Breakout It’s A Sin actor, Omari Douglas, hails from a theatre background and has landed in a handful of successful productions from Romantics Anonymous to Jesus Christ Superstar. Whether it’s the small screen or stage, the actor brings unparalleled grace and charisma to the work at hand. In his latest venture, the actor has taken up the role of Cliff Bradshaw in the exciting performance of Cabaret. An infamous musical that takes place in Berlin, during the rise of Nazi power, has received boundless praise for its social commentary and performances.
Now, another revival of the hit musical is on the way. Viewers can catch Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club in London’s West End. Leading with a standout cast (Eddie Redmayne, Jessie Buckley, Omari Douglas, Liza Sadovy, and more), it is likely to be a show to remember. GAY TIMES caught up with Omari (Cliff Bradshaw) to find out more about the exciting upcoming production.
How have you been and what have you been up to during rehearsals in the last couple of weeks?
We have been deep in rehearsals! We have been blessed with the luxury of having a long rehearsal and long technical period which is really good as we are essentially deconstructing this show and then building it back up in a way that feels relevant to everyone in the room. Every time we run the show there are more elements being added that is daunting but very exciting! We’re starting to finesse the lines and really fill bits in. There are more people in the room every time we run through it, and we are on that uphill climb now ahead of opening which is getting very nervy and exciting.
Productions and shows have been facing an uncertain time due to Covid, how does it feel to be back on the stage?
I feel fortunate that I’ve been back on stage since the summer. It feels like I’ve been following the trajectory of audiences being quite small to half full audiences and eventually to full capacity as I was in Constellations throughout that period. Now we’re really fortunate to be putting on a completely new production. So many of my friends were in long-running shows that were stalled for a really long time and I think people weren’t sure how much new work was going to be viable in this climate of uncertainty, but I think that everything feels quite refreshed, renewed and revitalised in terms of everyone’s spirits.
Everyone is just so keen to be back in the room and be creating things that are going to be seen live in the theatre by an audience. Of course, everything that was created and streamed was incredible and so vital to keep theatre alive, but we have all been itching for the real thing. I’m just delighted that I get to be part of the re-emergence of live theatre with so many amazing people and an amazing team.
Cabaret is an instant classic. Omari, how did you prepare for your role in such a renowned musical?
It is indeed an instant classic! I guess my preparation for the role in a broad sense was trying to get rid of my preconceptions of what Sally and Cliff’s relationship is and immersing myself in the ‘What could be?’ element. We’re lucky that we have a brilliant team who are willing to explore that idea and dissect the possibilities of who Sally and Cliff are, who they could be and who those people are to us. I feel like we are honouring the legacy of the show but we’re bringing it into a space and time that looks at things in a different way. That is not to say we are trying to modernise the show and ignore the period, because it definitely is still a period piece, but it feels like we are addressing it in a way that will allow it to resonate in the here and now. I think a lot of that ‘here and now’ element is that I, as a queer man playing Cliff, can show that more vividly.
As the show has evolved over time there have been gradual tiny elements that have suggested, or alluded to, Cliff’s queerness. It is a character that’s based loosely on the writer of the work that inspired Cabaret, Christopher Isherwood. He was, eventually, an openly gay man. So, I’ve really explored his memoirs to try and fill in some gaps and understand what Berlin meant to someone from outside of that world and coming into this space of liberation, freedom and expression and what going into that world would mean to someone who doesn’t have access to that. More than that, what it does to them and what it offers them by way of being able to explore their sexual identity.
As mentioned, Cabaret is incredibly well known, but for those that might be unfamiliar with it – why do you think our audience would enjoy the production?
I think that anyone who is unfamiliar with the show is going to enjoy it for numerous reasons. We are trying to humanise these characters in a way that will resonate now, whilst honouring the past and the period that it is set in. I feel like the audience are going to live through those experiences as we live them on stage. It’s an intimate space, and everything feels quite visceral. I think people will be welcomed into this wild ride, it’s not just sit down, watch the show and go home.
What attracted you to Cabaret?
Cabaret has always been on my radar, as someone who is passionate about theatre. This opportunity really surprised me because of the way I had seen the show in the past. I had never expected to be Cliff or to be able to have my spin on Cliff. When I auditioned for it, Rebecca Frecknall, our director, said to me that they wanted to explore the avenue of Cliff being most certainly a queer man, but unable to be that because of the environment he comes from. There was something about that that allowed me an entry point into interpreting the role. It also attracted me because I have not done a musical for a very long time but what a show to be a part of! It’s reimagined, fresh and new but also reverential to the legacy of the piece and I’m honoured to be a part of what I’m sure will be another landmark for Cabaret.
Can you tell GAY TIMES what you enjoy most about the show and why?
There are so many things! The first is that I’m surrounded by the most amazing group of people who are bringing so much of themselves. It feels like the show really celebrates and spotlights the individuality of all of the performers, which of course alludes to what the show is about. It’s about the want to express yourself as an individual and what happens when you can’t do that, so it’s been amazing seeing all the skill, passion and creativity that everyone is bringing to the room.
I also like that it’s challenging. It is challenging me and allowing me to look at shows like this, that can feel dated, and realising that no, if you look and commit you can bring yourself into that world and also bring it to you. It feels like a real push for me, and that’s exciting because I think that’s how you become better as a performer.
Omari you’re moving on from the mega-hit It’s A Sin, and recently Constellations on stage to Cabaret. Did you take/learn anything from the TV production that you’ll bring to the stage?
I don’t know what I’ll bring from my It’s A Sin experience to the stage! It’s a completely different world, a completely different time. I was given a very long time in the run up to filming that show to immerse myself in the period, and it’s nice to be doing the same on a show like Cabaret. I love discovering new things in bygone periods, and there’s a plethora of things to explore in that world. The 1920s and 1930s was such a haven for culture, sexual expression, and freedom. I guess if I’m taking anything with me it’s that I’m throwing everything into it as much as possible!
Last of all – what are you looking forward to most with this production?
At the moment I am really looking forward to the next stage and actually going into the Kit Kat Club, seeing this brand-new space. The Playhouse has been totally changed to be specific to the show, creating almost a playground for actors around us which will only aid in creating the world for ourselves and the audiences. I can’t wait to get in there.