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New Line's cabaret may shake up your image of musical theater

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 17, 2008  - It all started back in 2000. New Line Theatre had been working at the St. Marcus Theatre for six seasons, and - without any warning - the theater was shut down, leaving us homeless.

That fall, still unsure where the company would land, the New Liners decided to present a two-night concert at the acoustically kick-ass Sheldon Concert Hall. It was such a success and it was so much fun that we did it again in 2003, and somehow a tradition of returning to the Sheldon every three years was established. So on Jan. 5 and 6, for two nights only, New Line will return for our fourth outing, A New Line Cabaret IV: Night of the Living Show Tunes.

This time, the New Line All-Stars bring you an evening of songs from brilliant, rule-busting musicals like Spring Awakening, Little Shop of Horrors, The Rocky Horror Show, Avenue Q, High Fidelity, The Wild Party, Jacques Brel, Songs for a New World, A New Brain and lots more.

And for the first time, New Line will set aside a portion of the proceeds from this concert to create a new musical theater scholarship to be awarded in the spring to a high school senior planning to study musical theater in college. So, even if you don't want to come see us for your own enjoyment, do it for the kids!

This season's outing follows A New Line Cabaret in 2000, A New Line Cabaret, Episode II: Attack of the Show Tunes in 2003 and A New Line Cabaret, Episode III: When Musicals Attack in 2006. Why all the smartass titles, you ask? Partly just because they amuse me. But also because we want to make it clear that these concerts don't feature songs like "Edelweiss" or "What I Did for Love."

Most of these are not show tunes you'll hear at The Muny; these are songs that challenge and surprise, and on occasion, when we're feeling particularly saucy, they even outrage a little bit. ... After all, they do call New Line "the bad boy of musical theater." We have a reputation to uphold!

Forever trying to beat back the myth that musicals are all sappy, silly and old-fashioned, these concerts are an extension of the work we do in our mainstage season, the kind of aggressive, intense, adult musical theater that has given our company 18 seasons of improbable success.

With songs such as "Four Jews in a Room Bitching" from March of the Falsettos, this is a show that serves as a gentle reminder that it's been 50 years since Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote their last musical. This is no longer the art form of the last century; this is a vibrant, thriving, evolving art form that can and does speak to these intense times.

The cast for the concert -- what I like to call the New Line All-Stars -- includes Mara Bollini, Nikki Glenn, Joel Hackbarth, Amy Kelly, Nicholas Kelly, Khnemu Menu-Ra, Katie Nestor, Talichia Noah, Jeffrey Pruett, John Rhine, Todd Schaefer, Deborah Sharn, Kimi Short, Margeau Steinau, Scott Tripp, and Jeffrey M. Wright.

Many of these folks have performed with New Line for a long time -- Deborah was in the very first New Line show back in 1992. But some of them are almost brand new to us -- Talichia and Margeau have each done only one show with us, but they're stuck with us now!

We've been having a real blast working on this wonderful, rich, complex material and we can't wait to share it with audience. Come join us!

Scott Miller is the artistic director of New Line Theatre.