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A table waits at Cabaret

M.A.D. Theatre's latest production has experienced actors, some making their debut and some hoping to find fame.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 16, 2002


M.A.D. Theatre's latest production has experienced actors, some making their debut and some hoping to find fame.

By day, they hold regular jobs.

Rachel Cohen sells clothing at Talbots.

James Cass takes pictures.

Starting today, they become stars of stage in a production of Cabaret.

The musical opens tonight at the Friday Morning Musicale in Hyde Park. Produced by M.A.D. (Music, Acting and Dance) Theatre of Tampa, it runs through Aug. 25.

The cast features two dozen actors and dancers from across the Tampa Bay area, including South Tampa and Carrollwood. Some have years of theater experience. Others are making their debut.

A few dream of Hollywood fame.

Cohen wants to be the next Shirley MacLaine.

"I'm trying to be famous, but it's hard," said the perky 23-year-old from Palma Ceia who plays a dancer in the Kit Kat Klub. "Tampa, call me!"

Producer, dancer and choreographer Elizabeth Edelson picked the cast from a field of 100 who auditioned in May. Whittling the list proved tough. Many who starred in past theater productions wound up in the chorus.

"The cast is unbelievably talented," Edelson said this week during a rehearsal. "We've got the best of the best."

Kevin Hentkowski plays the part of the Emcee. A transplant from Detroit, he began in theater 12 years ago and has starred in more than 30 productions.

Emilia Sargent has the role of Cabaret performer Sally Bowles. A wife and mother of two, she has appeared on several area stages and most recently performed in 'Twas the Night Before Christmas at American Stage in St. Petersburg.

Everyone has a passion for the stage.

Cabaret tells the story of life in a seedy Berlin nightclub during the rise of Nazism. Based on the diary of Christopher Isherwood, it was first produced in 1966 and made into a movie in 1972 starring Liza Minnelli.

Edelson, 38, chose Cabaret for its daringness and powerful message. As a child who grew up in Brooklyn, she knew Holocaust survivors who learned to find happiness in a world filled with pain. The experience gave meaning to the lyrics, "Life is a Cabaret."

In late May, the cast began rehearsing for the show two or three nights a week, usually after a full day's work. They learn lines at home.

The actors earn satisfaction, but no money. Proceeds from tickets, donations and grants cover the production costs. Like most community theater groups, there's no money for talent.

Cass, a self-employed photographer in Virginia Park, said the excitement of being on stage is payment enough. Originally from Maine, he did a lot of theater work in his home state, but nothing in Tampa.

Friday marks his first performance in 13 years.

Nervous? Not really, he said.

Just in case, he'll wear fake glasses instead of his prescription ones.

"It's easier when you don't see the audience," he said, smiling. "Hopefully, I don't fall off the stage."

Edelson started M.A.D. Theatre in 1999 to give aspiring actors more venues and to expand community theater in Tampa. She does productions strong in dance, her background.

She skips the Shakespeare.

Edelson chose Friday Morning Musicale because of its historical charm. The theater dates to the 1930s, the setting for Cabaret.

A Palma Ceia mother of two, Edelson began dancing at age 5 and performed throughout high school. She studied dance and movement therapy in college, and works with people with emotional and physical problems.

Edelson leads both off and on stage. She choreographed the dancing for Cabaret and plays one of the Kit Kat girls.

During rehearsal, she cheered when the cast perfected a tough move.

Cabaret marks the third major production for M.A.D. Theatre. It opened with Hair, then Pippin.

Edelson has plenty of ideas for future musicals. The Rocky Horror Picture Show comes to mind. So does Purlie.

First, she wants to get through Cabaret.

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

If you go

SHOW DATES: Tonight through Sunday; Aug. 23-25.

TIMES: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays

PLACE: Friday Morning Musicale, 809 Horatio St.

TICKETS: $14 adults, $12 students and seniors

INFORMATION: Call 786-6291 or visit www.madtheatre.com

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