Courtesy of Gary White
“There was a cabaret and there was a master of ceremonies and there was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany and it was the end of the world,” says Cliff Bradshaw near the end of the musical “Cabaret.”
“Cabaret” is scheduled to be performed by the Short North Stage professional theater company beginning 8 p.m. Thursday at the Garden Theater and run through Oct. 7.
“‘Cabaret’ is about a somewhat seedy little club in Berlin, just before World War II, when the Nazis are taking over,” said “Cabaret” music director Tim Valentine. “It’s telling the story of the people who perform there and an American who has come to Berlin, unknowing the politics, what’s going on, what’s happening and his transition from learning about the politics of Nazi Germany, and falling in love with one of the Kit Kat Klub girls.”
Valentine, who is also a program manager for Ohio State’s Arts and Sciences Scholars Program, said he joined the Short North Stage specifically to help with this production, and in doing so, he brought some of OSU with him.
“I was able to hire some OSU people to play in the orchestra. And then there are several alumni here on stage,” Valentine said.
OSU alumnus Jeff Fouch plays Bobby, a Kit Kat boy in the musical.
“He has a sordid past with the lead, Cliff, which creates an interesting dynamic to his relationship with Sally, the (female lead),” Fouch said. “We share a kiss together. Very scandalous.”
Fouch said the kiss was a big deal because an era of “sexiness” started rising in Berlin at the time the play takes place.
“Nowadays, people won’t necessarily be super surprised by it, because that’s where our culture has gone to,” Fouch said. “It’s interesting, because it parallels the 1930s.”
Fouch also plays a large ape in a dress during one of the Kit Kat Klub master of ceremonies’ songs.
Jenna Shively, who graduated from OSU in June with a degree in theater, plays Fraulein Kost.
“She is a prostitute and has fallen on very hard times, as has everyone else in Berlin at the time. She’s gone through quite a lot in her life, and she’s very hardened. She’s out for herself, willing to do anything to come out on top in any situation,” Shively said. “At the end she joins with the Nazis. I think that makes her feel like she’s a part of something, and not like an outcast.”
Rick Gore, owner of the Short North Stage, said he considers “Cabaret” a cautionary tale.
“This is the twilight of Weimar Germany. With the divided population that we have today, the politics of the time, these things have happened before,” Gore said.
The effect “Cabaret” had on Columbus isn’t just limited to politics, though. Columbus is tied into the history of the story.
“Cabaret” is based on the novel “Goodbye to Berlin” by Christopher Isherwood. When Isherwood was in Berlin in the early 1930s, he knew a young American silent film actress named Louise Brooks. Brooks was known as “the Queen of the Flappers.”
“She taught Berlin the Charleston,” said Peter Yockel, board president of the Short North Stage.
A portrait of Brooks is drawn on the back wall of the theater. “We brought an older gentleman in, in his 80s at the time, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s Louise Brooks.’ And we’ve got pictures of Louise Brooks, and they’re identical,” Gore said.
Tickets for “Cabaret” are $30 for general admission or $40 for VIP seats, and can be bought on the Short North Stage website.
The Garden Theater is at 1187 North High Street, just south of Fifth Avenue.