Interview by Becca Kidwell
(Cambridge, MA) On December 12, 2011, while many people were decking the halls and looking for luminescent reindeer, a group of people gathered for a warm evening of song with friends and family. Much laughter and a few tears were shared as the five singers, the pianist, cellist, and drummer poured their hearts into an entertaining set of songs. The December audience will have a new evening of heart-filled melodies on February 13th. For those who did not make the December show, they will get to see what everyone was talking about as The Cabaret Series takes on love in all of its forms.
De’Lon Grant answered some questions about the inception of The Cabaret Series and the group’s approach to the shows:
How did the Cabaret Series come about and what was your motivation for starting it?
Kami and I had been talking about creating and producing our own work for a while, but for whatever reason we never really took action to make anything happen. One day last June, Kami’s birthday to be exact, over a glass of wine we decided we wanted to put on a cabaret and that we wanted our friends to do it with us. We asked some of our talented friends that were available and used some connections to get the space for rehearsal and performance and produced our first show, Love, Etc: A Cabaret. After the performance we realized that not only is there an audience for what we are producing, but that the show we put on is unique and it could thrive. It’s not a play or a musical, but it still has songs and a story, the action is centered around the songs, but it’s not your usual cabaret. Once we understood the uniqueness of what we were doing we knew we wanted it to grow and continue. A friend of ours and Boston Area director, Megan Sandberg-Zakien saw our first cabaret and saw its potential as well. She is working with Central Square Theatre (CST) and saw the opportunity for collaboration between CST and The Cabaret. After a few meetings CST agreed to take us on as Artists in Residence and essentially mentor us in the development of the project. A major part of that has been realized in CST producing the project in conjunction with their 2011-2012 season. We have been unbelievably fortunate to have them as partners. Between that relationship and the ever growing passion for what we do gave birth to The Cabaret Series. Megan Sandberg-Zakien has taken on the role of Artistic Director and overseer for the project and she also serves as director for each individual performance of the series.
How did the group meet?
All of the singers in the group are actors in the Boston community. We met one another performing in shows together and became friends. Kami met Tim Maurice when she was searching for help with getting a song transcribed. She can be more explicit about she stumbled upon one of the most talented musicians we know. We seriously lucked out with him.
How did Central Square Theatre become involved?
I touched on this I the first questions I think. Let me know, if you need more than that. I am definitely going to send this question along to CST so that they have a voice in this as well. Let me know if you have any other questions you’d like the to answer as well.
Besides CST & the singers, who helped to bring the series about?
Well, our first show was produced at The Charles Playhouse Lounge. Jeff Davis helped us a great deal with our performance there. The Wheelock Family Theatre and The Boston Conservatory have helped us with rehearsal space. Megan Sandberg-Zakien helped foster our collaboration with CST, which has been one of the biggest assists to the project.
How did you decide what themes you would use for each cabaret?
Well, Kami and I sat down with CST and came up with the number of shows we would produce this season. We decided on three, and then Kami and I brainstormed about what we wanted to say based on the time of year each show would be performed and the music we could get to support that. We then took those ideas back to CST and came up with Journey Home in December, You and I in February and Get Ready in March.
How is the set list developed?
My iTunes library is packed with musical theatre songs. I also do a lot of YouTubing and following composers I like. Along with musical theatre songs, I tend to choose a lot pop songs that tell a story, for that reason we tend to sing a lot of Adele, lol. I always ask for songs that the cast of singers might want to sing in the shows as well. I put all of this song potential into pool of songs to choose from. Then Kami and I think about the theme and story we want to tell. (Kami constructs the script and I construct the set list). From there I consider what will work best with each singer’s voice and give each of them a list of songs to choose from. Once their feedback is incorporated, Tim Maurice and I talk about the group arrangement needs and get his input. We edit and change the songs, theme, script as needed, but that is the basic process.
Where did you find some of the more obscure songs?
A lot the songs are the type of music I listen to, so I am very familiar with the obscure stuff. A lot of that interest was sparked in theatre school.
What is the difference between singing in a cabaret and a stage musical?
I would say that one of the major differences is that the loose story we create centers around the songs. In stage musical the songs come out of the story, but with our cabaret the songs are fitted together and help us to create the story. What is very unique about what we do is that the performers present the story as themselves. Yes, much what is being sung about or said is not directly for the each performer’s lives, but each of us relates to the theme and storyline as ourselves and we present that versus a fictional character to the audience.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the cabaret?
I hope we are able to continue to introduce our audience to new composers and music by melding popular music, both new and classic, with new musical theatre songs. I think we also have an opportunity to examine the power of songs and what they evoke in us. Each of our cabarets thus far, in one way or another, has dealt with that issue. What do songs make us think of? How do they make us feel? What hopes, joys, fears, or passions do they arouse?
Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers about the cabaret series?
We hope that they will join us this season.