Monday, May 30, 2022

The Goodspeed Reopens with Cabaret

Aline Mayagoitia as Sally Bowles in Goodspeed's Cabaret. (Photo: Diane Sobolewski)

One of the most exasperating developments of the last several decades of theatre is the rewriting of classic plays and musicals, because the originals simply disappear – it’s as if they never existed. In the twenty-first century the alterations have mostly come out of an attempt to make the texts more palatable to contemporary audiences, which have a tendency to cheer every time a character in an older setting makes an anchronistic comment transparently inserted to produce precisely that response. Audiences are increasingly being manipulated into becoming Pavlov’s dogs, salivating when someone on stage in a show set in the forties or fifties sounds as if they’re describing Trump. Will we ever again get to see a revival of A Streetcar Named Desire that ends the way Tennessee Williams wrote it, with Stanley beginning to make love to Stella to distract her from the institutionalization of her sister Blanche, rather than replicating the unconvincing ending of the (otherwise magnificent) Elia Kazan movie, where Stella rushes upstairs to Eunice and the audience pretends that she’s actually thinking of walking out on her husband? It’s hard to believe that 1951 audiences didn’t see that rewrite for exactly what it was: a sop to the Production (Hays) Code Office. Now audiences, shamelessly coddled by recent versions of the play, are encouraged to believe that Stella has suddenly acquired a feminist consciousness.