The final moment of “Wilkommen,” choreographed by Ron Field

The final moment of “Wilkommen,” choreographed by Ron Field

CABARET (1987-1989) gave me the priceless opportunity to work with the original Dream Team: Hal Prince, Don Pippin, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Joe Masteroff, Joel Grey, Ron Field. I was Associate Conductor for the pre-Broadway 9-month tour, the 9-month Broadway run, and the 9-month post-Broadway tour.

Ironically, Ron Field, whose terror-on-wheels reputation had been drummed into us in advance, was amiable and articulate in our conversations. He'd take me aside and confide what he was really thinking (a Broadway rarity) and vice versa. I remember one great conversation, when I told him that I’d been sternly advised to keep my trap shut when working on Broadway, and how difficult and frustrating that could be when I saw a potential improvement. "No, don't keep your trap shut," he counter-advised – "someday someone like me will say, 'ah, there's a smart one.'" 

When the new "Money" song was running too long out of town, Ron Field and I sat alone on the stage one afternoon, and at his direction, I fixed the dance arrangement with a few simple cuts and segués – without copying costs, reorchestration, or packets back and forth to NY. It went into the show that night in San Francisco, which made him and the creative team very happy. 

The producers didn’t think the title song was landing, and Fran Weissler asked if I had any idea why not. I was convinced it needed an edgier orchestration to match Prince’s evolved concept of what’s happening inside Sally Bowles’s head. Finally I filtered that suggestion through the actress, and a new Michael Gibson revision of the orchestration appeared immediately, which transformed the number. (No one remembered I had suggested it all along; but I was slowly learning the art of backstage diplomacy.)

My favorite moment – shortly before the Broadway opening, when I conducted the superior San Francisco orchestra at the Golden Gate Theatre. Those fine musicians sat bolt upright, responded to my indications to pump up their delivery, and sent me surreptitious notes of congratulations.

The show received 5 Tony Award nominations.

The post-Broadway National Tour
Left to right clockwise: Marcia Lewis and Michael Allinson; Nancy Ringham and Brian Sutherland

Nancy Ringham; Paula Leggett Chase, Joel Grey, and Jennifer Allen