Life with Alana is a Cabaret  

If you wish life were a cabaret, then consider yourself among the throngs of people in Abu Dhabi who call Alana Barraj their friend and see her one-woman cabaret at NYUAD this March. It’s your last shot!

Alana Barraj

When Abu Dhabi’s theatre scene began to mature in earnest a few years ago, Alana Barraj was centre stage. Capital theatre-goers are no doubt already familiar with Alana. She’s been a regular fixture in some of the Abu Dhabi Choral Group’s (ADCG) most memorable roles: Elle Woods in Legally Blonde the Musical and Morticia Addams in The Addams Family Musical. Back by popular demand, she will grace the stage again this spring in her second one-woman show at New York University Abu Dhabi. Pssst… this might be your last chance to see her as this performance is her Abu Dhabi swansong.

Yalla caught up with Alana, a senior producer at The Arts Center at NYUAD, for a few moments to learn about her cabaret: An Evening with Alana Barraj.


How did you conceive this idea?

In 2017, I pitched the idea of doing a one-woman show to the Arts Center. Because I work as a senior producer at NYUAD, I can’t perform in ADCG shows due to the demands of a rehearsal schedule and stepping off the stage left a hole in my life. The Artistic Executive Director was 100% behind the idea because he knew that I knew what I was doing and, of course, that I could draw a modest crowd.

How’d it go?

Amazing! With only one month of marketing, we sold out the night in 24 hours! It was considered so successful, that I pitched it again, and everyone enthusiastically welcomed it back for the 2018-19 Art Center lineup. The second annual performance is on 15 March, and it’s bittersweet, because it’s unfortunately also my farewell performance, as I am leaving Abu Dhabi to move to the USA to pursue another position. So, if you haven’t seen me yet, this is your shot.

Describe An Evening With Alana in your own words?

It’s half stand up commentary – half singing. I don’t pretend to be the most outstanding vocalist that you have ever heard, but I strive to be the most entertaining. I break up the songs with what I call “Alana chats” to bring a connection or context to the song, i.e. why this song resonates with me in case it also resonates with someone else. It’s intimate. I sing a song and tell a story, people sing along, and it’s really beautiful.

Is it about you?

The evening stars the performative Alana because so much of that person is who I really am. I bring a lot of my personal life into the show but in a general way — this is not a therapy show. It’s good fun, but it can be emotional, even cathartic. There’s more laughter than tears.

Why did you choose this format?

This show is so me. I love to make people laugh. My dry wit is what sets me apart in stage performances, so I wanted to include that. People wanted to hear me sing — people wanting to see you do just about anything on stage is flattering. But, I am so much more than just a voice who sings. I am also a personality, and I wanted to have these Alana Stories in between songs to guide guests on my musical journey.

Finally, tell us an Alana Story.

There’s this family — maybe urban — legend in my house. When I was six, my mother asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said I wanted to be a singer. She said, of course, but if you couldn’t be a singer what would you be? As the story goes, I reflected upon it for a moment, then said, “I would like to be the ruler of a small island nation.” And, here I am the pseudo princess of the stage in Abu Dhabi — my small island nation.

What to expect in an evening with Alana Barraj?

Expect powerful vocals and a commanding stage presence and engaging banter as Alana reprises beloved ADGC moments alongside classic songs from Broadway classics, legendary animated features, folk and pop legends, and original works. Expect also to learn a lot about Alana, and you might just find yourself tearing up at the prospect of her moving on and taking the Alana show away from Abu Dhabi.


Friday, 15 March, 8pm, Red Theater. To purchase tickets, visit Nyuad-artscenter.org

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