Photo: Joan Marcus
Photo: Joan Marcus

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome: Cabaret Comes to Kennedy Center

It’s time to pull out your favorite vampy lipsticks and thigh-highs. This summer, Roundabout Theatre Company transforms the Kennedy Center into the Kit Kat Klub with performances of Cabaret beginning tomorrow.

The beloved musical takes place in a pre-World War II Berlin, at a nightclub filled with performers as sexually fluid as they are glamorous. The glitz and glitter of the Kit Kat Klub is surrounded by a growing Nazi presence, becoming a haven in an increasingly frightening country.

Although the beloved musical has been immortalized through many legendary performances, including a film starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, modern DC audiences will find it more than just fun – they’ll find it relatable. Leigh Anne Larkin, who plays the starring role in the upcoming performance, says there’s never been a time when Cabaret wasn’t relevant.

“I think that the role of theatre [in politics] is showing a reality based in truth, but doing it in a way that is entertaining,” Larkin says. “So not being super over-the-top about it, but holding a mirror up to audience members without, sometimes, them even knowing,”

So it turns out that your Saturday night spot to hit the dance floor and down a drink (or four) has a lot in common with the Kit Kat Club. Relevant as it may be to audiences in the nation’s capital, Cabaret is far from a political diatribe. The show reached its iconic status not through a sermon, but through a delicate balance. Filled with bouncy numbers like “Wilkommen” and “Don’t Tell Mama,” it’s easy to get wrapped up in the intimate nightclub atmosphere and miss the messiness happening right outside the theater doors.

“Without giving away too much, that’s what makes the show so fascinating and compelling to come and watch,” Larkin continues. “How does the theme of the show fit in so seamlessly with the upbeat numbers and the underlying darkness? That’s the magic of Cabaret, really; that’s what is so genius about the script and score.”

In addition to blurring the lines between political commentary and risque musical, Cabaret is also iconic for pushing barriers of sexuality and gender – and going where a lot of mainstream theatre will not. And since it’s frequently touted as one of the sexiest musicals around, the payoff is huge.

“There’s a lot of underlying bisexual, homosexual [and] straight relationships, and they kind of intertwine with each other,” Larkin says. “It’s a very exciting, sexually forward piece.”

The actress brings a spark that’s uniquely hers to the character of Sally. She hasn’t even seen the movie starring Minnelli, which helps her avoid mimicking another actor’s interpretation.

“I think that my Sally is really fun, very vulnerable, heartbreaking, troubled and sassy. She’s a lot of things rolled into one.”

Cabaret runs at the Kennedy Center from July 11 to August 6. Tickets start at $59. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Kennedy Center’s website.

Kennedy Center: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org

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Reem Nadeem

Reem is a Cairo-DC transplant, teacher and journalist. She has a B.A. in English from George Mason University. If she isn’t writing, teaching or staring longingly into the cat shelter next to On Tap’s office, she probably has her nose in a book.