Cabaret has never been more relevant than it is right now, especially right now in Mississippi,” says director and Hattiesburg native, Miles Doleac. Doleac will also play the role of the Emcee in Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera’s production of Kander and Ebb’s classic musical, which opens Aug. 11 at The Thirsty Hippo (309 McLeod Street, Hattiesburg). Show time is 7:30pm nightly. “Really, all over our country right now, people are struggling with and against the forces of fear, oppression and intolerance,” Doleac said. “Cabaret cuts straight to the core of those issues and lays them bare for its audience to grapple with. For all its bawdy, raucous, infectiously entertaining energy, the show is really a tragedy and a cautionary tale about those individuals who suffered the rise of one of the most inhumane forces our world has ever seen, Nazism.
“The show cleverly seduces and cajoles you into this decadent world of unbridled artistic expression and sexual freedom, only to drop the hammer and smash it all to pieces in its devastating second act.”
Doleac believes that Cabaret’s message is one audiences need not only to hear, but to digest and ponder. “I truly believe that art can change the world. I believe the best art does just that in some way; that it seeks not only to entertain and lift up, but to change hearts and minds. Cabaret, almost like no other musical out there, certainly aspires to that. The show asks a very simple, very powerful question: What happens when we let fear, instead of love, guide us?” Cabaret, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its 1966 Broadway debut this year, is based on John Van Druten’s 1951 play, I Am A Camera, itself an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel Goodbye to Berlin, a collection of stories based on the author’s actual experiences in pre-World War II Germany.
The show opens in 1931 Berlin, at the Kit Kat Klub, the hottest nightclub in Weimar Germany and one of the last vestiges of the liberated, Roaring ’20s. An American writer, Cliff Bradshaw, has come to Berlin in hopes of, at last, overcoming his crippling writer’s block and finishing his novel. Instead, he is befriended by a smooth-talking Nazi smuggler named Ernst with a scheme to make the strapped writer some quick cash. Ernst also introduces Cliff to the seedy, magnetic world of the Kit Kat Klub, where he meets Sally Bowles, the hopelessly mercurial Englishwoman who is the Klub’s featured act. Cliff and Sally immediately forge a connection at the worst possible time, as the looming specter of the Third Reich grows larger by the day. “What’s so heartbreaking” Doleac muses, “is that you see all these free spirits, so complicated and creative and tortured, so very alive, paddling like hell, raging, against a current that they know will overtake them. Cliff and Sally have this almost Shakespearean, “stolen season” moment. In another time and place, maybe they would have worked out brilliantly.”
For the second time in two shows, HCLO is branching out into a new venue, downtown’s Thirsty Hippo. “I’ve really enjoyed seeing what Hattiesburlesque has done with the back room of the Hippo. I thought, why not turn the whole room into the Kit Kat Klub? Keep the bar open throughout the show. Let’s really create the atmosphere, really take the audience there. After all, the Klub would have been a bar with a stage. The performers would have been right in the audience members’ faces. At the Hippo, we can make that reality. I think it’s going to make for show the likes of which Hattiesburg audiences haven’t quite seen.”
In addition to Doleac in the role of the Emcee, Cabaret stars Lindsay Anne Williams as Sally Bowles, veteran HCLO performer, Joseph VanZandt, as Cliff Bradshaw, Seth Karas as Ernst Ludwig, Catherine Capiello as Fraulein Schneider, David Echevarria as Herr Schultz, Sarah-Jane Vetter as Fraulein Kost and Caitlin Bishop, Megan Bradberry, Chase Brewer, Kathern Glydewell, Carmine Harrell, Katie Hovan, Lisa Malloy, Anjuli May, Michael Boyte and Caleb Armstrong as the Kit Kat Ensemble. Doleac will team for the second straight show with Dr. Michael Miles as musical director and Rebecca Chandler as choreographer.
The show runs August 11-13, 18-20 (Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings, curtain at 7:30 each night). For tickets, call 1-800-838-3006 or go to www.hclo.org. For any ticketing questions or problems, call 601-270-4741.