MNfusion: ‘Cabaret’ Creates Nostalgia, Channels Current Social Climate

Art reflects society.

Often, artwork reflects the climate it is created in. But it also frequently reflects on decades past or future.

And sometimes, a piece of art can transcend to reflect not only the present, but the past and possibly the future as well.

In 1966, Fred Ebb and John Kander wrote “Cabaret,” a musical set over 30 years earlier.

Set in 1930s, the story revolves around the Kit Kat Klub, a cabaret lounge in Berlin. As the Nazi Party begins to gain power in Germany, each of the characters must face reality for what this means for their future.

Actress Andrea Goss plays Sally Bowles, the British lounge singer who is the lead act at the club.

Goss spoke on her experience playing Bowles, and the juxtaposition “Cabaret” offers audiences.

Goss said explained while reminding people of a simpler time – perhaps their childhood when they first experienced the show, or the 30s or 60s when smartphones did not exist – the show also parallels the current events in our world. It calls on audiences to both remember and look forward.

It is these types of shows, “Paint Your Wagon,” “Ragtime” or “Cabaret” – shows that examine the strengths and weaknesses of human nature – that continue to be relevant throughout the years.

(credit: Joan Marcus)

(credit: Joan Marcus)

“Cabaret” is set in Berlin during the 1930s, when the Nazi party was coming into power. As decades have passed since WWII, how can today’s audiences still relate to this show?

Goss: Yes, this show is fun, witty, and raucous at times, but it really has deep rooted themes within it. It looks at how ignorance, fear and apathy allowed the Nazi party to rise. Today, there is still discrimination and prejudice in our world. There is also fear. Whether they watch Sally, who chooses to stay ignorant, or they watch Fraulein Schneider, who is set in her ways and is fearful [of] what might happen if she goes against the tide, people can still find a character they can relate to or see other people in. Anytime hatred and prejudice are in our society this show will still be relevant and people will still be able to walk out of the theater and relate to what is happening on stage.

It is interesting to take a step back and look at the broader themes and how the parallel with today. Earlier this year, the Ordway performed “Paint Your Wagon,” a show that hadn’t seen a revival in almost 65 years. While “Cabaret” had a Broadway revival in 2014, prior to that it was last touring in the U.S. in 1999. Why do you think these shows are making a comeback now?

Goss: I think there are few reasons older shows are brought back. One reason is nostalgia. I think when there is any kind of unrest or turmoil in the world people want to bring back the good times. Musicals remind people of the past. Whether it is just a song that they know or a character they remember, theatre is a strong connection to the past. I also think that you brought up two particular shows that deal with discrimination. These shows have beautiful music but more than that they deal with themes that people relate to in the present time.

It is interesting to think about whether or not the decision to bring these back was influenced by the current climate or not. Either way, they are both fantastic productions with beautiful music, as you stated. Tell me, what is your favorite song in the show? Favorite scene?

Goss: My favorite is different almost every night. I think my favorite scene lately is the scene between Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz where he asks her to marry him. I think, for me, it one of the happiest moments in the show and it is such an honest and beautiful scene between these two characters. My favorite song at the moment is “Cabaret.” I think that as an actor it is one the most challenging and rewarding songs I have had the opportunity to work on. I still am discovering new things in it every night.

That must be very rewarding to perform in a show that continually challenges you every performance. Along those lines, what is the most challenging thing about playing Sally?

Goss: I think it is honestly to get out of my own way. I can’t judge her in any way and I also can’t judge or compare myself to the incredible women who have played her before. Sally makes many decisions that people disagree with, however, I have to look at her through the eyes of a 19-year-old trying to survive in a strange country. She is charming and charismatic, but underneath it all she is a scared child. I have to see her through those eyes and not judge the choices she makes. I also can’t compare myself to others. I watched three incredible women play her on Broadway and each of them were so different and incredible. It was really freeing to see how different interpretations still had the same impact. I don’t want to replicate anyone’s performance because that would not serve the show. I had to find my own version of her.

I can imagine it must be very hard to not compare yourself, especially when such famous names have played the character before. Outside of Sally, what is your favorite role that you’ve played?

Goss: I have been really lucky to play a huge variety of characters. I think I really enjoyed understudying Girl in “Once” on Broadway. Even just getting to go on that handful of times for that character, it was one of the most challenging and fulfilling roles to play. I think it had a lot to do with her being a mother. I do not have any children, but I found it to be incredibly moving to step into a mother’s shoes.  It really had a huge impact on me.

How wonderful that a character you didn’t have much in common with seemed to speak to you the most. That seems to speak to the heart of what theater does. So, as the tour comes to Minnesota, what are you most looking forward to doing while you’re in Minneapolis for the run?

Goss: Anything and everything. I have never been so I want to explore as much as I can. I also love finding the best local coffee shops to help my caffeine addiction.

Cabaret” opens Tuesday, Oct. 18 and runs through Oct. 23 at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets cost between $39 and $139. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit Hennepin Theatre Trust online.

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