Life is a show: ‘Cabaret’ comes to Nevada City |

Life is a show: ‘Cabaret’ comes to Nevada City

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector

Know & Go

What: “Cabaret”

When: July 11-Aug. 3, Thursdays at 7 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.;

Where: Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad St., Nevada City

Note: This musical has a mature theme and is geared to a 16 and over audience.

Information: or call 530-346-3210

It was Oscar Wilde who said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” Sierra Stages’ 11th summer musical production, “Cabaret,” may be a fine example of that. The play is set inside Berlin’s seedy Kit Kat Klub in 1930s Germany, while political unrest from the ever-growing Nazi influence takes place outside its door.

First produced over 50 years ago, “Cabaret” won the Tony award winner for Best Musical in 1967 and the 1972 film adaptation garnered eight Academy Awards. Since that time, the musical has been rewritten to focus on some of the darker aspects of the story.

One of the founding members and musical director of the community theater company, Ken Getz, said “Cabaret” has been on the “short list” for some time.

“I voted for it because it just seemed like, given its intent, and its overall meaning, it seemed like a good musical for our time.”

Director Scott Gilbert agrees, adding, “Sexual, political, and societal things that are in the air right now, are being addressed from a 90-years-ago perspective in this play.”

When Sierra Stages formed over a decade ago, there were few theater companies working in Nevada County and musical productions were rare. With that in mind, Getz and Managing Director Peter Mason met with other community members to form a company that would supply quality productions that were, according to their website, “affordable and accessible to everyone.”

While many in the community make think Sierra Stages was formed by Getz and Mason, the pair are quick to correct.

“We are a 501 c3 nonprofit theatre company with nine board members,” Mason said. “It was not just us. It was us and a bunch of other people.”

That “bunch of other people” have managed to bring 37 plays and musicals to a variety of Nevada County stages, initially to bring quality musicals to the area but also to give artists a place to perform.

“We like doing theater,” Mason said. “We like creating an environment where actors and designers and musicians can get together and do theater.”

Getz agreed.

“For me, it was much more about the actors and musicians getting an outlet for their artistic needs,” he said. “That seems as important, if not more important, than entertaining audiences, though entertaining audiences is always a good thing.”

Speaking to the level of professionalism of Sierra Stages, “Cabaret” Director Scott Gilbert is working with the Company and the cast of 14, along with a 10-piece live band to bring Broadway quality theater to the local market.

“From an outsiders’ perspective, I would say that they (Sierra Stages) do a much better job in a lot of areas than most community theaters do,” Gilbert said.

The professional director and professional arts administrator has not worked in community theater except to help people out in an advisor capacity.

“They just are, largely, a pleasure to work with,” he added. “I get along with everyone who does theater in this town, but I don’t do theater with anyone else in this town. This is the first time I have worked closely with a community theater company, because they are good.” (Gilbert initially worked with Sierra Stages on their presentation of “You Can’t Take It With You” last year.)

The entire cast is local and is primarily made up of fresh faces.

“We had a lot of talent audition and the cast is awesome,” Getz said. “We have eight new people in this play out of the 14 cast members. We have had new people move into town who wanted to be in a musical and here they are.”

Gilbert added the familiar faces are those who are there because of their incredible talent.

“Some of the same handful of people are there because they are that good,” he said.

In addition to finding actors who could sing, they had to find dancers.

“This show has a lot of dance and our choreographer is Brian Arsenault,” Mason said. “He moved to town a couple of years ago and is a professional Broadway dancer. Ken was able to persuade him to choreograph the show. He has been working since January to create original dances and has been working with the six girls to bring strong dance numbers to the stage.”

Gilbert says the challenges of bringing a musical to live theater is that there is a complicated set of a lot of moving parts.

“If you want to do a play in Nevada County with four people and you get a good script and a good director, you can do a near- Broadway level production because there are plenty of good actors,” he said. “But to do a play where you have to have so many people both backstage and on stage working at a high level, it is just a big undertaking that requires lot of people doing good and interesting work. It’s a big job.”

Some of those other “moving parts” include a complicated set, period costumes, and lighting and sound that allows actors to be seen and heard along with a live band that supports the action without being overpowering.

Sierra Stages has garnered Gabriel Hannaford for set design; Paulette Sand-Gilbert for costume design; Devin Cameron Jewett and Erin Beatie for lighting design; and Greg Cameron for sound design and Ken Getz directing the musicians.

“To create a solid, decent thing, you need so many people doing really good things,” Gilbert said.

Getz agreed, adding, “It’s a collaborative job. For example, I hear things in the music and point out what needs to happen, and Scott makes it happen.”

“While Sierra Stages may exist largely to serve the actors, I see my job as serving the audience and then the rewards come to the actors and everyone else involved because the audience loves the play,” Gilbert said. “Anyone who ever got hooked on acting got hooked on it because people loved them. They went on stage and people laughed or applauded or cried. So, I always think my job is to make the audience love it and then the rewards come back on all of the people who worked so hard on it.”

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at

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