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Posted by admin on May 13th, 2024

Eddie Redmayne on Audience Interaction and the “Chaotic Wonder” of Performing in ‘Cabaret’

Redmayne received a Tony nomination Tuesday for his performance as the Emcee in the new, immersive revival of ‘Cabaret.’

Eddie Redmayne received his second Tony Award nomination Tuesday, for his role as the shape-shifting Emcee in the Broadway revival of Cabaret.

It’s a role the actor, known for leading films such as The Theory of Everything and in the Fantastic Beasts series, played during the production’s previous West End run. And while he’s already put his own spin on it, with the Emcee evolving from master of ceremonies at the Berlin nightclub at the center of the show to something more sinister, Redmayne said he’s still finding more to explore.

“He’s so enigmatic that he’s endlessly compelling to keep trying to mine and investigate,” Redmayne said.

Part of that exploration also comes as this Cabaret has the audience sitting surrounding the stage, and in a theater has been transformed with three levels of bars, which are used for a pre-show. All of this leads to a production that can change nightly, or as Redmayne calls it, “live theater in its chaotic wonder.”

In addition to Redmayne’s nod, the production itself, which also stars Gayle Rankin, Bebe Neuwirth and Steven Skybell, received eight other Tony Awards nods, including best revival of a musical. Redmayne is also a producer of the show.

Redmayne (who previously won a Tony Award for his role in the 2010 production of Red) spoke with The Hollywood Reporter immediately after the nominations Tuesday about finding the character, vocal preparation for the role and what can happen with an energetic audience sitting in the round.

Were you watching the Tony nominations?

I was in the shower doing my first thing in the morning vocal warm ups to make sure that the cords are all working. [Laughs]. It’s been quite an intense few weeks since opening, and I’m sort of in a constant state of paranoia about my vocal cords, so I was using the steam of the shower to get the old vocal cords warbling, and I got out of the shower and got a phone call and that was so wonderful. And then I saw that the show received some lovely recognition across the board and that just meant the world.

These were singing warmups?

Yeah, singing warmups that involve a lot of weird siren noises and doing odd things with your tongue. Unfortunately, I haven’t done musical theater all my life, so I need all the help I can get.

What made you want to revisit the character of the Emcee?

He was a creation of Hal Prince and Joel Grey’s. He’s a completely unique character in that he almost exists in abstract terms, in that he’s not defined by any of the other characters in the piece. He doesn’t exist in Isherwood’s book. He’s almost like a Greek chorus. And so that lack of definition means he’s so enigmatic, that he’s endlessly compelling to keep trying to mine and investigate. I first tried doing that when I was a kid, it was one of the first shows I did at school when I was a child, and then I got to do it in the West End last year, and chasing the enigma remains.

You were playing the Emcee as a child?

I was. When I say child, I was like 15. I wasn’t playing a really age inappropriate seven-year-old Emcee, that would be weird.

You said he’s still an enigma. But what’s your current way into the character?

I suppose my take on him is that when he starts, there’s a kid-like, puppeteering quality to him. He basically conjures each of the characters into the space and Tom Scutt has created a space that’s almost like a little toy box. And then gradually over the evening, as he shape shifts his way through and hopefully keeps catching you off guard, keeps slipping out of your fingers, he turns from sort of puppeteer to conductor and rather than in any way being the victim of the piece, he’s more the perpetrator of the piece. He’s going to be totally fine with the rise of fascism, when all those people in his club that he has accumulated and exploited are not going to be fine.

You’ve brought a lot of physicality to the part as well. How did you arrive at that?

It was really through working with Julia Cheng, our wonderful choreographer, and finding this idea: Is he spritelike? Is he Puck? Or is he a snake? And I was trying to investigate those. But also he brings people on [stage], it’s almost like he creates [Clifford Bradshaw] and brings Cliff into Sally [Bowles’] world. So those were all things that I was trying to investigate.

How does it feel to have the audience surrounding you during the show?

That’s again to the question of why did you want to come do it again, and the answer is that side of it, live theater in all its chaotic wonder, is the stuff that actors dream of. And for the Emcee, the audience is the other character in the scene and that changes from seat to seat from matinee to evening. Every performance is different and alive and when things go awry, that’s almost when it becomes at its most thrilling.

Have things gone awry?

Yeah, we’ve had sort of moments where the audience interaction can get a bit too vocal or something happens on the set and we’ll have to sort of clamber through and improvise around the situation but that, again, keeps us on our toes.

I remember reading that there was someone who recently tried to grab onto your skirt while you were on stage.

I read that, but I was so in the scene that I actually don’t remember that. There was definitely someone who was a bit too eager who was clapping along to the rhythm of “Mein Herr” and singing along a bit too vocally. We love a vocal and passionate audience, but there’s a line.

Do you have a favorite moment or number in the show?

I love the choreography and Tom Scutt’s design of “Money.” My character is suddenly almost representing death and rises out as this skeletal figure and cudgels all the kit kats in a feisty and quite furious and wildly scary rendition of “Money.” But my two favorite bits to witness are watching Gayle [Rankin] sing “Cabaret” every night and Bebe [Neuwirth] singing “What Would You Do?” They both just break my heart.

What are you hoping audiences take away from the production?

What our dream was for the play was that the conversion of the space means that once you step off 52nd street and you cross the threshold into the August Wilson, that you go down these alleyways and through these bars, past dancers and musicians and you get discombobulated and you really do leave whatever worries or what your day was out on 52nd street and get seduced into this world. And I hope that what we do is serve the piece, because Kander and Ebb’s and Masteroff’s piece is so extraordinary in its capacity to seduce you and to entice you and then make you think and move you and repel you, in many different ways. But for me, all of those are feelings that make you feel alive. And I hope we managed to convey some of that. [Source]


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