Cal State East Bay revives ‘Cabaret’ play

Evelyn Tijero,

On March 4 at 7:30 p.m. the theater and dance department will set the Cal State East Bay stage in dissipated WWII Berlin, Germany.

“Cabaret” is based on a book written by Christopher Isherwood, set in 1931 Berlin as the Nazis rose to power that focuses on the nightlife scene at the fictional Kit Kat Klub. 

The musical focuses on two love stories: the first between Sally Bowles, a dynamic cabaret performer, played by Kylara Pankow, and Cliff Bradshaw, a closeted gay writer, played by Ronny Marasigan. The other is that of an older couple, Fraulein Schneider, a German boarding house owner, played by Ronny Marasigan, and Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor, played by Blake Weaver.

The play is directed by theater arts professor Darryl V. Jones, choreographed by lecturer Laura Ellis and the music directed by Sierra Dee.

“The dancing is really sexy, hot and provocative,” Jones said. “Yes, it’s all going to go up here on the stage, it’s sometimes rather explicit.”

The cast started rehearsing on Jan. 2, and now meets five days a week.

“Berlin in the 1930s was [all about the] sexy body,” said Jones. “There was a lot of prostitutes and a lot of men came back from WWI with a more open sexual appetite understanding what sex could be between a man and a woman and a man with a man. Berlin was the center for all of this exploration.”

According to Jones, the play is popular in the musical world. It has been tweaked and changed since its first release on Broadway in 1966. The latest version, which the theater and dance department will perform, explores dynamics within the LGBTQ community. “The experience with my character as a Kit Kat Boy has taught me to embrace my body and sexuality [as] a gay man in a Berlin nightclub,” said Jorge Almaraz, an East Bay third-year majoring in the arts. He’s a member of the ensemble, a group of actors that dance and sing together.

The musical will perform around 10 songs, including classics like “Cabaret,” “Maybe This Time” and “Money.”

At a rehearsal I attended two weeks ago, I experienced many different things. Jones was not lying when he said that the musical is very sexual and provocative. But the story behind it also ties in with America today. This story is not only a love story; it is also a tragedy. It leaves you reflecting on social injustice.  

“Cabaret” was chosen by students, faculty and directors in the theater and dance department. It was chosen because it represents social injustice, social inequity and oppression, according to Jones. Professional guest star Antonio Rodriguez III, will play the Masters of Ceremony or MC in the musical. Rodriguez was nominated for the Outstanding Male Actor in a musical award last year for his performance in “Miss Saigon” by Broadway by the Bay, a nonprofit musical theater company based in Redwood City.

The musical is open to the public and will run March 4 at 7:30 p.m., March 5 at 2 p.m., March 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. and March 12 at 2 p.m. at the University Theater at the Hayward campus. Tickets can be purchased on the website or at the box office.