Jon Peterson: A Seasoned Seducer Who Will Welcome You to Cabaret

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

The classic Kander and Ebb musical, Cabaret, will soon be arriving at the Academy of Music, as part of the Broadway Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center season.  Many may have seen the classic film Cabaret starring Liza Minelli, with Joel Grey in his unforgettable performance as the Emcee of the Kit Kat Club. In the role of the touring company production soon to arrive in Philadelphia, another actor will assume the role of the Emcee. Jon Peterson has a long history with the role in several productions spanning nearly two decades. We had a chance recently to talk about his role in Cabaret, as well as his other acting projects both past and to come. Jon Peterson had a lot to say about his enjoyment of LGBT audiences, with special comments for readers of Philly Gay Calendar.


Ralph Malachowski: Mr. Peterson, you’ve had the opportunity to be associated with Cabaret in several productions over nearly twenty years. Tell us something about those productions and especially about this touring company production and your role as Emcee.


Jon Peterson: Do call me Jon. I first began my association with Cabaret in the production with Alan Cumming in 1999. I was his understudy. Of course, I had seen the film with Joel Grey’s performance, which I find so amazing and so individual, that it is his and his alone. He made the role unique to his own special vision of the character. I believe no one else should try to copy that performance. As an artist, it is every performing actor’s duty to find your own truth in the role, not to copy some other actor’s truth, no matter how excellent that performance may be.


RM: You’ve appeared in Cabaret a few times in different productions. Has your characterization grown or changed? How did you (or do you still) create your characterization?


JP: The revival ten years ago fleshed out the story more than the film or early productions. Sexuality is now forward, with honest representations of what we now want to see on stage. We want to see the truth of these characters. In many ways, Cabaret is a dark piece. Characterizations have changed. There is more truth in this revival. The story is brought forward and to the surface. We see more of what happens to the characters. Unlike fake or lazy actors, whom I call schmactors, I guess it’s a cross between “sham” and “actor,” our performances come from the heart.  


I see the Emcee as not a real person in many ways. He may not even be in the theatre. He is almost Fate goading the audience on. My characterization has definitely changed. I joined this production only about a month ago, in Washington, D.C. Right now, I’m in Manchester, Wisconsin, a lovely place. Every place and every audience is so very different, it can’t help but change you.


RM: Your partner, John Salvatore, is another actor. He was in Jersey Boys on Broadway for many years. Are there any issues or challenges having both partners in the acting profession?


JP: John Salvatore is the light of my life. We’ve been fifteen years together. He just recently ended his run in Jersey Boys after an 8-1/2 year run. I think it fabulous having such a talented and handsome man in my life. I’m in this for keeps. I became a U.S. citizen in 2005. We were married five years ago.


RM: What are your plans after this tour of Cabaret ends?


JP: Well, this tour will go on for a while. I plan to do an indy movie after this ends. It may be filmed in either Rochester, NY, or Phoenix. I enjoy doing independent films. I may also take my show out on the road again where I celebrate the songs of Anthony Newley. Written and performed with the blessings of his estate and his children, I enjoyed the first run of it, and would like to return to it. Many have forgotten what a great team he and Leslie Bricusse were, and how many great songs they wrote together.


RM: Do you have any special words for your friends and fans in Philadelphia, and for our readers?


JP: I love Philadelphia! I am so happy to be returning. John will be joining me, so it will be an especially good time. Let me just say that I think that LGBT audiences are wonderful. They tend to always be way more enlightened and quick to see all the possibilities. They appreciate all the layers of characterization and the various textures we bring to acting and to our work. I think the Philadelphia LGBT audiences are fantastic.


Broadway Philadelphia’s production of Cabaret will be at the Academy of Music April 4 through April 9. For information about the production and for tickets, visit

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