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September 12, 2013

Music in a time of war

'Cabaret,' set in 1931 Berlin, explores mistakes of the past

ROCKPORT — Theatre in the Pines will present the musical “Cabaret,” opening Friday night for a weekend run at the Shalin Liu Performance Center on Main Street.

Set in 1931 Berlin, the story evolves over the general backdrop of the Nazis coming to power, and in particular at the Kit Kat Klub, a popular spot known for its abundant night life.

The musical stems from a story written by Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986), which inspired the 1951 play “I Am a Camera,” by John Van Druten. The team of John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics) created “Cabaret.” The show became a hit on Broadway in 1966, and later was reincarnated in a film version. In 1976, the same team would bring the hit “Chicago” to the Broadway stage.

Director Nan Webber, who founded the Theatre in the Pines 26 years ago, shared an anecdote: Kander, while working on the music, exclaimed to his partner that they did not have a typical Broadway musical, but really had more of a “story play with music.”

A retired educator, Webber has worked with scores of Gloucester and Rockport residents who perform in her productions, representing a wide-ranging cast of characters.

The show begins with the master of ceremonies, played by Larry Cook, welcoming and assuring the audience that whatever their troubles are, they will forget them at the “cabaret.”

The main story focuses on young English cabaret performer Sally Bowles, played by Marjorie Grace, and her relationship with young American writer Cliff Bradshaw, played by Scott Hazzard.

Throughout the musical, the songs provide wry commentary, said Webber. On the train to Berlin, the audience first meets Bradshaw and Ernst Ludwig, a German businessman, played by Paul Raimondi. Ludwig gives the newcomer an address in Berlin where the writer can find a room.

Webber talked about the many levels to the musical, starting with the action at the night club. In a subplot, there is the relationship between Herr Schultz, a Jewish man who runs a fruit store in Berlin, played by Martin Ray, and a German woman.

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