During Will Young’s recent visit to Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds City Magazine caught up with him to find out more about the character he played in Cabaret.
CABARET WILL YOUNG -THE EMCEE
What is it about the Emcee that you think makes him such an iconic character?
I think he is ageless. He is a storyteller and tells a story that is constantly relevant. Today there is still persecution of minorities and people being blamed and used as scapegoats in times of financial austerity.
How would you describe your take on him?
It’s hard for me to really see how I play him. I have worked really hard on getting the story and text and lyrics deep into me so when I perform I almost don’t consciously think about – it’s all subconscious. He sort of takes over the show and I’m a passenger going on an amazing rollercoaster every night.
Joel Grey won an Oscar for the film version and Alan Cumming played him to great acclaim on Broadway. Have you deliberately avoided watching the film or YouTube clips so you can make the character your own?
Funny you say that as I deliberately didn’t watch the film or any YouTube clips. James Dreyfus, who played the Emcee first in this production in 2008, was also absolutely brilliant, but I think the key is to bring what I can bring and not think about impersonating anyone. I can never be as good impersonating someone else as the person themselves so it’s better and easier to be myself.
Can you relate to the character in any way?
I relate to his emotions, yes – his feelings that change and the pain that he has experienced. I can relate to his fire and determination and belief in the power of the cabaret and what he is trying to achieve in the Kit Kat Klub. Fundamentally he is a complete performer who looks to connect and ask questions through his art
What do you most enjoy about playing him?
I love the freedom. I love the costumes. I love his intelligence and I love the intelligence that is behind the creation of the entire show by Rufus Norris the director, Javier De Frutos the choreographer and Katrina Lindsay the designer.
How do your balance the dark and light aspects of the character?
Because he changes so quickly I feel I never stay too long in either camp! There is always a dressing of playfulness for the light and the dark so his sincerity is always allowed to be questioned and I think that probably gives me a little cliff-edge of safety.
It’s your third time playing him. In what ways does your performance change when you have a new cast?
I am not sure exactly how my performance changes, but every time I find new aspects and the new people are just wonderful and bring their own unique talent and individuality to the show and the company.
This time you’re working with your friend Louise Redknapp (as Sally Bowles). That must be fun?
It’s great . She is a super-professional and talented performer and person. She has taken this part by the scruff of the neck and I have nothing but respect and admiration for her.
The show has so many classic musical numbers. Do you have a favourite to perform?
I love Money, Money. I get to wear a fat suit and it is is just so fun and the dancing is really fun to do. Also it still resonates as a song that shoes the greed of capitalism and the lack of thought for people in poverty.
Can you recall when you first encountered Cabaret?
Yes, I was 13. The film was on TV and really the part of the Emcee has been in my head ever since then.
How do you get match-fit for such a strenuous show?
Do you have any pre or post-show rituals?
Yes I always shower before and then again immediately afterwards to make sure I don’t take the character home with me. I also eat a chocolate bar and put my hair in curlers, although the curlers are now null and void as my hair is too short. I also plan to play hide and seek with Nick Tizzard who plays Ernst. He is a very clever hider!