Eddie Redmayne Lives a ‘Monastic’ Life for Broadway’s ‘Cabaret’: Lay’s Chips for Lozenges and ‘the Most Painful Massage’

Life’s not all a cabaret for film actors making their way to Broadway.

In the case of Eddie Redmayne, who now stars as the ghoul-like and flamboyant Emcee in director Rebecca Frecknall’s “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club” at New York’s August Wilson Theatre, life behind the scenes is more “monastic,” as he told IndieWire, than song-and-dance bacchanalia.

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“When you’re doing a musical like this, it’s quite monastic living, and it’s almost more like being an athlete than an actor sometimes because when you’re doing eight shows a week, you’re keeping your voice in decent nick,” said Redmayne, Zooming from the backseat of a car between appointments, which just included lunch with Joel Grey, who famously starred as the Master of Ceremonies in Bob Fosse‘s Oscar-winning 1972 film.

“It’s quite a physical role,” said Redmayne, who first played The Emcee on the West End in 2022, earning a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical. In this just-opened Broadway version, Redmayne sings and dances in gender-bending garb, impishly contorting himself on a 360-degree stage opposite Gayle Rankin as alcoholic cabaret ingénue Sally Bowles.

“I wish I could say I was out living a hedonistic Broadway existence, but actually, you are drinking a ton of water,” Redmayne said. “I haven’t got a huge amount of experience in musicals. I listen to all of our musical theater actors in the piece who give me tips on which voice lozenges to use, and apparently, Lay’s chips, like the oil and the salt in that, [are] very good for keeping your voice moist, and these random Chinese medicines that are good. So I take any piece of advice I can to try and keep me upright basically.”

Redmayne made his Broadway debut with the play “Red” opposite Alfred Molina, earning a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play in 2010. But Redmayne’s musical acumen is limited to the movie “Les Misérables” (he openly called his own musical performance in the film “appallingly sung,” technically speaking) and now “Cabaret.” He displays considerable pipes in this splashy stage show, singing lyrics by Fred Ebb and music by John Kander from the 1960s musical.

“You’re rehearsing from 9 o’clock in the morning to 6 in the evening, and you’re doing these numbers over and over again. Your voice is a muscle, so it’s about getting to the point where it’s able to sustain,” Redmayne said. “There is a lot of not just singing, but there are quite vocal introductions. You’re having to roll out a lot, using those foam rollers. I go to this brilliant man called Greg Miele, who is a bodyworker, on my day off. I go to get a massage, and [my wife] is like, ‘Lucky you.’ And I go, ‘No, but it’s the most painful massage you have ever experienced.'”

Redmayne’s turn as The Emcee — is he a figment of the Weimer-Era Berlin imagination? a manifestation of Nazi terror taking over? a real person at all? — is intensely physical and loose-limbed. Prior to the fall 2022 West End debut of “Cabaret,” now transferred to Broadway in an even more audience-immersing format, Redmayne took a movement course at the École Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq to understand his character’s body language.

“It’s housed in this old 19th-century gymnasium. It was a course on Theater of the Absurd, and it was for professional practitioners,” Redmayne said. “There were people from all over the world, aged 17, 18, to 60, and we did lots of mask work, and there were some brilliant teachers there who were incredibly blunt. You made a fool of yourself and put in your place, and yet you’re also liberated to rip off all the excess, particularly perhaps having worked in film for a while, that had built up in me.”

As for that lunch with Joel Grey, Redmayne said he indeed has the original Master of Ceremonies’ stamp of approval. “When I first did the show in London, it was our opening night, and I was halfway through, it was at the interval, and there was this extraordinary bunch of flowers, and I opened the card and Joel had sent me flowers welcoming me to The Emcee family, and he has been so generous,” he said. “He came to see the show with John Kander the other night. I’m not going to lie, I was utterly terrified and intimidated, but they could not have been more generous and kind.”

“Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club” is now on Broadway. Stay tuned for more in conversation with Eddie Redmayne on IndieWire soon.

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