“There was a cabaret and there was a master of ceremonies and there was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany. It was the end of the world … and I was dancing with Sally Bowles and we were both fast asleep.”
Christopher Isherwood, “The Berlin Stories”
And so begins the book, published in 1945, that was the basis for the musical “Cabaret,” a love story set during Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. First performed in 1966, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s music and lyrics along with Joe Masteroff’s book, have been given a much darker turn in recent years.
In Maine, no recent revival likely has been more cynical than the production being offered this month by the Midcoast Actors’ Studio at the Crosby Center in Belfast. Director Suzanne Ramczyk’s dark vision for a show about how Berliners ignored the rising Nazi menace fits perfectly with Artistic Director Jason Bannister’s theme for the season — Fear Mongering, Hysteria and Persuasion.
Ramczyk makes nearly every character in her 14-member cast complicit in the Fuehrer’s crimes against humanity because none of them but American Cliff Bradshaw (Eddie McCluskey), who’s in love with Sally Bowles (Leah Bannister), recognizes the evil menace Hitler turned out to be. That follows the interpretation Sam Mendes, best known as the director of the award-winning film “American Beauty,” used in the 1993 London production of “Cabaret.”