Dig Baton Rouge

Life is a Cabaret

Marion Bienvenu brings Sally Bowles to life

Marion Bienvenu is no stranger to the Theatre Baton Rouge stage. Initially, the actress began working with TBR in part with their young actor’s program on their production of “South Pacific.” That experience gave her the courage to audition for future main stage productions at TBR, and after graduating Northwestern State University with a major in Theatre, she began auditioning for professional theatres in Colorado and Michigan. Now Bienvenu is preparing to make her Kit Kat Klub debut as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret,” which runs from March 9-25 as part of TBR’s Capital Series. DIG Magazine caught up with the charming Bienvenu during a break in between rehearsals to talk her dream role, how “Cabaret” stands up to modern audiences, and sharing the stage with her biggest fan.

On what makes TBR’s production unique: Well, our choreographer Natalie Baily Smith, is just a fantastic choreographer. I’ve worked with her on several different shows. She brings the Fosse aspect of the show, which she is fantastic at but she also brings this modern twist, this little kind of grunge twist that the ’98 revival had. We want to keep the audience entertained. That’s our motto; we want to be as entertaining as possible. We’ll have some theatrical elements that the show normally doesn’t have, which we are excited to play around with and see how the audience reacts.

On the biggest challenges of her role: Well, I’ve already mentioned the choreography. She has some wonderful numbers, but they are no joke. It’s singing and running a marathon at the same time, but it’s fantastic. But on a more personal level I relate to Sally in many ways, and sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes that’s a bad thing. So, I’m trying not to get too involved with the character and keep it separate from my personal life. And keep her just as perfectly marvelous as I think she is in my head and not get too connected to the character if that makes sense.

On her version of Sally: So, there’s been a lot of different Sally’s. I went back to the book that the play is based on, “The Berlin Stories.” Sally Bowles in the book is this beautiful, vibrant, spastic character that I just fell in love with. So, I’m trying to start with the book and go from there, starting with the original source. And then, of course, I find my own self in this character as I do with all my characters. So, it’s just a combination of myself and what I’m getting from the novel and what I’m getting from the script.

On how modern audiences relate: Well, when you go to the theatre, you go to be entertained. And that is exactly what this show is about. It is about entertaining you. You come to the cabaret to forget all your troubles in the outside world and just relax, enjoy the beautiful women, the beautiful music, the dancing, the singing, but then the real world outside shows that you cannot ignore every problem. Some problems are small enough to ignore, but sometimes social issues come up, and if you turn a blind eye to it you’re just as involved as those doing wrong. So, this show is mirroring a little bit of what is happening in our nation right now, and it’s very interesting to see that juxtaposition of what was happening back in the 1930’s, and now we’re in 2018, and some of these problems are very eerily similar. So, I’m curious to see what our Baton Rouge audiences think of this show and how they take it.

On her castmates: The best way to say it is that it is a stacked cast. It has a lot of incredible TBR veterans. We have a lot of familiar faces, but there are also some new faces. It’s a great combination of talent. You have Clay Donaldson, who is just an incredible Emcee. He has such great control over his audiences. You have Brandon Guillory, who is just a fantastic scene partner. I have a couple of best friends in the show…I have my mother in the show playing Fraulein Schneider. I could not be prouder. The woman who introduced this show to me is going to be doing scenes alongside me. It’s such an incredible feeling. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know how I’m going to keep it together every night. Or her for that matter. She’s my biggest fan.

On her personal connection to Sally: So, we are both really big, loud, brassy women who are not afraid of our sexuality, we are not afraid to show a little skin, we are not afraid to have attention on us. Those are some things I love that I have in common with her. Now, of course, there is a darker side to Sally that I do not connect with and don’t wish to connect with. So, I must understand what it would be like to go through these dark times in 1930’s Berlin. It’s hard to try to relate to that and not get emotionally involved.

“It’s tawdry, sensual, powerful, challenging, and entertaining.”

Photos by Sean Gasser

Tara Bennett

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