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'Cabaret' Is Her Life

'Caroline in the City' star Lea Thompson uses her career's sometimes painful lessons to create a first-rate Sally Bowles.

June 03, 2000|By J. WYNN ROUSUCK | J. WYNN ROUSUCK,SUN THEATER CRITIC

She knew then that she had to be in it. A year later she got a chance to audition in Los Angeles, where she lives.

"I thought it went well, but then I didn't hear from them for a year," she says.

A demanding part

"Caroline in the City," in which she played a syndicated cartoonist, had just ended a four-year run, so she took a year off to stay home with her two young daughters and husband, film director Howard Deutch.

When the call finally came, she admits she was a little worried about the demands of the role. "I just didn't know if I could make it through eight shows a week, singing. I'd never done it before. [Sally] doesn't only sing, she smokes. I smoke through songs. I cry through songs -- things they don't teach you," says Thompson, who hadn't been on stage since appearing in a production of William Inge's "Bus Stop" at the Pasadena (Calif.) Playhouse 10 years ago.

"It takes everything I've got to play this part. I think that she's so vulnerable. I'm giantly sensitive, and I do a lot to hide that. I bring a lot of that to her. The way that she covers her fear or her sorrow by performing is a lot of what I've done my whole life. I've never [played] that kind of character."

"She brings a good heart to the part. She makes Sally Bowles, in essence, have a good heart," says Katona, who saw Thompson in the role in Dallas two months ago. "To me, she was not a mean, nasty, lowdown Sally Bowles. It comes across very differently. I really liked Sally. She was just caught up in a life that wasn't what she would have chosen."

Life on the road

Thompson acknowledges that it's difficult to be away from her family on the road, and she's excited that her husband, children, mother, brother Andrew and sister Colleen will all be with her in Baltimore, as well as, of course, her Baltimore-based sister.

But even though touring means frequent separations, "Cabaret" was an opportunity she couldn't refuse.

"Every once in a while as a parent, a woman or a human being, you just have to do something you have to do," she says. "I think Vanessa Redgrave said to [her daughter] Natasha Richardson, `When someone asks you to play Sally Bowles, you say yes.' "

And in a sense, Thompson has been rehearsing for the role all her life.

"First and foremost, [Sally] is a performer -- whether or not she's good is for you to decide," she says. "She loves to perform. That's her whole life, and that was my childhood."

`Cabaret'

Where: Morris A. Mechanic Theatre, 25 Hopkins Plaza

When: June 6-18. 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 7: 30 p.m. June 18; matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays and June 7 and 18; 3 p.m. June 11

Tickets: $21.50-$66.50

Call: 410-752-1200

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