Sunday, May 4, 2014

Cabaret (Roundabout Theatre Company)

By Harry Forbes

You’ll be forgiven that overpowering sense of déjà vu in watching the meticulous-down-to-the-last-detail resurrection of the 1998 revival of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s hit Roundabout production which, in turn, started life at London’s Donmar Warehouse way back in 1993. The Studio 54 seats are gone replaced by the café tables of yore, and what transpires onstage is, casting aside, a proverbial carbon copy.

As with most of the stage productions done after Bob Fosse’s 1972 Oscar-winning film, the sex quotient of the Kit Kat Klub has been ramped up, and protagonist Clifford Bradshaw is sexually on the fence as Michael York was in the film to more accurately reflect “Berlin Stories” author Christopher Isherwood’s actual persona.

Still, with all the changes, most of the songs from the original score have been retained with a few interpolations from the film and elsewhere.

Alan Cumming is back as Emcee looking miraculously unchanged from the earlier version, and he is, of course, splendid as ever. Michelle Williams (making an auspicious Broadway debut) is now Sally Bowles, and plays her, as she should, as a second-rate entertainer, not Liza Minnelli, but she gives a forceful, dynamic, and poignant performance.

As landlady Fraulein Schneider and suitor Herr Schultz, a fruit seller, Linda Emond and Danny Burstein are outstanding, both acting and singing. There’s good work, too, from Bill Heck as the sexually ambivalent Cliff, Gayle Rankin as the boarding house hooker Fraulein Kost flaunting her visiting sailors under her landlady’s disapproving gaze, and Aaron Krohn as Cliff’s German friend Ernst Ludwig who, like Kost, shows a sinister side as the evening develops.

The production – choreographed by co-director Rob Marshall and with musical direction by Patrick Vaccariello -- is in tip-top shape.

Robert Brill’s set, William Ivey Long’s costumes, Peggy Eisenhauer and Mike Baldassari’s lighting and Brian Ronan’s sound design all impress anew, as do, of course, the fabulous songs by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, and the uncommonly intelligent book by Joe Masterhoff.

I’d say definitely worth a return visit.

(Studio 54 on Broadway, 254 West 54th Street; 212-719-1300, or
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