Theater classic with modern relevance, 'Cabaret' comes to Gammage

The show about 1930s Berlin is a must-see for those with modern and classic interests alike

As a stop on its national tour,  Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of “Cabaret,” will hit the stage at ASU from Sept. 13 through Sept. 18.

The Tony Award-winning Broadway production, co-directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, will have eight shows at ASU Gammage as a part of its 50th Anniversary Season.

Alison Ewing, 42, plays Fraulein Fritzie Kost in the production and said the show is still relevant today.

“Even though this show was written in 1966, it’s really politically relevant, especially right before this election,” Ewing said.

The show’s lasting significance makes it important for students to see, she said.

“This show takes place in Berlin at the uprising of Hitler, and it’s an extremely passionate, polarized political climate," Ewing said. "Our country right now is an extremely polarized political climate as well, so it’s really relevant."

The show is unique in that it does not rely on a pit orchestra to provide the soundtrack for the musical — instead, each cast member is responsible for playing an instrument as well as singing, dancing and acting.

“It’s a big team effort,” Ewing said. “If you’re not downstairs in a scene, you’re running up to the bandstand to play your instrument.”

Ewing taught herself to play the accordion for this role and started practicing about a month before the audition, she said.

“It’s a lot of responsibility,” Ewing said. “If one person is out, then the whole rest of the orchestra has to split and cover the duties of that one person who is out.”

Ewing said that this group effort is very special and unifies the cast.

“Every person is really vital to the integrity of the show," Ewing said. "So, from city to city, we all kind of try to take care of each other and make sure that we can all sing, dance, act and keep playing the same show."

One of the greatest challenges for the cast and crew of a touring show is being away from loved ones, she said.

“So that’s why I would say everyone in the cast and crew, we really are an extended family to each other," she said. "We really support each other, because it is hard feeling like you’re isolated.”

Still, Ewing has been working toward this her entire life. She began acting when she was young, and has always considered theater her greatest passion, she said.

“It’s really been the thing that I’ve always loved to do,” she said. “There’s never been anything else in my life. This has been it the whole time and the only thing that I had a passion about.”

Although Ewing has found enormous success in her career, she said that one should continue to work on one’s craft.

“No matter how high up on the totem pole you get, once that job is over, you’re starting over again, sort of," Ewing said. "It’s just a constant cycle of getting work, learning from that experience and then trying to get new work again. That’s the actor’s life."

Micha Espinosa, associate professor of voice and acting in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, said the show is a classic, and she herself has performed in it before.

"It really exemplifies a very particular time — 1931 Berlin, the rising of power, what happened," Espinosa said. "It really captures a time. It's really important for students to understand all the complexities of relationships and never forget the atrocities."

Tiffany Lopez, director of film, dance and theater for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, said students should prioritize seeing the show because Gammage brings high-quality shows to campus.

"It's an opportunity to see extraordinarily great work, but it's also an opportunity to see a foundational piece of contemporary theater," Lopez said. "'Cabaret' is a very, very important part of musical theater tradition."

Lopez said theater, in general, is important to building a public culture.

"It's a place where we all agree we're going to step into an arena where we're going to share an experience and together be transformed by that experience," she said. "It's a place where we make public conversations private."

Ewing will take the stage as Fraulein Fritzie Kost at ASU Gammage from Sept. 13 through Sept. 18.


Correction: A previous version of the article misstated the time period the musical was set in. It has since been updated to reflect the correct setting.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @emikamezaki

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