Provocative musical “really impressed”

Kit Kat Club performs “Don´t Tell Mama” in “Caberet” at Foellinger Auditorium on Friday evening. Austin Happel

By Kristen Rains

With exotic dancing, controversial sexuality and a dramatic aspect of history, this year’s annual Illini Union Board’s fall musical, “Cabaret,” was as one song’s lyrics suggest, a “perfectly marvelous time.”

On it’s opening night on Friday, Nov. 11, the crowd honored “Cabaret,” with a standing ovation.

Adam Cobb, the Illini Union Board’s area coordinator for musicals, was pleased with the performance.

“I think that the cast and staff’s hard work clearly paid off. The show went great and I think the audience genuinely enjoyed the show they came to see,” said Cobb, senior in Engineering.

“Cabaret” is set during the 1930s in Berlin, Germany just as Hitler and the Nazi Party were rising to power. Much of the musical takes place at the sexy and provocative Kit Kat Club where the Kit Kat Dancers parade in their scantily clad attire. At one point of the musical they danced through the aisles, giving a few of the audience members a slightly more personal show.

“It was fun to dance around like a stripper,” said Marie Clawson, Kit Kat Dancer and senior in LAS.

Although Clawson had a lot of fun playing the role of a provocative dancer, she also said that although the musical is fun and sexy, it also has a strong moral.

“The musical is about why love fails, and why people choose to be alone,” said director Jeff Dare, senior in FAA.

Dare has been involved with Illini Union Board’s musicals since his freshman year. He has been vocal director of “Hair,” and “Fiddler on the Roof,” as well as an actor in “West Side Story,” “Once Upon a Mattress” and “Guys and Dolls.” This year Dare had the honor of being director of “Cabaret,” which will also be his last show.

“I felt really accomplished with this show, it was an honor to work with the actors and actresses, as well as the production staff,” Dare said.

Dare said that he felt that certain aspects of the show really came together opening night. He was particularly impressed by the performances of freshmen in FAA Jake Szczepaniak, who played Herr Schultz, and Elise Tolish, who played Sally; both lead roles.

For Elise, playing the role of Sally was something she always wanted to accomplish.

“It was a dream to play Sally; my favorite role ever,” Tolish said.

Beck Diefenbach, senior in Aviation, played the role of Cliff-the only American in the musical. Cliff’s role is that of a writer in a country where he is unable to comprehend what is happening as the Nazis rise to power.

“Cliff has issues with control,” Diefenbach said. “In the second act he crumbles and falls when he realizes he has no control.”

With such a dramatic dynamic to the musical, the audience thoroughly welcomed the comic relief provided by the master of ceremonies, a role played by sophomore in LAS Jonathan Speagle. The audience expressed their delight with hysterical laughter and wild applause. Speagle is an experienced singer and actor who also had major roles in previous Illini Union Board musicals. However, Speagle felt that this was his most challenging role.

“It’s hard to incorporate being ambiguously gay and having a strong performance,” Speagle said.

The Master of Ceremonies narrated the musical with a French accent and mime attire. Speagle said that his character was complicated due to the fact that he knew everything that was going on in the musical, while having the purpose of diverting humor into an otherwise devastating part of history.

“The audience responded well to all of the messages forced upon them,” he said.

The musical incorporates two different love stories. Love flourishes between Cliff, the American, and Sally, the English Kit Kat Dancer, and ends dramatically as Cliff realizes the immediacy in which he must leave Germany.

The other love story is between the elderly characters Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit store owner, and Fraulein Schneider, played by Courtney Lewis, senior in LAS. The audience awed as the duet sang “Married,” sung at the point the elderly couple decided they weren’t too old to experience the joys of love and matrimony. In the second act, however, tears stung the back of audience members’ eyes as Fraulein Schneider ended the engagement as a result of the fear instilled in her by the Nazi Party.

The last the audience saw of their beloved Herr Schultz, was a scene between him, Cliff and Sally. Herr Schultz comes to say goodbye with a bag of fruit and a heavy heart. He said of the rise of the Nazis, “It will pass. Everything will be fine.” The audience is left to assume that Herr Schultz suffered the same fate as the millions of Jewish people during this time.

For audience member Minh-Bao Le, junior in LAS, the musical was different then she expected.

“It was sad, I never expect these things to be sad,” Lee said.

Speagle agreed that the musical acknowledges some tough issues.

“‘Cabaret’ forces people to think about things they wouldn’t normally think about,” Speagle said.

The musical did not offer audience members a happy ending, but nonetheless, the audience exploded into applause as the cast came out to take their bows.

“We received lots of great compliments,” Dare said, “People were really impressed.”

“As a collective,” Deifenbach said. “‘Cabaret’ was one of the best shows we’ve ever done.”