When I was fifteen years old, my great aunt took me to see a local community production of Cabaret. Immediately, I fell in love with this show, which was unlike anything I had ever seen in my fifteen years of (somewhat) sheltered life. It was edgy and scandalous, yet it offered a very poignant message. In college, I spent more time listening to the 1998 Broadway cast recording than I spent studying anatomy (priorities). By the time I discovered this gem of a musical, the revival had long since closed…. so I’ve been waiting patiently for another Broadway revival. I’m happy to report that I crossed “see Cabaret on Broadway” off my Bucket List a few weeks ago and it was entirely worth the wait! And to see the immensely talented Alan Cumming reprise his role as the Emcee was just icing on the cake.
Upon entering Studio 54, I was transported immediately to the Kit Kat Club in 1920’s Berlin. The orchestra seats were set up in likeness of an authentic cabaret with small tables and lamps. “Even the orchestra is beautiful.” The orchestra sat on a platform above the stage, visible to the audience, musicians in full Kit Kat Club attire. Mysterious dancers quietly took the stage, alluding to the story that was about to unfold over the next three hours. The excitement and anticipation in the house was palpable as the orchestra began the opening bars of “Willkommen.”
A Tony Award winner for his 1998 portrayal of the Emcee, Alan Cumming is still as fabulous as ever, even sixteen years later. The role fits him like a glove. Joel who? His Emcee is satirical, mischievous, and eerily foreboding of a bleak future for the Jews of Nazi Germany. His performance alone renders this production worth seeing.
Screen star Michelle Williams portrays the seductive British cabaret singer, Sally Bowles. I respect her interpretation of the character, although her Sally was not what I was expecting. Maybe that’s a good thing. She embodied Sally as meek, timid, nervous (bordering on mousy), and vulnerable. Her singing was adequate, which was fine because Sally is not meant to be talented. I think that I would need to see her performance again to fully grasp her interpretation of the character. I’m still not sure what I think, to be honest. Alan Cumming is certainly the more exciting performer of the two leads.
Linda Emond and Philip Hoffman (u/s) were heartbreaking as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. Cliff is not the most intriguing character, but Bill Heck gave a dependable performance. Gayle Rankin is impeccably comical as the sly prostitute, Fraulein Kost. The ensemble was spectacular; their quiet, but conspicuous presence perpetuated the dark, foreboding undertones of the story. Like the story, each character seemed to personify a light, comedic exterior, while harboring a darker side.
The latest Broadway revival of Cabaret is edgy, provocative, and relevant. I hope you will check it out at Studio 54. Emma Stone will take over as Sally Bowles in November.