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By ALAINA BARTEL
Daily News Staff Writer
Starting Nov. 8, the cast of “Cabaret” will travel to a seedy cabaret club in 1930’s Berlin under the rising shadow of fascism — while following the lives of an aspiring American novelist and a wannabe British starlet looking for love.
Watching over and helping push the entire production forward is the MC played by Paul Kortemeier, who said he’s always had “a little bit of creepy” inside him. During the First City Players upcoming musical, the MC’s creepiness will be in full effect.
“It’s a really fun role, it’s kind of a unique role to anything I’ve ever done before,” Kortemeier explained. “The MC is also a little bit creepy. You’re not really sure what side he’s on — good or evil — he’s kind of a moral ambiguity, at least at first.”
Kortemeier’s role is the master of ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub, a cabaret club in Berlin where most of the show takes place. The MC is nameless, and Kortemeier said no one really knows who he is or where he came from.
“A lot of scenes, without the characters knowing, I’m kind of watching, and kind of all knowing,” he said. “I think, personally, that the MC knows a lot more about what’s about to happen than the rest of the audience as well as the cast members.”
Almost 30 people alongside Kortemeier will bring the script to life, which has been altered over the years. Elizabeth Nelson, FCP executive director, said songs have been added, taken out, and there have been changes to the script itself.
“Every generation that produces it, there’s something that they find that is relevant to their generation, and I love that about it,” Nelson said. “It’s been on my short list of plays for a long time.”
She added the whole idea behind the production is to hold a mirror up to the audience, where they can see themselves and the world around them. However, Nelson explained she doesn’t want people to think it’s all about politics and too serious — but, at the same time, she said people can’t gloss over its setting — Nazi Germany.
“I know there are people who don’t want to step into a political morass, especially with everything the way it is right now in America, or in the world,” Nelson added. “It’s not just our country. This is really more personal than that. It’s more of an individual story, not a greater global cautionary tale.”
Nelson said she knows some people may be concerned about the swastika on the “Cabaret” promotional poster, but added it helps put the production into perspective.
“It really does help put it in a place, it is Nazi Germany, that’s where we are and that’s why it’s there,” Nelson explained. “I just think Ketchikan is in for a real treat, and I hope people don’t hesitate because they’re worried that it might be too serious. It’s funny, and entertaining.”
One of those entertainers includes Hamilton Cleverdon as “Clifford Bradshaw” — a young aspiring American novelist who has yet to have a whole lot of success, but is traveling around Europe trying to find a good source of inspiration, according to Cleverdon.
“It’s a show that makes you think, it’s a show that might make some people uncomfortable — and I think a lot of people need to be uncomfortable when they see things like that,” Cleverdon said. “I think it’s a challenging to both do and watch at the same time.”
Another actor to take the stage is Gerhard Jansen as “Bobby” — one of four boys in the Kit Kat Klub. Jansen stepped off the plane in Ketchikan, on the same night that auditions were being held for “Cabaret.”
Jansen decided to audition, and landed the role as the “fierce, gay stripper.” He said people should watch the production for a few reasons.
“You’ll laugh, then you’ll cry, then you’ll be revolted (by) humanity,” Jansen said.
It will all come to fruition at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday through Nov. 11, and at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 in the Ketchikan High School auditorium. There will also be a pay-what-you-can performance on Wednesday.
“(The) pay-what-you-can performance is basically our final dress rehearsal,” said Amanda Glanzer, director of marketing and outreach for FCP. “One of our goals at First City Players is to make theater accessible, regardless of any barriers — including financial situations.”
Glanzer said in the past, people have paid with bags of pennies, or if someone’s schedule doesn’t allow for a weekend performance, people have written checks for the actual cost of the show — all with the understanding that it is a final dress rehearsal.
“It’s show conditions — if everything goes well, you’re going to get this show just like everybody else,” Glanzer said. “If there is an absolute trainwreck, Elizabeth (Nelson) will stop the show.”
Nelson said the show does have adult situations and content, and they didn’t choreograph it for young children. With that being said, she added the show has a lot of shiny buttons — including the choreography directed by Elizabeth Avila, and musical direction by Deidra Nuss.
Kortemeier agreed with Nelson — he said adults will be entertained, but it’s also a chance to be inspired and see a meaningful production.
“You can draw correlations to present day,” Kortemeier said. “The major thing that I draw from this show is the negative consequences of burying your head in the sand — no matter what side you fall on politically, or socially, or economically or any of that. Wherever you fall, the message is: Don’t just bury your head in the sand and just let things happen around you.”