‘Cabaret’ turns the Egyptian Theatre into its own little world
Ziegfeld production is a mirror of society
June 23, 2017
Director Trent Cox had a unique vision for the Ziegfeld Theater Company's version of the Tony Award-winning "Cabaret."
The musical takes place in an underground speakeasy setting called the Kit Kat Klub during Berlin's post-World War I depression, and Cox wanted the audience to experience that world.
"Since the Kit Kat Klub is referenced so many times in the show, I thought, 'What if the audience developed the impression that they, nor the cast, could ever leave the club?'" Cox told The Park Record. "I wanted the audience to feel as if the group of actors are a real performance group back in that time and they were performing these cabaret shows in a way to keep them underground."
Ziegfeld Theater Company will bring Cox's vision to the Egyptian Theatre for a four-weekend run starting Friday, June 30. And Cox is excited for the audience to see it.
"If you watch this version, you will see that the actors don't really leave the stage," he said. "It's not your typical, 'Lights-out, scene-change' performance, because they hang out as if they are hanging out in the club."
The actors can pull off this concept because the sets include a bar and bandstand.
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"Even when the script is actually in action everything just kind of blends seamlessly together," Cox said. "The version we're producing is the 1998 revival. It's a little different than the original. It's shorter and the transition is quicker."
"Cabaret," which won the Best Musical Tony Award in 1967, centers on two characters — performer Sally Bowles and author Cliff Bradshaw, portrayed by Kelly Tansey and Nathan Allen Vaughn — during the beginnings of Adolf Hitler and the rise of the Nazi party.
The two fall in love, but their romance is affected by the Nazi-caused violence and intolerance that is developing in the city.
"The material of 'Cabaret' is dark, especially the second act," Cox said. "I think that plays to the idea of the show, because the first act is more upbeat and then we start to show the reality of what 1930s Berlin was like, which flips the coin a bit."
The story, based on the book by Joe Masteroff, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, is tied together through another character, the gender-bending Emcee, brought to life by Joshua Samuel Robinson.
"In looking for casting, especially the Emcee and Sally, I wanted to find actors who were more raw and rough around the edges," Cox said. "To me, they had to have an almost animalistic type of energy to them."
The director said he hit he jackpot with Robinson and Tansey.
"Josh is phenomenal and has a wonderful presence on stage," he said. "The same thing pertains to Sally. Kelly is very young — I think 18 — and she's a musical student at the University of Utah. She walked in and blew me away.”
Cox was impressed with Tansey's singing voice and how she read the scenes.
Cox looked for the total opposite when he cast Cliff.
"I wanted him to look clean-cut and put together," Cox said. "I wanted him to be the outsider of the Kit Kat Klub world so, when he showed up, the audience would stop and think, 'Who is this?'"
Cox developed his vision after seeing "Cabaret" a couple of times.
"The last time I saw the show, my friend and I were stuck in New York for two days in a snow storm," he said. "We had to figure out what we were going to do with ourselves, so we decided to go see a show."
Cox wanted to see "Cabaret" because at the time Alan Cumming was in the show [as Emcee] and Emma Stone was playing Sally Bowles.
"We went to see if we could actually get seats, and we stood in the student-rush line for an hour and a half to get tickets," Cox said. "We sat down in our seats literally two seconds before the show started, and I was absolutely blown away by how powerful the performance was."
Although Cox knew the show inside and out, the production took his breath away.
"It reminded me how powerful this [musical] is, especially when you think about what's happening in the world now," he said. "I mean, there are still internment camps in existence today."
After the curtain closed, Cox knew he wanted to have the opportunity be in any production of "Cabaret," which he feels is one of the best American musical theater pieces ever written.
"When Ziegfeld announced 'Cabaret' as part of its season, they had another director in the slot," he said. "Then that director, unfortunately, couldn't do the show, which was fortunate for me. So, I approached Ziegfeld and said, 'I want to make this happen.' and I told them about my vision and concept."
Cox felt and still feels it's his duty as an artist and director to use "Cabaret" as a tool to remind people of the dangers of prejudice-fueled hate.
"I want to put up this show as a mirror to remind us what happened in our history," he said. "I'm not trying to shove something in your face or down your throat. I just want to remind people what has happened in our past and that it's still happening. I feel it's important that we don't forget what happened, because if we do, things will never change."
Cox is happy with how his version turned out.
"There were a lot of ideas that I wanted to happen within the show, but there wasn't enough time, manpower or money," he said. 'But I'm satisfied as long as we're telling the story of the play that was written. If the audience understands the story, then I can say I've done my job. I'm proud of the work my cast, my crew and designers and codirectors have put in the show."
Cox said he hopes people will come see the show.
"As I have said, it's pretty relevant to what's going on, and I know you will be entertained."
Ziegfeld Theater Company's "Cabaret" will run for four weekends from June 30 to July 23 at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday, Friday and Saturday curtain is 8 p.m. Sunday curtain is 6 p.m. Thursday tickets range from $35 to $55 and tickets for Friday through Saturday are $39-$65. For information and tickets, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com.