[Note on this review: Sienna Miller now plays would-be femme fatale Sally Bowles.]
Cabaret. Studio 54 (see Broadway). Book by Joe Masteroff. Music by John Kander. Lyrics by Fred Ebb. Directed Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall. With Alan Cumming, Michelle Williams. Running time: 2hrs 30mins. One intermission.
Cabaret: In brief
A decade after closing their hit revival of the Kander and Ebb classic, the Roundabout and director Sam Mendes reopen the Weimar-era Kit Kat Klub. Alan Cumming reprises his sinister-slinky turn as the Emcee and Michelle Williams plays nightclub crooner Sally Bowles. Linda Emond, Bill Heck and Danny Burstein costar.
Cabaret: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Cabaret is on Broadway again: Willkommen home, you magnificent beast. Originally staged in 1966, then brought to a sordid cinematic life in Bob Fosse’s (heavily adapted) 1972 film, the Kander and Ebb classic was revived and reconfigured anew in Roundabout Theatre Company’s triumphant 1998 account. Now that version has returned with its original star: the supreme Alan Cumming as the Emcee of the Kit Kat Klub, a decadent nightclub in Berlin’s Weimar period.
Why so soon? A better question might be: Why not? This Cabaret is a superb production of one of the great Broadway musicals of all time—an exhilarating, harrowing masterpiece. In Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s staging, Cumming is the corroded soul of the show; he haunts it and intrudes on it, magnetically mercurial. In the louche opening number, surrounded by beautiful but busted dancing girls and boys, he coyly welcomes “ladies…and gentlemen”; later, he wades into the rising tide of Nazism, swastika on bum and tongue only partly in cheek.
Cumming’s bouncy downtown energy keeps Cabaret from seeming like a period piece, and his new costars pull their weight. Waifish and vocally tremulous, Michelle Williams is credibly lost as Sally Bowles, a wanna-be bad girl who sings at the club; Bill Heck is appealing as her unlikely lover, Cliff, a sexually ambiguous writer. Though too young for their roles, Linda Emond and the lovable Danny Burstein are forceful and touching as Cliff’s practical landlady and her menschy Jewish suitor; and Gayle Rankin is vividly gaudy as Fräulein Kost, a whore with a heart of flint.
At once intoxicating and sobering, Cabaret is one hell of a bash. Start celebrating—but don’t expect to end that way. The time of apolitical partying is on the verge of death, while a political party—with its signature goose step, like a kick line gone bad—is waiting in the wings.—Theater review by Adam Feldman
THE BOTTOM LINE A Broadway jewel returns in all its glittering, tarnished glory.
Follow Adam Feldman on Twitter: @FeldmanAdam