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re: The Emcee: Cabaret

RentBoy86 Profile Photo
RentBoy86
Broadway Legend
joined:2/15/05
The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:05pm
We're doing Cabaret at my University next semester, and I'm curious about the Emcee. I think most people have Allen Cummings engrained in their brains, but what are the other takes on the role? I know Joel Grey, but has anyone seen some of Cummings' replacements? Did they just copy him? Are there some things that need to be there for the performance, does he need to be feminine? Funny? A good singer?
MargoChanning Profile Photo
MargoChanning
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/04
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:12pm
Most of Cummings' replacements just copied him.

IMO, Grey still owns the role.
"What a story........ everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end." -- Birdie [http://margochanning.broadwayworld.com/] "The Devil Be Hittin' Me" -- Whitney
Updated On: 11/20/07 at 05:12 PM
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beyonddizzy31
Stand-by
joined:6/23/07
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:12pm
As far as the Broadway revival at the Roundabout, I know that Neil Patrick Harris and Raul Esparza both took it on. There are vids on thesitethatewedarenotmention.
Face life with a little guts and lots of *glitter*
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luvtheEmcee
Broadway Legend
joined:12/9/03
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:13pm
Alan.

I didn't see him, but yes -- while it is a role with tons of room for interpretation, a lot of the people who came after Alan Cumming did very much follow his lead. I wouldn't say they copied him a la Xerox. because obviously there was a certain characterization that fit in with Mendes' vision of the show on the whole, but, a lot of them did take many cues from his performance. For example, a lot of the replacements adopted Alan's ad-libs, and things like that. There was room for them to stretch it, though, I think -- and someone who saw more of them could definitely tell you more about this -- but some were more sinister than others, some more impish or silly, more sexual, whatever. It's one of the greatest lead male roles ever written, and there's a lot to chew on for an actor.
A work of art is an invitation to love.
Updated On: 11/20/07 at 05:13 PM
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BrodyFosse123
Broadway Legend
joined:2/27/06
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:14pm
First off...the name is Alan Cumming.

Yes...the recent Sam Mendes revival's Emcee carried a certain mold that needed to be followed so everyone who played the role did resemble Alan Cumming's performance, but they added elements of their own (Raul Esparza ad-libbed way too much and Michael C. Hall was the most disturbing).

As for the role being 'feminine' -- the role is intended to evoke an ambisexual essence.

So what does that make you, Brody? A zero-trick pony? - Wanna Be A Foster .........................The only power brody wields is in his own mind, joe. But it's amusing to watch him pretend nonetheless. - tazber
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beyonddizzy31
Stand-by
joined:6/23/07
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:20pm
I don't think the character needs to be feminine so much as he needs to be androgynous. You do have to be able to command the stage from moment one, because the Emcee carries the evening and helps segue from one scene to the next.

I don't think you need to be a particularly good singer to pull it off, the music isn't that hard.

I think it depends a lot on how far the director wants to take it and what his/her vision is. As far as Cumming's replacements, they didn't copy him (IMO), thy took the new version of the Emcee and made it their own, within the confines of the production. This is what's hard about replacing in a show--it exists already, you didn't help to create it, you're just plopped into it and you have to make the part your own whle still staying true to the director's vision.

Also, Grey's Emcee and Cumming's Emcee are two very different versions of a great part, I don't think you can really compare the two.

Sorry, I could really get into talking about Cabaret, its my favorite show
Face life with a little guts and lots of *glitter*
*brina-doll* Profile Photo
*brina-doll*
Broadway Legend
joined:8/25/06
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:24pm
Hmm, well I know that Raul Esparza played the part, as well as Neil Patrick Harris, Adam Pascal, John Secada (spelling?), Michael C. Hall, and others; but that's about all I know Broadway replacement wise.

Character wise? I'll admit that I've never seen the show, only the film. But there's an obviously BIG contrast between the revival Emcee vs. the original. I view the revival character as being very seductive and bawdy. He seems to be overly obscene onstage (and perhaps faking an over the top personna) so he can hide the tortures and hardships that he must face in "the real world" outside the Kit-Kat Club.

Now I could be wrong, but the character's supposed to be Jewish right? And since this is going on right before WW2 starts (in Berlin Germany: aka Nazi Headquarters); you'd think he'd try to cover up his religion by faking that certain personna so people wouldn't suspect. That's why I've found "If You Could See Her" (aka "The Gorilla Song") very ironic, since he's singing about and basically making fun of a Jewish girl though he shares the same religion.

I do think the character should have it's funny moments (like in the beginning when he's describing the Kit-Kat Girls/Boys); and that a good voice would be very helpful. But, hmmm...I don't want to say it's 'neccesary' to have a fab. voice since I've never seen the production but perhaps others could be more helpful on that topic. So basically in a nutshell that's my two cents on the revival character. Break a leg if you're auditioning for the part RentBoy!
Your aspirations are your possibilities-Samuel Johnson (and a little help from nomdeplume)
luvtheEmcee Profile Photo
luvtheEmcee
Broadway Legend
joined:12/9/03
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:25pm
Absolutely -- I always got the impression that the intent was more androgyny and ambiguity (and to a degree, ambivalence) than it was femininity. That's an importance difference.

