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NY1 Theater Review: 'Cabaret'

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The 2013-2014 Broadway season wraps up with the debut of the Roundabout Theatre Company's revival of its Tony-winning 1998 production of the hit musical "Cabaret." NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall's bravura revival of "Cabaret" is back, virtually the same production that lit up Broadway 16 years ago, and with Alan Cumming returning as the emcee, you'd think all is right on the rialto once again. But it's not. And all I can say is, what a difference a leading lady can make.

Sally Bowles ranks right up there as an iconic figure in modern literature. Reckless and carefree, she's a British club singer in Weimar Germany of modest talent. Irresistible to men, she's insecure and must be seen as vulnerable.

Natasha Richardson had those qualities in spades. 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. Suddenly, the people we care most about are Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. And while Linda Emond and Danny Burstein are marvelous in the roles, they upstage the main plot – Sally's relationship with her American bisexual lover, Clifford Bradshaw.

In the role, Bill Heck is believably appealing to men and women alike. And while it's no surprise that Burstein and Emond are fantastic together, who knew Emond, known for her dramatic gifts, has such an accomplished voice.

Fortunately, there's still enough of the original '98 production to warrant a return visit. Alan Cumming is simply divine, as Sally might say. The added years give him a more debauched quality and - hard to believe - he's even better this time around. The ensemble numbers featuring Kander and Ebb's superlative score are staged to grungy perfection, and the performances, with the one key exception, match the original's high standards.

Bottom line: Cabaret continues to make beautiful music even though one of its principals falls rather flat.

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