Michael Beck is a 22-year-old San Fernando Valley native making his first appearance in a musical, portraying American novelist Cliff Bradshaw in Camarillo Skyway Playhouse’s production of “Cabaret.” The role of Cliff is a difficult one, since he has to deal with his own financial struggles, a budding romance with a chorus girl in a sleazy nightclub, and the all-encompassing anti-Semitism that has enveloped Germany in the early 1930s. Michael’s off-stage activities involve the acting profession’s chief source of income: waiting tables. He spoke with us after his opening night performance.
VCOS: So what has your experience been in the theater before this?
MICHAEL: I’ve done six or seven plays before this, but this is my very first musical.
VCOS: So now that opening night is behind you, how do you feel about it? Were you nervous?
MICHAEL: Of course. I was nervous throughout the audition but in the rehearsal process I gained more confidence working with Dave (Watkins), our music director, and Elissa Anne Polansky, our director.
VCOS: How do you see Cliff? Do you consider him a tragic character in the show?
MICHAEL: That’s complicated. I would say Cliff is tragic but he’s very human. I wouldn’t say that he was tragic in a “Hamlet” sort of way. There’s a lot that Cliff wants and he goes to extreme lengths to get them, but he learns that you can’t always get what you want, to quote Mick Jagger. Of course, he comes to a tragic end at the close of the show – he doesn’t get Sally, he doesn’t get the family that he so desperately needs and wants.
VCOS: Do you think that he’s confused about his sexuality?
MICHAEL: I wouldn’t say that he’s confused at all. I think Cliff knows exactly what he is. In my mind, Cliff is a homosexual male, and Sally Bowles is the only woman he’s ever had feelings for. The only woman on the planet that he’s had these feelings for. Cliff is a gay man who has fallen in love with a woman for the very first time in his life. So Cliff has been running from his sexuality for his entire life and now he’s found Sally, and she’s pregnant, and he finally has a chance at a normal life and a family. And in the 1930s, that’s what you needed.
VCOS: And he was going to go for it.
MICHAEL: And he was going for that, but at the last second, it was ripped away from him. So in that sense, yes, I would say he is tragic.
“Cabaret” plays at the Camarillo Skyway Playhouse through August 25. For dates and show times, see the VC On Stage Calendar of Events.