“Outside it is winter. But in here it’s so hot.”
It is 22 years since Sam Mendes debuted his iconic revival of Kander and Ebb’s musical Cabaret with Alan Cumming (re)creating the role of the Emcee and in the hallowed grounds of Studio 54, he is back in that part overseeing a succession of bright young things taking on the equally iconic character of Sally Bowles. Michelle Williams (Dawson’s not Destiny’s) opened up this run and Sienna Miller will step into the shoes next month but it is recent Academy Award nominee Emma Stone who was the original choice for this particular revival.
A fascinatingly honest interview reveals the reason why she couldn’t open the show but circumstance prevailed to allow her to join the company and ever so pleasingly, right at the moment that I was in town. And she is brilliant in the role, it’s no mean feat putting her own spin on a character that has been so effectively previously immortalised but Stone manages it, finding a real sense of a new, fresh, personality for Sally that is more emotional, fragile even, laying bare all the vulnerability of a young woman aching for a place to belong in a world that is turning its back on her, and so many others.
Everyone else lives up to Stone’s star billing too though. Cumming feels so utterly at ease – how could he not – as the haunting figure that stalks the action throughout, Linda Emond and Danny Burstein are heartbreakingly good as Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz who try to find love in a hopeless place and as Cliff, Sally’s erstwhile love interest, Bill Heck nails the disbelieving earnestness of someone who never quite fits into the louche hedonism of this slice of Berlin life. And with a whip-sharp company that make the Kit Kat Klub an irresistibly entertaining place to be, life really is a Cabaret on West 54th Street.