Monday, March 3, 2008

Hmmm...I'm hating the costume concept

for the new production of "Cabaret" at the 5th Avenue which starts March 25th and stars the wonderous Nick Garrison as the Emcee. I still want to see it because I adore Nick Garrison and I have great affection for the Kander/Ebb music. My problem with "Cabaret" is it's shitty book; it's based on the so-so play, "I am a Camera" by John Van Druten which is of course based on the original stories by Christopher Isherwood, which are great. The book for the musical is really dumb; the secondary story concerns the landlady and her Jewish beau which is NOT in the play, (and I'm not sure if it's in the original stories; it's been awhile since I read them), and it manages to drag down the entire show. And there is the problem of the main character, the Isherwood character who is called Cliff Bradshaw in the musical. Gay characters were too scary for 60's theater goers apparently, (despite the fact that everyone associated with American Musical Theatre is gay, or wants to be), so the Isherwood character was 'straightened' out for the musical and has a romantic relationship with Sally Bowles. It's so dumb and the show suffers for it. The Bob Fosse movie of Cabaret, is, after the original stories themselves, the best presented version of the Berlin stories. Fosse dumped the landlady subplot and used those songs as background music in the movie and all the other songs are presented as stage performances at the Kit Kat Club. The recent successful Broadway revival of "Cabaret" with Alan Cumming, attempted to update the book but didn't really succeed. The revival was a great piece of theatre due to it's design and was reconceived to be more of a piece about the rise of the Nazis. This photo which I snagged off the Gay Seattle Blogspot ( and comes from the 5th Avenue press release (the photo is by David M Allen Photography) doesn't bode well for the design choices of the production team. I'm not liking the red, matching costumes; way too cutesy and 1960's bad musical theatre for my taste.
The Broadway revival was very dark and sexy and inspired by the kinkier aspects of Weimer era Berlin a city famous for its debauchery in the pre-Nazi era. I can understand why this production didn't want to copy the recent revival, but they could have riffed on it, or did some research into Weimar Berlin and the kabarett kulture. We'll see how they pull it off.

UPDATE: No, after looking at the photo again, it's not bad 60's theatre that it reminds me of: it's bad 70's television. The costume concept seems to be inspired by either the old Donny and Marie variety show, or maybe Circus of the Stars...(and to be honest with you, I'm surprised some network hasn't tried to resurrect Circus of the Stars, or Battle of the Network Stars for that matter...)

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