Hugh Hallinan, executive producer of Downtown Cabaret Theatre, recently announced the inauguration of its new “Community Theatre Series” venture featuring the Bridgeport Theatre Company.
For the first three decades of its existence, the Downtown Cabaret Theatre recognized for producing high quality professional theatre, having built itself up from its community theatre roots. Cabaret productions of Evita, Hair and pre-Broadway’s Blood Brothers, among others, played extended engagements in Bridgeport and featured professional actors from New York City, but over the years those shows became prohibitively expensive to produce.
“I have been exploring economical ways to bring back traditional musical theatre,” Hallinan said. “The question was how to smoothly transition from 25 years of award-winning professional theatre to non-professional community theatre while still retaining a level of quality and professionalism our audiences have come to expect. Fortunately for us, a community theatre group has proven to have integrity and a passion for producing musical theatre right on our very stage.
“It’s really been a matter of being in the right place at the right time for both theatres,” Hallinan said. “We have the theater, the facilities and years of experience and the non-profit Bridgeport Theatre Company, originally housed at the Playhouse on the Green, has been searching for a permanent home. During the search, Bridgeport Theatre Company and Eli Newsom, artistic director, have been operating ‘in residence’ at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre for the past three seasons presenting quality community theater. It’s a good match… to the point that I have endorsed Bridgeport Theatre Company to fill the void of the Cabaret’s Community Theatre Series.”
The lower costs for Bridgeport Theatre Company’s non-professional productions, which utilizes a mix of local volunteer actors and paid backstage staff, has allowed it to present larger mainstage titles like Rent, Hairspray and Next to Normal, which are a perfect fit for a venue like the Cabaret.
Hallinan is also enthused that audiences coming to see these shows will take advantage of the infamous “Cabaret experience,” which others have come to love over the years, allowing patrons to enjoy the food they bring from home or purchase from local restaurants while enjoying the shows.
“We’ll be returning to the Cabaret’s non-professional community theatre roots and offering Broadway-style musicals at affordable ticket prices,” Hallinan said. “What’s not to like about this win-win joint venture between Downtown Cabaret Theatre and Bridgeport Theatre Company?”
“Collectively, Downtown Cabaret Theatre and Bridgeport Theatre Company foresee that this new venture will have a positive economic impact on the City of Bridgeport,” Hallinan and Newsom said. “In addition, it will be great not only for regional and local artists, but also in filling the demand of Fairfield County audiences seeking live musical theatre entertainment.”
With a place to call home, Bridgeport Theatre Company will be able to continue presenting larger, Broadway shows, including the upcoming 2013/14 season, featuring Little Shop of Horrors, Dreamgirls, To Kill a Mockingbird and Shrek.
Combine this with the Cabaret mainstays — the professional Cabaret Children’s Theatre Company embraced by audiences for 25 years; the Cabaret Nights Concert Series, featuring performers such as Judy Collins, Crystal Gayle and Gary Puckett; and tribute shows, which have included The Beatles’ She Loves You, Johnny Cash The Man in Black, Abba Abbamainia, Bee Gees Night Fever and Barbra and Frank-The Concert That Never Was — and audiences get a well-rounded, 52 weeks-per-year entertainment schedule.
Both Downtown Cabaret Theatre and Bridgeport Theatre Company will continue to operate independently, but will share some of the effort of mainstage productions.
“It’s really about sharing in various challenges that non-profit theatre companies face in today’s economic climate,” Newsom said.
Added support from the veteran Downtown Cabaret Theatre in various elements of production, such as scenery, sound and lighting, as well as marketing and box office operations, will only help Bridgeport Theatre Company to continue to grow. Likewise, Bridgeport Theatre Company will be filling a demand in the Cabaret’s calendar for larger Broadway musicals.