Tony eligible or not, the return of Cabaret is by far the best musical revival of the season, and the best musical, period, of the 2013-2014 season. It remains as tightly assembled, meticulously directed and emotionally satisfying as ever. And the new cast is near perfection.
I won't take up too much time discussing the technical elements as they remain largely unchanged from the 1998 staging. Suffice it to say that the design team of Robert Brill (set and club design), William Ivey Long (costumes), Peggy Eisenhauer and Michael Baldassari (lighting) and Brian Ronan (sound) were and are in top form. And as with the direction and choreography, their attention to the smallest details is superb. From the broken proscenium and traffic-worn stage floor, to the broken lights and tattered table lamps, and the broken women in the torn, traffic-tattered costumes, everything about the look of this production reeks of the desperation and sleazy, second-rate quality of the Kit Kat Kub and its inhabitants, and all framed by the unforgiving metal stairs and beams trying unsuccessfully to keep the menace of the Nazi regime at bay.
|Alan Cumming and the Kit Kat Klub Boys and Girls|
|Heck, Williams, Burstein and Emond|
Of course, the big draw here is the above-the-title duo of Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams. And they do not disappoint. Thanks to the crane accident that closed the original Kit Kat Klub (aka Henry Miller's Theatre) in 1998, I missed Mr. Cumming. He was worth the 16 year wait. It is lucky for all of this year's potential nominees that he won't be eligible for a Tony this year, for he would surely win. His performance is legendary and with good reason. Even when he is merely lurking in the shadows watching us watching him, you can't help but follow his every move. At times quirky, and other times threatening, there is no doubt who runs this show. Gone is any trace of cuteness of Emcees past. Amazing.
Time has been very kind to this groundbreaking piece of theatre. The shock value of its in-your-face presentation may have lessened - Heaven knows it set the new standard in that department, all else are mere followers. But the frightening final moments of it all are sadly coming into modern view again, making Cabaret just as relevant as ever. And perhaps even scarier.
(Photos by Joan Marcus)