My Interview: Der Tod Returns

For a short time, Uwe Kröger comes to his favourite city in order to appear as the Emcee in the hit musical Cabaret.

By Rainer Elstner, My Way, December 1998/January 1999

On the Cabaret stage of the Sofiensäle Uwe Kröger, who enjoyed his first great success as der Tod in the Vienna production of Elisabeth, gave us the following interview.

What does it mean from an organisational standpoint, to come into a production now and then like this?

It means that the negotiations were appropriate. I had to request a vacation for it. Now I'm taking a week of vacation in order to rehearse, and from December 10 I'm performing here Monday through Thursday, then getting in a plane on Friday, in order to perform in Beauty and the Beast from Friday until Sunday afternoon. It will be like this until January 7.

And why are you taking on so much stress?

There are certain things which one simply must do. It arose spontaneously. I watched this production--I've seen several productions of Cabaret--and I liked it a lot. I find the Sofiensäle has exactly the flair this piece needs.

You've enjoyed great success in Vienna. Do you still have a sentimental connection to this city?

One? Thousands! Naturally, I love Vienna; otherwise I wouldn't do this. I also love being in Vienna at wintertime. But I'm also a workaholic. I wouldn't move to Vienna now and not work.

Looking over the developments of the past years: Something of a German-language musical boom began in Vienna. Is it now--with the new large stage projects and musical stages in Germany--easier for a performer to get good roles and interesting offers?

Kroeger as the Emcee In terms of selection, naturally yes. There are large productions, there are very lovely roles, theatres are being built. It isn't easier to get a job, quite the reverse. Because every production is closely supervised and most are cast with original people from England or America, it isn't simple to get in. And for every role I've played so far, I have had to audition three or four times, just like everyone else. You must always sell yourself again, show that you can or can't do it.

Can you still remember your first audition?

I believe I was so stupid, so silly. I wouldn't have cast myself then. I was simply not good, was nervous and forgot the text. It's just like in Chorus Line. What you never lose is nervousness or this self-criticism, the perfectionism which every performer should have and which I have in the extreme, and which pushes me to give my best. Naturally what is required is that you have a certain composure in order to be able to set aside nervousness for the moment.

Did you always want to go onstage?

I graduated from high school and didn't know exactly what I should do. I then performed my [required in lieu of military service] community service in a youth psychiatric hospital, and then got interested and took pleasure in the field of psychology, therapy; they called me a music and art therapist, because I ran group therapy with role-playing, instruments, and acting. The wish to become a musical theatre performer wasn't always there. I grew up in the Ruhrgebiet. If I'd said to my father, "Listen, I've changed my mind, I'm thinking of becoming a dancer"--he would have probably replied that I couldn't, since they already had other plans for me. My ballet teacher at the time applied for me to a study program in Berlin. I was accepted--of 600 applicants they accepted six. And then I didn't care what my father thought.

Large musical productions are truly a daily problem. What dangers arise? Does one get apathetic?

The danger lies in the fact that one must motivate the actor or the ensemble over and over again and remind them what sort of story one's telling. The danger is not the routine--when one is professional. I'm a perfectionist, that is to say, I treat myself very critically.

The real musical fans are truly fantastic. Do you know your fans' record, how often they were at performances with you? It must be in the hundreds....

I believe it is in the hundreds, but that's mainly Vienna. Viennese fans are very special. They have very good conditions: ticket prices are humane, one can line up for standing room and in this way go to the theatre relatively cheaply. There's a loyalty there--thank you very much to the musical fans, because you can't manipulate them, they do it voluntarily. We have a musical theatre audience that enjoys travelling. To some extent they hitchhike, work in advance at some fast food chain in order to scrounge up the money for it. I admire that.

In your bio "Shooting (rifles)" is listed as one of your abilities. Is that a hobby?

I've never said that it's a hobby; those are just my "special skills". I can do it. My father was an enthusiastic hunter, and I had to get my hunting license relatively early.

Did you go along on deer hunts?

Yes, although I wasn't exactly glad to be there. "Papa, there was a deer!"--always very loudly. "Look over there, a deer!" Then the deer was gone, wonderful. I hated it. Meanwhile I list it quite gladly, impress people a little, go to the fair and shoot a few plastic roses or teddy bears. Then I shoot casually from the hip--if the guns aren't adjusted wrongly, that is.

Do you have a favourite musical, as far as the composition is concerned?

Les Misérables, I would say. Elisabeth also, but Elisabeth is always one of those things, because it's my baby.

How often do so-called "bloopers" happen during musicals?

Constantly. The most-repeated saying of theatre is: We perform live. A thousand things happen: Forgetting your lines and watching the others reproachfully, what can they be thinking of to forget their lines, until you realise that you're the one who forgot them. Pieces of clothing fall apart, and you're suddenly standing there in your underwear--to the delight of your colleagues and the audience.

What do you do then?

Well, if you notice it, you turn red. If you don't notice, the audience laughs.

To the main pageTo the press page