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Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome ...

I stumbled across this last night... I don't even remember how I got started searching for Neil Patrick Harris related to the late 90's revival of Cabaret:

Neil Patrick Harris as the Emcee

While it made me wonder if Joss Whedon is making a habit of casting men who go by three initials & have done drag in musicals (Exhibit A: ASH), :), more importantly, it put me on the path to find this:

The Donmar Warehouse production of Cabaret, Part One

Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. (It's not really any longer than you'd think it would be, it's just that the poster broke it up into short segments correlating to the television breaks.)

Alan Cumming as the Emcee (Aside to fans of Sandman: He'd make a rather good Desire, don't you think?)

He won numerous awards for this performance, including a Tony. I can see why: he's remarkable. I remember thinking, "Wow, the guy who's playing Nightcrawler is really good," when I saw X2. I thought he infused Kurt Wagner with a lot of tenderness and pathos. I had no idea that he was classically trained, no idea that he sang, and certainly no idea that he was as versatile and talented as his performance above indicates.

His interpretation is so different from Joel Grey's, but they both work. Grey is the grinning skull, foreshadowing the death's head rings of the SS and the concentration camps: he is the smiling ghoul, a suave jester delighting in the revelry transpiring on the thin sheet veiling Hitler's upcoming "show," manifesting the "happy corpse" of the title song. I'm sure the Joker would think that life was indeed a cabaret in 1930s Germany.

Cumming's performance is ethereal and otherworldly in a different way. Androgynously fae, he flirts, simpers and vamps with oily charm, smirkingly self-aware, in on the joke, entrancing you so he can shock you with an astonishing reveal. He's effeminate and raunchy, lurid as a crime scene photo. He's languidly draping himself in a sinuous pose one moment; aggressively leering and asserting his dominance over the action the next. During the moments that the character seems real, he seems to adopt the persona of a voluptuous, devil-may-care homosexual whose indifference seems entirely and deliberately manufactured. His impish vulgarity seems a desperate act of life, partying at the end of the world, the fall of wicked, debauched Rome: there's a lot there. He's playfully naughty, but there's a impatience to it (though never quite manic - always poised and studied so that the artifice is preserved): one is always aware of the veneer, the facade of mockery overlaying a gaunt specter. There's something about his interpretation that's like a giddy skeleton pantomiming sex on a grave, androgynously satirizing fleshly pursuits. He embodies the jaded essence of the seedy Kit Kat Klub toward the end of the Weimar Republic as the Third Reich begins its ascent: he is its captivating phantom; our Greek chorus.

Indeed, this entire production of Cabaret is like watching a gaudily beautiful bauble fall on a hard floor from enough of a distance to know that there's no way you'll catch it in time to save it and rescue something so fragile and brittle from shattering into a million glittering, razor-sharp shards. Much like a car accident, it compels you to be a voyeur. I was completely mesmerized.

Unfortunately, all the videos that I can find of Neil Patrick Harris in this role seem to be of really poor quality, so I can't tell much. The little bits I saw seemed ... warmer. His German accent was slightly more pronounced, and, somehow, his interpretation reminded me of The Host (Lorne) from Angel just a bit. It worked, too, but I'd have to see an entire show to really get a true impression.

In any case, it has piqued my interest in reading Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood.

If you're interested in more information about Cabaret's background and the dangerous, edgy culture that inspired it, check out The Real Cabaret, narrated by Alan Cumming.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 24th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
Have you ever seen the clip from "Leading Ladies of Broadway" of Anna Kendrick and Kit Kat Girls performing Life Upon the Wicked Stage from Show Boat? Fantastic satire!
May. 24th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
I hadn't seen that. Thanks for the link - clever stuff!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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