Interview: Cabaret's Alan Chandler Reflects on the Show's Poignancy and Being Cliff
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, September 12, 2023
Leave your troubles outside... The Old Globe's Donald and Darlene Shiley Stage is home for the time being to Asolo Repertory Theatre's production of Cabaret. After seeing and reviewing the show in its opening performance, I had a chance to interview Alan Chandler, who plays novelist Clifford Bradshaw.
Debuting at The Old Globe, Alan Chandler has appeared in a range of productions at Asolo Repertory Theatre, HART Theatre, and Loessin Playhouse. He has a B.F.A. in Professional Acting from the East Carolina University School of Theatre and Dance and is represented by Citizen Skull Management and UGA Talent.
Chandler's role in Cabaret is that of writer's block-stricken aspiring novelist Clifford Bradshaw. Cliff has recently arrived at a Berlin nightclub on the eve of 1931 where he is, as Chandler puts it, "on a quest to travel to the epicenters of European society to seek out inspiration for his next great masterpiece."
When he is introduced to vivacious headliner Sally Bowles (Joanna A. Jones) and she invites herself into his life and his flat, Cliff begins to interrogate his own understanding of who he is, what he wants, and what he believes in.
Chandler's portrayal of this character, which is earnest and sweet, is in some ways a reflection of who he believes the character of Clifford Bradshaw to be.
"Cliff has a true artist’s heart that he wears on his sleeve, knowing full well that he has plenty of demons to fight," he explains. "He’s a passionate observer and natural survivor, finding himself in Berlin, Germany at a time during which visual and written art, music, drugs, fashion, sexual fluidity and frivolity were all at their peak cultural significance and prevalence."
This natural survival instinct comes into conflict with his sense of justice, however, when Cliff learns that his friend, Ernst Ludwig, played affably by Alex Gibson, doesn't share his same value and belief systems.
"Throughout the course of the show, Cliff’s exposure to different characters and their ideals and their own means of survival causes a certain disillusionment of what it really means to fight for that in which you believe."
Chandler calls this "a crumbling of the naive American ideal that wanting something bad enough means not only that you will get it, but that you deserve to," adding, "The awareness he now has, the knowledge of how truly animalistic the human spirit can be, spawns a cynicism that is difficult to shake."
However, Chandler believes that these timeless societal conflicts are what make this show relevant to today's audiences.
"There will always be those who wish to use hate and fear to create the rise of one group above all others or even at the collective mass expense of another group. There are always impossible struggles within relationships that pit even the right people against each other. There are always individuals that do nothing, not as a manner of resistance but merely as a way of personal survival."
Like his character, however, Chandler can't help but reflect on the experience of learning and growing by experiencing. "By shattering all lenses and preconceived notions, by seeing people and situations for exactly who and what they are," he finishes, "Cliff may have ended up discovering what it truly means for something/someone to be ‘beautiful."
Audiences can catch Alan Chandler and the rest of the cast in action in Cabaret at The Old Globe through October 6. Tickets are available online at www.theoldglobe.org/.