Tony Nominee Laura Osnes Has a Perfectly Marvelous Time with the Cast of Cabaret in Minnesota

Broadway.comBy Ryan Gilbert January 31, 2014

No troubles here! Laura Osnes heads to the 'Cabaret!'

What happens when a Broadway princess needs to take a load off? She heads to the Kit Kat Klub, of course! Laura Osnes, who just finished her celebrated run in Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, recently took a trip to her home state of Minnesota to party with the cast of Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust's production ofCabaret. The two-time Tony nominee hosted a master class for students of the SpotLight Musical Theatre Program before being wilkommened to an evening performance of the legendary Kander & Ebb tuner. Osnes, who's a spokesperson for the program, had an amazing time with show's cast and said she was “inspired and moved by every soul on the stage.” Aww, the inspirer becomes the inspiree! Hey, don't just stay there “sitting pretty,” go see Cabaret for yourself, playing through February 9 at the Pantages Theatre in Minneapolis. They'll be happy to see you!

"Cabaret" is Sexy, Catchy, With Breakout Performances

Minnesota MonthlyBy Quinton Skinner January 21, 2014

Kander and Ebb’s musical about Weimar Berlin holds up astonishingly well after nearly half a century, for reasons that include both the good and ill: its themes of libertine celebration amid encroaching tides of bigotry and authoritarianism will probably never grow entirely irrelevant, alas. But what a celebration it is, sexy and catchy and full of heart, and a vehicle for breakout performances the likes of which burst from this Theater Latte Da production.

The action plays out over a couple of parallel tracks. In one, the onstage hijinks at a club called the Kit Kat include song and dance numbers infused with all manner of lewd charm, not least via the sinisterly charismatic Emcee (Tyler Michaels) and his star performer Sally Bowles (Kira Lace Hawkins), and augmented by young performers in various stages of undress. The performances are delivered with unflagging energy and charm, and with a technical assurance that argues volumes for the work’s enduring status.

In the other, we tag along with the youngish writer Clifford Bradshaw (Sean Dooley), an American bouncing around Europe ostensibly writing a novel (as is usually the case, the crushing monotony of the enterprise is sensibly left offstage). Clifford and Sally fall for one another, live in charming poverty, and eventually collide with the tides of history that coincide with the rise of Nazism.

The ideas here are fairly big, and stuffed into the narrative suitcase at frequently odd and awkward angles (those who remember the brilliant, disturbing run of The Scottboro Boys at the Guthrie will also recall Kander and Ebb’s willingness to juxtapose discordant emotion with toe-tapping craft). Clifford is in a sense our narrative linchpin, though he’s mopey and passive (it’s hard to imagine why members of both genders seem to keep falling for him), and the most inexplicable character on hand.

More effective is a romance between Sally Wingert and James Michael Detmar as an innkeeper and fruit vendor (respectively), a September song of a love affair that in time follows the tragic contours of history. Adam Qualls also contributes a sympathetic if enigmatic businessman whose politics in time spur the disintegration of Clifford’s world.

Done right, this isn’t a musical with a neat ending or uncomplicated sympathies—it’s frankly too smart for that. But what’s easy to draw out here are Michaels and Hawkins, the performers at the center of the most powerful moments of the evening. Michaels is, to all appearances, nothing short of an emerging star: uncanny and assured, tragic and glamorous, sweet and astringent in the same instant. By the end, he delivers “I Don’t Care Much” with a depth that nearly breaks one's heart; Hawkins then arrives to sing the title song and finally shatters it. Here’s beauty, pain, complexity: the stirrings of what is great about the theater.

This Cabaret isn’t perfect, or without its moments of drift, but it has a fascinating immediacy and power that moves, disturbs, unsettles. If it doesn’t feel like a museum piece, that’s because it’s done its job—raising the universal and the palpable in the conflict between little lives and big forces, and the moments of beauty that arguably are never extinguished in the march of history and inescapable mortality.

Dancing into the dark

Artcetera - Star TribuneBy Caroline Palmer January 20, 2014

Choreographing for “Cabaret” must feel exhilarating and daunting. After all, whoever tackles this job is following in the footsteps of first Ronald Field and then Ron Marshall on Broadway, not to mention the legendary Bob Fosse on film. But Ivey award winner Michael Matthew Ferrell proves he is up to the task in Theatre Latté Da’s production of the famed John Kander and Fred Ebb musical, now playing at the Pantages Theatre.

“Cabaret” captures a specific moment of time – the blinkered days leading into Hitler’s cruel domination of Germany and Europe. Berlin has an atmosphere of thrilling sleaziness but something far more ominous is brewing, and there’s nothing fun about it. The story evolves from carelessness into darkness, as if the entire city itself transitions from a playful dream into a years-long nightmare. Ferrell picks up on this pivotal transition in his choreography for the Peter Rothstein-directed production.

Because “Cabaret” takes place in a underground nightclub, the dancing is sexy-as-all-get-out, propelled by pelvic thrusts, swaying hips and nearly bare bottoms. It would be easy to rely on a stock bump-and-grind approach for the early musical numbers but Ferrell’s movement choices consciously hint at the danger to come.

Tyler Michaels as the Emcee is a sneering, audience-teasing, glittery dynamo and often joins in with the bawdy chorus who stomp through their paces with a frankly impatient sensuality. They aren’t in jackboots (yet) but there’s clearly a force afoot to transform these hedonists into either enemies or allies of the state (“Mein Herr” with its militaristic forcefulness, led by the gutsy Kira Lace Hawkins as Sally Bowles is a prime example).

Ferrell completes these connections with his movement choices in the second act. A high-kicking chorus line devolves into goose-stepping and Nazi salutes. Partygoers waltz prettily before joining in with Fraulein Kost’s (Aeysha Kinnunen) rendition of the chilling hymn “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.” Michaels and a monkey-suited dancer happily hoof toward a horrific climax: “If you could see her through my eyes … she wouldn’t look Jewish at all.” The Emcee can only make such a joke in a society primed to accept it so the combination of the upbeat tap dancing and the deadly statement is all the more rattling.

Ferrell, along with Rothstein, exposes the beating heart of “Cabaret.” It’s a story about transitory liberation, about abandoning troubles at the door, about being true to one’s self, others be damned. But of course we all ignore our surroundings at our own peril. We can only dance so long before the music stops playing.

THEATER REVIEW | Theater Latté Da's "Cabaret" at the Pantages Theatre titillates, shines, and punches you in the gut

TC Daily PlanetBy Basil Considine January 21, 2014

Be forewarned: showing up late to Theater Latté Da's new production of Cabaret is a bad idea. This is not because the story will be hard to follow (it won't be) or because you'll miss out entirely on a good song (there's a reprise), but because you will be madly jealous when later overhearing what you missed. Those who are in their seats as the lights dim are in for a rich basketful of treats–including some special and unexpected ones–at the top of the show and at the end of intermission.

From the title Cabaret, you might expect that this is a musical light on substance and heavy on fun songs, exposed skin, and both witty and dirty humor. The second part is certainly true, but amidst the decadence of this music club setting in Weimar Germany lie the seeds of Nazism and violent anti-Semitism. Peter Rothstein's direction butters you up with laughs and dazzle, only to hit you that much harder when your guard is down.

