the director or the title until last spring.
Performing a full musical is a large undertaking, and a huge time commitment for Flynn because the cast has 18 members, requiring a lot more coordination between the directors, orchestra and all the acting, singing and dancing rehearsals.
Flynn said for the actors, Halvorson emphasized making strong decisions while on stage.
“I think the cast has really come together, they’re really diving in and owning their decisions,” she said.
The show will run through Sunday night at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Student tickets are $10 and regular tickets are $20.
Contact Meghan Thomassen at firstname.lastname@example.org