Campus Collaboration Brings “Cabaret” to the Stage

In a truly interdisciplinary production, faculty and students from the theatre, dance, music and art departments at California State University, Dominguez Hills have joined together under the direction of lecturer of theatre arts Naomi Buckley to bring “Cabaret” to the University Theatre stage on March 22, 23, 29, and 30 at 8 p.m., and March 24 at 2 p.m.

Promotional artwork by senior art and design major Jeannette Diaz.

“We haven’t done a musical that was a collaboration of all four of our departments,” said Buckley of the creative arts. “It’s been really nice to see the departments come together, and bring all those students … together.”

Buckley went on to say that theatre, music, and dance students are equally represented in the multi-cultural cast, and that the show has all the elements you’d expect to see in a musical, such a dance numbers, ballads, and big show-stopping numbers including “Willkommen,” and “Cabaret.”

Based on the 1951 play “I am a Camera” by John Van Druten, which was based on Christopher Isherwood’s ”Goodbye to Berlin,” the musical “Caberet” was brought to the Broadway stage—with book by Joe Masteroff, and words and music by Fred Ebb and John Kander—in 1966. It garnered eight Tony Awards in 1967, including Best Musical and spawned the 1972 movie directed by Bob Fosse, which went on to win several Academy Awards and made Liza Minnelli a superstar.

“Cabaret” is the story of Kit Kat Klub entertainer Sally Bowles and her decadent escapades in Berlin during the Nazi rise to power. She meets Cliff Bradshaw, an American writer searching for meaning in his life in the dance halls and clubs that make up the city’s seedy underground nightlife. Bowles introduces him to the desperate, gaudy and haunting world of the cabaret.

“Offered along with the story of Sally and Cliff was social commentary that applied not only to Germany in the 1930s but also to America in the 1960s. And I think it still resonates today,” Buckley said.

Utilizing the campus community comprehensively, every cast member is a student, faculty, staff, or alumnus/alumna of the university.

Professional actor and alumnus Mark Waters plays “Cliff.” Lecturer of theatre arts Joe D’Aquino plays three small parts, customs officer, sailor two, and Nazi guard. Kenneth Knopp, a physical plant staff member, answered a casting call to play “Max” the owner of the Kit Kat Klub.

“I needed some Caucasian men who were older, for some bit [but important] parts,” said Naomi. “We have, as always, a multi-racial cast, but there’s certain parts, because it is supposed to be Nazi Germany, that really needed to be Caucasian.”

Freshman theatre major Amber Brice plays the lead of Sally Bowles.

In producing a full-scale musical, there are other needs, too.

“As with most musicals that are from the golden age of musicals, there are a lot of location changes,” Buckley said.

With complex set and scene changes in the first act’s 12 scenes, and 9 scenes in the second act, Buckley brought in professional guest set designer Evan Bartoletti to make the University Theatre feel more intimate.

“Part of what happens in the show, is this kind of blurring of the fourth wall; the sense that the audience is in the cabaret with these other patrons as part of the show,” Buckley said.

Buckley also needed a musical director. For the first time in 10 years, professor of music Sally Etcheto will serve as musical director for a theatrical production at the university. She will direct the band, which includes music professor and Department of Music chair Richard Kravchak and student musicians, as well as singers who will perform live during each performance.

Ruben Morales, a junior majoring in theatre and psychology, who has his sights set on a career in musical theatre and plays the part of “Emcee” in this production, said that through working with Etcheto his singing has improved.

“It was great to work with Dr. Sally. [She is] very disciplined. In a good way disciplined, like on track, no messing around. Even when we would have to stop for a few moments she would quickly give us a note, and then [say], ‘All right here we go,’” the otherwise self-taught singer said.

Even the artwork for promotional materials was created in collaboration. Senior art and design major Jeannette Diaz designed the wink-and-kiss motif poster as an assignment for Independent Study in Art (Art 494) taught by associate professor of art and design Michele Bury.

Also part of the production are lecturer of dance Jeff Hendrix, who is directing choreography; costume designer Carin Jacobs; theatre manager Stewart Christie, who oversees students in lighting and sound design and set up; and theatre shop foreman Michael Chen, who oversees students on set construction projects.

Actors include Amber Bryce (Sally Bowles), Chrislyn Cross (Fraulein Schneider), Victor Benavides (Herr Schultz), Emily Silver (Fraulein Kost), Erika Cervantes, Brianna Colón, Sydnni Frost, Ongele Harris, Eliana Hernandez, Gisselle Ruiz (Kit Kat Klub girls), Michael Amaton, Marco Carreon (Kit Kat Klub boys), Samuel Ewing (Bobby), Micael Amaton (sailor one), Mark Kerr (sailor three), Morgan Chancelien, Sean Cook, Kimberly Walker, and Christen Willard (Kit Kat Klub audience members).

CSU Dominguez Hills students rehearse for “Cabaret.”

With funding from the College of Arts and Humanities, “Cabaret,” the centerpiece of the 2012-2013 theatre season, purchased six state-of-the-art wireless microphones, three follow spotlights, and a soundboard, which will be available for subsequent productions and events held in the theatre.

“Because of the collaborative nature of the show, the [College of Arts and Humanities] dean’s office really stood up and backed us. That’s been really nice,” Buckley said. “It supports the students. That’s who really benefits. …It’s an investment in the arts that I think is really admirable.”

Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for students and senior citizens. Group rates are available. For more ticket information and to purchase tickets online, click here. For other payment options, call the box office at (310) 243-3589.

Immediately following the opening night performance, there will be a reception backstage. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The CSU Dominguez Hills production of “Cabaret” is sponsored by the College of Arts and Humanities, and the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance.

For more information about “Cabaret” or the CSU Dominguez Hills Theatre and Dance program, contact the theatre office at (310) 243-3588 or visit cah.csudh.edu.

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