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'Cabaret' at Westminster Community Playhouse



The ever-popular Kander and Ebb musical is getting a new staging that promises a different perspective on the hit 1966 show.


By Eric Marchese


You might think most theatregoers have at some point seen the perennial “Cabaret,” and you’d probably be right.


Great musicals like this one, though, are immortal, and each new production sheds new light on the show’s themes while revealing the creativity of those reviving it.


Not only that, but each time a few years go by between productions of “Cabaret,” a new generation sees it for the first time.


An experience like that often sets new young viewers on a path of becoming lifelong lovers of live theatre, and might even encourage some to become part of the theatre community.


Those are possibilities when Westminster Community Playhouse offers its three-week run of an all-new production of “Cabaret,” with veteran director Stephen Gomer at the helm and featuring a cast of both veteran and young actors.


A bit of background


The team of composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb wrote the show’s songs and Joe Masteroff the book based on John Van Druten’s 1951 non-musical play “I Am a Camera.”


That play was itself based on a 1939 novel by Christopher Isherwood, an Anglo-American writer who had lived in Berlin in 1929, just as the Jazz Age was waning and the Nazi party was beginning to rise in power and influence.


A few years later Isherwood completed the novel “Goodbye to Berlin” capturing those experiences, basing the writer character Clifford Bradshaw on himself.


The stage musical, which opened in late 1966 at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York City, ran for 1,166 performances and won eight Tony Awards. It also prompted theatre companies worldwide to perform the show and inspired the 1972 film version.

What WCP will bring to audiences


The production is Gomer’s first time directing any of Kander and Ebb’s many musicals, and he said he aims “to bring a version of ‘Cabaret’ out that I’m hoping no one has seen before.”


This version, he said, has something new and something existing he hopes to underscore. “I’ve added a unique take on the end of the show, and I’ve really tried to bring more focus into the three intertwining stories being told: Sally and Cliff, Schultz and Schneider, and Fraulein Kost.”


Gomer relates that directing a show on a thrust, three-quarter-round stage like that of WCP “requires me as a director to sit and observe the show from various areas of the theatre and see what the audience will see. I’m always trying to be aware regardless of where someone might sit, they’ll get to see more than just the back sides of the actors.”


The most challenging thing in directing in this way, Gomer said, “is that the action needs to be constant – not too much sitting in one place or blocking the views of the audience when the actors are standing on stage.”


Another key aspect, he related, is “communicating with my choreographer about how the dances should be amongst the stage and not front-focused – and always making sure that the actors are aware of their space and where they are performing and who they are talking to.”


That choreographer is Jennifer Kornswiet and Bill Wolfe is vocal director. The design team: Michael Corcoran (set design and construction), Andrew Cervero (costumes) and Bob Nydegger (lighting and sound design and technical director). Jim Katapodis is producer and Maggie Korell stage manager.


Casting Westminster’s production


In the lead roles are Dimitri Tiatin-Garaud as the Emcee of the Kit-Kat Klub, Jennifer Ann Marks as chanteuse Sally Bowles and Edward Bangasser as Cliff, the character through which the action is seen and who finds his life complicated when he falls in love with Sally.


Completing the principal cast are Sherry Domerego as Fraulein Schneider and Richard Comeau as Herr Schultz. Most anyone familiar with “Cabaret” knows these two lonely elderly Germans fall in love and plan to wed – until a wave of anti-Semitism targets Schultz, who is Jewish, and casts an ugly shadow over their romance.


Trevin Stephenson is cast as Nazi functionary Ernst Ludwig, Mike Marmont is Max and Rachel Girardet is call girl Fraulein Kost. Girardet is double-cast as a Kit-Kat Girl, and the Kit-Kat Girls and Boys are played by Makenna Butcher, Matt Kim, Lea Mano, Katie Mathers, Ava Melgoza, Ashley Stewart, Ethan Trejo, and Adrian van der Valk.

The director’s thoughts on ‘Cabaret’


“I am really attracted to the songs, storylines, and the visuals that this show can bring. The way it can be done and the feelings this show can make one feel, …joy and sadness” all come at you simultaneously.


How have the show’s themes remained fresh and relevant over the course of nearly 60 years?


Director Gomer zeroes in on several: “The stories of love, loss, and the imminent takeover of the German party. How Sally must choose between a better life and love or continuing her spiral out of control. How Kost desires to find love that she sabotages. The long, lovelorn story of Schultz and Schneider and the couple’s possible future.”


“I’m bringing out the thoughts and desires of these people through the songs they sing or the way they are presenting themselves – and whether it makes you cry or laugh or wonder “what you would do?” if these situations were presented to you.”


“I am hoping that the end of the show is something that the audiences haven’t seen before or even imagined. I am hoping that they feel for the characters and the issues that have befallen them and I hope that they will make the audience feel, and think, about what life might have been like, going through what they just saw.”


Eric Marchese has written about numerous subjects for more than 39 years as a freelance and staff journalist at a wide variety of publications, but is best known as a critic, feature writer, and news reporter covering theater and the arts throughout Orange County and beyond.

 

‘Cabaret’

Westminster Community Playhouse

7272 Maple St., Westminster, CA

May 17 - June 9, 2024 (Fri & Sat at 8pm, Sun at 2pm)

714-893-8626, wcpstage.com


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