Studio 58, the professional theatre training program at Vancouver’s Langara College, gets the new year off to a musical start with the Tony Award-winning musical Cabaret.
Based on the sexy and seedy Roundabout Theatre Company 1998 revival, Josh Epstein returns to his alma mater in his directorial debut for a show featuring some of the most iconic songs in the American musical theatre canon.
Set in 1929, Cabaret is the story of young American writer Cliff Bradshaw who has just has just arrived in Berlin, a city where the party never ends. At the notorious Kit Kat Klub, he meets the beguiling chanteuse Sally Bowles and his life is turned upside down. Meanwhile, Hitler’s grip on the country is tightening, and Cliff’s German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz are forced to face a harsh reality. Even the Kit Kat Klub’s gender-bending Emcee must acknowledge the revolutionary voices of this new Germany.
Playing the roles of The Emcee and Sally Bowles are Studio 58 students, Paige Fraser and Erin Palm. In this Q&A we find out more about the show, followed by a video sneak peek at the show from a recent visit as the company prepared for opening night.
Cabaret opens at Langara College’s Studio 58 (100 W 49th Ave, Vancouver) on January 31 and continues through February 24. Tickets are available online now at Tickets Tonight.
This interview has been edited.
Cabaret bursts with so many great moments. What scene you were excited to tackle in rehearsal?
Paige: There are so many, but I’m going to say probably “If You Could See Her (The Gorilla Song)”. It’s a number that, to me, defines a lot of Cabaret‘s essence and style. Most people I talk to mention that song as the moment where the impact of the show hits them.
Erin: I think there are countless moments in this production I was looking forward to rehearse, but my favourite scene is currently the Prairie Oyster scene and, of course, my favourite song is the play’s namesake. But, it’s hard to choose because there are so many important and exciting moments and songs in this play.
How do you stop yourself from not emulating the iconic work that Liza Minelli and Joel Grey did in the movie version? What aspect of the characters are you exploring further?
Paige: Step one in not emulating Joel Grey or the game-changing Alan Cumming performance is accepting that I am not Joel Grey or Alan Cumming. Step two is celebrating the fact that I get to do something totally different with the role that only I can do.
It’s quite freeing knowing that my Emcee is going to be inherently different then what people are probably used too. It has to be when it’s coming from the perspective of a 25-year-old woman.
Erin: I have never been interested in recreating a facsimile of anyone else’s work. I would feel like I had cheated myself trying to recreate another actors idea of a character. It wouldn’t feel right in my body and that would certainly read on stage. This is such a great opportunity for artistry.
I think the script stands so strongly on its own, all the information I need as an actor is in there along with Josh’s direction. Sally is quite mysterious and fascinating, so I feel that really allows for so much play and discovery.
As an actor I really invest in the world of the play, and Wiemar culture is what I am really inspired by, the lives and struggles of the people of Berlin. I have only seen the bits and pieces of the movie once when I was much younger. To be terribly honest, I wasn’t as awed as I’d hoped. I enjoy the play so much more, and the 1998 revival version is so perfect.
Paige, while you may not be the first female Emcee, it is rare. In this production the musical number “Two Ladies” is now “Two Laddies”. What are the differences you are finding as a woman playing the role?
Paige: “Two Laddies” is an awesome title, you should get that copyrighted.
I think what we’re doing with that particular piece is a fun mix of the classic song with a little extra flavour to play around with for the audience. I happily encourage you to buy your tickets to see what I mean.
I find myself in an exciting place as a young woman playing this role. It’s very satisfying to be given the permission to command and hold space in the way the Emcee does, and it’s an opportunity not always reserved for young women to inhabit.
I’ve been cast in a fair number of traditionally-male roles throughout my life, and I’ve learned that the most important thing approaching any role, no matter the gender attached to it, is to find the thing that connects me to it on a simply human level.
Erin, you have played sweet and impish characters in the past, but Sally Bowles is a highly sexualized role. How are you tackling it?
Erin: I tend not to judge my characters or reduce them to being sweet or sexy. My characters have wants, needs, and desires. Like I mentioned above I am so inspired by the world of the play.
Wiemar culture in 1931 was full of sexual liberation. I believe Sally is searching for freedom, just like all the other people who flocked to Berlin, pre-World War II, to have all sorts of liberating experiences free of judgment, unlike anywhere else in the world. People could be themselves, find acceptance and freedom.
As a bisexual woman, on a personal level, I find the world of the play to be beautifully tragic, ever important and desperately current.
What scene are you most looking forward to performing night-after-night?
Paige: Definitely “Willkommen”. It’s the first scene off the top of the show and it’s such an iconic moment in not only the show, but in the canon of musical theatre. The seemingly simple act of being able to welcome the audience into the space is something I’ve been really looking forward too. It’s not every show you get too look directly into the audience’s eyes and work with them. It’s all really exciting for me. How can it not be?
Erin: “Maybe This Time”, is a song I have loved since my childhood. I remember as a nine-year-old singing along with one of our family’s records. I love when a character gets to reclaim their strength, find confidence, and have hope. It’s such a turning point for Sally, to realize she deserves so much more than she has thought in the past. I find that so very human and relatable.
We are LIVE at Studio 58, Langara College with the company of Cabaret, where we understand even the orchestra is beautiful!Be sure to LIKE and SHARE this broadcast with your friends as we get a sneak peek at the show and chat with director Josh Epstein and members of the cast.Cabaret plays Studio 58 January 31 – February 24. You can get tickets online at https://ticketstonight.ticketforce.com/CABARET
Posted by Vancouver Presents on Tuesday, January 22, 2019