Most of Cabaret dazzles, in fact. The show unfolds in a splendid arc; the Emcee, played by Tyler Michaels, is riveting and ribald. The Kit Kat Boys and Girls who form the main chorus are also a treat for the eyes and ears, with one Kit Kat "Girl" (Jeffrey C. Nelson) in spot-on drag for some extra spice. Lavish new costumes by Rich Hamson appear with each new number, and Michael Matthew Ferrell's choreography is dynamic and pleasantly edgy. The flexible unity set, designed by Kate Sutton-Johnson, never felt too static. Kira Lace Hawkins's turn as the Kit Kat Club's star performer Sally Bowles is suitably magnetic without polishing out the rough edges that round out the character. Adam Qualls's strong supporting performance as Ernst Ludwig is one of the key pivots when the musical turns darker.

Life outside the cabaret isn't always as fun. Sally Wingert and James Michael Detmar have endearing chemistry as the doomed older couple Fräulein Schenider and Herr Schultz, but in the performance seen for this review (Saturday, January 18) Wingert–an actress better known for spoken theatre–was vocally overshadowed by her castmates. Microphone levels were also too hot for several numbers, distorting and muddying the sound; the Pantages would have benefited from a stronger stereo mix for the chorus's vocal mikes. These technical and balance issues will hopefully be smoothed out as the run continues, leaving a show that is fun, daring, and delightful.

A dazzling 'Cabaret' at Pantages

MinnPostBy Pamela Espeland January 21, 2014

What can we say about “Cabaret,” which opened at the Pantages on Friday? Simply that “Cab” is fab. From the moment emcee Tyler Michaels drops down on a rope into an audience member’s lap to Kira Lace Hawkins’ final appearance as Sally Bowles, Peter Rothstein’s production is a (mostly) nonstop whirl of song, dance, glam, torn stockings, flesh, and mounting, sickening dread as the Nazis rise to power in Weimar Germany. Part of the Broadway Re-Imagined series, a collaboration between Rothstein’s Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust (previous projects: “All Is Calm” and “Aida”), this all-local show is dazzling. We’d seen the 1972 Oscar-winning film by Bob Fosse and were a bit concerned going in that we wouldn’t be able to get past the indelible performances by Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli. But the extravagantly talented Michaels, who is destined to be a big star, and Hawkins, whose performance grew in power and conviction, took care of all that, along with their co-stars Sally Wingert as brittle, who-cares Fraulein Schneider, James Michael Detmar as her tender and patient Jewish suitor, Herr Schultz, and Sean Dooley as American writer Clifford Bradshaw, alter-ego for Christopher Isherwood, on whose “Berlin Stories” the musical is based. New York’s Roundabout Theatre is preparing its own Broadway revival of “Cabaret,” which opens in April. They should save themselves the trouble and borrow ours. FMI; through Feb. 9.

Curiocity Review: Outside It’s Winter, But In ‘Cabaret’ It’s So Hot

WCCOBy Sara Pelissero January 20, 2014

Schedule your Brazilian wax and gird your loins — it’s time for “Cabaret.”

Hailed as one of the greatest musicals of all time, the all-local production of “Cabaret” certainly had plenty to live up to.

Would they take inspiration from Hal Prince’s 1966 Broadway smash, the 1972 classic film starring Miss Liza Minnelli or perhaps give a nod to Alan Cumming’s Tony Award-winning performance in the 1998 revival?

Luckily, for the audience at Saturday night’s performance inside Pantages Theatre, the answer is yes — all of the above.

Director Peter Rothstein and his creative team from Theater Latté Da made some excellent choices when it came to putting together a local spin on an iconic masterpiece.

And that’s highly attributed to their choices in casting. Kira Lace Hawkins brings a dynamic vocal to the role of Sally Bowles — a “star” performer at the dingy Kit Kat Klub in 1930s Berlin. Hawkins’ only downfall might be that she’s too good in the performer role, which clouds her supposed delusional aspirations and gives a false hope to her search of true stardom.

Not that anyone’s complaining.

Hawkins nails the desperation of a lost soul in her performance of “Cabaret,” with moments that would make ol’ Liza with a ‘Z’ proud, pouring the emotion of the song out of her mascara-soaked eyes.

The Twin Cities’ Meryl Streep, Sally Wingert, proves once again why having her name on your cast list is always better than not. As Fraulein Schneider, Wingert elevates the struggle of love and fear while maintaining the so-called grouchy exterior that’s become her security blanket.

But perhaps the most surprising star of the evening goes to fresh-faced Tyler Michaels, who leads the audience through the highs and the lows that is “Cabaret.” As Emcee, Michaels flawlessly runs the gamut of entertaining and blending. His acrobatics — and impressive vocals while mid-air — is an enchanting twist, perfectly staged and meticulously performed. His constant presence is a comfort throughout the show, until it’s not.

As the lovable and charming Herr Schultz, James Michael Detmar brings an innocence and a vulnerability to the role that solidifies the heartbreak later felt. His naivety to the changing world around him only furthers a sense of pity and remorse.

The production from the very top of the show to the final bow was well executed and brilliantly performed. The staging perfectly suited the Pantages stage, without losing sight of its Latté Da roots. The costumes leave little to the imagination — and whatever isn’t implied is directly thrust in a phallic matter. It’s a far cry from Joel Grey’s 1966 full tailored suit but still, I’d imagine, not nearly as shocking as it once was.

For a musical that must balance both the celebration of a new year and the end of the world within its two-hour-and-15-minute window, this show certainly does it to the best of its ability. It metaphorically lets the klub represent the hope, the threat and the desperation of a new era without being unnecessarily literal.

So as the winter takes yet another turn into a polar-like vortex, perhaps the best retreat is to warm yourself in front of this hot musical. Boasting the indoor comforts of a vacation from the outside world, it’s a place to leave your troubles at the door and forget all that disappoints you.

Here, and in this local production, everything truly is beautiful.

'Cabaret' Emcee is bigger than life

Star TribuneBy Graydon Royce January 20, 2014

REVIEW: Actor/singer Tyler Michaels invites you to the Kit Kat Club and stories about prewar Berlin.

Hellooooo, Tyler Michaels! Or rather, “Wilkommen,” young man. You have shimmied your way into the gold club of Twin Cities musical theater performers.

Michaels, with director Peter Rothstein goading him into a series of outrageous physical gags, minces and slinks, simmers and glares as the Master of Ceremonies of a little club called the Kit Kat. You know the place as that seedy, debauched hangout in Weimar Germany — the place where Christopher Isherwood found grist for stories that would be turned into “Cabaret.”

Rothstein’s production “Cabaret” opened Saturday night at the Pantages Theatre with Michaels flying in out of nowhere and landing in the lap of a patron. Not a bad trick if your intent is to knock people off their assumptions about what’s fair game in theater. The Emcee gets into the business of a few more audience members throughout the evening, trying to incorporate all of us into the notion that we are in the Kit Kat, in Berlin on the cusp of Hitler’s ascension, a part of the world stage.

“Cabaret,” which has evolved through several iterations since opening in 1966, remains vexed by its dual nature — balancing a wild, Brechtian device full of camp with a fairly old-fashioned book musical. This tension still results in spiky glitter scenes and saggy patches of dialogue.

