Frank revisits 'Cabaret' for a benefit concert, with updated location


Sometimes, as much as everyone involved would like it to be different, the show can't go on.

That happened to Frank Theatre at the end of March, when the rising waters of the Mississippi forced the company to cancel the final two performances of Cabaret, which was being performed at the Centennial Showboat on Harriet Island.

Losing two shows had a tremendous financial impact on the small theater and left the cast with a sense of unfinished business. Both of these issues will be addressed with a Sunday evening benefit concert performance of the musical at the Rarig Center at the University of Minnesota. (The benefit was originally scheduled for the Riverboat, but the waters from the second crest of the Mississippi will not recede in time for Sunday's performance). 

​Frank Artistic Director Wendy Knox, who was in New York directing another play at the time, spent several frantic days on her cell phone hoping they could save their sinking show. Even after Sunday's original closing night was lost, there was hope that Saturday's could be completed ahead of the flood. That hope died Saturday morning.

"At that point, I really fired up the denial systems, determined not to cancel the final performance, for the cast's sake as well as for the full house income. But at about noon, the call came that the river was rising too fast, and we had to cancel. Calls went out to the cast, and instead of coming to the showboat that evening to do their final show, many of them came down to the boat to help strike. We took down the set, packed up the musical instruments and costumes, and schlepped everything over to Frank's rehearsal space, where pizza, whiskey, and beer abounded," Knox says.

The cast "party" was far more like a wake, Knox says, with "tears, tributes, toasts, reworkings of songs from the show, reenactments of scenes from the show -- certainly revised, I am sure, with plenty of editorial -- and then Melissa Hart, who played Sally Bowles in nearly 1,000 performances about 40 years ago, sang 'Cabaret' for the cast."

Cancelling two performances had a financial impact as well. The loss of two sold-out houses meant a loss of $11,000 for Frank. "Our annual budget is about $150,000, so that's a big ouch for us," Knox says.

Between the financial loss and a sense from the cast that they weren't "done" with Cabaret, the idea of a benefit concert sprung. "All the cast was more than willing to donate their time and energy. It was a little miracle that schedules could be lined up so quickly and successfully for a concert so near to the cancellation date," Knox says

Frank has received nearly $6,000 in support already and, with a suggested minimum donation of $20 for the benefit, a sold-out house for the concert would just about cover the loss. "We have no way of knowing how many folks will show up since we aren't taking reservations, but we're hopeful that there will be a good turnout."

Knox sees the benefit also as a final way to thank Tom Proehl, who passed away last week.

"He was a dear friend and was the reason we ended up on the showboat. Through his position at the University of Minnesota, he suggested the idea, he helped make it happen, and, for me, this final concert is one last way to thank him for all that he has done for so many of us," she says.

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