‘Cabaret’ review: Classic is completely revitalized

Back in April, Broadway’s omnipresent Roundabout Theatre Company brought its Tony-winning revival of the musical “Cabaret” (originally directed by Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall) back to Studio 54, where it had closed 10 years earlier, with Alan Cumming recreating his eroticized performance as the Emcee. Film actress Michelle Williams co-starred as the careless and self-centered English singer Sally Bowles.

Many (myself included) looked cynically upon this revival (or should I say revival of a revival?) when it opened (or should I say reopened?) eight months ago.

It did not feel quite ready, as if the cast was still finding its way into the material and the dark and decedent atmosphere of Weimar Germany, on the brink of Hitler’s rise to power. Williams was particularly underwhelming as Bowles, appearing fragile rather than feisty.

It’s a pleasure to now report that, eight months into its run, the production has been considerably revitalized, with another film actress, Emma Stone, taking over for Williams. (Stone was apparently supposed to be part of the initial cast but had to bow out due to film obligations.)

Stone effectively combines brashness and verve with hints of vulnerability. Her raw, strident singing voice perfectly matches her character, who is really not such a great performer herself — a fact that has been obscured by Liza’s performance in Fosse’s much reworked 1972 film version.

With the addition of Stone, those who enjoyed the revival years ago should consider returning. The same goes for anyone who saw the production after Cumming had left the cast, as he is giving one of the most haunting performances in modern musical theater history.

Stone and Cumming are joined by a superb supporting cast including Danny Burstein and Linda Emond (who received Tony nominations) as the elderly couple down the hall, and Bill Heck as Sally’s lover Cliff, who warns her of where Germany is heading while Sally keeps her head in the clouds.

If you go:

3.5 stars

“Cabaret” plays an open run at Studio 54. 254 West 54th St., roundabouttheatre.org.