Within the club, the action shakes with naughty excitement. There are songs, dance, fun, gaiety. Michael Matthew Ferrell’s choreography reflects the unrefined energy and the sweaty lust for life that defined the early 1930s in one of the world’s most delirious places. Denise Prosek drives an orchestra that “is beautiful.” Rich Hamson’s exquisite costumes spare little flesh from exposure as the dancers leap around Kate Sutton-Johnson’s darkly glass-paneled set.

Isherwood wrote of a British singer named Sally Bowles, a mediocre but somehow magnetic performer who hooked his heart a little. Kira Lace Hawkins’ Sally devours her moment in the spotlight with a voice that is full of steel and emotional power. Her eyes and face radiate a confidence, her manner a sense of self-obsession. Hawkins’ Sally has a phoniness, a facade that is essential to understanding her vulnerability. As she walks off stage at one point near the play’s end, her shoulders slump with the knowledge that the game is over.

The other part of “Cabaret” is a plotted story, and this is where productions may wobble. Rothstein took no chances when he cast Sally Wingert as Fraulein Schneider, the landlady who falls in love with a Jewish fruit vendor (futzy James Detmar). The relationship of these two takes time to spool out. Here, Wingert and Detmar make the time worthwhile, in musical numbers that express their tender, late-life romance.

The book scenes also benefit from the presence of Sean Dooley, who plays wannabe novelist Cliff Bradshaw — Isherwood’s presence in the musical. Cliff is a complex, unsettled personality caught inside the body of a fairly timid American rich boy. Dooley’s Cliff stumbles into the Berlin milieu and falls in love with Sally. He sobers up just in time, for the Emcee’s jocund world has crumbled.

Michaels’ crazy little man is left alone, the last one left at the party before Germany turns out the lights.

BWW Reviews: Perfectly Marvelous CABARET

Broadwayworld.comBy Kristen Hirsch Montag January 20, 2014


Simply put, that's what the production of CABARET at Minneapolis' Pantages Theatre is. A collaboration by Theatre Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust as a part of their Broadway Re-Imagined series, it has high production values, top talent and a story that retains relevance more than 40 years after it first premiered.

From the moment he dropped into the audience at the top of the show, the Emcee, played by Tyler Michaels, was the highest point (both figuratively and literally) of a show with many. Remarkably talented, this actor could do it all -- he tapped, did acrobatics, sang and provided a constant reminder during the narrative story of the overarching idea that you cannot turn a blind eye on what's happening around you. His nearly constant presence on stage, except a couple of very quick changes of costume, was welcome. Michaels connected with the audience immediately; with knowing looks, winks and a wide grin, he let us in on the fun, and shared the deep sadness of what was really going on around the characters as the Nazis influence was seeping into their risque and rampantly wild lifestyles. If you went to see this show for nothing else, catch this young star in the making. You read it here first: Michaels is going places. But hopefully not too soon - Twin Cities audiences should take every opportunity to watch this performer on our own turf.

Luckily, he's not the only reason to see the show, however. The rest of the cast is a high-energy, strong singing, dazzling dancing troupe under the smooth direction of Peter Rothstein, nationally acclaimed director who also directed last year's production of AIDA by the same collaboration. The ensemble is tight, as are their sexy costumes, and with the choreography of Michael Matthew Ferrell, they make it all look almost too easy. Without curtains masking the backstage area, the actors were also a constant presence who flowed in and out of the scenes, seamlessly. The entire staging was so smooth, it was like they'd been doing it for years. Kate Sutton-Johnson's set is a multi-level playground for the performers sliding down firemen's poles, staircases and Michael's trapeze. A sliding panel hid the on-stage orchestra when not in the Kit Kat Club and punctuated a bit from the Emcee when it lifted to reveal the musicians were dressed in Cabaret-style, too.

Sally Wingert, who needs no introduction in Minneapolis, and was the 2013 Artist of the Year according to the Star Tribune, played Fraulein Schnieder. Not known as a musical theatre actor, she brought her usual brand of feistiness to her character and carried the tunes well enough. Love interest Herr Schultz, played by James Michael Detmar, softened the hard edges of his lady love and was sweetly charming. Their scenes were touching and full of heart.

Kira Lace Hawkins was a strong presence as Sally Bowles., with powerful vocals on the theme song, "Maybe This Time" and "Mein Herr." Sean Dooley's Clifford Bradshaw, probably due partially to his character's ambigous sexual preferences, did not connect with Sally emotionally. His fight scene with the other male cast members was probably the only chink in the armor of the overall inpenetrable production, where one actor was hitting his own hand too far from Dooley's face to appear as a strike.

But that's a minor thing in a show that shined from top to bottom. From "Wilkommen" to the Finale, the familar Kander & Ebb tunes were full of life and the "Perfectly Marvelous" local talent that put it there was every bit as good as any touring production you will see down the street at the Trust's Historic Orpheum or State theatres. Keep your eye on this company; Rothstein and his crew are doing theatre worth watching here in our midst.

'Cabaret' review: Step inside, it's beautiful

Pioneer PressBy Dominic Papatola January 19, 2014

If your New Year's resolution was to see more good-quality musical theater, Theater Latte Da's production of "Cabaret" would be an excellent way to start. Simply put, the staging at the Pantages Theater is an exceedingly strong one, top to bottom and beginning to end.

Director Peter Rothstein and his creative team clearly have studied the show. This staging borrows a little from Bob Fosse's iconic 1972 film (including a couple of tunes written for or inserted into the movie), a bit from various revivals (including the snark, if not the strung-out nihilism, of Sam Mendes' 1993 Donmar Warehouse production), and some (presumably) from the original 1966 Broadway production.

Derivative? Maybe. But this crisp, naughty and propulsive production also has a vigor and an energy all its own. The musical is set in the dying days of Germany's Weimar Republic, just as the Nazis were beginning their rise to power. But Rothstein's production doesn't telegraph the coming atrocities or pound them home with a sledgehammer.

"In here, life is beautiful," the Emcee coos at the beginning of the show, and while the adjective is meant to be ironic, there is a sense of naive hedonism and good-natured tolerance about the goings-on at the seedy Kit Kat Klub. And so, even though we know the end is coming, our hearts can't help but quicken as we observe the slow-motion crash.

The catalyst for this pulse-quickening resides primarily in the performance of Tyler Michaels as the Emcee. His playful, androgynous, lightly menacing turn informs and fuels the proceedings. Most productions of "Cabaret" center on the Emcee, and Michaels makes the most of that, ringleading the ensemble through a rousing opening number and commanding the stage in smaller groupings or solo in songs like "Two Ladies" and "I Don't Care Much."

But director Rothstein makes the Emcee a ubiquitous presence. He watches over the first meeting of American novelist Cliff Bradshaw and flighty club singer Sally Bowles, whose relationship provides the show's narrative thrust. The Emcee also observes the doomed courtship of Cliff's no-longer-young landlady and the Jewish fruit merchant trying to woo her. In these scenes, Michaels shows that he knows when to assert himself and when to throw the focus onto his castmates.

Those castmates are worth the attention. In addition to a powerhouse voice, Kira Lace Hawkins brings a coarse sensuality and more than a little edginess to the role of Sally. When she belts out "Cabaret" -- eyes wide, face stained with ruined and running mascara -- a song that traditionally has conveyed devil-may-care good times takes on an I'm-dancing-as-fast-as-I-can sense of desperation. Sean Dooley doesn't have quite as much gravitas as Cliff, who seems more acted-upon than active, but is an able foil.

