“Cabaret” is the latest production from the St. Marys Community Players.
The ambitious show represents a different direction for the Players; a departure from recent upbeat musicals and wacky comedies. The choice to tackle a more complex production seems to be paying off with packed houses.
Terry Todd, the highly respected director, returns to St. Marys after a long abscence.
Karen Rempel the Musical Director makes her St. Marys Community Players debut and they’ve really put her to work. She’s onstage for the entire show as the Band Leader in the Kit Kat Klub!
I asked Karen a few questions about her experience working with St. Marys Community Players.
– How did you get the job as musical director?
I got a call from Landon Hoare, who asked if I’d consider taking on the job for SMCP.
We chatted a few times, and he was being very insistent that he really wanted me to consider it. Given the show – which musicians love! – and after a fair amount of debate about whether this was something I could do, I decided to take the plunge.
– You are the musical director but also appear on stage as the band leader. Have you been onstage before? Do you prefer to be hidden in the pit?
I have been onstage before – a number of years ago with The Community Players of New Hamburg (TCP) in their production of Children of Eden.
I wasn’t the musical director, and it was my first experience playing in an orchestra (or rather a rock band!), and being on stage – it was VERY exciting!
When in the orchestra for Stratford Community Players, although not on stage, we are right beside the audience, so very visible.
Previously I had played with small combos, or been the solo piano supporting a community musical – and again – never hidden. Interestingly, TCP is now the only group where the orchestras I play in are hidden from the audience based on how we stage our productions.
There are things to be said for both locations. Being hidden allows for a more relaxed environment in the pit throughout the show, and in the case of TCP, also allows us to have pretty much as large an orchestra as we want. Being onstage and/or close to the audience, adds a level of excitement and connection to both the actors on stage, as well as the audience, who contribute so much to every performance.
– Music is so integral to the plot. Did community theatre impose any limits on the size of band?
This show is actually written for a small band (technically 9 pieces), including exactly what we have (Trumpet, Trombone, Alto & Tenor Sax, Clarinet, Bass, Drums), with the exception that we are letting the keyboard handle the Guitar/Banjo and Accordion parts, in addition to the Piano. All the strings and additional wind/brass instrumentation are optional.
– This is one of St. Marys Community Players most ambitious productions. What was the biggest learning curve?
This is my first project with SMCP, so I can’t speak for what their biggest learning curve has been. My hope is that they have come to discover that they can do a musical in that space, small as it is, with orchestral support (albeit a small orchestra!), and that it adds exponentially to the musical theatre experience.
– How much time did the band rehearse alone before working with director Terry Todd and the actors?
The band rehearsed alone a total of 4 times, plus once with the leads, and then joined the cast on a weekly basis.
Starting in the last week of July the cast rehearsed 3 times a week – Sunday afternoons, Wednesday and Friday evenings, for a total of 12 weeks. The time commitment with the orchestra was a subset of their total rehearsal time. The rehearsals included a combination of blocking, music and choreography, until we were able to begin doing ‘full runs’.
– “Cabaret” debuted on Broadway in 1966. The cast recording of the 2006/2007 London revival at the Lyric Theatre. Sales of the cast recording were so strong that it appeared on the popular music charts in France and Holland. Is it popular because it is timeless or because it’s historical significance?
I feel your question is looking at two different things.
Musically, it includes fantastic, timeless jazz charts that I believe will always find an audience. They are both fun and exciting (Mein Herr, Two Ladies, Don’t Tell Mama) and heartbreaking (Maybe This Time, Cabaret).
The theatre piece itself, although offering a historical perspective, feels very current regarding the human condition as it relates to politics, prejudice, drugs, sexual orientation, etc. It is a very powerful, and cautionary piece of theatre, in my mind.
Either / Or
Please select one of the following and respond with a sentence or two explaining
– Vocals or Instruments.
Although I consider the voice another instrument, of your options I will choose Vocals – much as I feel that a musical theatre production isn’t complete without both!
A musical could be done entirely A Capella (no orchestral support), although any dancing parts would probably have to be dropped! It’s the voice that provides the lyrics, which help to advance the storyline.
– The 1920s or the 1960s
1920’s – definitely – for the music. It was a glorious age for jazz. And it was an era of enormous change, which I feel had more impact in shaping our society today, than even the tremendous changes in the 1960’s.
– Michelle Williams, Emma Stone or Judi Dench.
Although I have not seen any of these talented ladies in the role of Sally Bowles– and am a huge fan of Dame Judi Dench – my gut reaction is Emma Stone.
“Cabaret” tickets are available at The Flower Shop and More 519-284-2013 or visit www.stmaryscommunityplayers.ca.
“Cabaret” continues at the St. Marys Town Hall Theatre, October 28th, 29th and 30th. 8 pm show times
October 31st and November 1st, 2 pm matinee shows. Tickets are $20 general admission.
Photos: Lucid Musings