The best way I can think to compare Grey and Cumming is this: there's an interview somewhere out there in which Joel Grey says that his Emcee was, in a way, a representation of Hitler. The revival Emcee felt like the opposite side of that coin, to me -- instead of standing for that which WOULD destroy, he stood for all that which would BE destroyed. Granted, his omniscience kind of allowed him to float between camps (i.e., throwing the brick into the window), but I think the difference is that those are moments when he's acting a part versus being his character... if that makes sense.

Also, go here:

http://ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=4848

And all the way at the bottom, click "show replacement and/or transfer information." The names are not in order by part, so you'll have to scroll thought, but it lists all (most?) of the actors who played the Emcee in the Mendes revival.
A work of art is an invitation to love.
Updated On: 11/20/07 at 05:25 PM
MargoChanning Profile Photo
MargoChanning
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/04
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:28pm
I don't know, I saw four different Emcees (including Cumming) in the Mendes production, and other than the other three all singing better than Cumming, their performances were 99.8% the same as the original and if you could have put the show on mute, they'd have all been indistinguishable.
"What a story........ everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end." -- Birdie [http://margochanning.broadwayworld.com/] "The Devil Be Hittin' Me" -- Whitney
Taka Profile Photo
Taka
Leading Actor
joined:8/20/07
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:29pm
Once again, luvtheEmcee, you provide an excellent analysis. My single wish in life is to play a female Emcee. Thank you soo much.
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luvtheEmcee
Broadway Legend
joined:12/9/03
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:31pm
Thank you. There have been productions with female Emcees. I can't really decide how I feel about it, but it's not unheard of.

Margo -- out of sheer curiosity -- who else did you see? I wish I had seen the show earlier in its run so I could've seen some of the other actors. Damn those discretionary parents.
A work of art is an invitation to love.
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*brina-doll*
Broadway Legend
joined:8/25/06
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:36pm
I'll ditto that Taka; the Emcee character is a dream role I'd love to play.
Your aspirations are your possibilities-Samuel Johnson (and a little help from nomdeplume)
MargoChanning Profile Photo
MargoChanning
Broadway Legend
joined:4/5/04
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 05:37pm
Um, let's see.....

Cumming
Michael C. Hall (who had a different physicality, but it was the same performance)
Raul (but I saw him early in his run -- maybe he was more distinct later)
Vance Avery (who was a carbon copy of Cumming)
"What a story........ everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end." -- Birdie [http://margochanning.broadwayworld.com/] "The Devil Be Hittin' Me" -- Whitney
RentBoy86 Profile Photo
RentBoy86
Broadway Legend
joined:2/15/05
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 06:19pm
Hey, you girls get Dot in Sunday in the Park With George, let us have our Emcee, ha.

I'm just curious because I'm not sure which way I want to go with it for our audition. I really like what Cummings did with it, but I don't want to be just a copy of him, but it's so hard to get away from that. I don't want to go to the opposite extreme just because his version is well known.
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Taka
Leading Actor
joined:8/20/07
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 06:27pm
Dot was never really a role that appealed to me. :)

Anyways, am I the only one who does NOT like Cumming as the Emcee? I saw him perform several numbers from that site awhile back, and he just came off as hammy. I understand what he was trying to do, and if he was a better actor, he would've pulled it off. He shouldn't ham it up. The only thing I dislike more than a hammy actor is a wooden actor.
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commasplice
Broadway Legend
joined:11/29/04
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 06:47pm
"Hey, you girls get Dot in Sunday in the Park With George, let us have our Emcee, ha."

But what about GEORGE? That's an incredible part. If I had the right plumbing, I'd love to play him.

Also, Cumming. No S.
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ruthiefan_felix
Broadway Legend
joined:10/6/03
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 06:58pm
you guys are SO spoilt with the Mendes version... try watching the current London production... the original Emcee in that was HORRID! He was just so bland!
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RentBoy86 Profile Photo
RentBoy86
Broadway Legend
joined:2/15/05
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 06:59pm
Yeah, but Dot is one hell of a role, and get some AMAZING songs thanks to Sondheim. She sings the beautiful melody over and over again.

But back to Cabaret. I like the idea of the Emcee being everything that the other people are against. I think that makes sense. He needs to embody this whole "life is a cabaret" quality. I wish there was a video of Norbert Leo Butz as the Emcee. I would love to see that. I respect him so much as an actor, and even more as a great comedic actor.
Taka Profile Photo
Taka
Leading Actor
joined:8/20/07
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 07:02pm
I agree completely. The Emcee should embody the "life is a Caberet" philosophy. It's just that I find Cumming to be incredibly hammy.
RentBoy86 Profile Photo
RentBoy86
Broadway Legend
joined:2/15/05
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 07:23pm
I'm hesitent to watch more clips of him because I don't want to base my peformance off his, but in all honesty, there's not much to go on in the script. He is basically only on during the songs, and doesn't really have much character description.
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Perfectly Marvelous
Broadway Legend
joined:10/16/06
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 07:27pm
There was a video I saw of Norbert as the Emcee, a while ago, so I'm not positive if it's still kicking around.

