The season opener at Short North Stage will see the main stage of the Garden Theater in Columbus transformed into the infamous 1930s Kit Kat Klub in Berlin, and will feature one of the great Broadway scores by John Kander and Fred Ebb as Short North Stage presents the erotic updated 1998 revival version of Cabaret, which starred Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson and ran for six years on Broadway.
This racier and more decadent version of the well-known musical presents an accurate portrayal of pre-WWII Berlin which was known as a “sin city”. The Twenties saw a dramatic loosening of social inhibitions, and attitudes toward diverse sexual behavior became much more tolerated. Hundreds of nightclubs flourished, catering to a wide variety of tastes. Hyperinflation led people to spend on intoxicating pleasures of the moment rather than save money that would be worth much less in week, if not a day.
In an interesting local Columbus connection to the Berlin scene, Actress Louise Brooks, whose portrait was etched onto a back wall of the Garden Theater stage in 1924, was one of the many foreigners who made their way to Berlin, where she became an international star after she appeared in the 1929 movie Pandora’s Box. In that film she epitomized a Berlin siren—a seductress named Lulu, whose uninhibited sexuality brought ruin to her and others she touched.
The Joel Gray interpretation of the Emcee was shattered by Alan Cumming’s eroticized version in the 1998 Broadway revival. Although the 1972 film version of the musical, starring Liza Minelli, made Sally Bowles the central character, the Emcee is the pivotal force in the stage production.
Dayton native JJ Parkey plays the EMCEE in this production of Cabaret. He earned his degree in musical theater at Wright State University and currently resides in New York. JJ says he hopes to “honor both of the iconic performances of Joel Grey and Alan Cumming while incorporating my own take on the character. The Emcee is not a stagnant character that needs to be presented in one way, but rather an ever-changing creature that adapts to the story with each new production and each new director.”
Directing the production is New York based Dayton native, Scott Hunt. He notes, “The challenge inherent in presenting Cabaret is to immerse the audience in the world of the Kit Kat Klub; to make them feel as if they are participants in the action of the play. Luckily, The Garden Theatre does much of the work for us. How blessed to present a piece about the most important moment of the 20th Century in a building with so much history of its own.” One way the company is immersing the audience in the action is by offering a chance to be part of the production “up close and personal” with VIP Ticket holders sitting at tables on the stage of The Garden Theater.
As an actor, Scott Hunt has appeared on Broadway and in the National Touring Productions of Les Miserables (Marius), and Rent (Mark Cohen), as well as numerous regional theaters. As a director, Scott recently staged Rent for Wright State University in Dayton. Like JJ, he is a Dayton native who currently resides in New York City. Scott is a resident artist with The Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton.
Rounding out the Dayton representation in Short North Stage’s Cabaret is Chris Shea. Chris graduated from Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts and formed Free Shakespeare! – a professional, not-for-profit theatre company in Dayton devoted to presenting complimentary performances of the works of William Shakespeare.
Tickets are $30 or $40 for VIP Tickets. VIP Tickets are sold out for opening night, September 21st. All performances on the Main Stage at The Garden Theater, located at 1187 N High Street, Columbus, Ohio. Visit www.shortnorthstage.org for tickets and information, or call 614-725-4042. A preview performance will be held at 8:00 pm on Thursday September 20, and then runs Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm through October 5.