Stripping the Veneer and Exposing a Symbol in Mendes's Cabaret
Kolat, Sarah Elizabeth
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The 1998 Broadway revival of Cabaret, conceived and directed by Sam Mendes, exemplifies the versatility of the American musical. Arguably, the most iconic role in Cabaret is that of the Master of Ceremonies (Emcee), who dazzled audiences as the consummate entertainer in the original 1966 Broadway production and in the 1972 Fosse film. Mendes’s revival proved that musicals could transform to take on entirely new meanings. His overtly dark and disturbing concept prominently featured the Emcee as a puppet master, a deviant, and ultimately, a victim. Mendes’s treatment of the character of the Emcee, as portrayed by Alan Cumming, demonstrates how a character who functions as an observer throughout the musical, and who does not even exist in the original source material for the work, could become the single most important character. The production features a shocking twist in the final scene, but this twist is subtly prepared for the audience by the Emcee's songs throughout the musical, each one of which exposes a different part of his persona. The songs transform him, chameleon-like, into a symbol of those persecuted during the Holocaust. This thesis will explore the genesis of the Emcee to his transformation in the Mendes version. By exploring the songs, this thesis will reveal the dramatic motivation for the final scene, along with the ability of the musical to remain a relevant, new, and vital dramatic form.
- Music