A re-imagined ‘Cabaret’ stars the acting and choreography talents of Blue Star and turns the venue into the Kit Kat Klub

By : Dylan Drobet
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Orlando – The Abbey is saying ‘Willkommen’ to Cabaret on Jan. 29.

Director Kenny Howard is thrilled to bring his unique rendition of the smash-hit musical to The Abbey and has handpicked a local and star-studded cast that he is sure will leave audiences singing “It Couldn’t Please Me More.”
The musical is based on the Christopher Isherwood novella Goodbye to Berlin and the John Van Druten play I am a Camera.

Featuring a score by the legendary John Kander and Fred Ebb, Cabaret is set in 1930s Berlin as the Nazis begin their rise to power and tells the story of English cabaret performer Sally Bowles and her relationship with the young American writer Cliff Bradshaw.

Griffeth Whitehurst guides the audience through The Abbey's production of Cabaret as the Emcee.

Griffeth Whitehurst guides the audience through The Abbey’s production of Cabaret as the Emcee.

Howard has been working the Orlando theater scene for more than two decades and as artistic director at The Abbey has had the chance to witness many fantastic performances. However, Howard promises Cabaret will be unlike any other show that has hit The Abbey. The venue will be transformed into The Kit Kat Klub and will immerse audiences into the show.

“It is going to be an experience that has certainly not been offered at The Abbey and I venture to say that there hasn’t been an experience like this in Orlando before,” Howard says.

The audience inclusion isn’t the only factor that makes this production a huge accomplishment. The size of the cast is also the largest The Abbey has ever seen with a total of 15 performers.

“It is by far the largest cast that has ever been on The Abbey stage,” Howard says. “We know it works because we have it all blocked out. The only problem is we’re not sure where everyone is going to get dressed!”

It isn’t just the size of the cast that is impressive, according to Howard. It’s their talents,, which he says are larger than life.

Among those talents is Blue Star, a resident and performer in Orlando for 15 years. Star is the choreographer and portrays Sally Bowles. But her version of the popular character is expected to be different than any other version that came before. So audiences are in for a surprise, she says.

“Kenny Howard inspired me for this role,” she says. “I don’t really have a reference to this character or anyone portraying this character. I’ve just gone into it really blind. I’ve seen a YouTube video of Liza Minelli from around 1992 of her singing “Cabaret”but that is really the only reference point I have.”

Star has gotten to know the role of Sally pretty well since rehearsals began.

“I was so excited when Kenny asked me to be Sally. I absolutely love that role and I love her,” Star said.

Howard loves Star as Sally as well.

“There was no person I could picture playing this role other than Blue,” the director says. “Sally certainly has her own demands, but as far as the drive and the showmanship, those qualities of Sally are exactly the same qualities that exist in Blue. I’ve worked with a lot of people in this city and we have a lot in common. It is amazing to watch what this woman does.

“She leaves here at 10 p.m. and then has two more gigs. Myself, on the other hand, I hit IHOP and then bed.”

Howard’s Cabaret will also feature original choreography. That’s because Star created the stage movement without influence from other productions.

“Choreographing the whole thing was so different because I really have no idea what the movement on stage or in the movies has been,” Star says. “I think it will be interesting once we are done to go back and watch to see if there are any similarities.”

Howard believes that the choreography will be a stimulating treat for long-time fans of the show and new audiences as well.

“One of the things that has been incredibly refreshing is that Blue doesn’t have much of a touchstone to Cabaret so her choreography, I would definitely say, one the things that sets our production apart from others,” Howard explains. “She broke through boundaries without even knowing it. She didn’t have a huge knowledge of the show and, in this case, it has been a huge blessing because it has provided excitement among the cast. I thought ‘Oh! I’ve never seen it done that way!’”

Griffeth Whitehurst, a native of the Pinellas County city of Tarpon Springs, is playing the iconic role of the Emcee.

“Before Kenny contacted me about doing this role and submitting for it, I had seen the Liza Minelli version of Cabaret,” Whitehurst says. “I didn’t remember much about the movie except that I was pretty disturbed by it, especially the role of the Emcee.”

Howard’s Cabaret is the darker revival—and that prompted Whitehurst to do a bit more research.

“I saw one production of Cabaret that was the Alan Cummings’ revival,” Whitehurst explains. “Since that was kind of the idea for Kenny’s revival I thought I should revisit it because it is such an abstract role. I watched it once and let Kenny take care of the rest so as to not dilute my performance with someone else’s vision. I think Kenny has given the cast a great framework to work with and has been finessing it until opening night.”

Individual tickets for the show start at $40. Tickets for the show and pre-show start at $70. The pre-show is an immersive prologue to the show featuring heavy hors d’oeuvres and variety acts from the 1930s Weimer district, as well as a complimentary glass of champagne. The show runs Jan. 29 through Feb. 8.

Howard insists that this is a show everyone should check out—and for good reason.

“It’s hot. We have an incredibly hot cast doing extremely hot and naughty things,” Howard says.

For tickets and more information visit AbbeyOrlando.com.

WHAT: Cabaret
WHERE: The Abbey
WHEN: Jan. 29-Feb. 8
TICKETS: AbbeyOrlando.com

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