'Cabaret' offers musical take on events before World War II

vocal practiceIn addition to being a Broadway hit and longtime musical staple, “Cabaret”—SUNY Oswego’s spring production—offers a look at a tense, telling time in pre-World War II Europe.

The play “works on multiple levels,” said Todd Graber, musical director for the Oswego adaptation opening April 25. “It works as simple entertainment reflecting the entertainment styles and social mores of Berlin in the 1920s. It works as a character study about four different people and how they individually choose to deal with adversity and each other. Most importantly, it asks questions.”

Those questions involve the Nazi party’s rise to power in Germany, and how many people stood by as events rolled toward the war, misery and the Holocaust, Graber noted.

“Many people think of Adolph Hitler as an evil, manipulative ruler who single-handedly killed over six million Jewish people,” Graber said. “While it might give us comfort to reduce the man to this essence of ‘pure evil’ or to think of him as a ‘monster’—the truly scary part is that he was just a man. It’s scary because it then occurs to us that he didn’t commit all of these atrocities in a vacuum.”

The choices people made in the face of growing fascism—against the backdrop of the Depression, propaganda, ignorance, apathy and fear—is seen through characters in “Cabaret,” which was written in the 1960s to draw parallels to that own time’s events, Graber explained.

Playwright Joe Masteroff “hoped to draw attention to the Civil Rights movement—reminding his fellow citizens that the environment that spawned Nazi Germany wasn’t a single fluke,” said Graber, acting chair of SUNY Oswego’s music department. “Past generations in our own country had committed atrocities against a group of fellow human beings—treating them as slaves, breeding stock and possessions.”

But despite tackling such heavy themes, “Cabaret” has remained popular because of its outstanding score by John Kander and Fred Ebb plus its gripping storyline, Graber said. It became a smash hit on Broadway in 1966 and had two successful revivals in 1987 and 1998. It also became an Academy Award-winning 1972 movie directed by Bob Fosse and starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York and Joel Grey.

Directed by Jonel Langenfeld-Rial of SUNY Oswego’s theatre department, this “Cabaret” production will have a preview performance at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 24, with all seats priced at $6.
Additional 8 p.m. curtains are slated April 25 and 26 and May 3, with a 2 p.m. matinee scheduled for Sunday, May 4. 

Tickets for the regular run cost $14 for adults ($12 for seniors and students, $7 for SUNY Oswego students). 

“Cabaret” includes adult themes and dialogue and is suggested for audience members 15 years of age or older. 

For reservations or more information, contact the Tyler box office at 312-2141 or tickets@oswego.edu.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Tuning up—The cast and crew of the upcoming SUNY Oswego spring musical “Cabaret” rehearse for the show, which will open April 25. From left are freshman theatre major and physics minor Samuel Austin, who plays Cliff; junior theatre and communication studies major Sara Weiler, who portrays Sally; and musical director Todd Graber of Oswego’s music faculty.

CONTACT: Kelly Cullinan, 312-3097

(Posted: Apr 16, 2008)