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BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!

Today, BroadwayWorld is thrilled to present the first in an ongoing series highlighting the talented cast of the forthcoming Broadway revival of John Kander & Fred Ebb's seminal musical masterpiece CABARET with a spotlight on the accomplished corps that make up the weird and wonderfully entertaining inhabitants of the show's classic Kit Kat Klub, as well as some of the featured players - Gayle Rankin as Fraulein Kost, Bill Heck as Cliff and Aaron Krohn as Ernst in addition to cast-members Benjamin Eakeley, Kristin Olness, Leeds Hill, Jane Pfitsch, Dylan Paul, Kelly Paredes, Kaleigh Cronin, Andrea Goss and Caleb Damschroder, all answering our questions!

More information on the revival of CABARET starring Michelle Williams and Alan Cumming is available at the official site here.

Come To The Cabaret

BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!Gayle Rankin

What was your first experience of Cabaret?

My high school musical theatre teacher in Scotland was so enthusiastic about the pronunciation of "CaBAret," not our sloppy, Scottish slang "cabeREY." I remember rehearsals for a medley we were doing of the songs from the show and the passion he had for doing that word justice. It changed my whole outlook on what it meant to sing this music. That was my first experience with Cabaret.

What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most?

I am one of the unlucky people who hasn't actually seen the show before. I am so excited to join this company and feel like it is all coming to me new, which I think it will to everyone in different ways. I think that's also part of the reason why people want to come and see this production over and over again.

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show?
Why?

It's too brilliant to pin down one... the most obvious to me is the first line of the show, "Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome." I think that invitation breaks open at least a part of what this piece is about. It invites you to join the struggle in hopes that you can understand it and feel a part of it and that these people are looking to share ... Everything.

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

Enjoying the holiday with the people I love and starting some slow and steady work on Fräulein Kost. Practicing the splits.

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

Nothing method!! Taking this great opportunity to do some research. We all know there's so much historical and political depth to mine before you can make it to the Kit Kat Club!


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!Bill Heck

What was your first experience of Cabaret? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

Full disclosure: I have never seen Cabaret. Not the movie, not a pirated video or cast recording, nary a high school production. Only in my prep for the audition did I become at all familiar with the piece. Of course, for years I've been well aware of its place and impact in the ongoing cultural, artistic, and political conversation. Beyond that, I am an out and out Cabaret virgin.

There. I said it.

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show? Why?

I don't know about most eloquent, but Sally says, in reference to the German-language screenplay she believes she has a part in and whether or not she's had it translated: "It's so much more fun not knowing." It seems to touch the show on several levels - most obviously, perhaps, with regard to the pursuit of joy and revelry that much of the people we meet engage in. We have a lot of full-on fun, and why not? There's a sinister bent to the line, though, in how it gives texture to a kind of willing ignorance about the growing totalitarian threat hovering over the proceedings...a threat that promises to touch not only the nation generally, but also the specific characters desperately hoping it's not real. Beyond politics, Sally's sentiment comes into contact with the question of how we live our lives day to day. Are we responsible human beings? Are we invested in knowing the whole of what touches our lives and the lives of those around us - the good, the bad, the terrifying - and facing it as best we can, or do we turn our head from what's most demanding and try to paint everything pink? I'm not suggesting it can ever be an all-or-nothing kind of experience, but at the end of the day, how bravely do we face the fullness of the world? I think the play takes you on a giddy dance while punching you in the throat.

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

Digging into the material that inspired the show.

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

Remind myself that, despite all my preparation, I don't know squat.


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!Benjamin Eakeley

What was your first experience of Cabaret? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

I remember being frightened as a kid by the television commercials that ran for the 1987 Broadway revival. Fortunately my fears subsided, and my next encounter with Cabaret was in 2001, when I was cast in the bus and truck National Tour. It was an extraordinary experience-we began rehearsals the week following the September 11th attacks and were on the road shortly thereafter. I will never forget touring this show during such a turbulent time in our country's history. Audiences were moved to their feet every night and spoke to the cast regularly about New York and what the country was going through. It was a beautiful example of the importance of political theatre.

