Performed in the round, up close to the audience, by energetic and talented third year students - the upcoming production of Cabaret at Ara will be a powerful rendition of a musical that has entertained and moved audiences globally since it first launched on Broadway in 1966.
Cabaret brought the fashion, music and decadence of 1930s Berlin to the stages of the world, then chillingly depicted the destruction wrought by the Nazi rise to power, through evocative main characters and, of course, a love story.
Hard at work rehearsing Cabaret, third year NASDA students are giving it their all ahead of opening night this Friday 8 September.
The production has tested the National Academy of Singing and Dramatic Art students, says guest director Stephen Robertson.
“We started by watching documentaries about Berlin, the Weimar period, the fashion, the theatre, the cabaret, Hitler, the Jews… Because the students are so removed from it, they needed that context.”
Cabaret has been rewritten over the years, resulting in four, very different, versions of the show. For the NASDA cast, Robertson chose the large scale orchestral version. Musical Directors Nick Hollamby, who joined the NASDA staff this year, and guest Sam Jury, who also performs piano for the production, have taken the orchestral version and stripped it back to its musical bare bones, capturing the essentials of the distinctive and alluring Berlin pre-war jazz/cabaret sound.
With numbers as famous as ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ and ‘Willkommen’ there is no messing with music as well-known as Cabaret, Hollamby says. “The music is so iconic that you try to stay as truthful as possible. Audiences want to hear the music they know, performed well.”
The students do not appear at all intimidated. Instead, rehearsals reveal the entire cast throwing themselves, and all the acting, singing and dancing skills they have honed over the last three years, into the experience.
“They are having to play characters beyond their years. It is a big challenge, particularly in the round, immersing the audience in the cabaret world. There are some big themes to deal with, and the whole cabaret world is very foreign to them, so it is a huge learning curve,” Hollamby says.
Robertson meanwhile has set the vision and allowed the students some scope to make Cabaret their own. Now is the most exciting time when all the ideas come together and are set, ready for opening night.
Cabaret: 8, 9, 11-16 September, NASDA Theatre, Ara City campus, Madras Street,
Tickets are $40 (Public + booking fee) / $25 (Students, Senior Citizens + booking fee).
Book by Joe Masteroff
Based on the play by John Van Druten and Stories by Christopher Isherwood
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Broadway production directed by Harold Prince
Produced for the Broadway Stage by Harold Prince