In 1998, director Sam Mendes didn’t have American Beauty and Skyfall under his belt, and choreographer Rob Marshall hadn’t taken Chicago and Into The Woods to the big screen yet. But the duo shepherded the Tony-winning revival of Cabaret onto the Great White Way and into musical theater history.
This year, Roundabout Theatre Company has enlisted Mendes and Marshall to remount the show at Studio 54, bringing back Alan Cumming as the emcee and scoring three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams to step in for the late Natasha Richardson as Fraulein Sally Bowles.
And unlike the previous Broadway revival, which ran for 2,377 performances, this Cabaret is saying auf Wiedersehen on August 31.
Here are 6 reasons you shouldn’t miss Cabaret’s triumphant return to Broadway.
1. Alan Cumming’s still got it
As the sexually fluid master of ceremonies, Cumming steals the show in a role that won him a Tony more than 15 years ago. He’s laugh-out-loud hilarious, whether adlibbing scenes or performing campy numbers like “Two Ladies” (in which one of the ladies is played by a man). But he also knows how to reel in his shtick to pack a powerful punch during songs like “If You Could See Her” and the somber standout, “I Don’t Care Much.”
While Joel Grey was phenomenal in the original stage version and film adaptation, Cumming has really come to define the character for a new generation.
2. Anne Hathaway wasn’t cast as Sally Bowles
When the revival was announced, rumors swirled that Anne Hathaway would be the main attraction at the Kit Kat Club.
Academy Award aside, Hathaway is—to put it gently—not the most musically gifted actress. Her Fantine was overdone and, despite her best efforts, Miss Hathaway’s never been able to shed her Princess Diaries wholesome image. We’re much happier that Williams is the Brokeback Mountain star whose name is on the marquee. (Though we’d love to see Jake Gyllenhaal in the role, just saying.)
3. Michelle Williams dazzles in her Broadway debut
Williams has a penchant for playing dark characters (even Jen on Dawson’s Creek died, for Pete’s sake) and her Bowles is one giant exposed nerve.
By bringing the character’s fragility to the forefront, Williams lets us see that Sally is using the cabaret as a coping mechanism for the chaos of Weimar-era Germany. (Hence her blind dismissal of politics even as the Nazis start to gain terrifying momentum).
From her desperate and raw “Maybe This Time” to her stripped down, heartbreaking rendition of the title number, Williams brilliantly emphasizes Sally’s knack for self-destruction. She’s taking a fresh and deeply psychological approach that adds layers of complexity to a character that’s been around for half a century. It’s a tact that stands a good chance at earning her a Tony.
Plus, her English accent won’t make you cringe.
4. The ambiance
Studio 54 has resurrected the Kit Kat Klub, offering theatergoers intimate seating, bordello-style furnishings and a full cocktail menu serviced by scantily clad waiters. In fact, they’re so committed to the cabaret vibe that ushers don’t give out Playbills until after the show is over.
5. The orchestra really is beautiful
This revival really delivers on sex appeal: Not only are the musicians gorgeous—they blow their horns and gyrate on stage in nothing but leather vests and lacy halter tops. (It’s the girls wearing the halters, if you were confused.)
6. It has Liza Minnelli’s stamp of approval
“I’m excited to see what they will do with the show and am sure it will be great,” Minnelli told E! Online. “Michelle is a wonderful actress and I love Alan Cumming.” Minnelli, who won the Oscar for her interpretation of Sally Bowles, swore, “I will be there opening night.”
There you have it. The queen has spoken.
Currently in previews, Cabaret at Studio 54 officially opens April 24 and runs through August 31.