As you can imagine, producing musicals is costly. The costumes are elaborate, equipment has to be rented, and there’s venue upkeep to consider. With this in mind, Bristol Theatre Company (BTC) came up with the concept of holding cabarets once or twice a year to raise funds. The cabarets have very little overhead and nearly all of the proceeds go towards upcoming full-scale productions. Their latest will feature an all-kid cast (between the ages of 7 and 16) when BTC presents Kids on Broadway on May 2 and 3 at the Reynolds School Auditorium.
Bristol Theatre Company is a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote appreciation of, and active participation in, the theater arts in the East Bay community. They’ve staged several productions from their inception in 1983, such as Alice in Wonderland, A Christmas Carol and High School Musical. Over the last few years, the cabarets have been a successful source of funding for BTC. They’ve produced Broadway Under the Stars, Disney Under the Stars, a compilation of musical numbers called From Back to the Future (extra points for the name alone) and Hooray for Hollywood. High School Musical and Hooray for Hollywood featured all-kid casts, and their success gave Board of Directors Chair, Marie Knapman, the option of running the format again.
“Last year’s cabaret was a mix of kids and adults, and it was fabulous, but this year’s crew decided they wanted to go with a kids cabaret,” Marie says. “We expect that this will always be something that will change from year to year.”
Not only does it help the organization as a whole, the experience from the cabarets is especially valuable to young performers. It gives them an opportunity to hone their craft before a live audience in a stripped down setting. Nothing teaches like experience, and nothing synthesizes performing in front of a crowd. All but one of Kids on Broadway’s performers have performed with BCT in the past, and all are plan- ning on staying on-the extra stage time is a great opportunity. Marie is proud that they rise to the occasion.
“All of the kids are really talented,” she says. “The kids work so well together and master not only the songs but the choreography as well. Just a few of the great group numbers are ‘Telephone Hour’ from Bye Bye Birdie, ‘Hard Knock Life’ from Annie, ‘When I Grow Up’ from Matilda and ‘King of New York’ from Newsies.”
Obviously, the kids need a stage in which to showcase their talents. While funds from each full-scale musical are typically allocated towards the following one, the cabarets largely finance the improvement of the facility itself. “We recently signed a five-year lease with the Town of Bristol for our present location,” Marie says, “and have been working diligently to bring an outdated former elementary school auditorium up to support the productions we put on. We extended the staging area and have been researching lighting and sound systems with the anticipation of not having to rent them in the future. We’ve been outfitting our set and costume rooms with things like shelving and racks and so on. These projects couldn’t really be done without the cabarets to support them.”
With help funding the upkeep of their venue, BTC gets to devote more energy to the upcoming Shrek Jr. (July 30-August 2) and Scrooge the Musical (December 10-13). BTC is comprised entirely of volunteers and there’s a strong sense of community among them.
Marie welcomes anyone else with the same passion to contribute to future cabarets.
“We brainstorm January/February and throw some ideas out there. Whoever is willing to volunteer their time to work on them makes that decision. If there is someone out there that has an idea and wants to collaborate with us, please let us know. We are always looking for new ideas and fun concepts,” she says. “If anyone is interested in staying up to date with what we have going on, please like our Facebook page and we will put them on our info list. We are all volunteers and have full time jobs and families. Many of us became involved because family members were interested in theatre. We all work together really well and enjoy our time spent bringing community theatre to the East Bay.”
Bristol Theatre Company has been providing the East Bay with live drama for over 30 years and is still going strong. The cabarets have been successful fundraisers for this non-profit organization, with Kids on Broadway poised to continue the tradition.
Kids on Broadway
May 2 & 3
Reynolds High School Auditorium
235 High Street, Bristol
June 25 Blithewold Gardens
101 Ferry Road, Bristol