Theater Review - Cabaret (NY)

The new Roundabout Theatre production of the classic “Cabaret” at Studio 54 is fabulous. Dimpled Alan Cumming gives a wonderful performance as the Emcee of this Fred Ebb (Lyrics) John Kander (Music), Joe Masteroff (Book) musical, which originally set sail on Broadway in 1966 and was last seen there in 1998.  Of course, it was based on the Play by John Van Druten from the stories set in pre-war Berlin by Christopher Isherwood.  Directed by Sam Mendes and Co-Directed and Choreographed by Rob Marshall, the show crackles with electricity on a set designed by Robert Brill, outstandingly lit by Peggy Eisenhauer and Mike Baldassari. The band stationed high above and framed in lights is amazingly talented. As always, William Ivey Long’s costumes are perfect, except for the fur coat Sally Bowles owns. I thought it should be more flamboyant.   

Although we miss Natasha Redgrave, who starred as Sally Bowles in the last reprise, terribly, Michelle Williams, blond hair and creamy complexion in place, is surprisingly lovely and feisty as this entertainer in the Kit Kat Klub.  She is a fine actress and complaints to the contrary, her voice is strong—though over-miked.  Sally moves in with the tall, handsome, American writer, Cliff Bradshaw, after she loses her job and her lover, the owner of the cabaret. I was delighted to see Bill Heck as Cliff, because I praised him as the Narrator in “The Orphans’ Home Cycle” first at Hartford Stage then at the Signature in NY.  He has had many good parts since then. Here, he exudes a Gary Cooper charm as a naive fellow, who accepts the friendship of a German, Ernest Ludwig; this man, played so well by Aaron Krohn, offers Cliff a courier job to supplement his low income as an English teacher, and he accepts.  It is only later that Cliff discovers that Ernest is a Nazi and is shocked that he has been so deceived.

The songs, over 15 of them, stand the test of time. They are really beautiful and tell the story with sensitivity.  The heart of “Cabaret” is the love story between Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider. He owns a fruit store and she is the landlady, who owns a boarding house where Cliff has rented a room. When this middle-aged couple decide to marry at his insistence, the crux of the matter bears fruit.  Danny Burstein is full of heart  here; he never gives less than a great performance and  he exceeds all expectations as a Jewish man, who states and believes that as a German-born citizen the Nazis will never hurt him. Linda Emond is clear and authentic as a woman whose business is more important than a relationship. The numbers they have alone or together, “So What,” “It Couldn’t Please Me More,”  “Married,” and that “Pineapple” song are precious.

“Cabaret” at Studio 54 (The Orchestra is set up like a cocktail lounge with each round table seating 4 on bentwood chairs. The mezzanine and balcony remains with traditional seating)

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