Review Roundup: ‘Cabaret’

The latest revival of Cabaret, the classic 1966 musical set in pre-WWII Berlin, opened April 24 at Studio 54 for a run through Jan. 4, 2015. This is a remounting of the 1998 revival co-directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall, also a Roundabout production which played the famed former disco. Alan Cumming returns to his Tony-winning role as the Emcee. Oscar nominee Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Brokeback Mountain) is Sally Bowles, the party-loving chanteuse with Bill Heck (The Orphan’s Home Cycle) as her lover, struggling American writer Cliff Bradshaw. Also starring are Linda Emond (Death of a Salesman, Life x 3) and Danny Burstein (South Pacific, Follies) as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz.

Critics greeted the return of the show with cheers. Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post called it “the hottest show on Broadway” in her headline and Adam Feldman of Time Out New York went so far as to label the production a “masterpiece.” But most were disappointed by the fragile Sally of Williams, who is making her Broadway debut. Linda Winer of Newsday called her “timid, bland and covered up in costumes that make her seem almost chaste.” Mark Kennedy of Associated Press, David Rooney of Hollywood Reporter and Elysa Gardner of USA Today were in the minority in praising her.  “Williams brings to the role a pained fragility that feels distinctive, and makes Sally’s determination to not face either her past or the world crumbling around her especially poignant,” wroteGardner. Here are excerpts from the major reviewers.

 

 Danny Burstein, Michelle Williams, Alan Cumming and cast attend the Broadway opening night of 'Cabaret' (Photo: Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

Danny Burstein, Michelle Williams, Alan Cumming and cast on opening night of ‘Cabaret’ (Photo: Laura Cavanaugh/Getty Images)

Ben Brantley, New York Times
“The promiscuous, hard-partying Sally is now embodied by a very brave Michelle Williams, who doesn’t look all that happy to be there. I’m assuming that’s more a matter of character interpretation than of personal discomfort, but it does put sort of a damper on the festivities.”

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post
“So maybe this Sally Bowles isn’t one for the ages. But the show itself is, and this version, offers plenty of riches, starting with Linda Emond’s finely wrought Fraulein Schneider, a landlady who engages in a doomed romance with Jewish fruit seller Herr Schultz (Danny Burstein). And because Williams isn’t quite strong enough to offer a counterpoint, the show belongs, more than ever, to Cumming’s diabolical tease.”

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News
“Though Michelle Williams is credible but not memorable in her Broadway debut as songstress Sally Bowles, her performance can’t mar the Roundabout’s redo (re-revival?) of its Tony-winning 1998 take at Studio 54. It’s an impressive production especially if you didn’t see the show during its earlier six-year run. If you did, be prepared for deja vu.”

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press
“Not a revival so much as a revival of a revival, this “Cabaret” — again produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company—opened Thursday night, with only hours to spare before its [Tony] eligibility expired. Whatever it’s called, it’s as thrilling as ever, a marvel of staging that hasn’t lost its punch.”

Elysa Gardner, USA Today
“But even if you saw it last time, you are strongly advised—no, urged—to return. The reasons to do so include both a familiar face in the cast and a few new ones.”

Linda Winer, Newsday
“Cumming is better than ever—wiser, more dissipated, even more deeply entertaining in the role he stunningly recreated from Joel Grey’s iconic original. And that freshness is so infectious it spills over into a landmark production that closed in 2004 but feels, with one uneasy exception, as confident—and about as dangerous—as if it has been running ever since. The exception, alas, is Michelle Williams, making her Broadway and musical debut as Sally Bowles.”

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York
“Why so soon? A better question might be: Why not? This Cabaret is a superb production of one of the great Broadway musicals of all time—an exhilarating, harrowing masterpiece.”

Roma Torre, NY-1 News
“Granted, this is not an easy role, but Michelle Williams, whether miscast or just not up to the challenge, is missing some vital ingredients. Sally talks of allure, but Williams’ Sally is largely lacking in that department. And because of this, the entire show is thrown off.”

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
“[T]here’s simply no wrong time to revisit Sam Mendes’ and Rob Marshall’s thrilling production, which is even sharper this time around, with Alan Cumming reprising his louche Emcee alongside Michelle Williams’ shattering Sally Bowles.”

Marilyn Stasio, Variety
“It seemed nuts but proved shrewd of Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall to retool their dazzling 1998 revival of the Kander and Ebb masterpiece, fit Cumming with a new trenchcoat for his triumphant return, and bring the decadent netherworld of 1920s Berlin back to Studio 54, the revival’s ideal venue. Inspiration flagged, however, in casting Michelle Williams, so soft and vulnerable in My Week With Marilyn, as wild and reckless party girl Sally Bowles.”

David Finkle, Huffington Post
“Of course, there will be two audiences for this revival–the audience that saw it then and the audience that didn’t. While the former will probably experience fogged déjà vu, the latter may like what they get. Depending on which audience you fit into, you may want to think before you come to this Cabaret.”