What instruments do you play? When did you start playing your first instrument?

My primary instruments are piano, clarinet and sax. I started playing piano when I was 5 and began competing in regional classical competitions a few years later.

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show? Why?
Everything about Cabaret moves me. I think it is just about the perfect theatrical property. It's political and romantic and funny and shocking and horrifying. And important. I don't think I could identify any moment that expresses the show in its totality, but I do find myself referencing salacious one-liners from the show with some regularity.

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

I'm currently playing Bob Wallace in a production of White Christmas, and at the end of December my 6 year-old niece and 4 year-old nephew are finally going to see me perform on stage. I tend to be cast in darker productions, so this may be the last time they can see me work for a while.

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

My first scene is almost entirely auf Deutsch: I've got to befriend a German person and start working on my accent!

What was your first experience of Cabaret? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

Cabaret was my first B'way show. It was exciting to work with stars such as Alan Cumming, Natasha Richardson and the amazing creative team of Sam Mendes, Rob Marshall, and Patrick Vaccariello.

What instruments do you play? When did you start playing your first instrument?

I started playing the clarinet in 5th grade, and continued in college. I picked up the tenor saxophone for Cabaret.

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show? Why?

To me, the song "If you could see her through my eyes" expresses the message of tolerance; accepting all people as they are. Why can't we all "Live and Let live".

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

I look forward to the Holidays and ringing in the New Year with family and friends before we get busy with rehearsals.

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

The Kit Kat girls have a very active role in Cabaret, so to stay in shape, I am continuing my training and teaching at Aerial Arts NYC, the newest circus arts school in Manhattan.


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!Leeds Hill

What was your first experience of Cabaret? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

I saw FOSSE on PBS and was completely enamored with the number "Mein Herr" from Cabaret. There was something about that particular number that grabbed me. My parents had answered my many questions about the show, got the hint, and introduced me to the movie. I instantly fell in love with this brilliant film. It had everything: an amazing story, intriguing style, Bob Fosse's unmatched direction and choreography, Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey at their finest. I watched it all the time. I would come home from school every day and watch the musical numbers, memorizing the style and the choreography. To this day it is my favorite movie musical and one of my all time favorite shows. Each version I saw made me fall more in love with the show. A college nearby did the original version. A regional theatre did their version of the '98 revival. I loved comparing each version. My friends and I would play the soundtrack of the '98 revival and act out the parts, only wishing we were in NYC to see the show. The style of the show strikes me the most. There's something about a seedy German nightclub in the 1930s that seems so exciting. To be involved in any form or version of Cabaret has been a dream of mine for a long time. It is more than a dream come true to be a part of this show and especially this production.

What instruments do you play? When did you start playing your first instrument?

I play the violin. I started when I was six. I played in youth orchestras and the orchestra at my arts high school in Cincinnati (SCPA). Our chamber orchestra took a trip to NYC and performed at Carnegie Hall. I've gotten to travel to Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia with my violin by way of different youth orchestras. I've also played my violin in a bunch of musicals. I've been The Fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof twice. I've also played in a few pits at school and community theatres. I played the piano for a few years (starting at 3 years old). I also played saxophone and flute in the middle school band but I never stuck with those. The instrument I was most passionate about was always the violin. The devil's instrument, if you will. It just grabs ahold of your soul and won't let go.

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show? Why?

I think the moment that best sums up the message of the show is in the middle of "If You Could See Her." The Emcee turns to the audience in the middle of his romantic duet with a Gorilla in a dress and says, "Is it a crime to fall in love? Can we ever tell where the heart truly leads us? All we are asking is for a little understanding. Why can't the world live and let live?" This duet parallels the love stories in the show and the Emcee is speaking out against all of the judgment and injustice that is so prevalent in the world of the play.

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

Before rehearsal starts I am most looking forward to finally seeing all of the shows I've put off seeing until now. Mamma Mia here I come!

