Top (And Bottom) 10 Emcees From Cabaret
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Top (And Bottom) 10 Emcees From Cabaret

You might be surprised by some of the actors who have taken on this famous role...

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Top (And Bottom) 10 Emcees From Cabaret
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10. Michael C. Hall (1998)

In the spirit of journalistic transparency, I will say this; I am not a fan of Michael C. Hall. However, one of the reasons I'm not a fan of him is his performance as the Emcee, so I'm not sure if that counts as bias or not. The reasons I dislike his Emcee are numerous. The accent is inconsistent, and when he does manage to slip into it, it sounds forced and exaggerated, his voice is nothing spectacular and he compensates for this by over or under enunciating words, which in turn makes the accent worse and doesn't help the songs at all, and his actual acting is... bad. Mind you this was well before he landed his breakout role in Six Feet Under, and even longer before he became known for his role as Dexter. I'd encourage him to stick to TV (and please non-musical roles) because his performance on the stage seems to stem from the idea that "too much is never enough"... but he sure does his damnedest to prove that sentiment wrong. His Emcee seems to be a caricature of a West End party boy/sugar baby with none of the real grit that the Emcee requires, and certainly none of the easy flamboyance that makes the role so loveable. What praise can I find for his portrayal? He put on the costume and hit his cues, and that is something not many people could do.

9. John Stamos (2002)

Wait, John Stamos? Full House's John Stamos? Uncle Jesse John Stamos?! Yes. That John Stamos. But less sweater and sideburns and more leather and lingerie. Much more. So if you want your childhood image of him to remain intact, keep scrolling. His singing ability is solid, and his comedic timing is excellent. His Emcee is one to make you laugh, which is exactly what the role is meant to do (at first). His ranking on this list is low for a few reasons, the main one being that he is very aware of the fact that he's John Stamos, and he wants the audience to be in on the joke a little too much. He parades around the stage in a way that reminds me a bit of Magic Mike. A lot of manly stomping around and showing off the goodies for the housewives in the audience, as if he's wearing his costume for them rather than because he wants to, and in the narrative of Cabaret, that just doesn't work. He's also lacking a feminine energy that I think the Emcee requires. He gets some props for not trying to force it as much as others, but every moment he tries for even a hint of androgyny feels stiff and awkward. After a while, it's unclear if you're supposed to be laughing with him or at him. One must give credit where credit is due, however; the roll is not an easy one to portray, and Mr. Stamos at least brought a new side to the Emcee and made it his own.

8. Jon Sedeca (2003)

As a Cuban-American singer and songwriter, Jon Sedeca's figure is almost as impressive as his voice. (In all honesty, I might have watched the videos of his Cabaret performances a few more times than strictly needed...) He also breaks the mold of "skinny, slightly toned, and pale" that most other Emcees seem to follow, which is a feat within itself given Broadway's penchant for type-casting. Unfortunately, his performance as the Emcee, while vocally stunning, is lacking in depth. He plays the character as just that; a character. While Cabaret calls for a certain level of showmanship, it also requires a rawness and truth to each individual on stage. I feel that Mr. Sedeca focuses more on hitting the notes, and less on the message behind them, and I'd much prefer a mediocre singer with depth than the other way round.

7. Adam Pascal (2003)


Known for his role as Roger in the original cast of Rent, Mr. Pascal is certainly a well-known name on Broadway. While his talent as a singer and actor can't be denied, I personally feel his performance as the Emcee lacks honesty and borders on campiness. The character of the Emcee's sexuality is never clearly defined, but he is meant to be queer, and Mr. Pascal is admittedly not. While it's not a requirement for an actor to share his character's proclivities, the danger of casting a heterosexual man in a queer role is one Mr. Pascal has stumbled into; in trying to "act" queer, he's veered slightly too far into stereotypes. The complaint is a minor one, however, and his performance as the Emcee is otherwise as enjoyable as ever.

