Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Theater Review: Cabaret

Filed under: Performing Arts — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:34


In 1998, Sam Mendes directed an absolutely incredible revival of the classic Kander & Ebb musical (set in a nightclub in Berlin) that ultimately tells the story of a liberal society of debauchery clashing with a dangerously changing sociopolitical climate that gives rise to Nazi rule. The show is one of my all-time favorite musicals because it masters the task of bringing out almost every human emotion that exists; and by the time the cast takes its bow, you feel physically and emotionally drained. To this day, that 1998 production (starring the late Natasha Richardson) is seared in my memory as one of the most incredible theater experiences I’ve ever had. So my expectations were high for Mendes’ second outing of the material. This revival is essentially the same show that was staged in 1998. And although it probably cost them the Tony nod for Best Revival, that’s a good thing–perfection shouldn’t be toiled with too much at the risk of much peril. And besides, that 1998 show garnered 12 Tony nominations–winning 4 (including Best Revival). And speaking of Tony Awards–Winner Alan Cumming has returned to play the role he was born for–his emcee is beyond perfect–he is spine chillingly incredible. Sally Bowles is played by two-time Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams. At first, I was somewhat concerned that she was a little too reserved for the outrageous and over-the-top star and queen of Berlin’s underground  and risqué nightlife.

But as she develops as the show progresses, I really began to appreciate the uniqueness she brought to the character. And by the time she performed the title song during Act II, I was convinced she was great. That number really brought down the house; the audience greeted the conclusion of the song with a rapturous applause. Fraulein Schneider is effectively performed by Linda Emond, who conveys the transition of staunch businesswoman to one with a firm grasp on the realities of the horrors unfolding around her, wondrously. Her love interest, Herr Schultz, is skillfully played by veteran stage actor Danny Burstein. He is able to convey the naievity of Schultz’s character heartbreakingly well–so much that I found myself deeply saddened knowing the fate that awaits him despite his ability to see it. Cumming, Williams, Emond, and Burstein are enough to carry the show on their own. But they don’t have to because they are surrounded by an ensemble cast that is as talented and able as any I’ve seen.

One of the other incredible aspects of Cabaret is that it prominently features the orchestra–they are a major piece of the production and are on-stage for a large chunk of the show. The theater itself also plays a major part in the production–the lower level is lined with cabaret tables equipped with individual lights and servers traverse the aisles prior to the show’s start. A dazzling and humongous disco ball is utilized at various parts of the show with absolute effectiveness. And the lighting that leads from the stage and encompasses the entire theater (or should I say, nightclub) is used with precision at just the right times. All of these theatrical elements–the amazing supporting actors, the entire theater serving as the set, the prominence of the orchestra, the breathtaking leads–point to one solid conclusion. The director behind this absolutely superb production is one of the most talented directors to ever work in theater. And the fact that his production is immersed in pure excellence with everything– from the performers to the musicians to the set designers to the lighting technicians to the costume designer–designates this as a truly historic production. This show has been a major success and has been extended through January. It should not be missed. Check out video highlights of Cabaret courtesy of Playbill.com below:

1 Comment »

  1. […] I had the opportunity to venture to NYC this past weekend with my partner to celebrate our 5-year anniversary. We were able to catch the revival of Les Miserables, Aladdin, Disney’s newest addition to Broadway, and the incredible current production of Cabaret at Studio 54. My reviews of Les Miz and Aladdin appear below. Click here to read my original review of Cabaret: Theater Review: Cabaret. […]

    Pingback by Theater Reviews: Les Miserables and Aladdin « Dr. Blackwell's BLOG — Wednesday, August 27, 2014 @ 01:43

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