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

To prepare for the show I'll probably hit the gym to work off the Holiday stuffing. I'd also like to read The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood, the novels that Cabaret is based on. And of course I will learn fluent German before February! (Just kidding.)


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!Jane Pfitsch

What was your first experience with Cabaret? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

When I was in high school (I grew up in a tiny town in Southwest Wisconsin) my drama director took a class at the the local university - an hour's drive away. As part of the class he worked backstage on their production of Cabaret and I went to see it. I was impressed by the production - but, since my mother raised me to have a healthy fear of salmonella, the thing I remember most is that the woman playing Sally actually drank a raw egg every show - I helped my director clean up the props afterwards and I washed her glass!

What instruments do you play? When did you start playing your first instrument?

I play a bunch of instruments with varying degrees of proficiency: violin, piano, trumpet, flute, french horn, upright bass... I started playing the piano when I was 3 years old and the violin when I was 6.

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show? Why?

Ask me in a few months!

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

The question should be, what am I NOT looking forward to to?!? I've loved the music in this show for years, and I can't wait to have the opportunity to sing and play it with such a talented group of people. Also I haven't gotten to dance much in my professional work - so I'm really looking forward to that!

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

Practice, practice, practice. Playing the trumpet is like lifting weights with your face - so I have to strengthen my muscles as much as possible. And a healthy relationship with the violin is a lifelong dance!


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!DYLAN PAUL

What was your first experience of Cabaret? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

I played Bobby when I was an undergrad at the University of Kansas. It was one of the first smaller roles I had played, and it afforded me a really wonderful opportunity to watch scene work I wasn't playing in. I was really impressed by the intimacy and vulnerability of the smaller scenes, and how they pleasantly contrast to larger production numbers. I also think that it's a fantastic show for the entire ensemble.

What instruments do you play? When did you start playing your first instrument?

I play guitar, piano, and trombone. My first instrument was trombone, and I started that in sixth grade.

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show? Why?

"There was a Cabaret and there was a master of ceremonies and there was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany. It was the end of the world...and I was dancing with Sally Bowles and we were both fast asleep."

Come ooooon. People die for lines like that! It's concise, colloquial, immediate, grand in scale, and simple in structure. It's poetry. Most importantly, I love how each detail of that line is filled by the specific production choices- this specific production's Emcee, and Berlin, and Germany, and Sally Bowles. This specific production's world. I mean, isn't that a major reason that we see Live Theatre? To see how a specific production fills in those details?

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

Before rehearsals begin? I'm looking forward to seeing my family. I mean, I'm a Kansas boy and it's the holiday season. I'm going to make up for being an absentee uncle.

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

I'm not certain, but it's going to involve a lot of sit-ups.


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!KELLY PAREDES

What was your first experience of Cabaret? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

My first experience of Cabaret was actually being cast in the national tour about 10 years ago, so my first experience was not a typical experience. It's such a powerful shocking show from the audience, but I was seeing the show from the inside while putting it together, so it's very different. What I took away from that tour was the experience of being onstage with actors who all sing, dance, and play multiple instruments very well, which was amazing. I was so proud to be a part of it. Also, it was my first real paying theatre job.

What instruments do you play? When did you start playing your first instrument?

I play viola, violin, flute, and I've just started learning the clarinet (which is the devil, by the way!) I started playing both viola and flute in 5th grade.

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show? Why?

The song 'If You Could See Her.' It starts as a fun, laugh-out-loud, love song, then it turns on you, and the audience is so complicit in that moment. You get completely wrapped up in the fun, you don't realize how dark that moment has gotten until it's too late, you're already a part of it. Average Germans, regular people, got swept up in the Nazi party for different reasons without realizing the totality of what they were supporting. This song puts the audience in that position, to get swept up in a moment, then be shocked by their own involvement. Instead of 'saying' the message of the show, the audience lives it. It turns on you so quickly, from the fun to the shock. That's what makes it so eloquent.

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

I just got engaged, so I'm excited to do some wedding planning before things get crazy busy. Also, hopefully a quick vacation somewhere warm. (And watching FSU in the National Championship game. Go Noles!)

