Cabaret makes a powerful statement in 1930s Berlin, Germany.
Ever since I was introduced to the Broadway hit “Hamilton” in my eighth-grade U.S. History class, I’ve had a deep obsession with theater and musicals. I’ve seen musicals ranging from “Dear Evan Hanson” to my high school’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” but nothing could prepare me for the whirlwind of emotions that was brought by the University of Florida’s production of “Cabaret”.
Walking in, the only knowledge I had of the play was it took place in a gentleman’s club, and it was in Germany. What it ended up being was an emotional, entertaining performance about love, passion and equality. Without giving too much away, the musical centered around the showgirl Sally and the American writer Cliff who met in the Kit Kat Klub in Berlin, Germany. You are guided by the charismatic, talented and emotional Emcee, played by Jake Tome Rotez, who tells the love story of Cliff and Sally. Through a series of elaborate song and dance sequences, the production includes projected images of headline news stories of Japanese camps, the Black Lives Matter movement and other stories of minority groups being attacked.
Although you fall in love with the characters Fraulein Schneider, Sally Bowles and Herr Schultz, the real connection you form is with Emcee. Rotez – who plays Emcee – created a connection with audience members during his performance of “If You Could See Her.” With its creative use of a gorilla costume, Emcee sings about his love for the gorilla girl and how no one understands what he sees in her because of her looks. The gorilla costume, although silly, represents an extreme version of how Nazi Germans viewed Jewish people. When audience members finally made the connection, it went completely silent within the theater followed by a roar of applause. After all of that, by the end of the play instead of a happy ending, or a pretty bow on top the cast bows in silence and walks off the stage with the audience speechless. Most didn’t know if it was over or if they – the cast – were going to come back out, but once they realized it was over everyone walked out of the theater, stunned,
In any show that I have ever seen, prior to the productions by the University of Florida College of Fine Arts, I have always walked out of the theater enriched and happy because there was always a happy ending. This show made me sit and really think about what matters in the world. I may have been sitting there, watching this show for my Theater Appreciation class, but there is a whole other reality that was going on right outside my little world.
Recent headlines made waves after rapper and designer Kanye West made a public statement that, “Jewish people have owned the Black voice” and that “The Jewish community, especially in the music industry…they’ll take us and milk us till we die.” He also referenced Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, and commented that he was “#MeToo-ing” the Jewish culture. “I’m saying y’all gotta stand up and admit to what you’ve been doing,” West said. I realize now that we as a society need to sit down and realize that we still have so much work to do, and the production of “Cabaret” gives me hope that there are people willing and ready to listen and change the status quo.