Cabaret at York Little Theatre
Chad-Alan Carr and Emily Falvey play lead roles in "Cabaret" at York Little Theatre. The show runs April 12-21. (Scott Miller photo)

As a new musical opens in Spring Garden Township, the audience is asked to leave 2013 at the door.

"When you walk into the theater, you're not walking into York Little Theatre," says "Cabaret" director Aaron Dalton. "You're walking into the Kit Kat Club of 1931 Germany."

The popular, tragic tale of lives affected by the rise of Nazi Germany in Berlin mixes the devil-may-care nightclub atmosphere with the sinister undertones growing louder. At York Little Theatre, the audience will be part of the scenery.

"We set it up like an actual nightclub," says Dalton, 35, of Manchester Township.

The audience will be at chairs and tables as though they were out for a night at a club rather than a theater.

Revival: Dalton, who has twice played the role of American writer Cliff Bradshaw in the show, says he's excited to direct the revival version of "Cabaret" that famously ran in 1998 at Studio 54 and attracted crowds for more than 2,000 performances. The rights for that version came through about a week before auditions and changed the tone of the show, he says.

"It's edgier, it's darker, it's more provocative," he says. "This is a version that people haven't seen a lot of because it's been so restricted with community theater."

The darkness and tragedy of the tale give the audience meaty questions to digest afterward, Dalton says, suggesting the show is a conversation starter that will keep people talking all the way home. What begins as lighter fare leads to a reversal as doom closes in.

"It's a punch in the gut to the audience. The whole tone of the show completely changes," he says. "It's not a show that ends on a happy note."

In addition to the sharper tone, the "Cabaret" revival brings in "several of the songs that the movie made famous," Dalton says, including "Mein Herr" and "Maybe This Time."

The second song is a favorite point in the show for Dalton. It's a poignant moment that humanizes the character of Sally Bowles, a nightclub performer who becomes involved with Bradshaw.

"It's the brief moment in the show where Sally is very vulnerable; she's not putting on a fa├žade," he says. "Emily Falvey (who plays Sally) just has this amazing voice. ... I still tear up every night watching it - it's so powerful."

See the show

"Cabaret" runs for two weekends at the York Little Theatre, 27 S. Belmont St., Spring Garden Township.

Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. April 12-13 and 18-20 and at 3 p.m. April 14 and 21. Opening night is sold out.

Tickets are $23 for adults, $21 for seniors and $18 for students. The show is recommended for mature audiences.

For more information, call (717) 854-5715 or visit www.ylt.org.

- Reach Mel Barber at mbarber@yorkdispatch.com.