There are not many people — especially among those who consider themselves fans of musical theater — who can say that they’ve never seen a production the musical “Cabaret.” Never seen the Master of Ceremonies sing “Willkommen.” Never watched the seedy ensemble of the Kit Kat Klub perform “Mein Herr.” Never heard cabaret singer Sally Bowles utter the line, “‘I used to pretend I was someone quite mysterious and fascinating. Then I grew up and realized I was mysterious and fascinating.”
But for singer-actor-dancer Alia Beeton, “never” is very definitely the case.
“I never saw the stage show, never saw the movie, knew almost nothing about it - but the title,” admits Beeton, who despite her unfamiliarity with the Kander and Ebb classic is now playing the lead role of Sally Bowles in Cinnabar Theater’s much-anticipated new production of “Cabaret.” Directed by Elly Lichenstein, with musical direction by Mary Chun, the production also features Cinnabar veterans Mary Gannon Graham (“Shirley Valentine,” “Always, Patsy Cline,” “Man of La Mancha”) as Fraulein Schneider, Michael Van Why (”La Cage aux Folles,” “The Happiest Fella,” “The Fantasticks”) as Herr Schulz, and Michael McGurk (“So Nice to Come Home To”) as the Master of Ceremonies.
“I was at a party Elly was at, and she was telling me about ‘Cabaret,’ and she said, ‘You should audition,’” recalls Beeton. “I did, and then I got a call-back for another audition, and next thing I knew, I was in the show.”
Beeton, seen last year in Main Stage West’s production of Si Kahn’s “Hope,” contributed the choreography for Shakespeare in the Cannery’s 2017 production of “In the Mood,” and last year filmed the role of Dr. Alexandria Ashe in Daedalus Howell’s upcoming science-fiction thriller “Pillhead.”
“I’m new to the stage in a way,” Beeton allows. “Though my profession was dance for many years, and though I’ve done some film work, I haven’t done a lot of work on stage. So I came to this production out of left field, a bit.”
Now that she’s become familiar with the show, its music, and the character of Sally Bowles, Beeton says she finally understands what the fuss is all about.
“I love ‘Cabaret,’ and I love Sally Bowles!” she laughs. “She’s a really complex character. At first she seems shallow, but there’s a gravitas to her that I didn’t expect.”
Since Sally is a singer and dancer in the Kit Kat Klub — a notoriously sleazy cabaret in 1931 Berlin, at the rise of the Nazi party in Germany — Beeton finds that the character is a perfect fit for her in terms of the skills required to effectively portray her.
“She’s the perfect marriage of my specific skills — singing, dancing, acting,” she notes. “I often get to sing but not dance, or dance but not sing — or act but not sing or dance. But using all three together is my most exciting happy place.”
For McGurk, who says that playing the Master of Ceremonies has been a dream since high school, getting to appear in “Cabaret” — his first time back at Cinnabar since “So Nice to Come Home To” in 2015 — has been a delight, despite the unsettling darkness that shows up in the musical.
“I’ve been having a blast,” he says. “The Master of Ceremonies is one of the greatest musical theater parts of all time. I wanted to play it in high school, but the drama teacher knew better than to try and produce this there. I went to a Catholic school, and some of the nuns would have had a heart attack.”
PLANNING TO GO?
What: Cabaret, the musical
Where: Cinnabar Theater, 3333 N. Petaluma Blvd.
When: Aug. 30-Sept. 23. Show times: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Admission: $25-$40, with tickets available by calling the box office at 763-8920.
Information: Visit CinnabarTheater.org.