James Michael Detmar brings a gentle charm to the fruit seller Herr Schultz. And Sally Wingert -- probably the best-known actress in the Twin Cities and a performer who easily could remain in her aesthetic comfort zone -- once again pushes at her boundaries by taking on a tricky musical theater role as the landlady Fraulein Schneider. She triumphs in a wise, grounded and nicely sung turn.

Kind words and kudos are also due to the small-but-mighty ensemble that completes the 15-member cast; to the seamlessly connected work of choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell and designers Kate Sutton-Johnson (set), Rich Hamson (costumes), Marcus Dilliard (lights) and Alex Ritter (sound) and to music director Denise Prosek, who leads an enthusiastic and boisterous six-musician ensemble. Together, their efforts make "Cabaret" a compelling, cohesive and altogether watchable evening.

'Cabaret' by Theater Latté Da, performing at the Pantages

Howwastheshow.comBy John Olive January 19, 2014

A match made in Thespic heaven: Theatre Latté Da, our premier purveyor of music theater, known for its non-treacly and trenchant intelligence and its astonishing ability to produce super-high-quality theater on a strict budget.  And Cabaret, (JohnKander and (FredEbb‘s great masterpiece, set in the early 30s, in the Kit Kat Klub, where raunchy “beauty” (“Even ze orchestra is beautiful”) holds sway even as, outside, Weimar Berlin descends into Nazi madness.  Kander and Ebb’s songs (“Willkommen,” “Maybe This Time”, the iconic “Cabaret”) amaze and the story, though a touch dated (more on this below) packs a punch.

Also, the show has been mounted in the Pantages, that beautifully rehabbed and perfectly sized jewel box in downtown Minneapolis, where the seats are comfortable and the legroom ample.  Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

OK.  All this is good to be sure, but here’s absolutely the best thing about CabaretTyler Michaels.  Wow.  Michaels plays the Emcee with a combination of sweetness and nastiness, of innocnece and delicious wickedness, with delightful smiling innuendo.  He’s tall, lean and handsome.  Well-muscled and acrobatic.  His voice intoxicates: his youthful (Michaels is young) tenor contrasts perfectly with the decadently wonderful music provided by the two composers.  Michaels smiles rather than snarls; in “Two Ladies” he grins, “Und I’m ze only man,” and it makes us howl.  His performance is a star turn, really.  I won’t give the specifics of his opening entrance; prepare to have your socks knocked off.  Here is your reason to see this show.

The other actors also thrill.  As Sally Bowles, Kira Lace Hawkins seemed at first to be suffering from opening night jitters, but her performance gathered steam and she did the composers proud with her powerful belt combined with a understated and delicate portrait of the Kit Kat Klub’s star.  Her relationship with Clifford (the sweetly goofy Sean Dooley) was affecting.  Sally Wingert and James Michel Detmar play the older lovers, caught in, and destroyed by, the descending horror of Nazism.  Lovely work.

And of course “ze beautiful boys und girls” of the Klub.  They flaunt their skimpy costumes (prudes better stay home) and they dance and sing with gustoful skill.  Especial kudos are due costumist Rich Hamson.

Ahem.  Please feel free to ignore the following critical paragraph (I can’t help myself):

The portrait of Nazism is dated.  When Cabaret was first produced in 1966, the Nazi material had an edge.  It shocked.  There was a sense of real discovery.  But now the subject has been thoroughly addressed in many many books and movies.  We know they were nasty, violent, that they murdered Jews and destroyed lives.  We know Herr Schultz is kidding himself when he says, “They won’t hurt me, I’m a German.”  What was exploratory in 1966 now feels exploitational.

Ah, but who cares if the story is dated.  It works, and Kander and Ebb’s music is timeless.  The production (helmed by the inimitable Peter Rothstein with music direction by the estimable Denise Prosek) soars.  The peformnaces delight.  I and my lovely companion had a marvelous time at Cabaret, and so will you.


"Cabaret" by Theater Latte Da at the Pantages Theatre

Cherry and SpoonBy Jill Schafer January 19, 2014

What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a cabaret old chum, Come to the cabaret.

Truer words were never spoken, or sung. If you are reading this sitting alone in your room, immediately book your ticket to see the newest Theater Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust collaboration - Cabaret. The brilliance of this classic Kander and Ebb musical combined with the singular talent of Theater Latte Da in breathing new life into the genre of musical theater, plus the extra resources that partnering with Hennepin Theatre Trust can provide, make for an outstanding theatrical experience. Cabaret is seductive - it lures you in with it's fun, sexy, bright entertainment. But after you get sucked in, the dark cloud hanging over 1930s Berlin begins to descend, and you see that the show is really about much more than scantily clad dancers and entertaining songs. There's nothing more horrific than the Nazi rise to power in 1930s Germany, and Cabaret brings that horror to life as it begins to affect these characters that we've come to love. Life is not just a cabaret, it's a broken, damaged, heart-breaking, but incredibly beautiful thing.

The 1966 musical Cabaret is based on Christopher Isherwood's semi-autobiographical novel about Berlin in the early 1930s. Much of the action is set in a cabaret called the Kit Kat Klub, a mecca of art, creativity, music, love, sexuality, expression, joy, and life, at a time just before the beautiful city of Berlin entered the darkest period in its history, which resulted in the death of all of these things. This world is seen through the eyes of an American writer named Cliff, who moves to Berlin to work on his novel. He soon meets Sally Bowles, the star of the Kit Kat Klub, and begins a complicated relationship with her. He also befriends his landlord Fräulein Schneider and the other residents of the boarding house. They're happy for a while living in the decadence of the time, until reality comes crashing down around them. As Cliff says, "It was the end of the world, and I was dancing with Sally Bowles and we were both asleep."

Like all Peter Rothstein shows, this show is impeccably cast. Either Peter has a great eye for talent, or he's the kind of director that can bring out the best in his cast (I suspect it's some of both). Each actor is pitch perfect in his or her role, from Adam Qualls as the mysterious but seemingly friendly Ernst to Aeysha Kinnunen as the "working girl" boarder. Sean Dooley is sweet and charming at the heart of the show as Cliff, and Kira Lace Hawkins is fierce and vulnerable as the loveable mess that is Sally Bowles, closing the show with a crazy, wide-eyed, running mascara, drug-addled performance of the title song. As Fraulien Schneider, Guthrie regular Sally Wingert adds musical theater to her list of talents and proves there really is nothing she can't do. Maybe she's not a trained singer, "so who cares, so what?" Musical theater is about character and story, and no one can give full expression to a character better than the StarTribune's 2013 artist of the year. James Detmar is her equal partner as Herr Schultz in the sweet and tender later-in-life love story. Last but not least, the show doesn't work without the gorgeous and talented Kit Kat girls and boys (and in between), each one of whom is fantastic and endlessly watchable.

