Theatre Uncategorized

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club

I had the opportunity to see the current production of Cabaret on Broadway (thanks to my wonderful family), and as it is my favorite musical…nay, my favorite staged media full stop…I have thoughts.

It is a radical departure from the previous Broadway productions, and while it was magnificent in its way, it wasn’t the Cabaret that made me fall in love with the show. It felt like a blend of the old and new, the Cabaret of Joel Grey and the 1960s, but also bits and pieces of the Alan Cumming Cabaret of the 1990s. They chose to revert at times to the 1960s script, most significantly in my mind they chose to remove the single use of the word “fuck” in the show, with Cliff’s explosive argument with Sally at the club now having the line “When are you going to realize, the only way you got this job, any job, is by sleeping with somebody!” This, combined with the fact that Cliff no longer slaps Sally when he realizes that she’s had an abortion (instead, in this version, he draws back but can’t, and following he breaks down crying in Sally’s arms) fundamentally changes the apotheosis of their relationship. Instead of Sally breaking down, and Cliff running away from Berlin, we are instead faced with a Sally that is far more determined, who has affirmatively decided her fate…granted, that fate is to be a fascist, but it is a choice that feels stronger in this production than others where she is often played as chasing fame, or chosing to remain and party until the end.

The yang to Sally’s yin in Cabaret is the Emcee, played here with an absolute grotesquery of a performance by Eddie Redmayne. Where Grey played the character as a devilish imp, and Cumming as a swaggering reflection of Berlin itself, Redmayne’s Emcee is a goblin that becomes beautiful and horrid all at once. His transformation through the show from clown to Aryan ideal is chilling, but never real enough to feel either threatening or threatened.

I was extremely happy with what I consider the heart of the show, Steven Skybell as Herr Schultz and Bebe Neuwirth as Fraulein Schneider. These two were remarkable, and Skybell specifically was the best Schultz I’ve ever seen…as the only morally uncomplicated (if naive) character in the show, Herr Schultz is the character that I always hope the audience is identifying with as their surrogate. These two were perfection as the lovers displaced by fascism.

I think ultimately the source of my disappointment in the production overall is that it never felt dangerous. There were far too few moments of shock and horror in a show about the rise of the Nazi party and fascism in general. The breaking of Herr Shultz’s shop window was a particularly effective moment…but really the only one in a show which traditionally has several take-your-breath-away moments within. The staging of Tomorrow Belongs to Me in the first act, beautifully sung by Eddie directly, failed to produce the requisite discomfort that is necessary to make the reprise horrifying. The end of act one, typically something that shakes the audience going into intermission, was striking but not shocking, and definitely lacked the gut-punch of most stagings (there were no flags, no salutes, no direct reference to the Nazis at all). In fact, in the entirety of the production there were only two direct visual representations of the Nazi party at all: Ernst’s armband, and a toy rifle with a swastika “bang” flag used by the Emcee during the Entre’act. The production has style and talent, but lacks conviction.

I am full of conflict in my feelings about Cabaret at the Kit Kat Klub. It is an unsubtle production of a show that somehow makes the central message more subtle than I would like. The ultimate reveal of the cast as uniform, colorless cogs in the wheel of fascism, with the Emcee as a delirious conductor of the tune is effective…but I didn’t feel it. It didn’t stab me in the heart and leave me bleeding in the way that other productions have, and I find that somehow I need that pain to be reminded of the importance of the story being told. So as beautiful and wild as the production and performances are, in the end I didn’t weep or bleed for them. And that’s what I want from Cabaret.

By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

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