TODAY   |  April 23, 2014

Alan Cumming lauds Michelle Williams in ‘Cabaret’

The actor joins TODAY to chat about starring alongside Williams in the acclaimed musical “Cabaret,” which is returning to Broadway.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> hit musical "cabaret" is back on broadway . and reprising his role as the wonderful nc of the infamous kit kat club is tony award -winner alan cumming . alan , welcome back. good to see you.

>> thanks, matt.

>> i say welcome back, or as you would say --

>> veal coming back.

>> do people ever come up to you because they associate you this show? do they ever say that to you on the street?

>> yes. constantly.

>> kind of like the marvelous thing?

>> i don't know, over the years, there's been a variety of catch phrases that have followed me. but i get that a lot. i also get, "i'm invincible." from the james bond film .

>> why did you go back to this? you love this role, don't you?

>> i do, and i've played it three times now in my life. and this time, i just -- really, to be honest, the biggest reason was that i'm 49, i'm in my 50th year, and i thought nobody's going to ask me to dance like this again.

>> oh, that's not true.

>> matt, it is.

>> is it really? 50, you're done dancing?

>> well, this much. i'm dancing with people -- i'm doing things with girls less than half my age.

>> it's nice work if you can get it.

>> exactly. i also just thought, it's a really great show, and it's a story that needs to be told to each different generation. i think now it's an important time to tell a story like this.

>> it was written in the 1960s . it was very provocative when this first hit the stage. the world has changed. the definition of provocative has changed. is it still provocative?

>> i think it's provocative in a way. i mean, the thing i think was better about doing it now is that when we did this in 1998 , the sexiness of it was sensational and everybody was really overwhelmed by that. so the darkness i think didn't get a chance to come out as much. but what i think's provocative now is the message that we must not let -- you know, be vigilant. we have to all be vigilant in society because look how easy it is for things to happen and go really to a very dark place . and now, you look at the ukraine, all these things that are happening around the world, each time i come to do it, there seems to be another reason to do it.

>> it's important, just for people who for some reason haven't seen this, what you're referring to is although the songs are easy to hum and they've got great tunes, this is all written about a time when it was the rise of nazi germany .

>> the rise of naziism, yes. people in berlin in 1930 , and what i think is interesting is what you see from this woman's point of view played by linda, what it's like to be someone who's maybe going to marry a jewish person and she gets scared that if she does, she will lose her livelihood. you can see how that creeps up. it's from both angles.

>> i've seen the show on broadway a couple of times. one of the things i think is that your role, your character is emcee is so much fun to play. because in some ways, you straddle the line between being in the show and being the guide for the audience to the show.

>> exactly.

>> that's nice.

>> it is. it's sort of like a puppet master kind of experience. i really like that, because for me, it feels -- you know, it's kind of going back to my roots when i used to do standup comedy . sort of acting in a show, but also there's an element of it that's completely scared because i'm engaging with the audience and it changes every night.

>> and the look. the scars, the tattoos, the bruises, the track marks, which raises the question, what is going on in the kit kat club on a daily basis that you can talk about on morning television?

>> thanks for that. well, it's not a very high class establishment. so i sort of think it's -- you know, it was a time of great hedonism, and so we tried to show what that actually means. as the naziism approaches in the show, the club gets very dark and more drugs become apparent.

>> michelle williams plays sally bowles in this.

>> she's fabulous. i'm really so full of admiration for her. because it's her first musical, her first broadway show . she's blossomed. it's amazing.

>> well, she looks fantastic. liza minnelli was one of the famous ones. natasha richardson had the role for a while. you're a big photographer. i saw you out with our crowd. you want to do a little one here?

>> yeah, i'll do a selfie.

>> i would be so honored. here we go.

>> i do this face.

>> good. thanks for that one. alan , thank you. what a pleasure.

>> thanks, matt. nice to see you.

>> "cabaret" opens at the roundabout theatre tomorrow night. alan will be back with a live performance as we celebrate broadway week here on "today" beginning may 5th . we look forward to that. we're back after these messages. your local news and weather.