By Daniel Silliman
Kalani Frazier came dancing and singing onto the stage like a cymbal crash of exuberance.
Through the glittery curtain, and into the spotlight, she came out with delicious decadence and flagrant, shameless joy.
This, Frazier told the audience, is "Cabaret."
Outside, there might be an economic crisis, but inside is "Cabaret." Outside, the world might be coming to an end, but inside, there's theater and dancing, almost-naked girls. Outside, there might be repression, depression, or recession, but inside, in "Cabaret," you can forget all that.
"Im Cabaret, au Cabaret, to Cabaret," sang Frazier, backed by a chorus of dancing girls in the opening musical number of the Clayton State Theater's presentation of "Cabaret."
The theater department's first musical performance, "Cabaret" captures the last days of a culture's decay. Set in the late 1920s, as Germany's Weimar Republic collapses and is replaced by Nazism, the show tells the story of Clifford Bradshaw, an American writer and a good-hearted boy who bumbles into the revelry and rot.
"The whole thing," said the director, Phillip DePoy, "is about the decay and the eventual end of humanity. It's about the situation in Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic, but see if this sounds familiar: There's a crippling economic crisis; a huge political upheaval; and there's terrorism. It's not an exact parallel, but it interestedly speaks to this time in the 21st Century."
Frazier's shouts of "Cabaret" are one answer to the question about what you do at the end of the world. The performance follows a small cast of characters as they choose what part they're going to play on the historical stage:
· Clifford Bradshaw, the protagonist played perceptively by David Henry, begins with bumbling naiveté and ends with a sad sort of wisdom.
· Sally Bowles, played by Shanika Vale, tries to cling to glitter and glamour, deceiving herself to believe she sees both.
· Fraulein Schneider, played by Kimberly McCloud like a professional, wavers between settling for what is, and allowing herself to hope for something more.
DePoy said the university's theater students struggled a bit to understand the politics of the time, but there were parts of the play they connected to viscerally.
"At a certain age, the sort of romance of pessimism and melancholy is interesting, to you," the director said. "I think that what the students get more than anything is the obvious comparison between these performers and the poor deluded kids on 'American Idol' who can't sing, can't dance and can't dress themselves ... Kalani's character actually says to the audience, 'Your life is a theater, and look, I really mean it, because you're sitting in this theater right now.' That's the thing the students get that I'm always interested in, and always teaching, the idea of theater as metaphor. And they get that, they get that life actually is theater."
If their performances are any indication of how these students have personally chosen to answer the question, they've chosen to play their parts in life by challenging themselves and having a lot of fun.
The students picked "Cabaret," choosing a musical because they think it's fun to sing and dance while they're acting. They chose that specific musical because they thought it was the hardest.
"God bless them," DePoy said, "even if I don't quite understand it. They're kind of amazing to me."
"Cabaret" is being performed Saturday, Nov. 15, Thursday, Nov. 20, and Friday, Nov. 21, all perfromances starting at 8 p.m., in the Clayton State Theatre, room G-132 of the University's Arts & Sciences Building.
Tickets are available at the door for $5. Due to adult themes and content, no one under the age of 18 will be admitted.