Reprise Theatre Company's production of the classic American musical "Cabaret," which opens the 2011-2012 Reprise season and plays September 13 to 25 (press opening September 14, 2011) at UCLA's Freud Playhouse, includes a cast of new talents as well as Broadway and West End veterans - Zach Bandler as Ernst Ludwig, Lisa O'Hare as Sally Bowles, Jeff McLean as Cliff Bradshaw, Katrina Lenk as Fräulein Kost, Mary GorDon Murray as Fräulein Schneider, Robert Picardo as Herr Schultz and Bryce Ryness as the Master of Ceremonies.
Marcia Milgrom Dodge, whose critically acclaimed Broadway production of "Ragtime" was nominated for seven 2010 Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical, directs and choreographs "Cabaret." Dodge recently directed "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" for Reprise. Christy Crowl will serve as musical director; Crowl has the distinction of being the first female conductor for "Wicked" on its national tour. The musical is based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The original Broadway production won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and the 1972 film version of "Cabaret" won eight Oscars. "Cabaret" has also been twice revived on Broadway.
On directing "Cabaret" for Reprise, Marcia Milgrom Dodge says, "It's incredibly timely and insightful for Reprise Theatre Company to produce this show now in 2011. Not only a classic American musical, Cabaret is a cautionary tale. It reminds us to pay close attention to what's going on in our country right now; a show that warns us to keep our eyes open to a very volatile political climate.
I want to explore the storytelling of the Isherwood tales; the German-Jewish-Nazi story. I can tell you this-what Hal Prince says the show is about is what the show is about: "What would you do? This is a show about survival and about how most people unheroically look the other way in order to survive." (from the book Harold Prince and the American Musical Theatre by Foster Hirsch.) All of this will be evident in the physical production and the relationships of the characters living and breathing life into this marvelous story."
The Reprise Theatre Company production of "Cabaret" will also feature audience onstage seating at café style tables along with a seven piece all-girl band led by Musical Director Christy Crowl to fully bring the atmosphere of the Kit Kat Club to life.
Musical theatre historians often note that ‘Cabaret' was groundbreaking in its subject matter: it was one of the first musicals to tackle a very dark period of history - the eve of Hitler's rise to power in Weimar Germany - and also groundbreaking in using the songs in the Kit Kat Klub as commentary on the story. "Above all else however, ‘Cabaret' is engrossing and entertaining. A fascinating set of characters - Sally Bowles, the cabaret singer, Cliff Bradshaw, the American writer, and the very singular Emcee, a type never seen before on the Broadway stage, are thrown into a time of history - 1930 Berlin - that rivets our attention," says Gilles Chiasson, Producing Director of Reprise Theatre Company.
"Cabaret" is based on John Van Druten's 1951 play "I Am a Camera," which in turn was adapted from the novel "Goodbye to Berlin" by Christopher Isherwood. Set in 1930 Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power, it is, as Fred Ebb said, "about people dancing on The Edge of a cliff and not quite falling over." "Cabaret" revolves around Sally Bowles, a cabaret performer in the seedy Kit Kat Club, Cliff Bradshaw, the young American writer she becomes involved with, and the characters of the edgy, threatening world they inhabit, including landlady Fräulein Schneider, caught in a doomed romance with Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor. Overseeing the action is the Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub, a decadent and ominous symbol of the era.
The collaborators integrated the cabaret numbers to comment on the action of the story and this, along with the raw edge of the material, made "Cabaret" the most provocative and challenging musical of its day, a challenge that has been taken on by stage and film audiences since. The original production, directed by Harold Prince, played for 1,165 performances on Broadway, and won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, launching the career of Joel Grey, who played the Master of Ceremonies, and fully establishing the team of composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, who wrote sixteen musicals including "Flora, The Red Menace," "The Happy Time," "Zorba," "70, Girls, 70," "Chicago," "The Act," "Woman of the Year," "The Rink," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," and "Steel Pier." Two of them have been produced on Broadway following Fred Ebb's death in 2004 - "Curtains" and this season's "The Scottsboro Boys."
The 1972 film version of "Cabaret" won eight Oscars, and brought Liza Minnelli to stardom, as well as bringing director Bob Fosse an Oscar for Best Director. In 1996, John Kander and Fred Ebb's "Chicago" was revived on Broadway and is still running. Two years later, it was joined by Sam Mendes' production of "Cabaret," in a version that was as startlingly original, as the first production of the show had been. Audiences again took up the challenge - the Sam Mendes production of ‘Cabaret" ran for 2,377 performances on Broadway and brought Alan Cumming to stardom.
Single tickets are available for "Cabaret" at www.reprise.org or through the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310/825-2101.
Photo Credit: Ed Krieger