Monday, November 3, 2014

Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum

I get on kicks every once in a while (and by that I mean all the time). Jess calls them my obsessions. My current one is Alan Cumming. Ever since I saw my first Alan Cumming movie (Circle of Friends) back in the early 90s, I've paid attention when I find movies with him in it. As I sit down to watch I always say, "Oooh this has Alan Cumming. I love him." But he's never been one of my kicks. Until now. Suddenly I'm watching movies with him in them, listening to interviews, getting excited to read his new book, and watching YouTube video after YouTube video. It's a fun kick. Alan's a really fantastic actor but he also has a lot of traits that I admire: intelligence, honesty, energy, passion. Plus he's vegan. What's not to love?

Joel Grey as Emcee, singing Money with Liza Minnelli

One of the best things though about this kick is that it has introduced me the fantastic musical Cabaret. After all Alan won the Tony for his performance as the Master of Ceremonies in the 1990s revival of the musical, playing the part that Joel Grey played in the film. Alan's version is a tad...raunchier. And a bit darker, than the Joel Grey/Liza Minnelli one. It's not a show for children, either for the rather erotic dancing or for the dark Nazi undertones. Before this kick though, I'd never seen the whole musical. I'd seen bits of the costuming and heard a couple of songs (who hasn't heard "Money"?). But I had no idea how deep and potentially dark the musical could be. I thought it was about a nightclub after all.

Alan Cumming's Emcee in Willkommen

I should have known it would be dark. After all, it's about Germany during the rise of the Nazis. In the late 1920s Germany was a country of decadence, as expressed by the club. Like our 1920s, dancing and drinking and sex were all the rage. The play focuses on an American writer who comes to Berlin, the nightclub singer who moves herself in with him, the landlady at his boarding house, and her admirer, a grocery man who happens to be Jewish. The Nazis rise to power takes the form of a man who befriends the writer and then wrecks havoc in the life of the boarding house. And overseeing all of this is the Master of Ceremonies.

The music is so catchy. I've been singing Willkommen, Mein Herr, Money, Two Ladies, and Life is a Cabaret since I started watching the musical. I've seen several versions now (not just Alan's) and I like all of them. I just love the mix of energies, one upbeat and a bit sexy, and the other dark and grim. I have favorite versions for each song and I'll listen to them over and over. The dancing and acting is just spectacular. And the story makes me laugh and make me sad. A well told tale. Now I just need to see it on stage.

Over the weekend my sister and I were planning to get together on Saturday. That morning she started her text with "Guten Morgen Fraulein". When I texted her back she apologized for the German but said that she'd just seen a stage production of Cabaret and had German on the brain. I couldn't believe the coincidence. We've been trading our impressions of each of the different versions since then. It's fun that we both found this musical at the exact same time. And it's even more fun to have someone to share the excitement with.


Keith said...

Alan sleazed that role up so much. Joel Gray was unsettling, but Alan turned it into something just nasty. And I love that.

Cat B said...

I see we agree as always Keith!! He is pure raunchy in that show. It's so much fun to watch. Plus the ending of Alan's version is much darker and more unsettling than the Grey version. Unsettling in a good way.