Friday, May 7, 2010

ART season surprises include new life for ‘Cabaret’

The 2010-11 ART season will feature the American premiere of “Death and the Powers,’’ an opera by Tod Machover. The 2010-11 ART season will feature the American premiere of “Death and the Powers,’’ an opera by Tod Machover.

“I grew up on musicals, but I’m generally allergic to them,’’ admitted Amanda Palmer, best known as the lead singer of the Dresden Dolls.

She makes an exception, though, for “Cabaret,’’ and is slated to star in a September production of the Kander and Ebb musical that will kick off the 2010-11 season of the American Repertory Theater.
To be directed by Steven Bogart at Oberon, the club space that ART has turned into a second stage, “Cabaret’’ will feature Palmer not as Sally Bowles but as the leering, androgynous Emcee of the Kit Kat Klub. “Sally Bowles would have been a lot of fun, but it would have felt too typical, and I’m addicted to the atypical,’’ Palmer said from Europe, where she’s on tour.
“The marriage of ‘Cabaret’ and Amanda and Oberon seemed a thrilling way to launch the season,’’ ART artistic director Diane Paulus said in an interview. “I love the idea that Amanda would do the role of the Emcee and provide our audience with that kind of immersive experience in one of the great classics of the American musical theater.’’
The ART season will also include the US premiere of “Death and the Powers,’’ an opera by Tod Machover, with a libretto by Robert Pinsky from a story by Randy Weiner (and a chorus of robots), and the world premiere of “Prometheus Bound,’’ a rock-music version of Aeschylus’s tragedy with text and lyrics by Steven Sater (“Spring Awakening’’) and music by Grammy winner Serj Tankian, the lead singer for System of a Down.
Also on tap for the ART season are “Alice vs. Wonderland,’’ an adaptation by Brendan Shea described as “Lewis Carroll meets Lady Gaga,’’ to be directed in September on the Loeb Stage by Hungarian director János Szász; “The Blue Flower,’’ a new musical by Jim Bauer that blends country music and cabaret, in November; “R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (and Mystery) of the Universe,’’ a play about the legendary futurist written and directed by D.W. Jacobs, in January; and Sophocles’ “Ajax,’’ directed by Sarah Benson, in February.
Palmer concurs with Paulus that theater should both engage and challenge audiences. (The style of the Dresden Dolls was sometimes described as “Brechtian punk cabaret.’’)
“I hope this show is going to be really groundbreaking in terms of what we do and how we do it,’’ said Palmer, a native of Lexington. “If people are expecting to sit down and see an evening of typical musical theater, they’re going to get their minds blown.’’
As for Paulus, she will be exceptionally busy next March. During that month, she will direct both “Death and the Powers’’ (which will be presented at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in association with Opera Boston) and “Prometheus Bound’’ (at Oberon). Noting that Machover’s “Death and the Powers’’ was developed at the MIT Media Lab, Paulus said it “represents something I’m very committed to at the ART: cross-institutional partnerships. This is a real Boston event, with Harvard and MIT joining forces and a third partner, Opera Boston.’’
“We’re nurturing projects here at ART, with a real commitment to new work next year, and also cutting-edge new forms,’’ she said.

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