Monday, May 5, 2014


Alan Cumming appears to be trying hard to recapture the zest of his Tony-winning magic as the Emcee of the Kit Kat Klub, but he comes off as a bit tired, as does most of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s anemic revival of Cabaret at Studio 54.

Perhaps it’s because it’s a revival of a revival (Mendes and Marshall recreate their Tony-winning work from 1998) that the show lacks energy, or maybe it’s because I just experienced it that way having a week before seen the revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, whose main character, played by a Neil Patrick Harris who pushes the wow factor to the max, is a similarly raunchy singer on the fringes of life and begs comparison to Cabaret’s Emcee.

After winning a Tony for the role 16 years ago, Cumming wasn’t even nominated this year. Neither was Michelle Williams, making her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles, the role that won Natasha Richardson a Tony the last time around. Williams has a nice voice, but her Sally doesn’t possess the young and vulnerable quality she needs to have.

Marshall’s choreography no long seems shocking, with its dominant motif of dancers grabbing their crotches — or someone else’s crotch or ass. It was more interesting 16 years ago. Now it gets tiresome.

What enjoyment the evening does bring comes from the onstage band playing those great Kander and Ebb tunes under the direction of Patrick Vaccariello (the musicians double as chorus members as they did previously) and from Linda Emond as Fraulein Schneider. I have only seen her in straight plays, where she always stands out, and on “The Good Wife” where I love her recurring role as a stone-faced military judge. When she sang “What Would You Do?” I got chills.

Danny Burstein is good too — isn’t he always? — as Herr Schultz.

Studio 54 has been refashioned with cabaret seating as it was in 1998 to give the feel of a pre-World War II night club in Berlin. Robert Brill has returned as set and club designer, as did William Ivey Long for costumes.

The previous revival ran for six years. I will be interested to see how long this one lasts.

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