I haven't yet mentioned the most pivotal character in the piece, the emcee, because he deserves a paragraph all his own. Tyler Michaels rocks my world. There's no limit to this young man's talent. Just two years ago he was my favorite newcomer, and he's exceeded my expectations. No matter who he is playing (from Snoopy to one of Joseph's brothers) he feels the character in every cell of his body. This is a perfect role for him to express his many talents - singing, acting, moving, dancing, crawling all over the scenery, even trapeze and aerial work. As the emcee of the Kit Kat Klub he presides over every scene, observing from the sidelines where you can read his thoughts and reactions on his face (made up in purple glitter) and in the way he holds his body. There are so many wonderful little touches that make this such a full and rich performance, but I don't want to spoil them. Instead I'll just say - keep your eyes on Tyler, in this and future shows (including The Little Mermaid at the Chanhassen and My Fair Lady at the Guthrie). I just hope we can keep him in Minnesota for a little while longer before he goes off to conquer the world.

The set (designed by Kate Sutton-Johnson) is like a giant jungle gym for the actors to play on. Tarnished bronze pipes forms railings, stairs, poles, and ladders in the two story set. Dingy and broken stained glass windows in muted browns and blues serve as backdrops and set pieces, with scene transitions happening smoothly and seamlessly as the Kit Kat boys and girls in various stages of undress, often with a cigarette hanging from the corner of their mouth, move furniture on and off stage. The costumes are unbelievably skimpy, but what there is of them is rich, bold, seedy, and delicious, and the actors move in them with complete confidence. These movements are choreographed brilliantly by Michael Matthew Ferrel; each number is a feast for the eyes with so much going on you can't possibly take it all in in one sitting. And of course, the six-piece orchestra lead by Fräulein Denise Prosek is, indeed, beautiful.

Not since 2012's Ivey Award-winning Spring Awakening has Theater Latte Da created such perfection in musical theater. There is not one single thing that I would change about the show, other than extending it so that I could spend the rest of my life sitting in the Pantages Theatre experiencing the beautiful and tragic world of Cabaret. I don't often say "go see this show," but I'm saying it now. Go see this show, playing now through February 9. It's musical theater at its best, and a fantastic display of our brilliant local talent.

Start by admitting from cradle to tomb Isn't that long a stay. Life is a cabaret old chum, Only a cabaret old chum, And I love a cabaret!

BWW Interviews: Meet Mr. Emcee, Tyler Michaels

Broadwayworld.comBy: Noah Lee Jordan January 17, 2014

Tyler Michaels is stepping into one of the most iconic roles in musical theatre history--the Emcee. Thus far in his career, Michaels has run the gamut of roles; from the sleepy, bed-headed Moritz Stiefel of SPRING AWAKENING, the jealous but loving boyfriend Hugo Peabody in BYE BYE BIRDIE, Snoopy in YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE BROWN and even the big guy in the sky, Jesus in JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. Not to mention, he's graced the television screens of suburban homes in a Subway commercial, which he still gets recognized for today. To say he has experience in the field would be quite the understatement. Michaels, however, is facing a dilemna with his newest role in the Theater Latte Da production of CABARET--how will he take such a well known role, make it his own and leave behind a lasting impression for Minnesotan fans of musical? It won't be easy but we have gut feeling, Michaels will find a way to make it happen.

It's a cold and very foggy Friday in the Twin Cities when my phone buzzes on the desk beside me--it's Michaels. He's a cheery fellow and it makes our brief but informative 30-minute interview rather enjoyable. That's the thing about Michaels, he's a likable guy and by the end of our brief conversation, I wanted to say, "you're hired."

Growing up in Bloomington, the now 25-year-old actor knew musical theatre was his calling while playing the apple seller in his middle school production of ANNIE. "I think I had one line," he recalls.

After graduating high school, he initially set his sights on California--he was on a scholarship--but quickly realized he missed home. So, Michaels packed his bags, headed back to the Midwest and is now garnering repeat work from Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, Theater Latte Da and Bloomington Civic Theatre, to name just a few.

"I feel really fortunate," say Michaels and he should. His ability to procure a steady stream of work is undeniable and also made for quite the busy schedule. Michaels was a part of Chanhassen Dinner Theatre's FIDDLER ON THE ROOF but transitioned out early to make time for CABARET. But before CABARET is complete, Michaels will be back in Chanhassen to start rehearsals as Prince Eric in their production of THE LITTLE MERMAID. He will then leave that production a bit early to make his Guthrie debut in MY FAIR LADY as Freddy--you following all that? And that's just in the next few months. It's exhausting at times but admits he's happy. It's rare to find a full-time musical theatre actor living outside the massive concrete hub, known to all as NYC, but Michael's has done just that.

Despite being incredibly busy, the Minnesota native actor is currently focused on only one role, the Emcee in CABARET. He's the "narrator" of the story that never actually finds himself involved with the plot--he is the guiding hand that helps us navigate the various twists and turns in the plot. He's a critical component of the show, and a bad Emcee can spell, "disaster" for any production.

Based on Christopher Isherwood's novel, and written by the highly-notable duo of John Kander and Fred Ebb, the musical is set in 1931, just as the Nazi's are gaining momentum. It centers on a scuzzy club known as the Kit Kat Club and follows the life of the 19-year-old English performer Sally Bowles as she enters a more than complicated relationship to American writer Cliff Bradshaw. There's more subplot beyond that, but that's the brief rundown.

The show became an instant hit and since it's debut in 1966, spawned reproduction after reproduction from various theatre companies around the globe--all promising to give you, "CABARET like you've never seen it before" and while Theatre Latte Da is no different, I believe them more than I've every believed any other companies declaration. They promise that this is, "broadway re-imagined" and from the sounds of it, they've got quite a few tricks up their sleeve and so does Michaels.

"I don't think I'm like an expert on it [the show] but I knew just about as much as any other musical theatre actor before the process began," says Michaels humbly. "I think removing myself from other interpretations early on was beneficial. I could just do Alan Cumming but I didn't want to." Good choice Michaels, because the world doesn't need another Alan Cumming imitation.

Theater Latte Da--in conjunction with Hennepin Theatre Trust--began previews for the massive production January 15th and will open the production January 18th. It will be the first time the Mendez version is staged regionally and when the rights came available Latte Da artistic director Peter Rothstein just couldn't resist the urge to put his stamp on it. "He [the Emcee] is a little more present in this production. He's on stage 80-90 percent of the show and a little more intergal in the whole story," explains Michaels. During the rehearsal process, Rothstein incorporated many of Michael's unsual talents in order to help put a unique twist on this particular production. "I do a lot of aerial acrobatic work, so we've incorporated that into the show."

Michaels readily admits that this is one of the biggest productions he's ever been apart of--and with the added bonus of the Hennepin Theatre Trust it only means a bigger stage, more tech, more publicity and an even bigger audience to impress but Michaels is confident that he and the entire CABARET team are up for the challenge. "I think our production will be successful," proclaims Michaels. "From the beginning we've been talking about, how long can you turn a blind eye and I think this revival has a more specific ending that will make the message clear for audiences. I think they are really going to enjoy this particular version."

CABARET aside for a moment, while Michaels may have settled down in Minnesota for now and although he might enjoy the comforts that come with being close to family, as a rapidly growing talent with a wonko-schedule and consistent demand, it might be destiny that moves the Minnesota native from the frozen tundra to the bright lights of New York City and that wonderful place we all know, Broadway. It worked for Laura Osnes (well, that and a reality show) and it could certainly be the same for Michaels.

CABARET written & composed by John Kander and Fred Ebb, directed by Peter Rothstein plays now through February 9th.

