CABARET Set to Open July 7


Beloved and Powerful Musical Showcases the Power of Art
Even in Face of Growing Tide of Authoritarianism in 1929 Berlin

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – June 15, 2023 – The Virginia Theatre Festival is getting ready to take audiences inside the doors and behind the scenes of the famed Kit Kat Club with its season-opening production of Cabaret, opening July 7 at the Culbreth Theatre.

Cabaret will be directed by University of Virginia alumnus Matthew Steffens, who directed the acclaimed 2018 VTF production of A Chorus Line and most recently served as Associate Choreographer on the Broadway smash-hit production and national tour of the Tony Award-nominated revival of Into the Woods.

The Tony Award-winning musical features a book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and is based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood. Cabaret combines some of the greatest songs and the most memorable characters ever to grace the stage while telling a story that gives us a glimpse into history that offers a stark reminder of what can happen if we ignore it.

Cabaret’s Kit Kat Club is a decadent, fantastical Weimar nightclub where life is beautiful. The gathering storm of authoritarianism may be gripping 1929 Germany, but the revelers, led by chanteuse Sally Bowles and the lascivious Emcee, choose debauchery over despair. One of the defining musicals of all time, packed with unforgettable songs like “Maybe This Time,” “Don’t Tell Mama,” and, of course “Cabaret,” this timely masterpiece entertains and dazzles while drawing parallels to the world we live in today.

The show marks another important milestone in the post-pandemic return of Virginia Theatre Festival, as it presents its first full-scale musical since 2019. “It’s been thrilling to be able to welcome a company of artists to once again use our space to build a musical,” said Jenny Wales, Artistic Director of Virginia Theatre Festival, “and particularly a musical as prescient and timeless as Cabaret. The book scenes are fabulous, the music is incredible, and how it tackles the rise of fascism in Germany resonates with where we are in our own country and globally as well.”

Wales and longtime collaborator and former UVA classmate Steffens, who met as First Years at UVA, cast an extraordinarily wide net in filling Cabaret’s roles. They saw more than 1,500 actors in New York City, regionally, and here in Charlottesville to cast the show’s 20 parts.

“I really believe we have the best of New York and the best of Charlottesville in this cast,” Steffens said of an ensemble that is headed up by Ainsley Seiger as Sally Bowles, who stars as Detective Jet Slootmaekers in the NBC television series Law & Order: Organized Crime. “Jenny Wales and I have known and worked with Ainsley since she was 14 years old,” Steffens said. “She brings a richness to the part, and she is going to take us on a journey that explores all of the highs and lows of the character which is really exciting.”

“When Janet Dickinson first came in for the role of Fräulein Schneider, I was kind of star struck,” he said. “She brings such a breadth of knowledge from her work in the industry and imbues Schneider with a rawness and realism that makes us feel like this character could be in 2023 or 1929.”

David Mattar Merten, a recent graduate from Trinity Rep at Brown University’s acclaimed theater program, is “one of the freest actors I’ve ever seen,” Steffens shared. “He has an ability to take over a room, to challenge you to think about your actions or how you relate to the piece. As the Emcee, he is going to make us laugh and cry and think a lot about how we relate to the piece.”

The play’s relatability, nearly 100 years after it takes place, is one of its most remarkable attributes. “It is a real roller coaster of a show, featuring a collection of classic Broadway songs, but at the same time reminding us of what can happen when we ignore dangerous forces around us, which I think is especially relevant to audiences here in Charlottesville after the tragic events of August 2017.,” Steffens shared.

Part of the show’s brilliance lies in its ability to tell such a powerful and cautionary tale in the context of the vibrancy of the Kit Kat Club. “Matt and I have talked a lot about how the show allows us to get swept up in these incredible songs and stories and dancing that it is able to cover, in a way, what is bubbling and boiling under the surface right outside their doors,” Wales said. “We want audiences go on the ride of watching these incredible artists build this story and create the environment that is the Kit Kat Club.”

Asked what audiences can expect from the show, Steffens answered, “I’d say that if people enjoy singing and dancing, this is the show for them. And if they enjoy watching actors work at their very best in a scene that has wonderful dialogue, this is the show for them. Cabaret really is a show that has everything for every kind of audience member, and that is what makes it so special.”

The Virginia Theatre Festival is a program of the University of Virginia and is supported by the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the Office of the Provost and Vice Provost for the Arts, UVA Department of Drama, and UVA Arts. The 2023 Virginia Theatre Festival is also supported by a generous grant from The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation.

The Virginia Theatre Festival’s 2023 Membership Program offers patrons a chance to support VTF, while also enjoying exclusive benefits. For more information on ways to support the upcoming VTF season, visit

Individual tickets for Cabaret and the full VTF 2023 season are currently on sale. Volunteer opportunities are also available this summer, and more information can be found here. To learn more about the Virginia Theatre Festival and its upcoming 2023 season, visit

Casting by The Casting Collaborative / Andrea Zee & Jason Styres.

Cabaret is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Tams-Witmark LLC.

Cabaret contains mature content and sexual situations. 

Photo Credit: Tristan Williams