The most important news first: If you havent yet seen this revival of "Cabaret", now in its fourth year on Broadway, it is still in remarkably, almost miraculously good shape. And if you plan a revisitnow would be a great time.
As the production has been reviewed elsewhere in these cyber-pages [link here], Ill skip the plot and descriptive particulars and get right to the business at hand: the new cast.
Molly Ringwald is a very credible Sally Bowles. You dont think of her as a stage actress (though she clearly is) nor as a singer (and she clearly isnt really, but she can carry a tune with assurance and more than a little musicality), but she sells the role and more than earns the increased ticket sales her name has added to the kitty. In retrospect, I cant say that she adds a particular depth to the role, but there is, in her interpretation, a bright enthusiasm that sells just about every important dramatic and musical aspect. Her accent is believably British too.
The center of the production, though, is Raúl Esparzas emcee. As has been proven by other replacement emcees, this is a nearly impossible role to take over, as it is so linked to the persona and tics of its creator, Alan Cumming (just as, in the original Broadway production, the emcee was built upon the equally idiosyncratic and hard-to-replace Joel Grey). But Esparza has made a home in his "cage": he hasnt eschewed the outer Cumming trappings (you sort of cant) but he has cannily rebuilt the role from within. Whereas Cumming was slyly depraved and sweetly unsettling, Mr. Esparza is a savagely self-aware showman, who knows that every gesture sends a messageand clearly wants to be sure you know he knows it too. For charisma and the ability to be the shows glue, Esparza is a match for Mr. Cumming and for musicality and musical theatre savvy hes even sharper. Im not saying its a better interpretation for thatbut I am saying its unequivocally on par.
Carole Shelly remains, as she has since 1999, installed as Fraulein Schneider and Ill just repeat what I wrote then: [She] once again proves her mettle as one of the great old (well, middle aged) pros of the profession. As the owner and operator of the boarding house Cliff moves into, she knows how to make all the points land with elan and heart.
The new Herr Schultzthe lonely Jewish fruiterer who woos Fraulein Schneideris Larry Keith, likewise a terrific old pro, with an unerring sense of the roles ethicity, timing and, above all, its understated passion. And he sings with a sweet tenor vibrato that is so touchingly old fashioned as to be perfectly in periodand of the characters generation.
As to the others: Matthew Greers Clifford Bradshaw (the young American writer who gets involved with Sally) is effective in a Clark Kent-ish sort of way; Peter Bensons Ernst Ludwig (the obsequious German smuggler who befriends Cliff) seems to have recaptured the subtle menace of the role as created by Denis OHare (without standing too much in Mr. OHares short but formidable shadow); and Candy Buckleys Fraulein Kosta hooker and Nazi sympathizer who is one of Fraulein Schneiders bordershas a nicely ribald comic edge.
Theres still good reason to come to the cabaret, old chum
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