I could literally spend the whole day talking about the Emcee. He's my favorite musical theatre character given he's basically the more debauched and delluded version of the Stage Manager in Our Town. I used to have a quote pertaining to the characteristics of the Emcee but I've since misplaced it. If I can find it, I'll post it here.

In regards to Alan Cumming, there's no doubt the man looks gorgeous in that strange suspender-pant contraption. As for his accent, I've never warmed up to it. His acting, however, is brilliant. He plays the role so deliciously decadent that it's hard to resist him.

Joel Grey's Emcee seems so innocent in comparsion to Alan's portrayl (and by "innocent" I mean he's not as apparently mischievous although there is a dark undertone to him as well). Esparza's Emcee is a bit of a saucy fellow, but I guess the same can be said for Alan. Fabian Richard easily takes the cake for being the most adorable. He's almost too lovely to have the part!

Jon Peterson is my personal favorite, though, but that's because I got to see the show for two weeks with him as the Emcee last summer.


Anyways, back to the character itself;

I always feel the Emcee should be a very bold individual, yet a tad impish. He has to be agile and lean but fragile enough so we see him as both a prescence and a human being. His personality is his strongest suit, without the crude charm of his persona, the character is nothing. Yet he has to a little shy. For example - in the revival, the Emcee makes a joke when introducing Sally (before "Don't Tell Mama"). He says something to the effect of "I once asked her to be my wife. She said, 'Your wife? What would she want with me?'" Every production I've seen of this, he almost waits a second for audience approval and then sheepishly says "Thank you". The most important thing to remember about the Emcee is that he is constantly changing. From the moment we first see him to the very end, he is always morphing (part of this is because he reflects the feelings of those around him at the given time. Especially in "I Don't Care Much" not only does he relate to the audience how Sally feels about her relationship with Cliff but also the denial and hardship felt by Berlin). In a way, he hides his feelings under a guise of happiness until it is chipped away beginning in the first act all the way through to the finale.



"I am and always will be the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes and dreamer of improbable dreams." - Doctor Who

"Yes, the brutalities of progress are called revolutions. When they are over, men recognize that the human race has been harshly treated but it has moved forward." - Les Miserables

RentBoy86 Profile Photo
RentBoy86
Broadway Legend
joined:2/15/05
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 07:44pm
I know in the revival the Emcee came out in "drag" as Sally for "I Don't Care Much," but has anyone else seen it done differently? I think that's a very effective idea, but I'm sure there are others as well. I know the song wasn't in the original though.
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BrianS
Broadway Star
joined:10/8/07
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/20/07 at 08:29pm
"their performances were 99.8% the same as the original and if you could have put the show on mute, they'd have all been indistinguishable."

Respectfully, couldn't you say that about a lot of roles? I mean, how much room are actors really given to find their "own" Fiyero or Jean Valjean?

Michael C. Hall was the first one I saw who broke the "androgynous" mold as he was built very masculine. Just that fact alone made a big difference for me. Kind of like when Michael Cerveris played Hedwig. Michael Hall's Emcee seemed a lot less playful and a lot more menacing.

Anyway, I always thought of the Emcee as purely a pleasure/thrill seeking id with little care for what was happening around him. Any political commentary he makes is done in mockery. I think he agrees with Fräulein Schneider about Nazis being a passing fad and is genuinely surprised at the end that their actions are so sweeping as to claim his little den of pleasure.
If the audience could do better, they'd be up here on stage and I'd be out there watching them. - Ethel Merman
jbdc
Leading Actor
joined:3/17/07
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/21/07 at 11:33pm
Michael C. Hall was amazing. He was in his late 20s, and this was before Six Feet Under made him a TV star. He had this mix of clean cut blond guy with debaucherous bisexual. It was like an Abercrombie model who could have been a Nazi poster boy, but he wasn't. He subverted every stereotype. It was fabulous. Clearly Sam Mendes must have recommended him to Alan Ball or something. I remember seeing him and Susan Egan, and they both were astonishing.
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RentBoy86
Broadway Legend
joined:2/15/05
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/22/07 at 11:21am
Michael Cerveri as Hedwig? Now that's something I'd like to see.
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spidey_882
Leading Actor
joined:9/30/07
re: The Emcee: Cabaret
Posted: 11/22/07 at 12:21pm
I saw Alan as the Emcee right before he left the show and he was really electric. He was both alluring and terrifyingly creepy at the same time. I couldn't take my eyes off him when he was onstage. I could see how that performance might seem hammy in video, but in person, he was absolutely magnetic.
Now, mother always said that whenever you hear a strange, frightening, and potentially life-threatening ghostly chant coming from the dark woods that there's one thing that you should do: Not wake the others and go investigate it alone...

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