Come to KAT’s ‘Cabaret’: Part 1: Meet Sarah Jane Bookter

In Part 1 of a series of interviews with the cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s (KAT) Cabaret, meet Sarah Jane Bookter.

Joel: Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Sarah Jane Bookter.

Sarah Jane Bookter.

Sarah: Hello! I am Sarah Jane Bookter and I am playing Sally Bowles.

Where have local theatergoers seen you perform before on our local stages? What roles have you played?

Most recently, I played Linza in the original musical Magic Under Glass with Toby Orenstein’s Teen Professional Theatre in Columbia, MD. In high school, I was in a number of shows both in and out of school. Some of my favorite roles include Little Becky Two-Shoes in Urinetown, Candy in Zombie Prom, and the Ghost of Christmas Future in A Christmas Carol.

strong>Why did you want to be in KAT’s production of Cabaret?Cabaret has been my favorite musical for a few years now, and its been on my list of musicals ‘to do’ for just about as long. When I found out that KAT was doing Cabaret this fall, I decided I had to audition. I knew KAT was a very good theater company, and I also knew that Cabaret had great potential there.

How are you and Sally Bowles alike and different?

I find Sally Bowles to be one of the most interesting characters in all of musical theater. Sally and I are the same age, and while I might not be dancing in a nightclub, I am trying to figure out where I fit in the world, much like Sally. We’re both in the midst of growing up, be it in very different atmospheres.

How did you prepare for your role, and what challenges did you face when preparing for your role?

Preparation involved a lot of character work. For some of Sally, it was easy as asking myself, “Well, how would I react to this?” However, some pieces and character traits were more difficult, as they did not come naturally to me. Blending the parts of Sally that I could easily portray and the parts I struggled with was a challenge, because in the end, they must come together believably.

How did Director Craig Pettinati help you with your challenges and what is the best advice he gave you about playing your role?

Craig was very helpful in the process of preparing the show; he was always willing to talk through any questions I might have about character or anything else in the show. Probably the most helpful tip I got was to just play Sally as myself. It’s easy to get caught up in the “I’m acting” mindset, when sometimes the best thing you can do for the character is be yourself.

How would you describe John Kander and Fred Ebb’s score? How would you describe a Kander and Ebb song?

John Kander and Fred Ebb have scored some of my favorite musicals, and I think what makes them unique is the complexity of their vocal music-or rather, the lack thereof. Cabaret does not have incredibly challenging, technically intricate music, and I believe that is done intentionally. Kander and Ebb’s songs can’t just be sung, or they lose all meaning and impact. While a song might be pretty, or haunting, it is written to supplement a character, and must be performed as such.

Which song that you don’t sing is your favorite and why?

My favorite song in the musical is “It Couldn’t Please Me More.” I love the story between Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider, and this song is almost a break from the racy, gritty tone of the musical. Also, I find it funny that they are falling in love over, of all things, a pineapple.

What do we learn about your character when you are singing your solos or duets?

When Sally is singing in the nightclub (or with Cliff, as in “Perfectly Marvelous”), she appears very put-together. My favorite song she sings, however, is “Maybe This Time.” Much of Sally’s character is an elaborate mask to appear older, exciting, and in-control, like in “Mein Herr” and “Perfectly Marvelous.” “Maybe This Time” showcases Sally in a way unlike the audience has seen thus far: as a young girl who’s hopeful that things will work out.

Why and how is Cabaret so relevant to today’s audiences?

I think Cabaret was designed to keep audiences thinking long after the show has ended. Even now, I still find that there’s so much to investigate in this show. Immediately after seeing the show on Broadway, the line that stuck with me was one the Emcee delivers at the end: “Where are your troubles now?”

While audiences are getting caught up in the story of Sally, Cliff, and everyone at the Klub, it’s easy to forget that this is Germany in the 1930s. Near the end, when everything begins to fall apart, is when I first drew a connection to today. It’s so easy to get caught up in your own life and problems that other, more widespread problems, can seem to sneak up on you. In Cabaret, of course, this problem is the rise of the Nazi party. Where are your troubles now? Forgotten?

This cast is filled with extremely talented singers, actors, dancers. What has impressed you most about your fellow cast members and their performances?

Working with a new cast is always an interesting and exciting experience. Many actors in this show were new to KAT, and everyone was cast very well. Each and every actor in this show works to build and fully understand their character, and it really pays off in performance.

What have you learned most about yourself -the actor- while going through this Cabaret experience?

Cabaret is my first semi-professional show. It is the first show I have been in where the cast was not made up entirely of teenagers. Sally Bowles is also the biggest role I have ever taken on. I’ve really learned a lot about the world of theater outside the classroom. Probably the biggest single skill I’ve developed in this process is character development. Sally Bowles is no simple, plain-jane character. She is incredibly complex, and creating a consistent, believable, unique Sally has been a challenge-one I accept with open arms! I am very excited to see where she and I will go.

What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in Cabaret?

More than anything, I want audiences to think after Cabaret. I don’t expect anyone to fully understand what they saw upon exiting the theater. It’s been almost two years since I saw the show on Broadway, and I’m currently in it, and I still don’t fully understand every aspect, message, and tone of the show. I probably never will. I don’t want people to write the show off as, “confusing,” or “dark.” But I also believe that almost anyone can take something of deeper meaning from the show-they just have to think.

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Cabaret plays from October 28-November 19, 2016, at Kensington Arts Theatre (KAT) performing at Kensington Town Hall – 3710 Mitchell Street, in Kensington, MD. For tickets, purchase them at the door, or online.

Learn More about Kander and Ebb’s work here:

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