Upon attending Musket’s production of Caberet Saturday night, I had no idea what to expect. I knew the title song “Caberet” from an old recording I have on a Broadway Classics CD I bought at a used bookstore. I always thought it was cheerful and upbeat, and, logically, I presumed the musical itself would be just as light, fun, and energetic as the title song I knew it by.
Caberet tells the story of Berlin at a dangerously turbulent time in Germany, directly before Hitler comes into power. It is a heart-wrenching story with multiple layers enshrouded by the rising influence of the Hitler youth. Two of the plot lines include an affair between an American writer and a British dancer and a tentative engagement between a landlady and one of her Jewish residents. It is the most moving and thought-provoking musical I’ve seen since Spring Awakening (a musical about teenagers trying to handle the new changes in their minds and bodies; also set in Germany, coincidentally).
The star of the evening was by far Connor Ryan, a sophomore Musical Theatre major, playing his “dream role” as Emcee. If you’ve never seen Cabaret before, Emcee is the caricatured narrator who directs the audience as the story unfolds. Ryan’s body language, expressions, and singing voice, of course, were positively magnificent. My friends and I were heatedly discussing the show afterwards, and we realized that there were times when Emcee would say something like “Life is beautiful,” but you’d know he didn’t really believe that. We were left wondering – how do we know he doesn’t think that? It was possibly the best role played by a student performer that I’ve ever seen.
That’s the other crazy part of this performance: it was entirely student directed and performed! Even the music director is only a junior Musical Theatre major! Musket is a student-run organization and their performances are always amazing. Last year, I had the opportunity to see both of their musicals (they do two a year), and they were both equally as well done. I think Caberet was the first time I’d seen them do such a deeply moving show, and they pulled it off with the ease of a professional theatre company.
After the performance, I went back to my room and was reading through the director’s note in the program. I think he sums up the essence of the musical quite well. I hope all of you get a chance to see Caberet performed because it is truly a remarkable show:
“With Cabaret, you get a chance to see how human beings survive in an increasingly evil, decadent society. It serves as a warning to those who would rather sleep in a dream of complacency, ignorant to the injustice around them and helpless to the powers above them instead of face their demons head on and do their part to make a change before it is too late.” – Roman Micevic, Director’s Note