BWW Interview: Kylie McMahon Talks Sally Bowles, The LOT, and CABARET
Although it's a small space, The Lower Ossington Theatre's intimate nature has theater goers flocking towards their unique adaptations of iconic shows as well as their spectacular talent. After staging a production of LITTLE SHOPS OF HORRORS, the theatre is putting on CABARET.
The Kander and Ebb hit classic follows the budding romance between English Cabaret singer Sally Bowles and American writer Cliff Bradshaw. The story is told against the backdrop of the seedy Kit Kat Klub in Berlin, as Hitler and the Nazi party rise to power. The musical features classic tunes like "Cabaret," and Two Ladies."
LOT regular Kylie McMahon who stars as the shows leading bombshell Sally Bowles took some time to talk to BWW about the nature of the LOT, how she gets into character, and what it means to be playing such a recognized role.
BWW: You just wrapped LITTLE SHOPS OF HORRORS, so what has it been like transitioning between Audrey to Sally Bowles in CABARET.
Kylie: It's been definitely interesting because they couldn't be further from each other at all. They also work with different dialects and accents as well, which is interesting. At first when we started CABARET rehearsals I definitely sounded British as Audrey, which is not good, but it stopped. It's been challenging, but it's been really fun.
BWW: In your past work at the LOT you've played Diana in NEXT TO NORMAL, Audrey in LITTLE SHOPS OF HORRORS and now Sally in CABARET. How do make a character your own and separate it from past characters?
Kylie: With every character I like to start [with asking myself] what are the similarities between me as Kylie? With each character I play I relate [my] different life experiences to each character, and find how I can make that character out of my own experiences and my own personality each time. I think just putting yourself 100 percent into the character you are working on helps me each time. I find that physicality helps me a lot. If I can separate the physicality of my characters it can help me ground right into the one I'm working on.
BWW: Sally Bowles is such an iconic role, how did you feel when you got the role, and what did you expect from Sally as a character?
Kylie: When I found out I was thrilled, I was really really excited. I don't even know what I expected going into it. Like you said, it's such an iconic role. I think there's not a pressure per se, but maybe a little bit in getting the character right. I think so many people know Sally Bowles [from] the movie and know Liza [Minnelli] as Sally. [So, to] develop my own version was something I wanted to focus on, and [to] not mold my character after a character I've seen someone else play. I wanted this version to be very much my own take on Sally Bowles.
BWW: You mentioned Liza; did you draw on the film or cast recordings as an inspiration of some sort?
Kylie: I watched the movie purely because I was excited after I found out. The movie's very different from the stage show. In the film Cliff is British and Sally is American, and it's the other way around in the stage version. I didn't draw on anything from any recordings though, just more for entertainment.
BWW: So far, what is your favourite song to perform as Sally?
Kylie: It would have to be a toss up between "Surprise, Surprise," and "Cabaret." "Cabaret" is "Cabaret." It's the song that everyone will [know]. It's very broken, and raw, and there's [no] hiding behind anything anymore. It's very exhilarating to perform as an actor.
BWW: Which would you say is the most vocally challenging song to sing?
Kylie: I think one of those as well, because you always have to be careful to not let your emotion get in the way of vocal technique. [You have to] find a balance between keeping the emotion real and keeping the acting come through without putting pressure on your voice.
If you could play any other role, what would it be?
Kylie: I'd want to be the Emcee (laughs), I think it's a really cool role. Could I pick a guy? Is that against the rules? (laughs)
BWW: You've already played such incredible roles like Diana that are dream roles for so many. Do you have any dream roles left?
Kylie: I could probably come up with a giant list. I'd love to be in LES MISERABLES some day and play Eponine, or later in the life play Fantine. A guilty pleasure role I'd really like to play is Elle Woods in LEGALLY BLONDE or Queenie in the WILD PARTY, [but] there's more.
Cabaret has been on Broadway, It's a movie, it's been revived and it's being revived again now with Michelle
Williams. What do you think it is about CABARET that makes still relevant and makes people still want to see it?
Kylie: I think there's something to be said about what the Kit Kat club represents, and the blissful ignorance. Their blindness in the play about what's going on in the world, whether its an escape from what's happening or an ignorance to what's going on, is something everyone can relate to. It's easy to want to go somewhere to find something to forget about your problems or forget about what's outside. The Emcee talks about it in the beginning of the show in "Willkommen," and it bookends the show - "You forget all your troubles here."
BWW: You talked about how people can relate to the show, how do you personally relate to the show and Sally?
Kylie: I think what I find so fascinating about the character of Sally is; I don't think [she puts on a] face. I think it's her personality she's developed, this big boisterous personality she shows the rest of the world. [Still],I think there's so much going on underneath that she doesn't make anyone aware of a lot of the time, which is true especially in this day and age. People hide their true emotions underneath who they create themselves to be. I definitely relate to that. It's great to get into as an actor, to unbury things that are happening inside.
BWW: You've worked with the LOT a few times this year. What keeps you coming back, and what do you think attracts people to the LOT?
Kylie: I have loved all the people who've I've had a chance to work with and I've had such fantastic experiences with the cast, crew, and everyone who works in the office. It's such an inviting environment, and everyone's so helpful. There's theatre happening in Toronto, [but[ there's not a lot of theatre all the time. The LOT puts on shows frequently and has so many different kinds of shows. [For example,} CABARET has a much more serious subject matter than LITTLE SHOPS. [The LOT] gives people from the GTA the opportunity to come out and see theatre that's happening in the city instead of having to wait for a show to go on at the Princess of Whales. It's a great company to work for. I'd like to think if people are seeing the same faces, they are coming back because they like us.
BWW: Why should people come see CABARET?
Kylie: Why should people see it? Because its going to be fantastic (laughs) its going to be a really great though. If people have see CABARET before, our show is different than other versions that I've seen or that I've heard of just purely based on songs that we may have in our show added from other revivals, or scenes from a later revival in an earlier script. It's different and really interesting. It's such a pleasure to work with the cast because everyone is so committed and has done such fantastic work this far in the process. I can't wait to see what happens when we open.
CABARET will play at the LOT January 23 through to February 23. Tickets are currently availbable online here.