‘There will be no swastikas on bare bottoms in this production, because I don’t know that anyone really wants to see that.”
Director John DeGaetano, whose high-energy production of Cabaret just opened at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, is referring to the legendary 1998 Broadway production of the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical in which the Master of Ceremonies (played by Alan Cumming), bares his bottom, revealing the Nazi insignia.
Though DeGaetano’s production uses the same script as the 1998 version—staged at Wells Fargo as an actual 1931-style Berlin cabaret, complete with German food and German beers served at patrons’ tables—he admits that this Cabaret doesn’t step so far across the boundaries of taste. “Ours is not quite as raunchy as that one,” he confesses.
For the long-time local actor-director, associated for years with the Raven Players in Healdsburg, Cabaret represents more than just a new opportunity to stage one of the world’s most successful musicals. With this show, DeGaetano kicks off the start of a brand-new theater company. North Bay Stage Company (www.northbaystageco.org) was formed to give many of DeGaetano’s colleagues in Healdsburg new opportunities, and with a performance space in Santa Rosa, the company hopes
to draw larger audiences to experience their work. Cabaret is the first of six shows announced for the company’s inaugural season.
“The idea behind the new company is to broaden the footprint for some of our local actors,” DeGaetano says. “Healdsburg was so far away, it was a little hard for some actors to make it all the way up there. And now we have a shot at drawing more talent from San Francisco and the East Bay too.”
Case in point, Cabaret features San Francisco performer Michelle Jasso in the lead role of Sally Bowles, and Pedro Rodeles, from Berkeley, as the Master of Ceremonies, who will share the part with Bonnie Jean Shelton, marking a rare appearance by a woman in the iconic, slightly sinister role.
It’s just one of many surprises DeGaetano has worked into the familiar but enduringly popular story. “There are definitely a few other surprises in the show,” he says. “It’s a bit of a different concept than what people have experienced before. Yes, Cabaret is a popular piece, and it’s been done many times—but I promise you, you’ve never seen it like this.”
With or without bare bottoms.
‘Cabaret’ runs Friday–Sunday through Aug. 10 at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. 50 Mark West Spring Road, Santa Rosa. Friday–Saturday, 8pm; 2pm matinees on Sunday. $36. 707.546.3600.