We went to see the F.U.S.E production of CABARET on Friday. I knew the basic gist story already and even understood the parallels to our current political climate: Nazis on the rise, people turn the other way because it’s easier to do that than to face the reality of what is happening in one’s society. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it) that the cast and crew were incredible. The quality of talent that comes with a Fuse Production musical never ceases to amaze me. This production was no exception.
Throughout most of the show I felt uncomfortable. Because the parallels were TOO obvious, too much to ignore. At intermission, I said hi to my friend / the director and said, “It’s really good…in a really uncomfortable way.” I was trying to piece together my discomfort. Was it just the looming presence of Nazis on the rise? Was it dialogue in the show that mirrored exactly what I’ve heard people in our own country say? Was it the character passing out swastika bands in a very powerful musical number?
The show ended not with the usual emotional climatic song, but with Nazis surrounding the audience and proceeding up on stage (which I interpreted them as “taking over” the cabaret, but I could be wrong). I felt awkward and uncomfortable and guilty. I didn’t give a standing ovation, not because the cast didn’t deserve it, but because I felt like I would be applauding Nazis.
So here’s what I figured out:
When I go to a show I want to be entertained. I want to be emotionally moved by the songs and melodies and lyrics. I want to feel a connection with the characters and become a part of their stories. I don’t want to be reminded of how bad the world is. Theater for me is escapism. It’s my way of shutting out the world and forgetting about life for a while. But I couldn’t do that with CABARET. And that was the point. The show is about people just wanting to be entertained and to forget about life for a while. But to what extent? How much damage needs to happen before we decide to start paying attention? So that’s why I felt so uncomfortable. I felt guilty for being that person that just wanted to be entertained, that wanted to leave a theater feeling warm and happy. I loved the show for that reason. And also kinda didn’t for that reason. I desperately wanted to hear “The Rain in Spain” and watch Eliza Doolittle dancing with Henry Higgins. But — sometimes you don’t get that option. Sometimes it’s just too much to stick your head in the proverbial sand. Sometimes you need something or someone (in this case, a musical production) to shove reality in your face and say, “DON’T LOOK AWAY. THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW AND YOU WANT TO WATCH VIDEOS OF KITTENS?!”
The show was incredibly moving and incredibly powerful and it made me feel incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. In that regard, I think it was an absolute success. Thank you to Rich Biever and everyone involved in this production. It was so necessary and important and I am honored that I got to see it. Much love. Keep making beautiful and important art!