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PlayMakers brings 1930s Berlin to life in reprise of musical “Cabaret”

	Lisa Brescia performs the role of Sally Bowles in PlayMaker’s “Cabaret.”

Lisa Brescia performs the role of Sally Bowles in PlayMaker’s “Cabaret.”

1930s Berlin: Members of the cabaret keep the noise level up at their riotous nightclub, drowning out the fear and troubles of Weimar Republic Germany that are knocking at the front door.

Tonight, PlayMakers Repertory Company is bringing this deafening noise back to life in its first-ever production of the Tony Award-winning musical “Cabaret.”

The musical, written by Joe Masteroff and based on a play by John Van Druten, revolves around the lives of those involved with The Kit Kat Klub in 1930s Berlin.

The play follows Sally Bowles, the epitome of a self-destructive cabaret girl who seeks the limelight and hides from the reality of what is happening outside the The Kit Kat Klub — as Hitler’s Reich encroaches upon Germany.

“The Kit Kat Klub is keeping the party going to not see the horrible things going on — it is a metaphor for a society spinning out of control,” said Joe Haj, director of the show and producing artistic director for PlayMakers.

Haj added that in today’s society, the threat of a similar large-scale downfall looms.

In the show American writer Cliff Bradshaw, portrayed by John Dreher, journeys to Berlin seeking inspiration and winds up falling in love with Sally, who is portrayed by Lisa Brescia.

“Sally is resilient, and while she wrestles with the idea of how to live a more conventional life, in the end, she cannot adhere to society’s norms and expectations,” Brescia said.

Haj said he wanted Taylor Mac, who had performed at PlayMakers a few years ago, to perform in this version of “Cabaret” as the emcee.

Mac received an Obie Award, for off-Broadway productions, in 2010 for “The Lily’s Revenge.”

“Like all plays, I hired artists who are courageous enough to feel they don’t have to follow the iconic writers and directors of the story,” Haj said.

“We are exploring this script as if we just found it.”

Mark Hartman, music director for the show, said the music of the original production was heavily influenced by the 1930s, even though it was composed decades later.

“Harmonically, lyrically and stylistically, it is very much music of the period — despite when it was written — and it feels very much like the characters and story (that were) written,” Hartman said.

Cliff comes to an overtly sexualized Berlin hoping to experience a new culture and escape post-Great Depression America.

In preparing for this role, Dreher said he decided to visit Harrisburg, Pa., to see where his character, Cliff, grew up and to get a feel for his life.

Dreher said the role of Cliff is key for the audience’s understanding of the play, Dreher said.

“Cliff plays the lens through which the audience can see this world as the writer who goes to Berlin in search of inspiration for his novel,” he said.

Hartman said “Cabaret” wrestles with ideas of ignorance during a time of societal need and near-destruction.

“I think ‘Cabaret’ is a story about a society that has just lost its way, and it shows us the dangers of just sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the problem,” Haj said.

“I hope it is through that prism that the audience sees and appreciates the play.”

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