Downtown Cabaret Theatre to host live theater season again

Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport will offer a new Community Theatre Series featuring the Bridgeport Theatre Company (BTC).

For the first three decades of its existence, the Downtown Cabaret was known for producing high-quality professional theater. Cabaret productions of “Evita,” “Hair” and pre-Broadway’s “Blood Brothers,” among others, played extended engagements in Bridgeport and featured professional actors from New York City.

However, eventually those shows became prohibitively expensive to produce and had to be discontinued.

Quality and professionalism

“I have been exploring economical ways to bring back traditional musical theater,” said Hugh Hallinan, Downtown Cabaret executive producer. “The question was how to smoothly transition from 25 years of award-winning professional theater to non-professional community theater while still retaining a level of quality and professionalism our audiences have come to expect.

“Fortunately for us,” Hallinan said, “a community theater group has proven to have integrity and a passion for producing musical theater right on our very stage.”

The BTC’s upcoming 2013-14 season will begin this fall and includes productions of “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Dreamgirls," “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Shrek the Musical.”

A permanent home

Hallinan said Downtown Cabaret has the theater, related facilities and decades of experience in the business, while the nonprofit BTC has been searching for a permanent home.

BTC originally put on its productions at the Playhouse on the Green in downtown Bridgeport, but moved its shows to the Downtown Cabaret facility on an “in residence” basis for the past three seasons.

The new agreement means the BTC will have a permanently home at the Downtown Cabaret.

“It’s really been a matter of being in the right place at the right time for both theaters,” Hallinan said.

Hallinan is enthused that audiences coming to see these shows will take advantage of the infamous "Cabaret experience,” which involves patrons bringing their own meals and refreshments picnic-style to the shows.

‘Filling the demand’

Eli Newsom, BTC artistic director, said the arrangement will be a boost for local performers and have a positive economic impact on Bridgeport while “filling the demand of Fairfield County audiences seeking live musical theater entertainment.”

The lower costs for BTC’s non-professional productions, which utilizes a mix of local volunteer actors and paid backstage staff, has allowed the troupe to present larger mainstage titles like “Rent,” “Hairspray” and “Next to Normal.”

Downtown Cabaret Theatre and BTC will continue to operate independently, but will share some of the effort of mainstage productions. “It’s really about sharing in various challenges that nonprofit theater companies face in today’s economic climate,” Newsom said.

Ongoing Cabaret offerings

In addition to the new Community Theatre Series, the Downtown Cabaret Theatre offers the professional Cabaret Children’s Theatre Company; the Cabaret Nights concert series, featuring such well-known performers as Judy Collins, Crystal Gayle and Gary Puckett; and tribute shows highlighting artists like The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Abba, Bee Gees, and Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra.

For more information about the Community Theatre Series, call 203-576-1634 or visit or