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Since its inception in 1966, Cabaret has been staged and re-staged over the years in venues large and small. Based on stories by Christopher Isherwood and John Van Druten's play I Am a Camera, and with a worthy book by Joe Masteroff, it captures a time period in the 1930s when the world was awakening to the threat of Nazi Germany. Fifty years later, the play seems as relevant as ever in our current divisive political climate.

It's tempting to compare La Mirada's current production to the 1972 iconic film with Joel Grey or Roundabout Theatre Company's 1998 revival with Alan Cumming, but director Larry Carpenter has gathered a fine ensemble and a distinguished creative team to re-interpret this offering exceedingly skillfully. From David O's musical direction to Dana Solimando's dexterous choreography, the play, even on the large stage, has an intimacy that draws you in.

By now, the story is familiar. An American writer, Cliff Bradshaw (Christian Pederson), arrives in Berlin and is introduced to the decadent Kit Kat Klub as a place where he can find companionship. The Emcee (Jeff Skowron) headlines a group of male and female dancers who telegraph the seedy nature of their sexuality, and Bradshaw meets star Sally Bowles (Zarah Mahler) and enters into a relationship with her. A sub-plot involves Fraulein Schneider (Kelly Lester), the landlady of the apartment building where Bradshaw gets a room, and a Jewish store owner, Herr Schultz (Jack Laufer), who fall in love and plan to marry. In this production, both stories are equally compelling because of the strength of the actors.

Skowron takes center stage with a dynamic performance. His presence ratchets up the musical numbers, and the ensemble of Kit Kat Klub performers enhance the overall look of the show through Carpenter's strategic placement of them onstage throughout the performance. Boys (Rodd Farhadi, Brian Steven Shaw, Neil Starkenberg, Rodrigo Varandas) and Girls (Natalie Iscovich, Kelly Powers-Figueroa, Adrianna Rose Lyons, Nina Schreckengost, Candace Janin Washington, Jenna Wright) all create an unsettling mood that adds dimension to the lamentable, unfolding story. Matt Koenig and Erica Hanrahan-Ball also are effective as catalytic characters. In addition, delivering effective performances are Giana Bommarito, Richard Bulda, Dustin Ceithamer, A. J. Mendoza, and Bruce Merkle as waiters and others.

Mahler makes a fine and tragic Bowles, but Pederson's bland performance isn't a good match for the pair. Laufer and Lester are pros, and they are compelling during their moments in the story.

John Kander and Fred Ebb are owed a lion's share of the success of Cabaret because of their impressive music and lyrics.  "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," "Maybe This Time," and "I Don't Care Much" are regularly performed in solo cabaret shows and on records by artists like Barbra Streisand, validating their timelessness. "Willkommen" stands as one of the iconic opening numbers in the Broadway canon.

Adding to the overall mood of Berlin and the 1930s are John Iacovelli's hazy, clever set with its easily transformed angular flats and Steven Young's expert lighting. Also notable is Josh Besom's sound design enhancing David O's onstage orchestra. The musicians' matching wigs by Anthony Gagliardi complete the look achieved by David Kay Michelsen's sensuous and edgy costumes.

This production is dynamic and exciting, and it offers a fresh look at the tragedy of characters whose lives existed on the fringes of the society that was a microcosm of the coming world order. It is a cautionary tale spotlighting injustice worthy of remembering.





Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.