This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Michelle Williams and Alan Cumming star in return of CABARET to Studio 54 (photo by Joan Marcus)

Michelle Williams and Alan Cumming star in return of CABARET to Studio 54 (photo by Joan Marcus)

Studio 54
254 West 54th St. between Seventh & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through January 4, $47-$352

The Roundabout has brought back its exciting 1998 Tony-winning revival of Cabaret, once again turning Studio 54 into the lasciviously decadent Kit Kat Klub in pre-WWII Berlin, where a debauched Emcee (Alan Cumming) hosts an evening of naughty nightclub fun during the rise of the Third Reich. The audience sits at small, round tables in the orchestra section (and regular seats in the mezzanine) as the Emcee introduces music and dance and hovers in the background as the narrative plays out onstage. Michelle Williams makes a strong Broadway debut as Sally Bowles, a British ex-pat who performs at the Kit Kat Klub and takes an instant liking to American writer Cliff Bradshaw (Bill Heck). In order to make money, Cliff teaches English to Ernst (Aaron Krohn) and others and also does favors for him. Meanwhile, Sally moves in with Cliff, who lives in a boardinghouse run by the spinsterish Fraulein Schneider (Linda Emond), who is being subtly courted by successful fruitier Herr Schultz (Danny Burstein). When Ernst proudly reveals he is a member of the Nazi party, the relationships among the characters go through a swift and sudden change, setting in motion one of the greatest second acts in Broadway history.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Herr Schultz (Danny Burstein) and Fraulein Schneider (Linda Emond) consider a dangerous love in CABARET (photo by Joan Marcus)

Adapted from John van Druten’s 1951 play, I Am a Camera, which itself was based on Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, this version of Cabaret, directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, the Bridge Project) and codirected and choreographed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods), uses elements of both Harold Prince’s original 1966 show as well as Bob Fosse’s Oscar-nominated 1972 film to craft a new way to experience this ultimately heart-wrenching sociopolitical tale, which features a marvelous score by John Kander and Fred Ebb and a powerful book by Joe Masteroff. Robert Brill’s two-level set features the scantily clad Kit Kat Girls, Kit Kat Boys (the daring costumes are by William Ivey Long), and musical director (Patrick Vaccariello) upstairs, often seen behind a large, tilted frame that hangs from the ceiling, surrounded by bulbs that slowly go out over the course of the evening. Meanwhile, the story plays out on the main floor, as relationships develop and fall apart. Heck (The Orphans’ Home Cycle) is relatively bland as Cliff, but the rest of the cast is excellent: Williams (Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine) more than holds her own in a role made famous by Liza Minnelli and also played by such stars as Miranda Richardson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Deborah Gibson, and Brooke Shields, among others, nailing such familiar songs as “Mein Herr,” “Maybe This Time,” and the title song. Burstein (Talley’s Folly, Golden Boy) and Emond (Death of a Salesman, 1776) give added depth to their touching characters, who are caught in the middle of what is happening in Germany, while Cumming (Macbeth, The Good Wife) has a blast reprising his Tony-winning role, offering a very different take from Oscar and Tony winner Joel Grey as he makes his playfully raunchy way through such classics as “Willkommen,” “Money,” and “If You Could See Her.” It all leads to one of the most striking and harrowing final images you’ll ever see onstage.