Although the first orchestral play-through in 1997 (for the show's '98 Broadway bow) "sounded like they were playing the score on kazoos," Mendes admitted, the company "gradually grew in confidence." By Tony time, the show took home four awards, including a trophy for its leading man, Cumming, who returns with Mendes for its 2014 incarnation.
"Now," Mendes said, "when we came to auditions [for the 2014 revival], it was fascinating. You came to audition for this 'revival of a revival' — as it were — [and] the standard of playing is astonishing because of all the John Doyle [actor-musician] productions alone… It's been wonderful to see how things have moved on, and now what's expected of performers on Broadway is not only do they [have to] sing and dance brilliantly, but they also have to be multi-instrumentalists on top of all that, and they have to act! It's been a pleasure."
But, why — after a five-year, successful run on Broadway — would Cabaret return to Studio 54 a decade-and-a-half later? Because Roundabout Theatre Company — the driving force behind the production — gave Mendes his Broadway debut.
"At a certain point, you think, 'Well, you know what, the Roundabout were very, very good to me. They gave me the chance. They tenaciously fought for what I wanted,' [so] I said, 'I'll do it for you.' In '95, I agreed to do it, but only if [they] found me a nightclub," Mendes explained. "They spent two years looking for it, and they found me what is now the Stephen Sondheim [Theatre], which then was the Henry Miller's. It was, in fact, a nightclub, and during that period — and people don't believe me when I tell them this — that was a nightclub after we closed the show every night. At 11 o'clock at night, we took down our set, and people turned up, and they danced on our set until five in the morning… and probably took a lot of drugs because we used to find syringes. They'd come in the morning, clean it up, and we'd do the show. It was chaos, but it had a crazy atmosphere, and that was the show…
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