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

Lots of practicing my instruments and cardio.


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!Kaleigh Cronin

What was your first experience of Cabaret? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

I was in a regional production of Cabaret years ago. Knowing nothing about the show before we began rehearsals, I remember being struck by how raw and honest it was compared to the musicals I was used to. The image of the Emcee singing the final chilling lines of the piece is something that will stay with me forever. The juxtaposition of the familiar friendly melody with the harsh reality of the impending horrors is both disturbing and powerful.

What instruments do you play? When did you start playing your first instrument?

I play the saxophone. I grew up listening to and singing jazz music and fell in love with the sound of the sax. When it came time to choose instruments in fourth grade band class, it was a no-brainer! I also date a professional sax player- I'm just drawn to it I guess!

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show? Why?

I think the message of Cabaret is most clearly stated in the lyrics, "Tomorrow Belongs to Me." This line is sung as part of the patriotic anthem of the Nazi party signifying it's rise to power, and it's aim to one day conquer the world. However, I feel that it also speaks to those who refuse to acknowledge the impending terror and remain blissfully unaware. Tomorrow belongs to us all. I think the message here is that we have to open our eyes to the realities of the present, though sometimes harsh and cruel, in order to prepare ourselves and our world for a better tomorrow.

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

I am really looking forward to the challenge of this material. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with doing this show and I hope that I can do it justice! I'm also incredibly excited and honored to work with a creative team that I admire and a super talented cast!

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

Since Cabaret is set in a very specific time and place, I feel it is important to familiarize myself with 1930's Berlin on the eve of the Third Reich. Who were the actual women who worked in nightclubs back then? Why did they choose/why were they forced to accept this life? I hope to be able to pull from this research and be able to create a more truthful character. I also will be reading "I Am A Camera," the play on which Cabaret is based. Lastly, I will be practicing the saxophone around the clock. Sorry neighbors!


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!Andrea Goss

What was your first experience of "Cabaret"? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

My first experience with "Cabaret" (besides listening to the CD) was watching the Broadway revival video at Lincoln Center. Even through a computer screen, Natasha Richardson's performance of Sally left me breathless and incredibly moved. She brought such an amazing youthful energy, vulnerability, and honesty to Sally and it was such a gift to be able to watch her performance.

What instruments do you play? When did you start paying your first instrument?

I play the violin and piano, but I will only be playing the violin in "Cabaret." I began taking piano lessons when I was three, which was the greatest gift my parents gave me.

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show? Why?

The song "Cabaret." The contrast between the upbeat lyrics and the broKen Down state of Sally and the rise of the Nazis in Germany express a cautionary tale: a tale about what could happen if people choose to be blind or stay ignorant to what is happening in the world around them.

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

I am looking forward to getting a little down time before rehearsals and to have the time to start researching the piece, but to be honest I can't wait for February to arrive to meet the entire cast and start working on this material.

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

I plan on doing a lot of research for the show including reading Christopher Isherwood's book "The Berlin Stories," which includes "Goodbye to Berlin" the short novel "Cabaret" was based on. Other than that I plan on taking dance classes to get ready for the Kit Kat Klub.


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!Aaron Krohn

What was your first experience of Cabaret? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

I have never seen Cabaret before which is odd because I grew up with actor parents...that sounds like my parents were fake...I do have a couple of images in my head though. One is Joel Grey and Liza Minnelli doing "Money Makes the World Go Around" from the movie. The other is Sam Mendes who always directs in a bowler hat and has those fosse-esque hands.

What instruments do you play?

I will very likely be playing the banjo in the show. I do not presently play the banjo. I do play the guitar. The guitar has 6 strings! The banjo only 4....how hard can it be?

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

I'm currently doing Macbeth at Lincoln Center, which I'm enjoying. So I'm looking forward to our last 5 weeks and I'm very much looking forward to Christmas, which I love, and whatever wonderful, thoughtful and expensive "pre-rehearsal gift" Sam is going to send. Perhaps a banjo?


