Over the weekend Lyric Arts had the chance to catch up with Nykeigh Larson, who is performing in Cabaret. Keep reading to see what she's thinks of the rehearsals, the production, and how it feels to take on the role of a Kit Kat Girl! LA: Where are you originally from? NL: I grew up in Andover, and have been in one suburb or another ever since.
LA: Why did this particular play interest you? NL: "Cabaret" is a challenging play, not only as a performer, but as a theatre. It's bold, brazen, and makes absolutely no apologies. It tackles difficult subject matter in a completely straightforward way, without making any attempt to soften the edges. It ranges from biting satire to a basic dark reality, and that makes it a brave choice for any theatre to do. While I love happy-go-lucky tuners that provide "theatrical escapism", I greatly prefer shows that are more about the connection to the story than spectacle. "Cabaret" has always been one of my favorites because of this, and with such a fantastic production and artistic staff, I knew I couldn't miss this show.
LA: For those that are unfamiliar with Cabaret can you tell us about the show? NL: The show is about Cliff Bradshaw, an American writer trying to find inspiration for a novel in Berlin. He visits a rather seedy nightclub on New Year's Eve, 1930, and meets Sally Bowles, the star performer. Their stories intertwine with those of the tenants of the boardinghouse where they live, including the difficult love story of the woman who owns the house and a Jewish shopkeeper. The early rise of the Nazi party is always looming over the story, and while the characters begin by dismissing it as a non-event, they eventually have to decide how they are going to face the changing atmosphere of Germany.
LA: Talk about the character(s) that you play in Cabaret. How have you developed this character? NL: I play Helga, one of the Kit Kat Girls. She is introduced as "the baby of the group", and that's the foundation for her character. She's a young girl, and the other Kit Kats have been there a lot longer than she has. The challenge of the Kit Kat Girls is that they are primarily club performers, and aren't really involved in much of the actual story. So our characters have to be expressed exclusively through the big song-and-dance numbers. I'm much more of a singer than I am a dancer, so the performances themselves are challenging enough. But the added element of finding our individual personalities throughout the dancing is something new for me. It's a huge challenge, and I'm having a ton of fun with it.
LA: Talk about your fellow cast. How do you see their characters developing? Any that you are particularly amazed at? NL: It's incredible how fast this show is coming together. I don't think I've ever been in a show that went from read-through to run-through so quickly. Everyone is working their butts off, and it's really paying off. I think the entire cast is really strong, and it's a joy to get to watch them throughout rehearsals. There aren't many ensemble numbers in this show, so a lot of us are rehearsing in smaller groups, and haven't rehearsed much with the full cast. I spend most rehearsals with the other Kit Kat Girls, and I'm incredibly amazed with their work. Their singing and dancing is astounding, and it's wonderful to get to sit down and talk with them about our characters. We've discussed how each of the Girls got to the club, what our families were like, how we feel about each other; it's been such a great way to enhance our individual performances, and our connection as a group.
LA: What are some of the most impressive elements of Cabaret? NL: The set is unbelievable. Have you seen the blog pictures? It's insane, and it's only just starting to be built. I've never seen something this extravagant at this theatre. The dances are beautifully stylized for each song, and the singing is wonderful from absolutely everyone. Also, I actually think the story is one of the most impressive things. It's very emotional and real, but it's presented in this larger-than-life Cabaret framework. It uses songs not only to advance the story, but also to satirize the story; even the razzle dazzle has meaning.
LA: What is your favorite number of the show? NL: How could I choose?! Maybe once the final elements (costumes, set, lighting, band, etc.) are added, I'll have a clear answer. For now, I think I'll have to say "I Don't Care Much", a ballad the Emcee sings in Act II. It's a beautiful, sad song that's always really touching. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I love the Act I song "Married" because of how adorable and sweet it is. You can hear "awww!"s throughout the cast every time.
LA: What is something you are particularly excited about for this show? For example, a certain scene, costumes, set, lights, etc? NL: I've already mentioned how fabulous the set is. I can't wait to see what it'll look like when it's done! I'm also really excited to have the band playing with us. The first rehearsal with musicians is always my favorite. I pretty much look forward to seeing the finished product as a whole. It's great to imagine all of the pieces together, but actually seeing it will be unbelievable.
LA: Are musicals easy or harder to act than other types of theater? Why is this? NL: I think it depends on which musical you're doing. In this particular show, I'm doing an huge amount of physical work with all these dances. I've never been as physically exhausted by any straight play I've done. However, I don't have any spoken lines (which I find much harder to memorize than song lyrics), so that's much easier than a play. I usually get more stressed out during musicals, because I have to worry a lot more about how my voice sounds and if I have any physical strains. As far as acting goes, I think this particular musical is much more difficult that straight plays because many of us don't "act" in scripted scenes, but in dance numbers. Trying to work vibrantly different personalities into uniform choreography is challenging.
LA: What is your favorite musical (in theater) to watch? NL: This is even harder to choose than my favorite song in this show! Since it specifies favorite musical to watch, my current favorite is "Memphis". The set is fantastic, the costumes are gorgeous, and the dancing is absolutely spectacular! But what makes it stand out is that all of the visual spectacle adds to the story, it doesn't cover it up.
LA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself? NL: I started acting at a children's community program called "Starlight, Starbright". My first full-length play was actually back at Lyric Arts Pocket Theatre, as Ramona in "Henry and Ramona". I've been doing theatre ever since! I recently graduated from Anoka-Ramsey Community College with an AFA in Theatre. Now I spend my days filing paperwork in an office, and my nights doing what I love to do.
LA: What was the first musical you ever saw on stage? NL: You'd have to ask my parents for the official answer, but the first musical I saw that I remember anything from was "Beauty and the Beast" when I was five years old. The only part I really remember clearly was when the dishes started dancing. That counts, right?