For Twin Cities Director Peter Rothstein, All His World's a Stage

Pioneer PressBy: Chris Hewitt January 16, 2014

You could argue that Peter Rothstein began directing "Cabaret" a couple of months ago, when rehearsals started. Or that he began directing it two years ago, when he visited a concentration camp where artists were sent around the time "Cabaret" takes place. Or when he attended the 1998 Broadway revival and thought it was one of the best things he'd ever seen. Or when he was a kid in Grand Rapids, appearing in 12 musicals in three years and dreaming of a career in the theater.

Rothstein keeps notebooks of ideas he jots down while on vacation or when he wakes up in the middle of the night, and some of those ideas probably date back at least as far as high school.

"I always have the notebooks by the side of my bed, and in the middle of the night, I'll wake up and it's, like, 'That's how I can solve the mirror ball problem,' " says Rothstein, who is artistic director of Theatre Latte Da and has directed dozens of Twin Cities productions, including Latte Da's blistering "Spring Awakening" and the Guthrie's "Other Desert Cities."

The mirror ball problem is whether the glittery baubles would have existed in Berlin in 1931, when "Cabaret" takes place. The seedy glamour of the mirror ball is one of many concepts that will find their way into the production of "Cabaret" that opens Saturday at the Pantages Theatre.

Rothstein's "Cabaret" also has the framework of voyeurism, which is why "Cabaret" audiences will see actors changing into their costumes; the idea that the Holocaust never could have happened without railroads; the scary whimsy of merry-go-rounds; the notion of characters who are trying to expand the definition of "beauty" at the very moment Nazis are restricting that definition to "blond and blue-eyed"; the question of what the emcee (the character Joel Grey plays in the "Cabaret" film) does when he walks out the stage door.

"All of the ideas I've had over the years, I'm trying to hone all of that," says Rothstein, interviewed a week before the opening of "Cabaret," which goes back and forth between the Kit Kat Club, where the emcee and Sally Bowles perform such memorable numbers as "Money" and the title song, and Fraulein Schneider's boarding house, where Sally lives with her possible love interest, Cliff. "Right now, I want to make sure that we're not losing anything."

A co-production of Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust, "Cabaret" finds Rothstein working with more collaborators and a bigger budget than he does with most Latte Da productions.

"I feel so lucky to be doing this piece on this scale at this beautiful theater," Rothstein says. He thinks the beauty of the Pantages, even the trashed-up version of the Pantages that will be on view in "Cabaret," inspires the cast and crew, as well.

The main inspiration, of course, is one of the most treasured musicals in American theater. "Cabaret" has been rewritten several times since it debuted almost 50 years ago and, according to Rothstein, who came to Minneapolis to assist director Garland Wright on a Guthrie production of "A Woman of No Importance" in 1993, it shows.

"In the rehearsal room, I keep thinking, 'This is a really great scene,' " says Rothstein, 47. "Sally (Wingert, who starred in Rothstein's "Other Desert Cities" and plays Fraulein Schneider) said, 'This doesn't feel like a book musical where you're just waiting to get to the next song. This is great writing.' "


In a production designed to remind audience members that they are voyeurs, the director is perhaps the show's first voyeur. Even when he was an actor, Rothstein says he sometimes felt like he was observing the production rather than fully a part of it.

"That's why I wasn't a great actor, I think. It's too hard to get to that place where you feel like you're inside the character and also in the room with the audience at the same time," Rothstein says. "As a director, I always get to be observing it."

But Rothstein's experience as an actor -- he's perhaps best known for "Love! Valour! Compassion!" at Park Square Theatre in 1998 -- informs his acting.

It's an actor's instinct, for instance, that led to his suggestion to Wingert that, during a song, "I felt like her character was feeling gravity more than she had ever felt it." Wingert unabashedly says she loves the director.

"Peter Rothstein is one of the finest directors I've ever worked with, and his amazing theatrical mind is due, in part, to the fact that everything he's done informs his work," Wingert said via email. "He has an ability to respect the work you're doing but ask the next question to deepen the work, the character, the scene."

Wingert adds that Rothstein is a great observer: "I always feel seen when I'm working with Peter. I do something, follow an impulse, make a change, and he sees it, comments, approves or expands the idea."


Perhaps the most amazing thing about Rothstein's attention to detail is that it comes from within a maelstrom. Rothstein works a lot so he is always in the middle of several projects.

Here's his schedule on the day he carved out a couple of hours to talk: Looking at possible actors for "Romeo and Juliet" for Ten Thousand Things in the morning, followed by a meeting about how to scale down Latte Da's recent "Steerage Song" for a Minnesota tour, followed by script meetings on the upcoming Latte Da "Our Town," a meeting about a possible future collaboration with Hennepin Theatre Trust, design discussions about "Shrek the Musical" (he's directing it this spring for Children's Theater Company) and -- oh, yeah -- a "Cabaret" rehearsal.

It's no wonder the man utilizes even his workout time to make theater: "I always do my blocking (choreographing the movement of actors) on the Stairmaster. I don't like exercise very much, and I always feel like I can create movement better when I'm moving."

All of that activity may be intended to distract Rothstein from what he knows always happens on opening night, when he turns the show over to the cast and crew.

"You go from having so much power to having absolutely no power at all," Rothstein says. "Meanwhile, you're saying to audiences, 'Here is my baby. Is it cute or ugly?' and you have 72 hours before someone will tell you whether they think it's cute or ugly in a public forum."

Given that he is working on a half-dozen shows and probably scribbling notes on a half-dozen more, no one will be surprised to learn Rothstein deals with that opening-night loss of power by diving into a project where he still has control.

"I have a little tradition on opening night," Rothstein confides. "I go home and do a little work on the next show."

'Cabaret' Puts Broadway on Hennepin

City PagesBy: Sheila Regan January 15, 2014

All-local production of the classic musical brings Broadway glam to the Pantages.

Right this way, your table’s waiting — the dark and sexy musical “Cabaret,” about a seedy nightclub in Berlin prior to World War II, is now playing at the Pantages Theatre. The show precedes the Broadway revival of “Cabaret,” which previews in March in New York. This Minneapolis production aims to compete with other touring Broadway shows, in hopes of proving that a locally produced musical can provide top-notch entertainment.

This “Cabaret” is a joint production of Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust, as part of their Broadway Re-Imagined series. The partnership provides an opportunity for Twin Cities actors to perform on the Theatre Trust’s historic stages. Kira Lace Hawkins, who plays showgirl Sally Bowles, likens the growing interest in locally produced theater to the local-food movement. “I just think it’s a more sustainable model that is beneficial to the local artists here and to our audiences,” she said. “There’s something to be said for seeing your neighbor onstage in this capacity.”

The partnership also allows Theatre Latté Da to tackle shows it might not otherwise. “From our beginning we’ve always done big musicals on a really small budget,” said Latté Da artistic director Peter Rothstein, “but there are some shows — ‘Cabaret’ being one of them — I real­ly wasn’t interested in doing a really scaled down version of.”

Rothstein thinks of “Cabaret” as the first major “concept” musical, which he defines as a musical “where the idea or the thematic point of view is as important if not more so than the narrative plot.” “Cabaret,” which portrays a community turning a blind eye to the hatred of a rising Nazi Germany, paved the way for other concept musicals, Rothstein said.

