Cabaret: A Conversation with Randy Foster

By on 30 January, 2013 in Fun, Greg Thornton with 0 Comments

“It’s strange how people seem to belong to places-especially to places where they were not born…Somehow or other, life goes on in spite of everything.” -Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye To Berlin

Randy Foster wears a few hats these days. He is directing the production of Cabaret at the Cloverdale Playhouse, as well as being the musical director and playing the piano in the Cabaret band. Randy has an incredible résumé which includes directing productions for the Montgomery Little Theater and throughout the River Region. He has had a long association with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Montgomery Symphony, as well as many other arts organizations. He is the Program Manager of the Alabama Institute for Education in The Arts. His talent abounds and the Playhouse is lucky to have him in the family. Randy directed last season’s Starting Here, Starting Now.

Greg Thornton: What drew you to Cabaret? Story? Music? Characters?

Randy Foster: The music is iconic—the story is timeless, but circumscribed by the specific details of its Weimar Germany frame—and the characters are caught in a maelstrom that is totally overwhelming them, yet they each adapt in order to keep going.

Greg Thornton: This show has had quite a few revivals, which speak to its enduring appeal. But each revival has brought a changed script. Why is that, do you think?

Randy Foster: Theatrical audiences have matured in their understanding and acceptance of a broader definition of musical theater. Many of the details of characters’ lives are made more explicit in successive versions of the script. The story has been streamlined and the most necessary aspects of story and character have been highlighted.

Greg Thornton: Have Kander and Ebb, who gave us Chicago, been involved in each of these revisions?

Randy Foster: They(Ebb died in 2004) were involved in some of the productions (1966 original, Original London 1968 , starring Judi Densch, 1986 London revival, 1987 Broadway revival, 1993 London revival, 1998 Broadway revival—the version we are presenting—2006 London revival, 2012 London revival), but I think they came late to an appreciation of some of the changes. The version we are producing is an amalgam of material from various incarnations of the show. I like to think of this version as the definitive “best of” version.

Greg Thornton: You wear a couple of hats in this Playhouse production. Director, Musical Director- how do these responsibilities determine your method of working on a show?

Randy Foster: Creating a production is similar to eating an elephant—one small bite at a time. I try to fit each of the aspects of a production together in a layering way. I tend to work from large arcs and then drill down to the tiniest specifics. My process is to inculcate the big ideas and let the details develop, hopefully organically. Some people like working this way and, admittedly, some do not.

Greg Thornton: Cabaret is the largest production to date at the Playhouse. Can you talk about some of the challenges this presents?

Randy Foster: Almost everything about this show is a challenge. Telling these people’s stories in a respectful and loving way seems to most important task we have. Following that: The set (designed by Johnny Veres) which has to function as every place and no place at all; the costumes (Danny Davidson) which are myriad and must be accurate for or suggestive of the period; the cast (each and everyone “beautiful”) who must be utterly tireless singing, moving, and acting Ubermenschen.

Greg Thornton: You have directed plays, as well as musicals, throughout your career. Do you change your directing approach at all from one to the other?

Randy Foster: No matter what I am directing, I try to draw honest characterizations of real people from actors, to create a world that is engaging to an audience, to be true to the intent of the work, and to be as clear and unpretentious as possible in the production. I respond personally to stories well-told and fascinating. Those are the kinds I try to bring to life on stage. Everything in a production should be in the service of the story! Music should be appropriate both in style and in presentation. Beautiful singing can sometimes be a distancing device in a musical. Action, dialect, and song must fit character and emotional context.

Greg Thornton: Your career has focused on many things, but specifically, you are very involved with education and the arts. How do you see these intersecting?

Randy Foster: Almost everything I have ever been a part of from my first piano lessons to this production sits at the intersection of education and art. How often do we learn the most important lessons of our life from the master teacher that is some art form. Most of us learned the alphabet by singing its letters—even now when I need some random letter sequence I am prone to singing this song in my head. I got such personal joy in researching for this production, but my greatest joy was being able to share that with cast and to watch how their knowledge suffused their work on stage.

Greg Thornton: How do you envision the Cloverdale Playhouse developing as we begin our second season?

Randy Foster: Upward in ambition and artistry—guided by a vision of exploring exactly how and why humans continue to tell stories and why we continue to yearn to hear them.


Cabaret opens February 14th and runs through February 24th
Performances: Thursday –Saturdays: 7:30PM Sundays: 2pm
For tickets: Call 334.262-1530

Joe Thomas, Jr. 3rd Tuesday Guitar Pull February 19th 7PM

Playhouse School Classes Begin February 26th
Call: 334.262.1530 for more information



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