The Night of the Black Cat — an evening of not just any music and dancing but “forbidden, revolutionary and risquÈ” music and dancing inspired by 19th century French cabaret, is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, December 3rd and 4th; and 7 p.m. Sunday, December 5th, at the Edgemar Center for the Performing Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students.
There will be a wine and cocktail bar 45 minutes before the show, and proceeds from the evening go to fund the Edgemar Center for the Arts theater and outreach programs for children and teens.
The mood of the musical variety show will be that of the early French cabaret, Le Chat Noir, which opened in 1881.
“What we have created is a ‘happening’ in the truest sense, much as the artists of the Le Chat Noir did,” says show producer Dana Koellner.
The show will feature a variety of short acts based on themes of liberty, personal freedom and revolution, with the flare and aesthetic of night club acts that were prevalent from the 1880s to the 1930s.
“The performers and director have created everything from start to finish,” says Koellner. “There is no script, no play it is based on.”
Each character in the show will be based on a real person of the time, including George Sand, Hugo Ball and Marlene Dietrich.
Live accordion, piano, guitar and trumpet-playing will accompany the theatrics.
Aside from theatrical performances, dancing and music, the night will include poetry readings and live art.
One artist will take on the persona of Pablo Picasso and will paint during the performance. Another will embody famed French impressionist artist and boisterous cabaret reveler Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and will sketch during the show. Toulouse-Lautrec is best known for the days he spent painting scenes of the French Moulin Rouge cabaret.
“It’s new work derived from an old time period,” says Koellner.
“The closest parallel I could draw in our modern ‘mindframe’ is trying to recreate the Beatniks of the ’50s or the hippies of the ’60s,” she says.
The early French cabarets, including the Le Chat Noir, were considered by French aristocrats as low-class and bawdy entertainment for commoners. No night of cabaret would be complete without loud music, scantily-clad dancers, racy themes and drunkenness.
Le Chat Noir’s founder, Aristide Bruant, is considered by many to be the father of modern cabaret. Among the cabaret’s famous clients were Claude Debussy and Guy de Maupassant.
Bruant was known to be flamboyant and sarcastic, just like his entertainment of choice. When the French bourgeois visited his theater, he would call them “pigs.”
Bruant celebrated the anarchists, the free spirits, the liberals and the poor, and he championed the underdogs and the persecuted in French society.
Koellner is a film and theater actor who was also production manager for the 1997 film A River Made to Drown In.
Information, (310) 392-7327.