If you’re not sure what “cabaret” means, you’re not alone. “That’s our No. 1 branding issue,” says Shannon Forsell, the group’s artistic director. “It takes many different forms, so people don’t know what it is. Is it New York–style, which is like a nightclub? Is it the movie Cabaret, which is more European? Is it burlesque? We like to say it’s like being in a living room at a cocktail party, but with a Broadway star performing right in front of you.” The season’s list of stars includes actress Megan Mullally, Broadway diva Rachel Bay Jones, and Laura Benanti (famous for her portrayal of Melania Trump on The Late Show).
And Forsell means right in front of you. “You sit at a table, you have a martini, and the performer is within 25 feet.” In short, it’s an informal situation in which you feel like you can reach out and touch Leslie Odom Jr. (who played Aaron Burr in Hamilton), which is not recommended, as that dude is pretty trigger-happy. “They’ll talk to you, walk into the audience, engage with the people. It’s not a passive experience,” Forsell says.
Despite the occasional name association, “cabaret” does not mean strip club. Although when they announced the new space, the Cabaret did receive an inquiry from an exotic dancer who wanted to audition. “She was gorgeous,” Forsell says, laughing. “If that’s what we did, I would have hired her.”
The Cabaret’s new home will differ from the old one in a few ways, most visibly the marquee, which was last lit in 1979 when the building closed as Rollerland. The permanent space also means the Cabaret can host post-show events like a Cole Porter birthday champagne toast—and book performers on shorter notice than their usual six-months-in-advance needs.
For those into cabaret, this place is good news. There aren’t a lot of venues strictly dedicated to the art form, and those that are can usually be found on the coasts. “I used to have to call all the agents,” says Forsell, “and now they’re calling me. We’ve established ourselves—and we’re proud of this—as one of the top cabaret rooms in the country. We’re ready to show it off.”
Schedule shake-up. Due to a scheduling conflict, the planned 2018 Spring/Summer kick off on April 21 featuring The Puppini Sisters has been changed to a two-night feature with post-post modern international cabaret diva, Meow Meow. Additionally, originally slated for a March 24 gala, Jennifer Holliday will appear June 1 and 2. For current schedule, updates, and tickets, please visit: http://www.thecabaret.org/