A couple months ago, I posted a video here with Judi Dench starring in the original London production of Cabaret back in 1968. In more recent days, the show was revived in both New York and London in a completely re-imagined interpretations. Alan Cummings most famously starred as the sleazy MC in both cities, where a variety of actresses stepped to each briefly play 'Sally Bowles."
This is one of the more remarkable, from London, in 1994. It's Jane Horrocks, whose name might not be familiar to most people, but she might be a bit. She's best known for playing the loopy assistant, 'Bubble,' in the British TV series, Absolutely Fabulous. However, she also starred in the fascinating 1998 film, Little Voice, which she created initially on stage. (She plays a painfully shy woman who comes alive when she sings magnificently in the voices of other famous singers she learned from old records, like Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday and others. Horrocks did all her own, remarkable, spot-on singing -- in fact, the show was originally created for her by her boyfriend.) The movie's well-worth checking out, with terrific performances also by Michael Caine, Ewan McGregor, Brenda Blethyn and Jim Broadbent.
But back to Jane Horrocks in Cabaret.
One thing to keep in mind is that 'Sally Bowles' is supposed to be a very-mediocre performer. And she's caught in a terrible, horribly-desperate situation that's tearing her apart, breaking her down. That she's performing in a shoddy Berlin nightclub at the rise of Naziism is indicative of the low level of her talent and the depths she's reached.
And Jane Horrocks throws herself into that, diving off the high-board free-fall without a net. (Keep in mind that she really can sing wonderfully.) She gives a grippingly risky performance, showing all the incompetence and terrified neuroses of the character. And is electric for it.
I have a good friend I've mentioned here before, John Kander -- not "the" who wrote the music to Cabaret, but his nephew. And John has seen more productions of Cabaret than anyone I've ever met. He knows the show inside and out. And when I sent him this video, he was blown away. Whether or not it was his "favorite" performance -- he's probably seen too many to have a single favorite -- he said it seemed as close to who 'Sally Bowles' was supposed to be than any performance he's seen. High praise.
The performance won't be for everyone. It's very edgy, to the point of almost uncomfortable. (The still image on the video below should give you some idea...) But it's hard not to admire the visceral chances that Jane Horrocks takes with her interpretation. And I suspect that for most people -- even if it's not a "favorite" and easily accessible performance -- and will be enjoyed, appreciated and remembered.
So, here -- introduced by Alan Cummings at his utterly sleaziest best -- is Jane Horrocks singing and throwing every once of herself into the title song, "Cabaret."
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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