CTC’s Late Night Cabaret showcases actors’ talents

Amanda Mainguy | Staff Photographer
Conservatory actors rehearse for the Bratton Late Night Cabaret Wednesday in Brawdy Theater Studios.

They sing, they dance, and Chautauquans already know they act. Tonight’s Bratton Late Night Cabaret will open the stage to Chautauqua Theater Company’s (CTC) band of triple threats.

The last show of CTC’s season starts at 10:30 p.m. in Bratton Theater.

The production, directed by CTC directing fellow Heidi Handelsman, includes solo and ensemble work from all members of the company’s conservatory. Sound fellow Elliot Davoren and lighting fellow Kristin Neu also contribute to the final product.

“We really want to give them space to do what they want, to show us whatever it is they want to show us,” said CTC Managing Director Sarah Clare Corporandy. “We get to see all of these gems and really intimate parts of who they are, but it’s also a really nice way to close the season because it’s so heartfelt and personal.”

Part of CTC’s packed last week of programming, the late-night production must be built around the existing set in Bratton and rehearsed around CTC’s production schedule. By the time the show goes up, actors will have rehearsed as a whole for only about five days.

Amanda Mainguy | Staff Photographer
Toby Onwumere, Jonathan Majors, Oge Agulue, and Tramell Tillman will showcase their dance moves during the cabaret at 10:30 p.m. tonight in Bratton Theater.

“Everything gets built at the 11th hour,” Handelsman said. “We’re going to build it lickety-split and it’s going to be spectacular.”

Though Handelsman organizes and directs the project, she said it is actor-driven, offering the conservatory a forum to showcase anything they choose.

“They’re picking their own material and they’re getting inspired by each other and they’re getting inspired by the work we’ve been doing here,” Handelsman said. “It’s coming from them — I’m not putting anything on them at all.”

The team has held brainstorming meetings throughout the season, but Handelsman has worked through Week Eight to mesh pieces into a finished product by tonight’s show.

“We’ve all been spitballing, and I’ve been the person who’s in charge of bringing all of these disparate elements together,” Handelsman said. “It’s making shapes out of clouds, molding them into solid things, because the possibilities are so vast.”

According to Handelsman, the night will be “full of surprises,” but she also said the through line of the many skits, spoofs and musical numbers in the
production will be the company’s talent.

“There’s going to be a lot of singing, a lot of dance and some good comedy — some good spoofing hopefully — and these guys are going to show off and we’re going to bring a lot of joy,” Handelsman said.

CTC leaders said in past seasons the cabaret has been one of the company’s most attended programs. Entrance is free and first-come, but season ticket holders are given tickets in advance to guarantee sitting.

“It’s usually our most crowded event,” said CTC Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch. “[Audience members] have developed a relationship with these actors so not only is it to support them, but also to be surprised by the continued depth of their talent.”