The cast is gathered together, talking, giving ideas to their director, Dayton Native, Philip Drennen. He likes to hear from his actors and dancers, and he welcomes their ideas. ‘The strength of this cast,’ Drennen says ‘is they genuinely like each other and build each other up. That makes their on-stage performance cohesive and electric.’ Drennen chose CABARET, one of Broadways’ truly iconic shows, because ‘it is relevant even today. It’s balance of dark and light is historic and yet, contemporary!’
As the music begins in their 3rd practice venue, the Cannery, the cast takes a deep breath knowing once it starts, its full-on CABARET! Charity Farrell, who shines as Sally Bowles, the show’s broken, scarred female lead, puts every inch of her soul into the role. ‘I understand Sally. ADHD, the struggles, her demons….yet she controls the room!’ Farrell’s MAYBE THIS TIME is goosebump worthy. ‘I have been in many, many shows, but I can feel the support of this company. They are so generous and giving as a cast!’
Midway through practice, they EMCEE, brought to ‘bigger-than-life status by 6’4″ newcomer, Alex Everett, belts out one of his many tunes with wonderfully eerie tones and strange physicality. Lights change, music fades and we are back in a 1930’s apartment building awaiting the ‘play within a play’ transition.
Although the show has songs we all know, many times people forget the backdrop….the beginning of the Rise of the Nazis. ‘You forget what complacency does,’ says Amy Askins, who brings her character, Fraulein Kost, a delicious, slutty energy. ‘The shows begs us to pay attention to what’s happening around us. For my character, it’s about survival. She tries to make the best of things in a world about to turn upside-down. She gives us a glimpse into her heart, and we see how some people must sell their soul to get by.’
The cast, uniquely diverse, is well suited for the political drama. ‘The storyline is so important. Our cast is made up of so many minorities and it highlights the idea of hatred and ignorance in the script.’ says Naman Clark, a Dayton Theater staple. ‘You see why we have to stand up for what is right.’
CABARET has had many revivals, many versions of the same tale. Drennen looked to make his version pertinent to today, without losing sight of its roots. Take the cherished character of Fraulein Schneider. ‘I knew I wanted to use this moment to open peoples’ eyes to all kinds of ways of life. I called Josh Stucky and said, ‘What if you play Schneider?’ Stucky, a well-known drag queen in the Dayton Area, jumped at the opportunity.
‘First of all, I love Schneider. She’s the backbone in CABARET in many ways. And I feel playing her gives all of us a voice….men, women, trans, whatever! She doesn’t need to be any one thing, but rather every kind of thing. I hope to do her justice!’ Stucky’s turn at the tune ‘So What?’ is sweet and endearing, which can also be said for Schneider’s love interest, Dayton theater Patriarch Saul Caplan (Herr Schultz.)
For first-timer Scott Winters, who plays Bobby, his eyes were open to community theater. ‘It is so amazing to see how the pieces fall together and a really great show happens!’ Winters character, a homosexual longing to reunite with the male lead Cliff, dances, sings, and delights as one of the famous Kit Kat Club kids. Dancing is integral in CABARET, and it’s fun, phrenetic and forceful throughout the show…and yes, the Gorilla makes an appearance!
As rehearsal winds down, and Garrett Young’s Clifford Bradshaw leads the cast through the hauntingly unsettled ending, the ensemble sits in an awkward silence. ‘You can feel the broken world we live in in that moment.’ says Young. ‘Each of us trying to figure ourselves out. This leads to the understanding the story is still important today as it was in the 40’s, 60’s 80’s….There is a great cost in doing nothing.’
Theater is back. And so is this importance of story-telling.
Life Is a CABARET and thank GOD this one is open for business!
Show runs 10/13-10/16 at the PNC Art Annex, for 5 shows. There are tickets available at https://www.daytonlive.org/events/cabaret/
The show is sponsored by the RubiGirls and SquareOne Salons.