‘Cabaret,’ with a twist
DARIEN — There’s a flurry of movement at the Darien Arts Center Weatherstone Studio.
Lights are tweaked, props are meticulously put in place and three dancers practice their moves in front of the room-length mirror on the wall.
Amid the commotion, two male characters from the center’s upcoming “Cabaret” musical, Herr Schultz and Ernst Ludwig, dressed in late-1920s attire with ties and dress shoes, stand out among the crowd with their distinctive costumes. Upon closer look, one discovers they are portrayed by women.
The production, a collaboration between the DAC and The Lipstick Project, a theater troupe founded in 2014, puts a twist on the original 1966 Broadway musical set in Berlin on the eve of the Third Reich: All characters in the production, female and male, are played by women actors.
“This is a brave approach, and I’ve learned a lot from playing this role,” Shelley Lepetich, the Norwalk actress who plays Herr Schultz, said with a hint of a German accent.
Carin Zakes, the director of the musical, supervised the cast before rehearsal started, making sure things were running smoothly. With more than 10 years at the Darien Arts Center, Zakes knows a variety of actors throughout Connecticut and New York.
Performances take place on April 27, 28, May 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 8 p.m. and on April 29 and May 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30 ($25 for students and seniors) and are available at darienarts.org.
The DAC Weatherstone Studio is at 2 Renshaw Road , behind Town Hall.
“We talked about a collaboration between the Darien Arts Center and The Lipstick Project and everyone thought it’d be a great idea,” Zakes said. “We had auditions in January and have been practicing three or four times a week since February.”
The musical plays on the idea of gender fluidity.
“We were looking at doing a cabaret-style show and the idea of doing that really appealed to us, but we wanted to explore how we could make it fresh and how we could make it new,” said Nova Hall, the musical’s producer and a Darien resident. “We thought it would be fun to turn the play on its head. Women would be playing women or men — or in the case of the emcee, maybe not so clear.”
For musical director Dwayne Condon, of Darien, “Cabaret” will be his fourth show at the Darien Arts Center. “I think the music (in ‘Cabaret’) is very authentic to the 1930s European kind of style. It’s a lot of fun when you have these period pieces, it’s sort of an education in that way,” Condon said.
In a time when national politics are constantly in the fray, some members of the musical said the cast, composed of 22 women, is an important part of the production’s message.
“I always love that people will always come up and say how they forget that we’re all women. I think that women can bring different perspectives. This is about the rise of fascism and there’s a lot to say about that,” said Rachel Schulte, founder of The Lipstick Project.
The all-female cast wants to let the audience know they are in for a ride.
“I hope the audience gets to see that women can play any role. I think this play is really important for 2018,” Amy Rissolo, a Darien-based actress with The Lipstick Project and DAC, said.
“Cabaret” will open Friday at 8 p.m. at the DAC Weatherstone Studio, 2 Renshaw Road.