Cabaret promises an enthralling show
Sex sells, but so does romance, comedy or anything referencing Hitler. The musical Cabaret, first staged in 1966 and immortalized onscreen in 1972, twists all of these things into a bombastic, glamorous and sinister work of theatre.
The production by the Reprise Theatre Company aims to keep the glitz of the original, but also pursues the authenticity of the historical perspective.
Set in 1930s Berlin, Cabaret follows the relationship between the flamboyant cabaret dancer Sally Bowles and American writer Cliff Bradshaw. Their unlikely romance, however, coincides with the rise of Nazi Germany.
This particular production of Cabaret was compressed into a two-week rehearsal time â a tall order for any musical production, but especially noteworthy for a show like Cabaret, which combines song, dance and theatric spectacle. An adroit director is critical for a tight turnaround. Director Marcia Milgrom Dodge, whose Broadway production of Ragtime received seven Tony nominations in 2010, was up to the challenge.
âShe really did her homework and itâs made all the difference,â actor Bryce Ryness said. âWe got the guns blazing really fast. We were fully blocked in for days. That doesnât happen if a director is not prepared. She handed us a blueprint and said, âReady? Go to town.ââ
Ryness plays the Master of Ceremonies, the Puckish leader of the salacious Kit Kat Klub. Throughout the musical, the Emcee serves as a commentator who occasionally sashays into the story.
The award-winning actor graduated from USC in 2002 with a major in business administration, and sang in the SoCal VoCals, an on campus a capella group.
After graduating, Ryness became a professional performer. A few of his many forays include playing Roger in the RENT national tour, performing alongside Jeremy Irons in the Hollywood Bowlâs Camelot and earning a Drama Desk nomination for his performance of Woof in Hair.
The role of the Emcee has been played by greats including Joel Grey, Michael C. Hall and Alan Cumming. For this production, Ryness and Dodge hope to engender an air of authenticity.
âItâs not going to be derivative â if it is, itâs purely by accident,â Ryness said. âThe intention is to be as sincere as possible in the pursuit of authenticity. [The Emcee] is really cool â heâs atypical of a musical theatre role. He [is] groundbreaking.â
Ryness will be joined by Lisa OâHare as Sally Bowles, fresh from her performance in Gigi, and Jeff McLean as Ciff Bradshaw, following McLeanâs recent performance in world premiere of Tales of the City: A New Musical. Other performers to take the stage are Mary Gordon Murray as FrĂ¤ulein Schneider, Robert Picardo as Herr Schultz, and Katrina Lenk as FrĂ¤ulein Kost.
Just like the Emceeâs character, Cabaret has had many interpretations, from its glitzy Broadway beginnings to a much darker and more sardonic revival. This time, Dodge plans to take the show back to its historical roots to capture the time period.
â[The tone will] ride the descent of the Kit Kat Klub into the rise of Nazi Germany,â Ryness said. âIt once was this cool place to go â it had a class and glamor and some tawdry, kinky elements â yet you put on a nice outfit to go there. But as the Nazis come to power its finances [were] pulled.â
Though some might think the rhetoric before World War II is a far-gone memory, Ryness disagrees. Instead, he believes the message and tone of Cabaret are very relevant today. Though he hopes audiences enjoy a stylish show, he also hopes they will see the connection between the past and present.
âWeâre living Weimar hyper-lite â in a period of extremely polarized political culture, coupled with art and a bohemian ethic among some of the population,â Ryness said.
The Reprise Theatre Companyâs production of Cabaret plays at UCLAâs Freud Playhouse, Sept. 13-25. Tickets can be purchased from the UCLA Central Ticket Office by calling (310) 825-2101.