‘Cabaret,’ one of the hottest musicals of all time, hits Cabrillo Stage
Since American Musical Theatre of San Jose closed its doors in 2008, Cabrillo Stage has had some large shoes to fill. But with a brand new performance space at Crocker Theater and a young company of actors that is determined to bring Broadway to Santa Cruz, they are more than up to the task.
And so are the 25-year-old leads of this summer’s “Cabaret” at Cabrillo Stage. Aptos High School graduate Briana Michaud and Big Apple veteran Roddy Kennedy are prepared to wow even the least musically inclined theatergoer come July 23 when “Cabaret” opens.
Trevor Little, who was behind last summer’s “Wizard of Oz,” directs the production, which is based on a book by Joe Masteroff about nightlife at Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub in 1931, Germany. The story centers on a relationship between 19-year-old English cabaret performer Sally Bowles (Michaud) and American writer Cliff Bradshaw, with a sub-plot involving the tragic romance of a German boarding house owner and a Jewish fruit vendor. Overseeing the drama as it unfolds is the ghoulish emcee of the club (Kennedy).
Most people associate “Cabaret” with Liza Minnelli’s 1972 film, but for the young stars, it has been a life-long dream to act in the stage production. “It’s in the top five lead characters I’ve wanted to play,” says Michaud, who debuted in her first Cabrillo Stage show at 10 years old with “The Sound of Music.” “When I was little I watched the film and thought I wanted to play her [Sally], now that I’m a little older I think I can absolutely relate to Sally—we were both afraid of being ordinary.”
Though this is Michaud’s seventh Cabrillo Stage production, “Cabaret” will be her first time in a lead role. But with her years of private singing lessons, choral training and shower-time show tunes, she believes that she is more than ready. “In the car, my sister usually turns up the stereo to drown me out,” she laughs.
Kennedy boasts an intimidating resume for a young actor as well, having just returned from the Broadway road show of “Grease” in Istanbul. While he enjoyed being abroad, he is excited to get back to the type of community theater he experienced at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria.
“You can immediately tell how much more community driven this theater is,” says Kennedy, who was first introduced to Cabrillo Stage and Michaud in 2008 as an assistant fight choreographer. Part of his motivation to return from overseas and Michaud’s desire to remain in Santa Cruz rather than look for work in New York, is the effort made by companies such as Cabrillo Stage to cater to the theatrical interests of their audiences. For instance, it was because of a series of audience polls conducted by Marketing and Communications Director Jana Marcus over the last two years at Cabrillo, that “Cabaret” was selected for this summer’s playbill. “People asked for it, and we’re giving them what they want,” says Michaud.
But don’t be surprised if you leave the theater with more than just a couple of songs stuck in your head. According to the leads, the show has a much deeper and resonating message than most musicals. “It’s not the happy-go-lucky play people are expecting,” says Kennedy. “There’s a lot more meat in the stage version—you get to see the Hitler movement from a bunch of different people’s perspectives, and when you leave, you get to reflect on it.”
While the Kit Kat Klub atmosphere appears to be a decadent escape from Hitler’s regime, the gravity of the musical that Kennedy refers to, concerns the characters’ conscious denial of the inescapable political situation in which they are imprisoned.
Both actors reassure theatergoers, however, that no one in the cast is going to try to deliver a moral lesson. The narrative was originally written for multiple interpretations and Kennedy intends to keep it that way. “We’re not telling you what to think, we’re simply leaving the cards on the table for you to put together—perspective is what it comes down to,” he says.
Though the drama takes place nearly 80 years ago, Marcus is convinced that “Cabaret” is still relevant today, particularly with a youth generation that is often criticized for its apathy concerning global issues. “Young people tend to feel that there are too many problems in the world and they think, ‘What can we do about it?’” she says. “The message is that we have to educate ourselves.”
According to Kennedy, part of our responsibility as global citizens, as reinforced by the play, is to listen to those celebrities who come on television and remind us that we each have a voice and encourage us to vote. “I think we’re in a generational movement—it’s terrifying; if we close our eyes, bad things can happen,” he says. “In that respect, this show has a very real and relatable aspect to it.”
So whether you’re a German history buff, a sucker for romance, or just looking for some sultry choreography and biting dialogue, “Cabaret” has something for everyone. “It’s a smart play with a story that stretches across the ages,” says Michaud. “And it wouldn’t be a Trevor show without lots of sexy dancing girls and boys.”
For more information about “Cabaret,” visit cabrillostage.com or call 479-6154. “Cabaret” will be showing at Cabrillo College’s Crocker Theater July 23- Aug. 15. Ticket prices range from $16-38.