|Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
In the early 1990s, when director Sam Mendes began to articulate his ideas for a re-envisioned revival of Cabaret — stripping down the material, setting the story in a semi-immersive nightclub and enlisting a cast of actor-musicians — he said, "They thought I was mad!"
However, his vision was given life at the Donmar Warehouse in London's West End in 1993, where Alan Cumming — who reprises his acclaimed performance two decades later (beginning March 21 at Studio 54) — served as the Emcee, inviting theatregoers into the dark and risqué Kit Kat Klub and asking them to leave their troubles at the door.
"You see it reinvented in that way, and it's fresh, and it comes alive for a new generation — a new audience — and that's what I was seeking to do, so we went in with two ideas: It was going to be a rough theatre aesthetic [with] no mic-ing, and it was going to be set in a nightclub. So we ripped out all the seats at the Donmar, put everyone at tables and chairs [and] sold booze," said Mendes, from the downstairs lobby of Studio 54, with a laugh. "That's a key element! You get to drink! … That's how it began."
Mendes, whose production of Cabaret was awarded the 1998 Tony Award for Best Revival (following an acclaimed run in the West End), was one of the first of its time, and the landscape of actor-musicians (who are also proficient in song and dance) was scarce.
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