How to Restage ‘Cabaret’? Don’t Treat It Like a Classic.

When Rebecca Frecknall was a child, one of her favorite things to watch was a televised 1993 London revival of “Cabaret,” which her father had recorded on VHS tape. As the British theater director grew up, she hoped that one day she would stage a version of the musical, in which a writer falls in love with an exuberant and wayward cabaret performer in Weimar-era Germany.

In early March, in a Midtown rehearsal room, Frecknall, 38, was preparing to do just that. Her “Cabaret,” which opens in previews at the August Wilson Theater on April 1, is a transfer from London’s West End, where it opened in 2021 to critical acclaim. The show won seven Olivier Awards, the British equivalent to the Tonys.

“I always wanted to direct ‘Cabaret’,” Frecknall said later in an interview. “I just never thought I’d get the rights to it.” Her opportunity came when Eddie Redmayne — a producer on the show who played the Emcee in London, and will reprise the part on Broadway — asked her in 2019 to be part of a bid for a revival.

At first it seemed like “a pipe dream,” Redmayne said, but after years of wrangling, they pulled it off. For the London show, the Playhouse Theater was reconfigured to reflect the musical’s debauched setting, transforming it into the Kit Kat Club, with cabaret tables and scantily clad dancers and musicians roaming the foyer and auditorium. The August Wilson Theater is getting a similar treatment, Frecknall said. To honor the playhouse’s namesake, the production designer Tom Scutt commissioned Black artists to paint murals in the reconfigured lobby, with theatergoers now entering via an alleyway off 52nd Street.

Eddie Redmayne, who stars as the Emcee in “Cabaret,” during rehearsals for the show in New York this month.Credit…Amir Hamja/The New York Times
Ato Blankson-Wood, left, and Henry Gottfried.Credit…Amir Hamja/The New York Times

Shortly before the show opened in London, Frecknall’s father died. That recorded revival, directed by Sam Mendes, was one of his favorites, and Frecknall loved it so much that, as she grew up and studied theater, she chose never to see the show onstage.

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