BWW Interview: Lindsay Bretz And Michael Zorger of CABARET at Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center
The musical Cabaret is a show that has truly stood the test of time. Based on the short novel Goodbye to Berlin and the play I Am A Camera, Cabaret has captured the attention of audiences through its show-stopping musical numbers, complex characters, complicated relationships, and intense emotions. Cabaret will be returning to Harrisburg Midtown Arts Center (HMAC) on October 5th, and Broadway World had a chance to talk with Lindsay Bretz, who will be portraying Sally Bowles, and Michael Zorger, who will be taking the stage as the Emcee.
BWW: First, tell us a little about yourself.
Bretz: Well, I grew up in Middletown and have done theatre in central PA for over 20 years now. I've performed almost everywhere locally (professionally and non-professionally), and I have toured nationally and internationally. However, Harrisburg is where I feel most at home on the stage, and it's where I've done the most. This will be my third time doing Cabaret. It's the most excited I've been to do the show because I feel that with age I've gotten to experience many more emotions, so I have more to bring to the character. I also get to share the stage with some of my closest friends and with an insanely talented group of people.
Zorger: My name is Michael Zorger. I attended Ithaca College and NYU for Music Theatre. Presently I am a Supervisor for a Convenience Chain, a voice teacher and an art instructor. I have a beautiful dog named Blanche-she is a Cockslie Cheaglehound. I enjoy anything artistic and thrive when I am performing or creating.
BWW: Tell us a little about the experience of performing Cabaret for the first time at HMAC and how the experience is the second time around.
Bretz: Cabaret in 2010 was one of the first shows we did at HMAC. Back then all they had was the one stage and bar. I remember rehearsing in the back in these big empty rooms. Then, years later, I walked into a brand-new restaurant in place of the empty rooms. Now, eight years later, HMAC has grown so much and has the Capitol room (which is where we perform The Rocky Horror Show every Halloween) that houses a bigger stage, another bar, and an outside terrace. HMAC has done so much for the community and has become a staple to the downtown area. I feel so fortunate to continue to do shows there. John, one of the owners, has been asking to bring back Cabaret for years now, and it seemed like a very fitting time to bring back a powerhouse, politically driven show to this space.
BWW: HMAC is a unique venue. What is it about HMAC that makes it such a great venue for a show like Cabaret/How will the audience's experience of Cabaret be different because of the venue?
Bretz: HMAC is THE perfect place to do Cabaret because most of the show takes place in the "Kit Kat Club". The small stage and bar downstairs known as Stage On Herr is almost identical to that of a night club. It has dark lighting, eclectic artwork hanging everywhere, a bar right next to the stage, and tables spread around for the audience to enjoy the show. The band sits up near the ceiling (which you rarely see at theatres) and adds beautifully to the show without being distracting or taking up space on stage. That is a great advantage in itself. We will have cocktail servers going around grabbing drinks for patrons during the show so they won't have to wait until intermission like at most theatres. Our show will also utilize the entire room and be highly interactive which makes things fun and exciting for the audience and cast at the same time!
Zorger: HMAC is a mecca for the artistic inhabitants of Harrisburg and its surrounding towns. To perform Cabaret in a space that I imagine resembles the type of venue that these types of German Burlesque shows in the 1940s is helpful for everyone involved. Not only does it keep the audience from drifting away when set changes and curtains would normally move between scenes, but the actors get to actually bring the show down onto the floor with the patrons. Involving everyone present and hopefully allowing for a superb experience.
BWW: Cabaret was first produced in the 60s and takes place post World War I. What is it about this show that keeps modern audiences coming to see it?
Bretz: I think several things...the big bold characters (which names like Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Alan Cummings have made even bigger), the music (with huge hits such as "Cabaret" and "Maybe This Time"), and the stereotypes, political views, and love stories which all withstand time. Just as in Romeo and Juliet, where two star-crossed lovers are from different backgrounds and should never be together in society's eyes, there are lovers in Cabaret who are from totally different worlds as well. They have to choose survival over love, and it is heartbreaking to watch. Along with this heartbreak though there is a lot of humor and light moments in the show, so it is a great balance.
Zorger: The historical factors of Cabaret will never be untimely. This is unfortunate, but true. Along with that, the universal feelings of love and loss are eminent throughout time. Just because this isn't your old fashioned happy go lucky musical doesn't mean it isn't fun at times. But there is definitely something to learn and remember with this epic tale.
BWW: What is your favorite part of the show and why?
Bretz: You know, I don't think I can pick just one part of the show as my favorite. I honestly think the journey my character goes through is what makes this show so fun for me. It is emotionally one of the most draining roles I've ever played because she goes from having enough energy to fill the room to almost having none at all. She goes from hiding her feelings to wearing them on her sleeve and then back to hiding them again. I think my favorite part is making that circle. Feeling triumphant and then feeling defeated. Feeling high and feeling low. It's like riding a roller coaster and getting to sing some pretty incredible songs while riding it.
Zorger: My favorite part to watch is "Mein Herr". The women really get down vocally and physically and the song itself is a showstopper. My favorite to perform is "I Don't Care Much", which was added in the 1998 Studio 54 revival. It is a haunting male solo that represents the feelings that Kander and Ebb imagined the city of Berlin to feel at this time in history.
BWW: What is the most challenging part of the show or of your character for you and why?
Bretz: The most challenging part for me personally is not letting the intense and wonderful acting from my fellow cast members draw me in too much. There are times when Christin, who plays Fraulein Schneider, cries on stage and my first intuition is to start crying too because in real life I would. But I have to remember that Sally is so detached from others and is only really ever worried about the bubble she lives in. Ultimately, she just doesn't care about things the way most humans do. She has a good heart; she just doesn't know how to use it properly.
Zorger: As the emcee, none of my lines are directed to any of the characters in the show. They are to the audience. Not only that, but they are in broken English, along with French and German.
BWW: Cabaret has been known to move audiences so much that they don't/can't respond audibly. Why do you think it sometimes has this type of impact?
Bretz: Again, I think it's because they watch people fall in love and then have to see them choose survival over being together. And the audience is reminded of how brainwashed an entire nation was at one point and how many people died because of it. And I hate to say it, but right now, in 2018, we are having similar problems, and it's so very scary. People don't always know how to react when racism, stereotypes and horror are shoved in their faces.
Zorger: Everyone knows someone that was either directly affected or related to someone that remembers someone personally impacted by the holocaust. There are still survivors living all over the planet. The fear that something like that has happened and could happen again will leave even the shallowest of onlooker to have thoughts that question their own morals and abilities to move on with forgiveness and compassion. It has been and will always be a very emotional subject, as it should be.
BWW: If your character could give the audience one piece of life advice, what would it be?
Bretz: Life is a Cabaret. So, live your life, party lots, drink lots, and do whatever makes you happy because in an instant you could lose everything.
Zorger: No one should ever be so comfortable that they forget life is always changing. In the blink of an eye, the world as we know it could easily be no more. Hold on to your relationships and remind them how much they are worth to you and your existence.
Get your tickets for Cabaret at www.harrisburgarts.com.