In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of Prince William Little Theatre’s production of Cabaret, meet James Maxted.
Joel: Who are you, and where might area readers and audience members know you from?
James: My name is James Maxted, and I’m the father of two amazing daughters and a government contractor in the area of Information Technology. I’ve been in a handful of productions in the DC metro area, but most recently played Robert Livingston in McLean Community Players’ 1776, King Herod/Apostle in Prince William Little Theatre’s Jesus Christ Superstar, and Riff Riff in Unquiet Theatre Company’s The Rocky Horror Show. I’ve also been behind the scenes as a music director, pianist, set designer, master carpenter, WATCH judge, and board member for a variety of local theaters.
Who do you play in this production, and how are you and your character alike and different?
I play the Emcee in this production as a bit of a puppet master. He introduces various musical numbers and occasionally performs in some of them. He is very aware of everyone around him and what might please or upset them. I view the Emcee as being completely amoral. He doesn’t view things as right or wrong. He is focused on doing things to allow himself to believe he has control over his life and the lives of those around him. As for how we’re alike, I like to think we’re both musically inclined and very aware of the people and events around us. However, he is extroverted, forward, promiscuous, bisexual, and a bit sinister in a way that can be challenging for me as a dorky heterosexual male to embody. He has no real respect for anyone around him, but understands his limitations. For those of you who read/watch Game Of Thrones: to me, there’s a lot of Peter “Littlefinger” Baelish in him.
How did you prepare for your role, and what was one challenge you faced in doing so?
The biggest challenge for me for this role was the number and variety of songs that he performs. “Willkommen” is one long monologue with singing interspersed with dirty jokes and dancing. “Two Ladies” is a bawdy dance number. “Money” is a group number where I’m directing and influencing all the Kit Kat Klub dancers. “If You Could See Her” is a beautiful love ballad. Finally, “I Don’t Care Much” is a spiteful, mocking ballad. As such, I’ve been taking the various songs to my voice teacher, Kevin Diana, to make sure that I start from a well-grounded and well-supported base. Then, I can make the conscious choice to make some songs more charactery, some songs more spoken, and other songs more legit, all the while keeping in mind the importance of keeping my facial gestures and movements or choreography appropriate for the theme of the song. Needless to say: I’ve had the songs on repeat in my car and find myself walking through my lines while cooking, cleaning, showering, you name it, to help cement them in my brain.
Rather than this particular production (and without giving anything away), what about the show itself surprised you the most?
Something that surprised me is the evolution and changes in this show from its original incarnation, to the movie version, to the 1987 Broadway revival, and finally to the 1998 Broadway revival that we’re performing. There are some songs, such as “Willkommen,” that are constant through all versions, but others, such as “Money,” that were added for the movie and brought back. And it’s been interesting listening to the various cast members who all grew up with different definitive versions of the show.
What is your favorite song in the show (whether you sing it or not), and why?
My favorite number from this show is “Two Ladies” because it’s funny, silly, and a bit naughty. Sarah Elizabeth Edwards (Lulu) and Khoa Pham (Bobby) are such great performers that I’ve had to really practice hard not to stick out in a bad way. At one of our first dance rehearsals, we were asked to cross the stage while turning. Both Sarah and Khoa moved so gracefully and I’m standing there like, “OK, am I turning left or right? Which one is my right?” But they’ve been a blast to work with, and it makes for a really fun number. They’ve both been added to my mental list of people who I really want to work with again.
What’s next for you after this production closes?
I haven’t decided what I’m doing next. There are ton of great musicals this fall that I might want to be part of, and I’ve got plans to help design and build sets for a few high school productions in the area. And there’s part of me that really wants to try my hand at a straight play, as all my acting experience has been in musical theatre.
How is this show relevant to contemporary audiences, and why should people come to see this production?
The characters in this show are all faced with the crushing conditions of post-WWI and pre-WWII Germany. Most characters are either self-centered or selfish, and it gives you an understanding of how a political party such as the Nazi party could be accepted as a possible solution to all the daily problems they have. Cabaret shows how people can be categorized, discriminated against, and ultimately hurt based on something as personal as one’s religion.
Even though this story explicitly talks about the treatment of Jews in Germany, it also can be viewed through the political lens of any group in power trying to blame another group or groups of people for their problems. Whether it be because of one’s gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, political affiliation, age or any other attribute, it demonstrates the power of mankind to hurt other people in a misguided effort to protect themselves. We see this in today’s political environment in America where both political parties view the other as an enemy, something to be defeated, and a source of evil in the world. Discussion, negotiation, and compromise go out the window in favor of polarization, anger, and finger pointing.
Prince William Little Theatre’s Cabaret plays from July 8 through July 24, 2016 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center’s Gregory Family Theater on the George Mason University Campus -10960 George Mason Circle, in Manassas, VA 20109). Tickets can be purchased online, or at the box office.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 1: Aaron Verchot-Ware and Katherine Bisulca.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 2: James Maxted.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 3: Catherine Lyon and Larry Keeling.
‘Come to Their Cabaret’: Meet the Cast of PWLT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 4: Katie Puschel & Jared Il-Pazzo Dent.
Kendi Mostafavi’s review of ‘Cabaret’ on DCMetroTheaterArts.