As the second week of rehearsals for Paramount’s Cabaret ensues this morning, let’s take a look at the inquiry I’ve received about which version of the show you’ll be seeing here, for in fact three exist: the original of 1966 and the revivals of 1987 and 1998. Director/Choreographer Katie Spelman, after studious consideration of all three, felt most strongly for the development of the authors’ progression in the ’98 production (which was revived on Broadway in 2014 and toured nationally). I think this is the one with which audiences are most familiar, the one they want to see. This version was built on Alan Cumming as Emcee, just as the ’87 revival was conceived around Joel Grey, his name newly above the title, billing the star having won his ’66 Tony and his ’72 Academy Award for the role in Bob Fosse’s multi-Oscar winning film. This fascinates. I have a personal connection to the work.
While performing Emcee in Marriott Theatre’s production, I received a call on my answering machine (remember those?) requesting I come to New York to audition for the Understudy to Mr. Grey for the post Broadway ’89 national tour. I went. I got it. It was an incredible 11 months on the road performing on Boris Aronson’s set, in Patricia Zipprodt’s costumes, under Hal Prince’s direction, Tony-winning, all of them.
Fast forward to 1999 attending Cabaret at Studio 54. This new conceit, minimalized and stylized to the current times of grunge and heroin chic was thrilling as it was devastating to watch sitting with a friend at a nightclub table and a bottle of champagne. I thought of Kander & Ebb and how gratified they must have been to have their show re-conceived like this. The version I had toured in ten years earlier was a replica of the original sets and costumes with certain significant re-writes and additional material from the film. In the 90’s production, the line “In here, life is beautiful” rings a strident irony as the Kit Kat Girls stare out vacantly with raccoon eyes, track marked arms, stomping around in their underwear in a drug-induced stupor.
Under Ms. Spelman’s direction, life in the cabaret is beautiful and in multiple dimensions. Her approach to the Berlin nightclub, exhaustively researched, historically based, is as well very connected to the types of diverse artists and people disenfranchised from the rise of the Nazis during the early ’30s.
So, you see, as you may expect, although Paramount is doing the ’98 revival version, it will be a Cabaret as you have never seen it anywhere.
And it will be true to its time, place, politics and author’s intent. In a stunning new setting by scenic designer, Scott Davis (Paramount’s Oklahoma!) collaborating with costume designer Mieka Van Der Ploeg and lighting designer Yael Lubetsky, both making Paramount debuts, you will thrall to the new dances by Spelman and her compelling and original insight into this world on the brink of historically seismic, tragic change.
Love & thanks,