Nick Garrison adds another character to his rogues’ gallery

It’s an accident of history that Nick Garrison began his career in Seattle in the 1990s and not Berlin in the 1920s. With his satyr’s grin, expressive voice, and vaguely serpentine sexiness, he assumed local rock-star status for his turns in shows like Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Chris Jeffries’ original musical Vera Wilde. But the role he seemed born to play is the one he’s bringing to the 5th Avenue’s production of Cabaret opening this week, the sinister Emcee. Garrison admits that the landmark performances of Joel Grey and, more recently, Alan Cumming as the manipulative host of a seedy Berlin nightclub cast long shadows. “Both of those performances are sort of stuck in my head, but I’m not afraid of that. You can’t copy a performance unless you’re an impressionist, so you might as well steal where and when you can.” He was also inspired by his research into the actual cabarets of the Weimar Republic, and figures like Sebastian Drote, who had an almost Svengali-like relationship with the famous dancer Anita Berber. “Drote didn’t have a lot of talent himself, but he knew how to use people, and he accomplished a tremendous amount through sheer willpower.” And while Garrison cut his teeth in Seattle’s smaller houses like the Empty Space and Re-bar, he’s looking forward to tackling the size and grandeur of the 5th Avenue’s stage. “I love the challenge of trying to keep the intimate feel of what I’m doing in a house as big as the 5th. The lucky thing for me is that most of what the character does is out in the audience’s laps.” Whether they like that or not? Garrison gives an only slightly evil laugh. “That’s right!” [Also see Tim Appelo's review here.] 5th Avenue Theatre, 1308 Fifth Ave., 625-1900, $20-$77. 7:30 p.m. Tues.-Wed., 8 p.m. Thurs.-Fri., 2 & 8 p.m. Sat., 1:30 & 7 p.m. Sun. Ends April 13. JOHN LONGENBAUGH

Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 1:30 & 7 p.m. Starts: March 25. Continues through April 13, 2008

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