Come to the Caberet — If You Can Still Get Tickets

Come to the Caberet? Definitely. We caught a preview back in March. Opening night is tonight, April 24, 2014. I know you aren’t supposed to review previews, but this is just a personal blog, and as many have pointed out, I’m not a professional. Besides, I’m mostly going to praise the hell out of this production.

I probably should have posted sooner because by now there aren’t too many tickets left, and after tonight, there will be fewer still. It’s a limited run with Alan Cumming returning to the role that made him a star (in this country at least) and it features movie star Michelle Williams in her Broadway debut. Per the official website the best ticket availability is in July till the end of the run. My guess is you will never see tickets for it at the half price booth. They were doing rush tickets during the preview, but who knows if they’ll continue? This one is actually worth paying retail to see.

What’s the main attraction? Alan Cumming. Did you know he’s a naturalized American citizen? That makes him this country’s finest stage actor. We saw him in his ONE MAN show of Macbeth, so no need to convince us. I have no idea why I didn’t see him in Caberet during it’s first run at Studio 54.  I meant to. What’s amazing to me is that the man is pushing fifty, but onstage he still plays the MC young.

Linda Emond and Danny Burstein as Frau Schneider and Herr Schultz were heartbreaking and excellent.

As for Michelle Williams – at the performance we saw, she proved she could sing and dance competently, but it wasn’t quite clear that she owned her Sally just yet. It’s a tricky role. Sally doesn’t have to sing like Liza Minelli, which Williams seemed to be attempting at times and missing the mark. Natasha Richardson barely sang at all, allowing us to see Sally onstage as amazingly vulnerable, and Judi Dench who originated the role in the musical wasn’t much of a singer either. Williams’ accent also wavered. She’s still beautiful and charismatic, and it’s entirely possible she’s figured it out by now. Possibly, her Sally needed a little more of her Marilyn – that combination of shrewdness and vulnerability.

Caberet for those who’ve never seen an iteration, is a dark story. It’s a musical that even people who dislike musicals can like. Although we sat up in the cheap seats, there was a real feeling of being transported to Berlin in the 1930’s – Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin, specifically – a once proud place where now everything and everyone is for sale, and the foreigners have come to gawk and live cheaply (as they might now in a “third world” nation). While some of the characters may have an inkling of how bad it’s going to get, the audience knows even more and brings that in.

In this case, I would recommend if you can, that you take full advantage, spend the bucks, get a table and come early. Enjoy the whole “devinely  decadent” affair. I’m not saying it’s not worth going if you’re up in the balcony. It’s a small enough theater and the site lines and sound are fine everywhere, I’m saying if you want the absolutely fullest experience of it you can get, it’s probably worth feeling like you are a real a patron in a Weimar cafe soaking up atmosphere and maybe looking for trouble. And who knows? You might even get to dance onstage with the MC.

My only serious qualm has to do with the book and the way the character Cliff is written. He seems to be all over the place and functions at points more as a plot device than as a person. I especially didn’t buy him and Sally as a couple. From what I remember, this might have been handled better in the movie. It’s non-existent in the original stories, and while I can understand the need for a “love story” in the play, it’s clunky in this version. However, there’s still enough going on within the confines of the Kit Klub and over at Frau Schneider’s boarding house, to make this Caberet well worth coming to, and again with Alan Cumming, Linda Emond, Danny Burstein, and maybe even by now Michelle Williams, it should not be missed.

(First time here? Lots of stuff to see. You can get the skinny on the TKTS line and some of its resident characters, or find out how to get those cheap seats at the Met. Or you could blow this joint, and check out some of Marion’s fictional creations over on the Amazon.)