…and I love a Cabaret!

Ever since its debut in 1966 on Broadway, this classic Kander and Ebb musical (book by Joe Masteroff) has been popular with audiences and critics alike. With its memorable songs, biting and sometimes deliciously saucy lyrics, and burlesque charm, Cabaret gives audiences good old-fashioned entertainment wrapped around sometimes confronting themes. Against the backdrop of 1931 Berlin and the rise of the Nazi regime, Cabaret focuses on nightlife at the seedy Kit Kat Klub and the characters within its walls, overseen by the leering, somewhat macabre figure of the Emcee. Enter novelist Clifford Bradshaw who meets English cabaret performer Sally Bowles, and the story moves on to explore their doomed romance with a subplot involving boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz, a Jewish fruit vendor. The overtones of the show are sometimes sinister with the increasingly powerful Nazi forces becoming more apparent and the rise of anti-Semitism and fear that accompany it.

Catchment CabaretCabaret is a show that entertains while making you think at the same time and is a gift for both performers and audiences. Catchment Players are currently offering up this scrumptious piece with a wonderfully talented cast and I was delighted to chat to director Brad Fisher about this latest production.

Theatre People: What is your concept for this production? What do you think the message of this show is?

Brad Fisher: My concept has been to focus heavily on the Weimar influence of the time and to address the darker side of Cabaret. My casting brief at auditions was for a tight ensemble cast of 25 years or older. I wanted to have an older cast for the show and firmly believe this show was written for older characters. I am extremely fortunate to have a mature Emcee who is a gem of an entertainer and a wonderful ensemble cast who all work together beautifully. There is no fluff in my version of Cabaret, it is all heart and grit – compelling stuff to see!

TP: What do you love most about this show? What attracted you to the production?

BF: I have loved Cabaret for years. I performed in a production of the show in Perth about ten years ago and just loved the experience. The music is beautiful and the book delightful. It allows characters to grow and develop as the show propels. When Catchment announced the season, I jumped on board to put my submission in and was fortunate that the committee allowed me to present the show.

TP: Tell me about the characters in the show and your cast. What has the rehearsal process been like?

Catchment CabaretBF: I am so fortunate to have a wonderful cast headed by the insanely talented Will Deumer, Rachel Juhasz, and Dean Pearcey. The cast bonded from day one and they have really been a joy to watch. The rehearsal process has been incredibly tight, but everyone should be so proud of how it has all come together. They have really created something very special.

And on her role as the somewhat tragic figure of Sally Bowles, I spoke with Rachel Juhasz about her inspiration for the characterization of Sally.

Rachel Juhasz: Generally I base all my characterisations around the voice. Once I’ve settled on how they are going to sound, the rest just pretty much flows organically from there. Brad very particularly wanted Sally to be English (as originally written) so I had a bit of a think and a play, and decided that Sally should have a breathy, theatrical, slightly affected quality to her voice. I also did a bit of research on how Sally has been portrayed in the past and felt that the feel I wanted was best represented previously by Judi Dench (who played Sally in the original London version). So as a starting point I just though about how Judi would sound delivering the lines.

TP: Do you relate to your character in any way and if so, how?

RJ: Sally is rather a tragic figure so I’d hate to think there are too many parallels between us. But on a base level I suppose she spends most of the show grappling with issues centring around what she wants to get out of love and life. I, like many people, spend a hell of lot of my time pondering these matters, so I suppose I can relate to Sally… how very depressing!

TP: What have been the challenges and joys of creating this role?

Catchment CabaretRJ: I have found this role incredibly challenging but also amazingly rewarding. The majority of roles I’ve played in the past have been lighter, comic ones, so it’s been refreshing to be given the opportunity to play a straighter, more serious character. Don’t get me wrong — my Sally is all light and fluffy on the outside, but she is so very fragile and close to the edge on the inside. I hope this comes across in my portrayal. I am also very excited — but also bloody scared — about making prairie oysters on-stage ("…it’s just a raw egg whooshed around in some Worcestershire sauce…"). I’m not worried so much about having to drink the thing, but the thought of carrying two raw eggs in my pocket and having to sit down a number of times before I whip them out and crack em open freaks me out somewhat!

Hmm… sounds intriguing Rachel! Knowing the work of this production team and many of the cast, I am excited about seeing this show. It promises to be entertaining and fun as well as emotionally touching and confronting – everything you want a great show to be!

Cabaret is directed and choreographed by Brad Fisher with musical direction by Nathan Firmin and features Will Deumer (Emcee); Dean Pearcey (Cliff Bradshaw); Roger Wander (Herr Schulz); Melinda Gregory (Fraulein Kost); Jennie Kellaway (Fraulein Schneider); and Rachel Juhasz (Sally Bowles), along with a very talented ensemble cast. Cabaret is being presented by Catchment Players of Darebin Inc. and is playing at the Banyule Theatre, Buckingham Drive, Heidelberg from April 8th to 16th. Bookings 0437 228 246 or email [email protected]

Catchment Cabaret