Returning to the Kit Kat Klub: For Set Designer Robert Brill, Cabaret Has an Encore

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26 Apr 2014

When Brill entered the defunct Studio 54 back in 1998, there wasn’t even a stage to work with.

"The whole interior was green and gold," he recalled. "I think it had had been renovated a few years beforehand and was used for photo shoot. The original idea of Studio 54 was that everyone was in the spotlight. The stage was brought to the level of the orchestra, so everyone was onstage. No matter where you were, you were on the dance floor."

A stage was built from the floor up, as was terracing for audience seating. The balcony, an event space made of steel and concrete, had to be completely demolished. "There was a lot of work that went into a very short period of time in 1998," recalled Brill, "a little over a two-month period."

The cabaret seating of Studio 54 held firm through the run of Cabaret and even remained for the subsequent revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins. Soon after, conventional rows of cushioned seating were installed.

To bring back Cabaret, that process has been reversed, taking out not just the seats, but some of the seat terracing as well. "We had to remove the seating and recreate the whole infrastructure for the orchestra," said Brill, "which includes railings and wiring for the table lamps. It seems very simple, but it’s quite a task.

"It’s an amazing experience that I rarely get to do," commented Brill. "My background was originally in architecture. Doing something that’s a combination of theatre and architecture, like this one, it’s an approach that..." He paused, mid-statement, and reconsidered. "Well, I can’t even say a once in a lifetime experience," he added, laughing, "because this is the third that we’ve had a chance to do it — twice in the first year and now this year!"

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