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!EVAN SIEGEL

What was your first experience of CABARET? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

I first saw Cabaret at Studio 54, during the last revival. A friend and I signed up to be volunteer ushers one night, so I looked at people's tickets, pointed them to the right or to the left, and then sat on the stairs at the top of the balcony and watched the show. I was in high school, and I had never seen a show that was so dark and raw and gritty. While I enjoyed the entire show, I will never forget its final moment. The show had been sexy and edgy and fun, but in this last moment the audience drew a collective breath and realized that it had all been a fantasy. It was chilling and heart-wrenching and absolutely beautiful.

What instruments do you play? When did you start playing your first instrument?

In this show, I will be playing alto and tenor saxophones. I also play soprano and baritone saxophone, as well as guitar and piano. I started playing piano over 20 years ago, and I began playing saxophone 18 years ago.

What song, line or moment do you think most eloquently expresses the message of the show? Why?

I think that the final moment expresses the show's message with poignancy and with brutal honesty. Harsh reality comes crashing back in, and for a few frightening moments, it stares the audience unblinkingly in the face: we cannot simply close our eyes and tell ourselves that "life is beautiful". The reality is that life is not always beautiful, and refusing to acknowledge this truth can have dire consequences. This has certainly been true throughout history, and sadly, the show's message is just as relevant today as it has ever been.

What are you most looking forward to before rehearsals begin?

I am absolutely thrilled to be working with this incredible cast and creative team, so I would say that I am most looking forward to that moment when everyone is assembled in the same room for the first time. The energy is always amazing on the first day of rehearsal, but this time, I will be rehearsing one of the greatest musicals in history alongside some of the world's greatest artists. It's exciting just to think about months before rehearsals begin; I can't imagine how exciting it will be when the day is actually upon us!

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

Practice saxophone, study score, study script, repeat! I will also study the German dialect, read up on life in Berlin in the late 1920s-focusing especially on Berlin's seedy nightlife-and if my memory of the 1998 revival costumes serves me correctly, I'll probably throw some more sit-ups into my gym routine as well!


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!CALEB DAMSCHRODER

What was your first experience of Cabaret?

In college, three friends and I drove through the night from Ohio to see the last Roundabout production. We bought student tickets for the back row of the balcony to see Molly Ringwald and Raul Esparza. I've loved the show ever since.

What instruments do you play? When did you start playing your first instrument?

For the show, I'm playing the trombone, banjo and bassoon. I started studying piano in 3rd grade. The rest of the instruments came later.

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

Gym. Gym. Gym.

So, come to the cabaret, old chum! Tickets are now on sale! Also, be sure to stay turned to BroadwayWorld for all about this highly anticipated revival of one of Broadway's greatest musicals ever written!


BWW EXCLUSIVE: CABARET's Kit Kat Klub Ensemble Answers Our Burning Questions!STACEY SIPOWICZ

What was your first experience of CABARET? What did you take away from seeing it or what moment stuck with you most? Why?

My first experience of "Cabaret" was at the Henry Miller Theater. I had seen a job posting for "bartenders/waitresses who sing" and I went for an interview. I walked in and heard the cast rehearsing "Money, Money..." and caught a glimpse of them on stage. I immediately had that feeling of "Wow, I want to do that!!!" In the following months, I bartended & waitressed at Studio 54 during & after the show. Months later, maybe a year later, I was cast in their first national tour! Thank you to Mr. Buckley for teaching me to play the trumpet in 5th-8th Grade!!!

What instruments do you play? When did you start playing your first instrument?

I played the trumpet 5th grade through 8th grade. When I saw auditions listed in the Backstage, I rented a horn in midtown, after not having played since 8th grade! I practiced and then tooted the theme from the Pink Panther for my audition!

What will you do to prepare for the first rehearsal?

Warm up my neck!

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Pat Cerasaro Pat Cerasaro is BroadwayWorld's Chief Interviewer and Senior Editor, contributing exclusive columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Flash Fridays as well as additional special features and extensive news coverage. His work for the site has appeared in The New York Times, US Weekly, The Biography Channel, NBC and more.