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BWW EXCLUSIVE: Wesley Taylor & Barrett Wilbert Weed Talk CABARET At Signature Theatre


Today we are talking to two titanically talented triple-threats all about their headlining roles in the edgy and daring new production of the classic Kander & Ebb musical CABARET at the Signature Theatre in Washington, D.C., Wesley Taylor and Barrett Wilbert Weed. Outlining their first exposure to the material all the way to performing the showstopping roles of the Emcee and Sally Bowles, respectively, Taylor and Weed share their thoughts on the enduring legacy of the monumental musical masterpiece as well as offer insights into what the piece has to say to a modern audience. Additionally, they touch upon their palpable rapport and compliment each other's work on the show as well as much more!

More information on CABARET at the Signature Theatre in Washington, D.C., running now through June 28, is available at the official site here.

Revealing her first experience of CABARET, Barrett Wilbert Weed remembers, "For me, it was definitely the movie. I don't know when I saw it first, but I remember I saw it about 500 times immediately afterwards because I loved it so much. I mean, Liza [Minnelli]... she's just unbelievable! There's nobody like her - you can't take your eyes off of her! She's just mesmerizing."

Wesley Taylor agrees, commenting, "Especially there, when she was at her peak - that was her moment. For me, it was that thing in drama school where you have to pick a historical character to research and I picked Bob Fosse, so I was watching every clip and movie of his ever - everything. So, CABARET, naturally, was watched a few times during that and I thought it was just perfect - perfect. Then, I watched the archives at Lincoln Center of the first revival and then before I did this here at Signature I watched the last revival, too. It's been a definite part of my life for a long time - the show and the movie. Also, I think it's safe to say that it was a dream role for both of us."

Taylor adds, "It's one of those roles that I didn't know would come so soon in my life and I am grateful that I get to play it so young. I've never done any of the material before, but, since I've known for about a year now that I would be playing this part at Signature, I've been singing some of the songs in the open houses that they have had for Signature's 25th anniversary season and also at some concerts in New York - I actually did a medley of 'Wilkommen' and 'Cabaret' recently; it went from 'Wilkommen' into the part of 'Cabaret' where Sally sings, 'I used to have this girlfriend known as Elsie.' It was a lot of fun to do."

Weed shares of her preparation for playing Sally Bowles, "I think that Matt Gardiner, our director, is so smart in the way that he does things. He is a very gentle director and I think that he casts people who he believes already have their own ideas about what has to happen with their roles. For me, personally, it's hard, because I feel like I am sort of similar to Sally..."

Taylor interrupts, relaying, "OK. I just have to interrupt right now and say that Barrett is Sally Bowles! She doesn't even realize how much she is Sally - I mean, minus the drug use and the absent-minded attitude of, you know, 'I don't want to hear about politics.' But, all of the endearing traits of Sally are totally Barrett's, too."

Weed continues, "One of the things that I love so much about the character of Sally Bowles is that she is such a huge character - she is so roomy. For me, in my auditioning career and my professional life, since I am kind of a big person and since I have a big personality I often find myself trying to squeeze myself into boxes that are really too small for me and it ends up not working out. But, for this - for CABARET and playing Sally Bowles - I always knew I was right for this part. I mean, sometimes when we do scenes in rehearsal more than once I'll be like, 'Matt, I'm sorry but I am just out of juice right now,' because she wears me out so much playing her."

Taylor comments on the legacy of the Emcee, observing, "I think Alan Cumming is so brilliant - he is such a chameleon! Of course, I have such respect for him - I watched and worshipped his performance as the Emcee. And, Joel Grey is so iconic and playing the Emcee sort of solidified his place as an icon - you know, playing the Emcee as a sort of ventriloquist dummy or marionette who was scary and grotesque and everything but still buoyant and bright and boyish; it was just wonderful. Then, Alan Cumming brought the sex to it - bringing an uninhibited libido to the role is something that I think is a full realization of what was originally intended and that's what I am doing in playing the role myself now. And, yeah, there is a certain amount of intimidation when you are playing a part that has earned people Oscars and Tonys and basically given them their fame, but, at the same time, I am me - I am Wesley - and even if I try to copy them I am going to be different because I am me, so I am not trying to copy them in any way but if I do do that subconsciously I am not too worried about it because I know it will come out differently since I am the person doing it."

Touching upon their rapport, Weed opines, "Wesley and I have never really hung out or done a show together before this venture, but I have watched his web series and I am a big fan of it and I just think he is an amazing writer and such a talented actor, to boot - he's a genius. And, he is a fascinating person - I'm sure people all his life have told him he is perfect for the Emcee. He is so puckish and he has his own kind of sex appeal that is a different brand from what you normally see - it's not overt; it's naughty and a little bit spooky, too. So, it is very, very fun to watch and see people react to all of that and what he brings to it - I see a lot of old school Emcee and new school Alan Cumming and then a whole new spin on things in the way that he is playing this part in our production."

Relating what CABARET has to say to a 21st century audience, Weed offers, "I think that a lot of people have played Sally as if she is stupid or not aware of the political turmoil that is happening in Germany at the time, but I don't think that's anywhere in the script or in the books it is based on. I encounter people like this all the time in my life, actually - it's a choice to ignore politics and it's a choice to ignore what is going on in the world and it is also a choice to be apathetic. She is apathetic and being apathetic benefits no one in the long run, I don't think. Scarily enough, a lot of what right-wing politicians are promising today - you know, a return to family values and a return to supporting the middle class and generally promising a better life for everyone and getting voters on board by pointing fingers at the people who are 'destroying' society; usually pointing fingers at women and homosexuals - it's really frightening how similar it is to this and it's also really frightening how we haven't managed to take that into account yet. History repeats itself unless we force it not to."

Taylor concurs, positing, "I think that, unfortunately, tolerance is something that human beings will always struggle with - just accepting each other as human beings. You know, we've come a long way since 1940s Germany Nazi Third Reich mentality, but in some ways we really haven't - I mean, we are still dealing with things like in Ferguson and the cops in New York and the Indiana issue and women's rights. I feel like we are constantly dealing with intolerance and I think that especially our production of CABARET - it is so dark and really puts its finger in the social unrest - it acts as almost a mirror to our own society. It forces us to ask, 'How long can you withstand to watch all of this as long as it doesn't affect you personally? Maybe you can allow it to happen without saying anything or trying to stop it - but, where does that line get drawn?'"

Photo Credits: Signature Theatre

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