Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome: “Cabaret” returns to Broadway

In 1966, when the John Kander-Fred Ebb musical “Cabaret” first appeared on Broadway, audiences were dazzled and dismayed by its depiction of life in early 1930s Berlin.

Joel Gray played the Emcee of the Kit Kat Club; he would reprise the role in the Oscar-winning 1972 film version, welcoming customers to “leave your problems outside!”

But it is an invitation full of menace, because waiting in the wings is the horror of the Nazi Third Reich.

“The cabaret is a place of hope,” said actress Gayle Rankin. “And I think that's why all these really extraordinary beings descend on it, and how that hope is dashed, broken, and destroyed.”

Is 'Cabaret' a warning? “To me it is,” said actor Eddie Redmayne. “It shows the hope, the joy and the aspiration, but it also shows how progress can be taken away from you, and how we can go backwards.”

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Eddie Redmayne plays the Emcee in a new version of the classic musical 'Cabaret'.

Marc Brenner


In the brand new production, renamed “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club,” opening on Broadway this weekend, Rankin plays the funny, volatile, live-for-today singer Sally Bowles, a role played by Liza Minnelli in the film has been immortalized. “I started thinking about Liza the other day and I thought: Stop! Stop!she laughed. 'I was like: I honor you, I honor you, I honor you, I have to go on stage now!

And a snake-like Redmayne seduces the audience as the Emcee. “Every night, under the spot where you stand, I more or less emerge here [with] that iconic drum roll. I'm standing at the bottom waiting to be shot up to the stage, and it feels like I'm going to the guillotine. And then, just as it's just starting to rise, something euphoric happens.”

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Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee, with the Kit Kat Girls, in “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club.”

Marc Brenner


Both Rankin and Redmayne have been to the “Cabaret” before; she, in a supporting role in the 2014 revival starring Alan Cumming; Redmayne (an Oscar and Tony winner) in the London staging of this new production in 2021.

But his connection goes back even further: “I was about 14 or 15 years old, I was in school and I was cast as the host. And I had never listened to 'Cabaret' before, so that was my introduction to it. And something in that experience struck me. I don't come from a very theatrical family. My parents were always very supportive, but from an early age I thought, 'Oh, this is what I want to do.' And my parents said, 'Okay, but we hear all the statistics about actors being unemployed and I don't know, is this the problem?'

“And I'll never forget that after they came to see my school production of 'Cabaret,' they said, 'Go for it.'”

In this production, the stage is surrounded by seating on three sides. In a radical reinterpretation of the August Wilson Theater, designer Tom Scutt ripped out the old stage and added seating to create a circular nightclub.

“It has to feel different,” Scutt said. “It should wake us up and take us to another world, and make us forget where we are and who we are. This can only happen when you witness other spectators experiencing the same thing as You [are], same feelings as you. I think the more we can do that, the better.”

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Gayle Rankin as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club.”

Marc Brenner


Even taking a seat in this production is an experience. Instead of entering through the front doors of the theater, the residents of this Kat Kat Club walk in through the side for a show for the show. Redmayne said: 'You are taken into these cavernous bars and you pass artists, musicians and extraordinary dancers, with the idea that once you enter the theater – the theater itself – you have really left all your problems outside. Weimar Germany.”

Two-time Tony winner Bebe Neuwirth said, “They lull you into a feeling that makes you understand how bad evil is.”

Neuwirth plays Fräulein Schneider, the non-Jewish owner of a boarding house who falls in love with a Jewish man and is then faced with a terrible decision. “There is darkness and there is light in everything,” Neuwirth said. “And in this show there is light and also horror.”

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Bebe Neuwirth.

CBS News


When asked why “Cabaret” keeps coming back, Neuwirth replied, “The first answer is the music, because it is simply glorious. It is also unfortunately timeless, because it is also a story about the encroaching evil, and what do we do in the future? Do we recognize it? Do we acknowledge it?

“Even in the happiest moments, it's there, right?” Rocca asked.

“That's right,” Neuwirth said. “You feel it just outside the doors of the theater. There's a rumbling sound just outside.”

The musical “Cabaret” celebrates its 58th anniversary this year. Original emcee Joel Gray recently visited the theater to celebrate his 92nd birthday and give his blessing to Eddie Redmayne, Gayle Rankin and the rest of the company. They hope to welcome many more supporters to their club.

“Oh my God, just wait until my mom and dad come over,” Redmayne said. “They're so excited. My dad, I talked to him the other day, he said, 'I just hate that you're in New York. I could be there every night!'


For more information:


Story produced by Jay Kernis. Editor: Ed Givnish.


Also see:

In 2023, Joel Gray and John Kander were honored with lifetime achievement Tony Awards. In this special video tribute, actors who played the Emcee in the London production of “Cabaret” (Olivier Award winner Eddie Redmayne, Callum Scott Howells, Matthew Gent, Fra Fee, Mason Alexander Park and John McCrea) honor Gray and Kander for their stunning musical theater creations:


Tony Awards 2023: A 'Cabaret' Tribute to Joel Gray and John Kander Through
CBS Sunday morning on
YouTube

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