I saw Cabaret the stage musical during the second Mendes/Marshall Broadway revival with Alan Cumming as the Emcee, in the winter of Emma Stone’s run as Sally Bowles. I went with my friend Jonathan (yes the same one who has appeared in reviews here, after he would also end up moving from New York to Portland several years later). We spent a bunch of money we didn’t really have for a table on the floor and DRESSED, he in a suit and I in a dress cut all the way down my sternum. I remember us being probably 35 years younger than the audience median, immediately ordering cocktails, and all the extras/waitstaff/boys & girls of Berlin whose job it was to flirt up the patrons beelining over to deliver us transparently preferential service all night. Naturally this whole affair was > than my experience with the movie, but not a fair fight there.
So, other metrics: Alan Cumming’s Emcee sang every line like he was drunkenly tossing it across the room like an article of clothing, and Emma Stone’s Sally was as chaotically charming as Liza but much more clearly strung out on whatever the drug du jour of the Kit Kat Klub was. The whole production looked sexy and shabby and at the end it was shattered by the cruelty of history that was always looming in the shadows. The movie meanwhile delivered me the central story of Sally and Brian or Cliff or whatever his name is MUCH more strongly and bisexually (a warm hello to this baron plot that was not in my stage version), but with this aesthetic that I’m sorry to admit kept bouncing me out of everything because it was just so….’70s.
This movie made me think about time. How two hours of a movie feels compared to two hours of a musical. How each decade renders decades past, and wondering whether I’ll look at period productions from today 30 years from now and think they look unmistakably 2010s. How history can function as foreshadowing. And the nature of memories recalled over time.