Life is still a ‘Cabaret’

The beloved Broadway musical comes to Jerusalem’s AACI stage.

Cabaret (photo credit: HANAN SCHOFFMAN)
(photo credit: HANAN SCHOFFMAN)
What could make for a better musical setting than 1930’s Berlin, as the Nazis rise to power? Okay, it may not sound like the best setting for a musical, but what if it focused on a cabaret nightclub called the Kit Kat Klub, where all the misfits of Berlin hung out? Now we’re talking – and that’s exactly the plot of Cabaret.
The musical originally opened on Broadway in 1966 with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, and became an instant hit. Cabaret is now experiencing a revival in Jerusalem through the J-Town Playhouse. The show opens on November 15 and runs until December 8, with 10 performances in total. The Jerusalem Post sat down with Cabaret’s director, Aviella Trapido, to talk about the tragic death of the play’s musical director and pushing on with a production that became a dedication to his memory.
Are you excited about directing Cabaret?
Yes, it’s very apropos, especially with what’s going on in the Jewish world. Cabaret the musical was based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel, Goodbye To Berlin, which was set in 1931 Berlin as the Nazis were arriving to power. It focuses on the nightlife of this seedy little Kit Kat Club. The plot and subplots are super intriguing – involving love, betrayal, hope and loss. It’s a very relatable show. What I keep on telling my cast is that there are no heroes or heroines in this show; nobody wins.
I didn’t actually want to do this show initially. It was picked by my colleague, musical director and friend, Haim Tukachinsky. He chose the show and I couldn’t say no. The more I read about it and then read the script, the more I fell in love with it.
I was concerned that the Jerusalem audience might not be ready for this exceptionally in-your-face type of musical, with such strong sexuality and language. But the more we rehearsed, it became clear that those aspects of the show are secondary: the seedy club, homosexuality in Berlin in the 1930’s. They’re aspects of the show that neatly hide the stronger messages, which are messages that still ring true today. We cannot afford to stand by and be passive in the face of evil. I think the world needs to hear that message today just as much as they did 20 or 50 years ago.
For a show with such a somber message, the music is very uplifting.
Cabaret has fabulous music! There are so many wonderful hits that really bring the audience into the cabaret and envelope them into this other world. Cabaret really does that beautifully while addressing current issues. As a director, I don’t shy away from these kinds of shows.
I understand that while working on the show, you had a tragedy in the cast?
Yes, Haim Tukachinsky was hit by a drunk driver and killed on the first night of Sukkot, while walking back from a meal with friends. He and two other people were hit and Haim was unfortunately killed.
It was a tragedy personally because he was a dear friend and also professionally because he was a longtime collaborator and a very talented musical director. We’ve done multiple shows and concerts together in the past. It was also a tragedy for the cast because they had been working with him on this show. The entire Jerusalem music world lost someone very special. He was involved in many musical projects in the city and it’s amazing how many lives he touched. I debated whether to continue without him. When we finally applied for the rights, and cast the show with the most incredible cast that I’ve ever worked with, to continue without him felt kind of wrong. But after speaking to both the cast and his family and receiving such warm encouragement, I decided to go ahead. We carry him in our hearts and we hope to do him proud.
What is your favorite musical number or moment in the show?
That’s very difficult. I love “The Pineapple Song,” which is an adorable song sung between a German landlady and her Jewish boarder, who fall in love. They’re all really good, which is what makes it so hard to choose.
What do you hope that audiences will take away?
We live in a time where we can’t afford to be passive. Especially with the leadership that is going on in the world right now and the recent massacre in Pittsburgh. It’s important to remember our past so that we don’t repeat it.
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