At WestConn, ‘Life is a Cabaret’

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DANBURY, CONN. — “What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a Cabaret, old chum, come to the Cabaret.”

Well … what are you waiting for?

Forty-two years after the hit show “Cabaret” opened at the Broadhurst Theater and took Broadway by storm in November 1966, the Western Connecticut State University theatre arts department invites theatre-lovers to “come hear the music play” at its production of the Tony Award-winning play the first three weekends in November.

The show ran for 1,165 performances on Broadway, but local theatre enthusiasts will only have nine opportunities to be transported back in time to early 20th-century Berlin.

Performances will be Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 6 – 8 and 13 – 15; and Friday and Saturday, Nov. 21 – 22, in the Berkshire Theatre in Berkshire Hall on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on Opening Night, Thursday, Nov. 6, and at 8 p.m. all other evenings. There will be a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 15. The public is invited. Tickets will be $22 for adults, and $18 for seniors and non-WestConn students. WestConn students with valid I.D. will be admitted free.

WestConn Professor of Theatre Arts Sal Trapani, the show’s producer, said the theatre arts department’s fall production will be “big budget,” featuring two revolves — sections of the set that rotate. “We’ve never had anything like this before,” Trapani said. “Cabaret” also will have a two-tier set and an 18-piece orchestra on stage, conducted by WCSU Music Professor Dr. Fernando Jimenez. The sizable production is indicative of the “large influx of new and transfer students in the theatre arts department,” Trapani said. “This is the biggest theatre class we’ve ever had, and many of these students can also sing.” Several students from WestConn’s music department also will lend their trained voices to the production.

Associate Professor of Theatre Arts Pam McDaniel, who will direct, said “Cabaret” is both a play and a musical, and incorporates a very serious story line. “The play explores the relationship of the cabaret to Germany just prior to World War II and how it became a reflection of what was going on at the time,” McDaniel said. “There are really two different planes being portrayed: the emergence of the Nazi movement; and how it began to shape the fabric of the characters’ lives during that time period.

“What people remember most about ‘Cabaret’ are the cabaret acts,” McDaniel said. “A song performed by a character in the play may end up being sung by a performer in the musical cabaret. There are probably a dozen songs that people will recognize.”

The 1966 production earned Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Composer and Lyricist, Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Joel Grey), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Peg Murray), Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design, Best Choreography and Best Direction of a Musical (Hal Prince). A 1987 revival netted six nominations but no awards. A 1998 revival garnered awards for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Alan Cumming), Best Actress in a Musical (Natasha Richardson) and Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Ron Rifkin).

WestConn’s cast will include Matt Bagley, of Windsor, as Emcee; Sean Zackrison, of Mount Kisco, N.Y., as Cliff Bradshaw; Kayla Koschel, of Sandy Hook, as Sally Bowles; Jenn Billingsley, of Danbury, as Fraulein Schneider; Amy Bentley, of East Lyme, as Fraulein Kost; Frank Beaudry, of Oakville, as Ernst Ludwig; Joshua Wagner, of Roxbury, as Herr Schultz; Andrew Hendrick, of Fairfield, as Max; and Conor Bartram, of Hamden, as Maitre D. The cast also includes Annie Bryson, of Shelton; Kristina Chester, of Dudley, Mass.; Amanda Forker, of Wethersfield; Kaitie Hartman, of Jewett; Holly LoRusso, of Wolcott; Paige Meehan, of West Hartford; Aline O’Connor, of Colchester; Chelsea Pinero, of Southbury; Brianne Sassone, of Paramus, N.J.; and Samantha Tuozzola, of Norwalk, as the Kit Kat Club girls. Jason Nolan and Patrick Baldwin, of Bridgeport, and Anthony DePoto, of Danbury, portray sailors.

The crew will include Trapani as producer, McDaniel as director, Frank Herbert as technical director, Liz Popiel as set designer, Amy Jones as musical director and choreographer, Dan Hassenmayer as lighting designer, Jess Rosso as sound designer, Joseph Russo as costume designer and Nick Bussett as production manager.

Bagley, a junior theatre major, said of his role as Emcee, “I’m excited, to say the least. When I heard we’d be staging it, I watched Joel Grey’s performance in the movie and I fell in love with it. It’s a wonderful show.”

Bagley said he considers his character a smart and satirical commentator on the political events of the day, much like present-day analysts Steven Colbert and John Stewart. The only difference is that much of what the Emcee has to “say” is done in song. Last seen on WestConn’s stage as Ethan in “The Full Monty” and the Lover in “Tommy,” Bagley said his preparation for “Cabaret” has been “very heavy on the dancing and singing.” He’s working with a choreographer and taking voice lessons in the university’s music department.
 

“The show in a lot of ways parallels what’s going on in today’s society,” Bagley said. “Hopefully the audience will see the connection in our current political and economic situation to 1930s Berlin.”

WestConn alumni couples who want to enjoy dinner before their theatre experience on Friday, Nov. 7, can buy a combination dinner-theatre ticket for $45. The Alumni Dinner-Theatre will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Warner Hall on the university’s Midtown campus. A limited number of tickets are available for the dinner theatre. To make a reservation, call the Office of Alumni Relations at (203) 837-8290.

For tickets or more information, call the Berkshire Box Office at (203) 837-8732 or go to www.wcsu.edu/tickets.

 

Western Connecticut State University offers outstanding faculty in a range of quality academic programs. Our diverse university community provides students an enriching and supportive environment that takes advantage of the unique cultural offerings of Western Connecticut and New York. Our vision: To be an affordable public university with the characteristics of New England’s best small private universities.

 

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