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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams in a Revival of "Cabaret"
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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams in a Revival of "Cabaret"

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Roundabout Theatre Company

Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
Sydney Beers, General Manager

Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams

(Cabaret Website)

Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Based on the play by John Van Druten
And stories by Christopher Isherwood

With Linda Emmond, Dany Burstein, Bill Heck,
Aaron Krohn, Gayle Rankin
and an ensemble of thirteen actors/singers/dancers

Directed by Sam Mendes
Co-Directed and Choreographed by Rob Marshall
Music Director/Vocal Arranger: Patrick Vaccariello

Studio 54
254 West 54th Street

Set and Club Design: Roberta Brill
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Peggy Eisenhauer/Mike Baldassari
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Orchestrations: Michael Gibson
Dance & Incidental Music: David Krane
Original Music Coordinator: John Monaco
Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Make-up Design: Angelina Avallone
Dialect Coach: Deborah Hecht
Production Stage Manager: Arthur Gaffin
Casting: Jim Carnahan CSA & Jillian Cimini
Technical Supervisor: Steve Beers
Press Representative: Polk & Co.
Exec. Producer: Sydney Beers
Director of Marketing/Audience Development: Tom O’Connor
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Director of Development: Lynne Guggenheim Gregory
Adams Associate Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 23, 2014

What a fantastic night, attending Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret at Studio 54, right where it belongs. This show, with a book by Joe Masteroff, based on John Van Druten’s play and Christopher Isherwood’s stories, opened originally on Broadway in 1966, with Joel Grey as the Kit Kat Club’s Emcee. London runs followed, before a 1987 revival, with Mr. Grey again starring as the famed Berlin Emcee. While various London revivals opened and closed, the 1998 Studio 54 revival lasted ten years, with Alan Cumming as the diabolic, yet winking, Emcee. Time to celebrate - the 1998, Sam Mendes-Rob Marshall director/co-director/choreographer collaboration is now brought back for this magnetically charged revival. That great big gold, high level picture frame, so showcased in Roundabout’s 2011 The People in the Picture, is now showcasing The Kit Kat Band, with slinky, sexy musicians, who join the mayhem, strutting and cavorting. But the focal characters here are Mr. Cumming, reprising his role as Emcee, with erotically slung suspenders and a peek at his swastika-tattooed derriere, and Michelle Williams, as Sally Bowles, the Kit Kat’s chanteuse, who vivaciously croons, “Mein Herr”, “Maybe This Time”, and of course, “Cabaret”.

Mr. Cumming is vibrant, energized, seductive, and a through-play Greek Chorus of Pre-Holocaust Germany. His gestures and glances tell it all, to the very intimate audience, all seated at bistro tables with dark red lamps, in the motif of the Club. Ms. Williams is the night’s big surprise, with stunning vocal talent and a layered theatrical performance. She’s a woman yearning for honest love, while she’s also the Club’s decadent lady of the night and slave to its slithery owner, Max (Benjamin Eakeley). Her sometime object of desire is Clifford Bradshaw, an American in Berlin trying to create that winning novel. The bisexual Cliff wants to marry the quickly pregnant Sally, but the plot is riddled with psychic and social conflict. Another tortuous relationship is between Fräulein Schneider (Linda Emond) and Herr Schultz (Danny Burstein). Schneider is owner of the boarding house, where Cliff has won an extremely low rent, and her own object of desire, a Jewish fruit salesman, has proposed, just as the Nazi soldiers are instilling pride and fear. A gorilla dancer (Andrea Goss) dances as a Jew. Schultz had proposed to save Schneider’s reputation, when they emerged together from one room, spied by Fräulein Kost (Gayle Rankin), whom Schneider had reprimanded for shenanigans with sailors. Ms. Rankin sang a rousing “Tomorrow Belongs To Me”. In another plot twist, Nazi Ernst Ludwig (Aaron Krohn) hires Cliff to bring a suitcase back and forth to Paris and back to Berlin, generating the frolicking tune, “Money”. Within these plot twists, it was Danny Burstein who grabbed my eye, with his growing trepidations about his beloved Berlin and his beloved Fräulein.

This dramatic musical has comedy built into song and song built into dread. The tale is deep, devilish, and dangerous. Alan Cumming hasn’t lost his lightning wit, with his “Willkommen” infusing the Club with a high, equal to guzzling ginseng-laced champagne. The Kit Kat Girls and Kit Kat Boys were just the right amount of wild, with multi-level, acrobatic feats, amidst the intoxicating score. Michelle Williams sang with the level of nervous energy requisite to Sally Bowles, ensuring success in her Broadway debut. Even though the Mendes-Marshall team first directed and choreographed this production in 1998, it still feels fresh and robust. The level of tension between humor and horror is balanced, and it’s a great evening all around. William Ivey Long’s costumes are fanciful and authentic to the tale. Brian Ronan’s sound design transfers strong musical connections throughout the Club. Robert Brill’s club design, with a sparkling disco ball, draws the audience in, evoking the original Studio 54’s hospitality. Drinks can be ordered at the tables, for that champagne fizz. Kudos to all.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at