Based on the play “I Am a Camera,” which itself was based on Christopher Isherwood’s short novel “Goodbye to Berlin,” “Cabaret” was first produced in 1966. It’s been revived numerous times, and each time, the central character of Clifford Bradshaw — who is based in part on Isherwood himself — “has been outed over history,” Rothstein said.

Though original director Hal Prince felt that audiences couldn’t handle a gay character in 1966, when he revived the production in 1987, Clifford became more “sexually ambiguous,” Rothstein said. By the time Sam Mendes directed a Broadway revival in the 1990s, Cliff “definitely was a bisexual character,” said Rothstein.

Rothstein was only interested in doing “Cabaret” if he could obtain the Mendes version. This version includes some songs from the 1973 film version with Liza Minnelli, and cuts some of the original songs that were more in the style of the previous generation.

Rothstein said “Cabaret” has a clear divide between the cabaret scenes and the “book” scenes, or what happens in the main story. Often, Rothstein explained, the cabaret songs comment thematically on what’s happening in the story. In Rothstein’s vision, the audience acts as a character during the cabaret scenes, as if they are actually in the audience of the Kit Kat Klub. In the book scenes, however, they act more as voyeurs. “I really want to stress the idea that we are a voyeur in the theater,” he said. “So we got rid of all the curtains — there’s no masking. You see the crew guys, people putting on makeup — everything is exposed.”

Rothstein is interested in the progression of the cabaret. When the audience first enters the evening, they are “feeling like this is really fun and sexy and smart,” Rothstein said. “You’re kind of titillated by it all.” As the play progresses, however, the audience begins to sit back and judge what is happening.

Just as any production of “Cabaret” must contend with the iconic movie images of Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey, so Bob Fosse’s famous choreography lingers in the cultural memory of the musical. Rothstein said choreographer Michael Matthew Ferrell offers “hints of Fosse,” along with jazz dance and elements of circus. The performer playing the Emcee, Tyler Michaels, is “ridiculously talented,” Rothstein said, so much of the choreography is catered to showing off his virtuosity as a tap dancer and gymnast. The choreography, like the costumes, is “incredibly sexy,” Rothstein said.

While some versions of “Cabaret” cast Sally Bowles as a non-singer (some critics charged that Minnelli was actually too good), Rothstein felt that while it’s one thing to write in a novel that a character is a bad singer, it’s another thing to put the audience through listening to one. “We definitely cast a singer,” he said of Hawkins. “It’s one of the most difficult roles in musical theater. It’s such a complicated character and she’s gotta sing — it’s really demanding material. We auditioned that role really hard, and Kira’s great.”

Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust have teamed up previously on “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914,” produced each holiday season since 2008, and “Aida,” the first production in the Broadway Re-Imagined series. Hennepin Theatre Trust president Tom Hoch says striking up a partnership at this level was something that the Trust has wanted to do for some time. “We were looking for the right opportunity,” he said.

Usually, the Trust either rents one of its theaters (including the State, Orpheum and Pantages) to a large touring show or acts as a presenter, where it acquires a show and markets it, taking a risk on its success. With Broadway Re-Imagined, however, the Trust actually co-produces the show, and shares with Latté Da a financial stake in the outcome.

“We are about arts-inspired community and cultural development,” Hoch said. “One way to do that is to bring in touring shows. The other way is to produce shows that utilize local casts. We felt like we had gotten really good at the Broadway touring piece. We thought, Can we do something where it involves local people?” Since the Trust already has a built-in audience for touring Broadway productions, the question became: How could it extend that audience to local productions and support local theater?

“If we are successful, we are growing audiences for local productions,” Hoch said

Theater Latte Da recreates the Kit Kat Klub for Cabaret

City PagesBy: Ed Huyck January 15, 2014

John Kander and Fred Ebb's Cabaret is a study in contradictions: a musical loaded with jaunty tunes that do not hide the show's dark heart.

Peter Rothstein has wanted to tackle the show "forever." The time is right for Rothstein's Theatre Latte Da, in a co-production with the Hennepin Theatre Trust, to tackle the work.

Part of the delay was waiting for Sam Mendes's 1993 version to be made available for production. Mendes sharpened the piece, adding layers of sexuality to the Emcee and acknowledging central character Cliff's bisexuality. "The day they licensed it, I applied for it," Rothstein says.

Beyond that, there were other productions in town -- from the Ordway and Frank Theatre -- to wait out before tackling the show for Latte Da.

The musical offers a director and creative team plenty of choices to make, especially as there are multiple versions of the play, from the original piece to the various revivals to the memorable 1972 film.

For Latte Da's production, the Pantages has been stripped of curtains and other facades to allow the audience to peek in at the show's machinery. "The scenery that will fly in will be exposed to all. We're all voyeurs into the story. The fourth wall is wide open. It's the Emcee's job to shine a light on history," Rothstein says.

Visually, Rothstein wanted the production to takes its cues from two pieces of technology: railways and merry-go-rounds.

The first was instrumental in the horrors of the holocaust that occur just a few years after the milieu of the musical. The merry-go-rounds represent the world of the Kit Kat Klub, where the denizens try to hold on to their glittery, gender-bending world.

As in the Mendes version, "Tomorrow Belongs to Us" -- the rousing act one number that also serves as an anthem of sorts for the growing power of the Nazis -- is sung in a prerecorded version. "We made our own propaganda film and use it as a soundtrack for the film," Rothstein says.

Tyler Michaels plays the Emcee. He's been onstage with the likes of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres and Theatre Latte Da in the past. "He's going to be a huge star," Rothstein says.

Kim Lace Hawkins gets the show's other signature role, Sally Bowles.

"Sally is a hard role to cast. The character is so complicated," Rothstein says. Some productions focus on the singing. Others have gravitated to the idea that Sally Bowles is a mediocre singer at best. Rothstein decided to bring in Hawkins, a strong actor and singer for the role.

Other cast members include Sean Dooley as Cliff, Jim Detmar as Herr Schultz, and Sally Wingert as Fraulein Schneider.

"She's singing the hell out of it," Rothstein says.

Overall, Rothstein hopes the production brings home all of the complexity at the heart of Cabaret.

"I really do want them to go on the ride. I want them to sign on for the fun of the evening. I also want them to go home thinking about it and talking about it," Rothstein says. "[German] culture was the most progressive culture on the planet. How could this happen?"

Lavender Arts Spotlight

Lavender MagazineArts Spotlight: 486 By: John Townsend January 9, 2014

Theatre Latte Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust are reviving Kander and Ebb’s 1966 groundbreaker Cabaret. Be aware that what you’ll see is the bolder 1998 re-imagined version. How fitting it’s part of The Trust’s Broadway Re-Imagined program. Director Peter Rothstein says “I’ve always wanted to direct Cabaret but only if I could do the 1998 version, because I wasn’t interested in putting the show ‘back in the closet’. They began to license the 1998 version just this year. Needless to say, I secured the rights immediately.”

