shines spotlight

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen High School freshman Nick Galambos and cast of other local teenagers, ranging from eighth grade to high school seniors, star in Theatre Aspen School's Spring Cabaret.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Most theater productions have a couple of stars and an ensemble that backs them up. Theatre Aspen School’s Spring Cabaret is quite the opposite — on purpose.

“The goal of this production is to give all the actors an equal chance to be onstage,” director Alie Walsh said. “Many of these kids are usually in the ensemble, so this is really their chance to shine.”

Furthermore, the 18-member cast — which wraps up a four-show run at the Black Box Theatre with two performances today — shine not just onstage but in all aspects of the show. The teens not only act in the cabaret, but they wrote the material and helped orchestrate the production.

“They came up with the theme,” Walsh said of the show, titled “A Laugh From the Past” and featuring songs ranging from Disney musicals to “The Sound of Music” and a whole lot more. “They wrote all the banter you hear between sets; they rewrote the lyrics to songs.”

In fact, breaking boundaries is another goal of the annual Spring Cabaret.

“We want our students to develop confidence and poise in addition to traditional theatrical performance skills,” said Graham Northrup, director of education and outreach for Theatre Aspen. “The cabaret is an opportunity for the performers to break the ‘fourth wall’ and engage directly with the audience, not as a character but as themselves. It’s a difficult thing to do, but it gives these students a leg up in those skills.”

It’s also a lot of fun, according to the cast, who range in age from eighth-graders to high school seniors.

“I think my favorite part, personally, is the miscast section. Because theater does rely so heavily on typecasting and appearance, it’s really fun to get the chance to sing songs from roles we’d never play,” said Aspen High School junior Nakiri Gallagher-Cave. “Beth (Fawley) and I get to play Shakespeare’s male backup dancers even though we’d never be cast in those roles in real life. It’s also exciting to see what roles my friends would want to play if there were no barriers of gender or race.”

For Walsh and Northrup, providing opportunities beyond mainstream theater is, in many ways, what theater is all about.

“This gets these kids out of their comfort zone, which is important for growth,” Walsh said. “And the original nature of the show forces them to be a bit vulnerable.”

The original nature of the Spring Cabaret also means it’s a one-of-a-kind experience for theatergoers.

“We like to say this show will never be produced anywhere else,” Walsh said.

Indeed, where else will you find two high school seniors — Beth Fawley from Roaring Fork High School and Talitha Jones from Aspen High School, who will both pursue theater in college — singing the lyrics of songs such as “It’s Tricky” and “Downtown” to the piano accompaniment of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”?

“I really love watching the seniors sing classic show tunes but with a comedic twist,” said Gallagher-Cave. “They’re both so talented — and it’s a fun, sweet way to end the show.”