Reimagining Cabaret

If Sam Mendes’s version of Cabaret is so good, why try to revise it?

tyler michaels
Photo by Tom Sandelands
Tyler Michaels as The Emcee

For the second annual Broadway Re-Imagined collaboration between Hennepin Theatre Trust and Theater Latte Da, Latte Da artistic director Peter Rothstein has chosen to mount Cabaret. “It’s one of the greatest musicals. That’s the reason I’m reimagining it,” Rothstein says. “And the collaboration allows us to create work on a larger scale.”

Rothstein knows that when it comes to Cabaret, he is tackling something that has already been reimagined several times. Following the original production in 1966, Harold Prince revived and revised the show in 1988, and, more recently, Sam Mendes did a more radical reinvention in 1998. “That was one of my most thrilling nights at the theater,” says Rothstein. “I felt it was definitive. I didn’t need to do it.”

Besides, the show has had three major stagings in the Twin Cities over the last five years: at the Ordway, Frank Theatre, and Bloomington Civic Theatre. But when the Mendes version recently became available, Rothstein couldn’t resist. This will be its first local staging.

Mendes incorporated the songs from the movie into the show. He also made Cliff’s homosexuality much more explicit. And he gave the songs even more dramatic impact than they’d had in the original.

Rothstein’s concept moves beyond Cabaret as a historical piece to explore “the psychology of a culture that turns a blind eye to hate.” He hopes the production will invoke many contemporary parallels. “This is the nature of how theater was built to be. Hamlet gets redone and redone. Work is written to be reinterpreted and reinterpreted and reinterpreted.” Jan. 15–Feb. 9. Pantages Theatre, 710 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-455-9500,