6. Neil Patrick Harris (2003)


You'd be hard-pressed to name a musical Mr. Harris hasn't been in, or a role he hasn't made his own. His talent as an actor is proved by the fact that he played a notorious womanizer on How I Met Your Mother for years despite being gay himself. Despite his obvious talent in singing, dancing, and yes, acting, his comes in 6th for the sole reason that it's hard not to see Neil Patrick Harris when you're watching him as the Emcee. While the character is meant to break the fourth wall, Mr. Harris himself seems to do almost too good of a job reminding the audience that they're watching a play, and by proxy, watching him. If I had to choose, I'd much rather see him as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch than the Emcee in Cabaret, though I wouldn't turn my nose up at the latter, that's for sure!

5. Randy Harrison (2016 tour)

Mr. Harrison earns a spot on this list because he is one of the few actors who managed to breathe fresh life into the role of the Emcee while still staying true to the original character's soul. You may recognize him from his role as Justin Taylor on Queer As Folk, or Harry on Mr. Robot. If you're a theater nerd, you might know him from his 2004 role as Boq in Wicked. He came out as gay at age 24, and never went back, succeeding despite stigmas in stage biz that might have held him back. Fun fact, he studied at a place called Pace Academy! Not the beloved college in Manhattan, but a private school in Atlanta, Georgia. Small world indeed.

4. Joel Grey (1972)

While Mr. Grey did play the Emcee in the 1966 version of Cabaret on Broadway, he earns this spot on the list for his on-screen performance in the 1972 movie. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend you do, especially since Cabaret is no longer on Broadway! No need to cry, though, the movie is almost as good as the real thing. The plot differs slightly, but Liza Minelli is a captivating Sally Bowles, and Joel Grey's Emcee will have you in stitches. He won an Oscar for it, after all! Beyond his professional life, Mr. Grey's personal life is just as inspiring. He came out as gay at the age of 83, proving it's never too late to be proud of who you are.

3. Raul Esparza (2001)

Mr. Esparza is one of those rare actors who can jump from stage to screen without pause. He took up the role of the Emcee after his plan to star in Assassins, a musical by Sondheim, fell through. It must have been divine intervention, however, as his performance as the Emcee brought in plenty of new fans. His other roles include Rafael Barba on Law and Order SVU and Riffraff in the 2000 revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He gets bonus points for being an out-and-proud bisexual man, and double bonus points for being bilingual.

2. Alan Cumming (2014)

I had the personal pleasure of seeing Mr. Cumming (not Cummings!) during the revival of his 1993/1998 role as the Emcee alongside Ms. Emma Stone (on her last night no less) at Studio 54. His performance was absolutely breathtaking and as talkative as I usually am, words to describe him escape me. There MIGHT be some personal bias here (anyone who knows me knows how much of an Alan Cumming fan I am) but my opinion is not without merit! He truly pioneered the role, and anyone who knows Cabaret will tell you that the other Emcees merely stand on the shoulder of the giant that came before them. Mr. Cumming is, as the best Emcees seem to be, bisexual.

1. Alan Cumming (1993/1998)

AGAIN?!? REALLY? Yes. Really. He gets two slots for a few reasons. One being that he revived the role THREE TIMES, (I couldn't give him three slots. That would just be excessive.) another being that he was made for this role. He won a Tony Award, a Drama Desk Award, and an Outer Critics Circle Award, along with being nominated for an Olivier Award. (He was beaten out by Alun Armstrong but I maintain that they just misspelled "Alan" and gave the award to the wrong person.) Mr. Cumming is another actor whose talent stretches from stage to screen with roles like Eli Gold from The Good Wife and Nightcrawler from X-Men under his belt along with stage roles like Mac The Knife in The Threepenny Opera (Broadway) and Max in Bent (West End). If you ever get the chance to see him perform live, TAKE IT.

(For that matter, he has a new TV show called Instinct about a former CIA operative turned Professor turned Consultant premiering March 11th on CBS that I highly recommend watching, even if it's not live. And I'm not getting paid to say that. He's just that good.)

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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