Naughty, sexy Cabaret comes to Trinity
The classic Broadway musical Cabaret is getting a spirited revival, courtesy of Trinity Repertory Company. The show, which opens in previews on September 11th and runs through October 11, was written by Joe Masteroff from the autobiographical stories of gay writer Christopher Isherwood of his life in Berlin during the waning days of the Weimar Republic. It features a score from the renowned team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, who have written other legendary shows including Chicago.
The production is being directed by Curt Columbus and stars Rachael Warren as Sally Bowles, the Kit Kat Klub’s beautiful chanteuse, who charms young American writer Cliff Bradshaw (Mauro Hantman) into sharing his apartment. Joe Wilson, Jr., as the club’s Emcee, who acts as the wry commentator to the story’s action. Landlady Fräulein Schneider (Phyllis Kay) has found love with her grocer Herr Schultz (Stephen Berenson) against the tumultuous political backdrop of the rise of the Third Reich.
Set in 1931 Berlin, the production will be set in the German definition of "kabaret" or music hall - as opposed to a piano bar that the term cabaret calls to mind with modern audiences.
Kander and Ebb score, with its echoes of the Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht musical theater pieces from the period, include the iconic title tune, as well as "Wilkommen," one of the most dynamic openings of any musical.
The creation of Cabaret began with a novel written by Christopher Isherwood called Goodbye to Berlin which then was adapted into a play called I Am A Camera, written by John Van Druten. The musical debuted in 1966 and ran for 1,165 performances. Its 1972 film version won eight Oscars (including ones for Liza Minnelli and director Bob Fosse). The film was so successful that subsequent stage revivals included added material that Kander and Ebb brought to the screen version.
In 1998 a successful London production (performed in a nightclub setting) electrified Broadway, winning Tony Awards the Best Revival and for the late Natasha Richardson, Alan Cumming. It ran 2,377 performances, making it the third longest-running revival in Broadway history. What most distinguished this newer Cabaret, directed by Sam Mendes, was that Cliff was now a bisexual and the production was far more sexually charged.
A dream come true
Bringing Cabaret to life is a dream come true for Columbus, who developed an infatuation with the show at a young age, when he first saw Bob Fosse’s film adaptation.
Columbus believes the story is compelling due to the societal attitudes which existed in the 1930s, as well as the characters who navigate a world of intrigue, romance, and danger.
Sally Bowles is a "unique, mythic figure. She’s larger than life," Columbus told EDGE, noting that the time period "has all kinds of resonance and significance."
One of the show’s crucial players is the Emcee, who serves as an omnipresent narrator for the action in the Kit Kat Club. Wilson said the character is subjected to the turmoil which engulfs the lives of everyone else around him.
"(The Emcee) also becomes a victim of this tide that’s rising in Berlin," Wilson explained. "We’re making the Emcee in our production very much a present active player in the world around him."
After seeing previous incarnations of the Emcee, Wilson is doing what he can to bring his own personality to the character.
"I’m trying to find my own Master of Ceremonies that fits on my body, in my body, and through my voice," said Wilson, who is grateful for the opportunity to have played many iconic roles during his time at Trinity. Wilson has appeared in A Christmas Carol, Hamlet, and All the King’s Men.
Cabaret also features resident acting company members Stephen Thorne as Berliner businessman Ernst Ludwig, and Janice Duclos as the bawdy Fräulein Kost, as well as Brown/Trinity Rep class of 2010 students Matt Clevy, Patrick Mulryan, Michael Obremski, Molly O’Neill, Lizzie Vieh, Monica Willey, Gillian Williams, Anne Francisco Worden; and guest actress Lynnette R. Freeman.
Columbus said Cabaret has layers of subtext which make it more of a challenge to bring to life than the typical musical.
"We’re finding it’s a very complicated and difficult piece to perform," Columbus noted, adding working with the cast has been enjoyable.
"It’s been a thrilling, thrilling process," Columbus said. "We have this terrific energy in the rehearsal room and it’s a lot of naughty sexy fun a lot of the time."
Cabaret opens in previews on September 11 in the Chace Theater. Tickets are on sale now at the Trinity Rep box office, 201 Washington Street; by phone at (401)-351-4242; and online at www.trinityrep.com.
The first performance on September 11 at 7:30PM is Pay What You Can (PWYC). PWYC tickets go on sale at 6:30 pm, limit one per person. This season Trinity Rep has responded to these economic times by continuing to offer $20 discounted seating, and $10 seats are also available on the Chace Theater’s 12th row bench. Additional discounted and rush tickets are also available, call box office for details. For information on group rates for parties of 10 or more, contact Group Sales at (401) 453-9223.