As a newly formed democracy, Germany in 1930 was a place of political unrest.
While learning to govern themselves, the citizens experimented with their new-found political, sexual and ideological freedoms. Alan Lareau, a University of Wisconsin Oshkosh German professor, said that mindset was incompatible with the upcoming Nazi regime.
“It was a time of really pushing the envelope and seeing how far you could go, and at the same time, the Nazi movement was on the rise,” he said. “So then you had this oppressive, right-wing movement against women’s rights, Jewish people, individualism and American influences. The German people were caught in the middle of it.”
One of the results of this chaotic time period was cabaret, an intimate form of theater where actors tried to shock and tease the audience by using satire to criticize politics and popular culture. Cabarets were held in a bar-like setting where audience members could eat, drink and interact with actors during the show.
A fictional cabaret bar in downtown Berlin called the “Kit Kat Club” is the setting of the musical “Cabaret,” which UW Oshkosh’s theatre department will present April 28 through May 2 at the Frederic March Theatre, 926 Woodland Ave.
The musical, based on the book by Joe Masteroff, revolves around two love stories: Sally Bowles, an English performer (played by Kim Davister), falls in love with Cliff Bradshow, a young writer (Michael Stimac). As a side story, Fraulein Schneider, a landlady (April Faulks), falls for Herr Schultz, her Jewish suitor (Sam Spees).
Their goings on are observed by the always-present Master of Ceremonies (Adam Boucher), who uses musical numbers and sharp sarcasm to comment on the development of the two affairs.
Merlaine Angwall, the director of the play, said parallels to today’s society can be found in the racy time period of “Cabaret.”
“This play directly addresses issues of racism and political fanaticism,” she said. “Unfortunately, this still happens today, as was shown by the recent issue of racist fliers distributed on campuses throughout the Fox Valley.”
Angwall said the play is meant to tell a bigger and more important story than one of just an exciting cabaret bar.
UW Oshkosh has teamed up with Suzanne Thompson, a musical choreographer from the Stephen-Wolff Theatre and Columbia University.
“Suzanne, in addition to being a great choreographer, is an excellent actress,” Angwall said. “It’s not just about dancing. The choreography has to come from the characters.”
The Foreign Language department also has been involved with the production, with Lareau’s German 308 class helping with pronunciation and creating exhibits for the foyer of the theater.
Angwall is confident that all of the collaboration will result in a standout rendition of “Cabaret.”
“There have been many revivals of ‘Cabaret,’” she said. “But I think ours is really unique.”
Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. April 28 to May 1 and 2 p.m. May 2. UW Oshkosh alumni will be admitted free for Saturday’s performance.
For more information about “Cabaret” and upcoming theater productions, visit www.uwosh.edu/theatre.