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'The Christmas guy': Richard Cerato directs his third holiday show, and this time it's a cabaret

FrostBites.jpg
Alchemy Theatre

“I moved to Austin and the first show that I was offered to direct was A Christmas Story, and then it came to the following Christmas of Elf, and then now here we are for a third Christmas in a row, and it’s like, yeah, I’m the Austin Christmas guy,” says theater director Richard Cerato of his recent history helming holiday-themed shows. “And I’ll take that. I’ll take that title.”

This December, Cerato is directing Frost Bites: A Holiday Cabaret for Alchemy Theatre. He says that while he didn’t set out to specialize in Christmas shows, he has always been a fan of the season. “I just love the holidays,” he says. “And yeah, when Carol [Hickey, Alchemy’s artistic director] suggested a holiday cabaret, I said ‘Oh great, I’m your guy. I’ve got a whole box of Christmas set decorations ready to go!’”

The idea of presenting a Christmas season cabaret show grew out of a class that Cerato taught this past summer for Hickey’s acting studio. “I’d asked him to teach a class on musical theater – he has an amazing background in musical theater in New York – and so he asked if he could do a cabaret class, where it would be part monologue, part standup, and obviously part singing and song, and really focused on the storytelling,” Hickey says. “And I went to their final day of the class, where they kind of presented their offerings… and I was just blown away.”

Hickey was inspired to ask Cerato to create a holiday-themed cabaret show for Alchemy Theatre. “It all sort of fell into place,” Cerato says. “And oftentimes when you think about cabaret, you think about a dozen or so actor/singers who stand up at a microphone and they share stories and they sing songs. And that’s all well and we could do something like that for the holidays, but we decided to take it a step further and create sort of a thematic structure around it.”

Cerato and his cast have created a tight one-hour show that still manages to pack in some 28 songs, he says. “There actually were a few more than that,” he says. “I think we were up to 35 at one point. And how we fit 28 songs into an hour… well, it’s Christmas magic, so you’ll have to come and see it for yourself to see how it plays out. And you know, with cabaret… cabaret’s kind of the all-encompassing artform, so there’s not just singing and dancing. There is a lot of singing and dancing, but there’s also burlesque and pantomime and puppetry and lot of what’s called ‘little art.’ So there’s a lot of variety.”

'Frost Bites: A Holiday Cabaret' runs from December 2 - 17 at Alchemy Theatre

Mike is a features producer at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for KUT.org. When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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