With its intimate, speakeasy atmosphere, the Bruce Ariss Wharf Theater makes an apropos venue for Monterey Peninsula College Theatre Company's production of "Cabaret."
The 12-time-Tony-Award-winning musical opens Friday at the historic theater on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey.
There will be a preview performance Thursday night. Each performance will be offered with the option of a Dinner & Theatre package, which includes a prix fixe menu at Isabella's on the Wharf and tickets for the show ($36 per person).
Directed by Gary Bolen, "Cabaret" features Jill Miller as Sally Bowles and Peter Hoffman as the Emcee.
The story takes place in a sleazy night club in Berlin on the brink of the Nazi takeover of Germany. Amidst the sinister backdrop of impending World War II, Sally Bowles, a cabaret singer, falls in love with an American writer, while the German woman who owns the boardinghouse they reside in falls in love with an older Jewish man.
As the cabaret artists dance to escape the terror of what's going on in the world — and to offer refuge to those who seek to be amused — the dance numbers move the plot from lighthearted entertainment to darker reality, all the while overshadowed by the creepy master of ceremonies.
"I love how the stories come together," said Bolen, who has directed "Cabaret" three times and played in it twice. "We know how this comes out — World War II has happened. We watch how these people make their
For Bolen, the thing that's different about this production is the intimacy of the Wharf Theater.
"The idea is that the audience is part of the cabaret," he explains. "The Wharf Theater really lends itself to that. There are 160 seats, but because the audience is so close, it feels like less. They're on top of the action. It allows for a great deal of subtlety in interpretation."
He contrasts this to the largess he's used to in MPC's main stage theater, which is currently undergoing extensive renovation and is not scheduled to reopen until the summer of 2013.
"In our theater, it's 82 feet from the stage to the last row of the theater," he said. "If you crook an eyebrow, nobody in the last row's going to see that. So you have to 'act big.' You could fit the entire Wharf Theater inside our seating area."
In addition to subtlety in facial expression, Miller said that another benefit to the intimate space is that she can interact with the audience in her role as Sally Bowles.
"It's a charming little theater," said Miller. "I think having a small, intimate space is perfect for 'Cabaret,' because that's what a cabaret is by definition. It's an (ideal) opportunity to interact with the audience and break that fourth wall. During the songs, I'm treating the audience as my audience."
This means that she's making eye contact and singling people out. She explains, "It adds a genuine feel to the performance because you don't have to pretend the audience members aren't there. You get to look at them and play off their interaction with you."
But Miller's favorite part of the role is having the opportunity to play someone who's completely opposite of her in real life.
"I think I have that wild girl in there, but she doesn't show up in my real life very often," she said. "I'm a blonde naturally and I'm playing this sleek, black-haired vixen in the show. It'd been fun to channel my inner wild girl."
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·What: Monterey Peninsula College Theatre Company presents "Cabaret"
·Where: The Bruce Ariss Wharf Theater, Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey
·When: Previews at 7:30p.m. on Thursday, June 28; opens at 7:30p.m. on Friday, June 29; Continues at 7:30p.m. Thu-Sat, with 2p.m. Sunday matinees through July 15
·Tickets: $25 adults, $22 seniors, $15 young adults (16-21) and military, and $10 children 15 and under; 24-hour advance purchase, $20; online $18 for adults and seniors. Available through the MPC Box Office (646-4213) Wednesdays from 3-7p.m., Thu-Fri 3-5p.m., at the performance venue 90 minutes prior to any show, or online at www.TicketGuys.com; Dinner & Theatre packages available for $36 per person, including a prix fixe menu at Isabella's on the Wharf and tickets for the show (price does not include gratuity, drinks or dessert); available only at the MPC Box office at least 24 hours in advance
·Information: 646-4213 or www.mpctheatre.com