Mainstage Musical Mania

Put down the knitting, the book and the broom because the Theater Department’s Mainstage musical this year is “Cabaret.”

Set in Berlin in 1931, “Cabaret” follows Sally Bowles, a young English performer, and her relationship with American writer Cliff Bradshaw. A sub-plot is a romance between a German boarding house owner, Frauline Schneider, and her Jewish elderly suitor, Herr Schultz. The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat “Cabaret” Club oversees and narrates the show, acting as a constant metaphor for Germany’s dark political climate during that time period.

“Cabaret” has an amazing story and it’s structurally and theatrically interesting,” Director Nancy Saklad, professor of theater performance, said. “There are unique, realistic themes dispersed within the show and they counterpoint one another. There’s darkness everywhere in it.”

A production as realistic and fantastical as “Cabaret” demands a cast with the ability to portray the range of emotions the show requires. The characters’ troubles and World War II looming overhead gives the show a dark and very animalistic tone, cast members said.

“I hope the audience can see humanity at the core,” Julia Register, a second-year theater performance major, said. “We’re always going to have good and bad and destruction but there’s always going to be creation. It’s a great, fun, beautiful story.”

Register, who plays Schneider, speaks in a German accent during the musical. Although she said it’s always difficult not to speak in her native dialect, it became easier with more practice.

Speaking in a German dialect was the least work Register did to get into character. Schneider is a much older, more experienced woman, and Register had to tap into her own experiences to make up for the age difference.

“I’ve had to work hard on portraying an older woman,” Register said. “Crafting someone with 40 years of life under her belt is hard. I’ve been through a lot and I use the experience of having those experiences. I consider the circumstances my character is under and see how they’re similar to what I’ve been through so I can do the play justice.”

Many characteristic challenges were also faced by Julee Kwak, a fourth-year theater performance major from Korea. Kwak, as Sally Bowles, must speak in a British accent for the entire performance. After learning the English language herself, Kwak found it  challenging.

However, Assistant Director and Vocal Coach Francesca Haswell has taught her the ins and outs of the dialect.

“I had no idea how involved, dialect-wise I would be,” Haswell, a third-year theater major and exchange student from England, said. “Seeing Julee’s British dialect, it’s obvious that she’s growing and I’m really proud of her.”

Kwak is making her New Paltz performance debut portraying Bowles, a part she was initially intimidated by.

“Even though I’m a senior, this is my first production,” Kwak said. “I was overwhelmed. It’s a lot of pressure and it’s a big role. I was very self-conscious and unsure of my abilities but my director saw my potential and I didn’t want to let her down.”

Saklad said this production of “Cabaret” is different from others, and it may not leave audience members feeling content; however, that isn’t its purpose.

“I hope people see “Cabaret” in a new light,” Saklad said. “In many ways, our production is less forgiving than others they’ve seen. Each theatrical experience is unique. This is a different ‘Cabaret.’”

The show runs at McKenna Theatre from Thursday, April 19 through Sunday, April 29 at 7 p.m. with one matinee performance at 2 p.m.