At the time it was written, the original director, Hal Prince, didn’t feel audiences could handle the homosexual aspects that penetrate Berlin Stories by iconic gay writer Christopher Isherwood, the work from which the musical is drawn. Given its two doomed romances, Nazis, and abortion, there seemed to be enough controversial content anyway. (Abortion was still illegal and unspeakable then.) The musical’s book writer, Joe Masteroff, notes that “in the original stories the character really had no sex; in 1966 our Cliff was heterosexual; in Bob Fosse’s film (1972) he was bisexual. In the 1987 revival, Cliff reluctantly admits to his homosexuality.” When the 1998 revival came about Cliff kisses another man by the third scene. Rothstein adds that “the dialogue and songs were changed, in my opinion, to more accurately reflect the sexual liberation of the time.”

Isherwood’s experience is the inspiration for the stories, therefore, the musical. He left his native England for Berlin in 1929 with frank interest in exploring his homosexual and homo-romantic feelings and fleeing the stultifying upper class expectations foisted on him by family obligation. Berlin was what one might compare to San Francisco in the 1960s and ’70s: a mecca for sexual and gender outcasts in which they could live freely and openly and possibly prosper. Gay acceptance, women’s rights, Marxism, creative self-expression, and religious tolerance were hallmarks of Weimar Berlin, which of course, were all anathema to the authoritarian Nazi movement gaining steam at the time. This impending threat of Fascism is vividly felt in the stories and in the musical. The city’s 500-plus cabarets extensively employed GLBT personnel. Crossgender performances on stages were common. In Berlin Stories, however, Cliff is closeted. One can argue his sexual otherness rises between the lines. (It’s worth noting that Isherwood’s memoir, Chistopher and His Kind is a landmark work in being a gay and sexually-expressed Brit in Weimar Berlin. It should be required reading or viewing of the film version.)

All this made Rothstein wonder “how could this culture that so freely embraced homosexuals, women’s rights and religious tolerance allow for the horrors of the Holocaust? That difficult question makes Cabaret transcend the test of time and reson enough to produce it in the Twin Cities in 2014. Plus, it’s just damn sexy.”

For those who think ill of Hal Prince for not going with the gay undercurrent more fully, it’s important to point out that homosexuality in the 1960s and into the ’70s was still close to being unmentionable and when mentioned, was almost always stigmatized in most places. Crossdressing and homosexuality were still seen as two sides of the same coin. Though New York and Los Angeles, the centers of the nation’s entertainment industry, had vibrant gay communities at the time, they were still one of the very, very few American cities where gay freedom was somewhat allowed, but even then only in insulated sections of the cities. Gay ghetto was a term used at the time in reference to such sections. So just because New York and LA had some degree of gay acceptance glbt folk citizens were still clearly marginalized. The entertainment monolith still rigidly adhered to the traditional values of the rest of the land. And don’t delude yourself that every straight citydweller in those two metropolises was openly pro-gay. Not so! Even allies at the time had to lay low.

Granted, though Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Isherwood, Gore Vidal, James Baldwin and Jean Genet were celebrated at the time they were seen as part of an echelon detached from the American mainstream. Figures like television’s Johnny Carson and inadvertently and ironically Vidal’s conservative enemy, William F. Buckley, helped push the envelope. Vidal was just so smart, witty, and sharp on points of American history. Williams’s plays were just so damned brilliant and some had been made into extremely popular films with who were even then, legendary stars, like Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Katherine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr, and Geraldine Page. Capote was also a Carson staple and his gossipy personality was adored by bitchy people everywhere. Genet and Ishwerwood were big selling authors. Baldwin was embraced primarily at the time as a race-equality figure. His gayness was often not talked about. But these were not the norm! Many also have the wrong idea that the whole nation was smoking pot and protesting the war in Vietnam. Not so! Those in small towns and most suburbs were totally untouched by war protests and race riots. For most of them, segregation and militarism were seen as things somewhere between perfectly normal and sacred. Both corporate and alternative media since then have irresponsibly left the conservative 1960s reality by the wayside. If the radical ’60s mentality had been as permeating as media presents, there never would have been a ‘Reagan Revolution’.

That’s why one has to credit Prince with going with what he could. Put him in context of his time and not our own. In a 1966 Cabaret rehearsal he showed the cast a group of disheveled protestors. He said “I asked the cast to identify where and when the photo was taken and everyone naturally assumed it was Berlin in the early thirties because that’s the time and place of our show. They were surprised when I said it was taken in Little Rock, Arkansas in the mid-fifties. These aren’t Hitler Youth but blonde white kids snarling at black kids entering an integrated school, an image that is still relevant today, unfortunately. We’ve come along way since 1966, and since 1930 too for that matter, but human nature doesn’t change; what happened in Berlin at the time of Cabaret can happen here.”

In Nazi Germany hundreds of thousand of GLBT people were put to death in concentration camps. They were made to wear a pink triangle. Some Christians didn’t buy into the Nazism because of its unprecedented trampling on the teachings of Christ, though many Christians and their churches did go along with it. True Christians, gypsies, and communists in the hundreds of thousands met horrific deaths in the camps and Nazi outposts. They too had their stigmatizing badges. Six million Jews, who were signified in the camps by wearing yellow stars, perished at the hands of Hitler’s regime. But do we hold Hitler solely accountable or do we also include all those who went semiconsciously along with him? And if we do that, then aren’t we also taking inventory of our own selves and how the systems we each partake in, help our hurt our fellow human beings?

It’s also now widely held that when the allies brokered the Versailles treaty after World War I that it was so punitive toward Germany that it was inevitable that there would be a nationalistic backlash and that a tyrannical leader would emerge. And of course, that’s what happened. France was the most vengeful ally at Versailles and ironically it would be France that would be occupied and terrorized by the Nazis less than two decades later. Had the Golden Rule been followed history might have been very different and happier.

Read the Article on Lavender's Website

Theater Latte Da and "Our Town"

June 25, Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.

Several people have wondered what Theater Latte Da is going to do with “Our Town” next season. First, what the company is not doing: Ned Rorem’s opera based on the Thornton Wilder classic. It will be the play, said artistic director Peter Rothstein, with all the dialogue and scenes.

Behind the show, however, will be soundscapes and interspersed throughout will be songs sung by actors who play their own instrument. Actors who can do both, of course, don’t just grow on trees. Rothstein said over coffee that he plans to use contemporary dress and a multicultural cast that reflects a current community rather than the tweedy confines of Grover’s Corner, N.H. But the script will be just as it always has been.

Latte Da did something similar to this with 2012’s “Beautiful Thing,” which featured Erin Schwab stepping in and out to perform Cass Elliott songs between scenes. Also, 2003’s “Burning Patience” was a straight play with a soundscape that gave it a cinematic feel. Rothstein noted that “Patience” used a recorded score. “Our Town” will be all live, all the time. “Our Town” will run March 12-April 6 at the Lab Theatre in Minneapolis.

Latte Da starts its season in September with a fully staged “Steerage Song,” a piece that Rothstein created with Dan Chouinard a few years ago. They did a semi-staged concert version at the Fitzgerald Theatre in 2011. The show reflected the journey of European immigrants during the great wave that occurred around 1900. The creators have continued to work on the piece since then. It runs Sept. 25-Oct. 20, also at the Lab.

At the Pantages Theatre, Latte Da will partner up with the Hennepin Theatre Trust for two shows: “All is Calm,” with Cantus, is back for the Christmas slot, Dec. 19-22. Rothstein will stage “Cabaret” Jan.15-Feb. 9. Last season, Latte Da and the Trust started a collaboration called “Broadway Re-Imagined” with distinct takes on familiar musicals.

More information on the season is at