In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s (KAT) Cabaret, meet Chuck Dluhy.
Joel: Where have local theatergoers seen you perform before on our local stages? What roles have you played?
Chuck: I played Uncle Fester in KAT’s production of The Addams Family. I’ve also recently been seen as Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical (RCP), Michael Novak in God of Carnage (LTA), and Thenardier in Les Miserables (RCP).
Why did you want to be in KAT’s production of Cabaret?
Reuniting with the superb Addams Family team of Director Craig Pettinati, Music Director Stuart Weich, and Assistant Director John Nunemaker was a very big draw. Also, the role of Herr Schultz is such a gem and very different from the broadly comic roles I’ve recently played.
Who do you play in this production, and how are you and your character alike and different?
I play the elderly Jewish fruit shop owner, Herr Schultz. I’d describe him as very loyal, hard-working and honest, which are qualities I strive to achieve. He tends to turn a “blind eye” to the realities of the world which surround him, but I am practical and realistic and face life head-on.
How did you prepare for your role, and what challenges did you face when preparing for your role?
I found the book The Jews in Weimar Germany by Donald L. Niewyk to be very helpful with my character research. It described the role of Jews in the economic, political and cultural life at the time and the anti-Semitism that was building against them even before the Nazi regime took over. It was difficult to pretend not know what atrocities happened to the Jews once the Nazis came into power in 1933, so putting myself in the mindset of 1929-1930 Germany was particularly challenging. Also, using a German accent, especially when singing, required a lot of hard work.
How did Director Craig Pettinati help you with your challenges and what is the best advice he gave you about playing your role?
Craig is excellent in making you see a side of the character you may not have considered. For example, Herr Schultz is self-described an an “elderly widower” who is “not a well man”, and initially I thought of playing him around 70 years-old. However, Craig advised playing him younger and nearer my own age – citing the fact that he could have ailments or be a widower at any age. Also, Schultz’s perception of himself may be different than reality. During that period, people didn’t live as long as we do today, so the term “elderly” is also quite relative. With Craig’s insight, being aware of the many options on how to portray the character was invaluable.
How would you describe John Kander and Fred Ebb’s score? How would you describe a Kander and Ebb song?
The score has two distinct flavors – the “Cabaret” type songs like “Willkommen” and “Mein Herr” and the traditional Broadway musical style songs like “It Couldn’t Please Me More,” and “Perfectly Marvelous.” Although the songs are not vocally or harmonically intricate, lyrically, they are very challenging to interpret.
Which song that you don’t sing is your favorite and why?
I love “Two Ladies” because it is just a fun and entertaining song. In our production, two males play the two ladies which brings a twist to the interpretation of this number by commenting on the immorality of co-habitation AND ménage a trois relationships, AND homosexuality.
What do we learn about your character when you are singing your solos or duets?
In “It Couldn’t Please Me More,” we learn that Herr Shultz is a true romantic, and courts Fraulein Schneider the only way he knows how – with gifts of fruit from his shop! And we are playing with the subtext that the pineapple may represent something else!
In “Married,” we discover that he had a wonderful relationship with his first wife, does not want to be alone, and desires to experience that feeling of love again with Fraulein Schneider.
Why and how is Cabaret so relevant to today’s audiences?
Racism and persecution for your beliefs (or for just being who you are) are still in the headlines every day.
This cast is filled with extremely talented singers, actors, dancers. What has impressed you most about your fellow cast members and their performances?
The young people in this cast, both principals and ensemble, are all true “triple threat” performers. The professionalism they exude is genuinely amazing.
What have you learned most about yourself -the actor- while going through this Cabaret experience?
No matter how many shows you have done, there is always something new to learn … and this is especially true with such rich material to work with. Cabaret is one of the best musicals ever written.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in Cabaret?
Hate is still alive and well and living among us. Everyone says “The WORLD will never change.” I say “The world doesn’t need to change; PEOPLE need to change.”
Come to KAT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 1: Meet Sarah Jane Bookter.
Come to KAT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 2: Meet Chuck Dluhy.
Cabaret plays from October 28-November 19, 2016, at Kensington Arts Theatre (KAT) performing at Kensington Town Hall – 3710 Mitchell Street, in Kensington, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or online.
Learn More about Kander and Ebb’s work here: