SPECIAL PREVIEW: Life Really is a ‘Cabaret’ for Director Christopher Rose

Meghan Mathis Cole and Michael Lewis in “Cabaret.”
Photo by ESCOBAR PHOTOGRAPHY

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

It takes a special brand of confidence for a director to jet-set to the Great White Way right in the middle of tech week of a major musical production.

But Rose and his significant other Greenville actor Craig Smith, had “Hamilton” tickets. Enough said.

And that was part of the agreement when the Market Theatre Company hired him to direct its sizzling version of “Cabaret.”

Bolstered by their fun-filled, five-day jaunt that included excursions to the Stature of Liberty, a live taping of “The View,” “The Boys in the Band” and “Sweeney Todd,” Rose coyly admits that the Kit Kat Club has been ready to open for well over a week and that the cast and creative team have merely been fine-tuning the company’s most risqué show to date.

“I am extremely pleased with what they have down,” he told Carolina Curtain Call without an inkling of travel weary in his voice.

As in most hectic summer productions, “Cabaret” has had to deal with a lot of scheduling conflicts as many in the cast have been doing double-duty in other shows such as “Hamlet” in the jam-packed Anderson Theatre Festival.

This sexy, uberstylish show by John Kander and Fred Ebb with a book by Joe Masteroff is set in the decadence of 1930s Berlin as the Nazis are coming into power and features the iconic tunes “Wilkommen,” “Maybe This Time,” “If You Could See Her,” “Mein Herr,” “It Couldn’t Please Me More,” and, of course, “Cabaret.”

Rose’s vision dictates that all of the scenes take place within the confines of the infamous Kit Kat Klub, though the script includes other locations. The challenges of designing in the unique Market Theatre space aside, Rose said: “We didn’t want to re-create anything. Things allude to these other places (cabaret chairs, suitcases and trunks, etc.) but everything takes place on the Kit Kat stage.”

And the Anderson Arts Center has been unilaterally transformed into the Klub. “From the moment you walk in, you are walking into the Klub” and the 1930s with the cast in the audience and in character.

Dave LaPage, recent Best Actor winner at the Southeastern Theatre Conference for his portrayal of 35 different roles in the Proud Mary Theatre production of “I Am My Own Wife” is the androgynous Emcee, a role made famous by Joel Grey and later Alan Cumming.

“Dave has been such a joy to work with,” said Rose. “He has so many natural impulses and is such a thoughtful actor. And he is so smart when it comes to finding all of these actions [for his character].”

And Market co-founder Meghan Mathis Cole plays the Kit Kat Klub star Sally Bowles. “This is one of her bucket list roles and we have been really able to dig into Sally and find her moments of truth.”

Michael Lewis of recent “Ragtime” fame at Greenville Little Theatre, is the protagonist (and closeted) American writer Clifford Bradshaw. Rose credits Lewis for doing his homework for this role, one that Lewis admittedly has “life experiences that I have never lived through.”

“He has really created a character, the kind of gay character that we want and need to see on stage . . . and not a stereotype,” Rose said.

“There is the story and then there are these musical numbers that are commentary on those scenes,” Rose said, liking the omnipresent Kit Kat dancers as Grecian Chorus.

The story in “Cabaret,” Rose added parallels where we are right now [in America] where “you have a charismatic leader who pits people against people and creates a populist nationalist society.”

“You have a group of people at the Kit Kat Klub where news has become entertainment. They are so caught in lifestyles and popular culture that they are allowing things to happen (i.e. the Nazis).”

The takeaway from “Cabaret,” Rose cautions, is “Wake up!”  “All of these people in Germany as the Third Reich is beginning to take hold, they all see it. Some are saying this will just blow by, some of them flee, and some of them get killed.”

“Cabaret” also features the talents of Choreographer Ashley Bingham (with a few nods to Bob Fosse), Music Director Julia West and Costumer Jessica Snyder.

And Rose highly recommends patrons get the cabaret table seating on the front row that includes a bottle of wine.

“We have an immersive experience for everyone, but an ultra-immersive experience for those at the cabaret tables,” Rose said.

“Cabaret” runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. July 13-29 at The Market Theatre Company, 110 W. Federal Street, Anderson. Tickets are $10 or $50 for cabaret table for two at http://www.themarketanderson.com.

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