Tell Mama, tell Papa, tell the kinder: Emma Stone, sensational onscreen as Michael Keaton’s naughty Broadway baby in Birdman, makes her real Broadway debut as a smashing Sally Bowles opposite the indomitable Alan Cumming, in Cabaret. From her high-spirited entrance at the Kit Kat Klub singing “Don’t Tell Mama” through the finale, in which this wide-eyed siren turns John Kander and Fred Ebb’s title song into a scorching burst of anger and anguish, Stone makes Sally entirely her own.
She steps into formidable heels, to be sure: From Jill Haworth’s Broadway original in Hal Prince’s groundbreaking 1966 production, where Sally was a third-rate chantoosie reduced to scratching out a living in the seedy Berlin club in the fading years of the Weimar Republic; to Liza Minnelli’s electrifying performance in Bob Fosse’s film adaptation; to the harrowing Natasha Richardson in Sam Mendes’ 1998 Broadway revival. The current edition, at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Studio 54, recreates the Mendes production. It opened last April with Michelle Williams, game but miscast, and Cumming returning as the Emcee.
Each of those Sallys was different one from the other. Here now is a Sally Bowles who takes every defeat as a challenge to be met with all her resources gathered to hide the pain and carry on. She’s a trouper with neither foolish pride nor gloomy self-pity.
Don’t go expecting to make allowances for a star turn, for Stone moves with a hoofer’s efficient slinkiness and sings deliciously. My only complaint may be an odd one, which is that Stone’s smile is as wide and bright as that new billboard stretching from 45th to 46th Streets — perhaps making Sally more American than British.
But really, who cares? This revived revival has gotten an energy boost, notably evident with Cumming, who has darkened in the role without losing any of his risqué charm. Linda Emond and Danny Burstein are still memorable as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz; Bill Heck remains good enough as Clifford Bradshaw, and Aaron Krohn is unctuously malevolent as Ernst Ludwig.
A brief tip of the hat, here, to 54 Below, the nightclub underneath (but with no connection to) Studio 54. In addition to being a favored showcase for Broadway performers who can’t abide the idea of a night off, the club offers an increasingly diversified and offbeat range of programs, for which credit goes to the five-member producing team of Scott Coulter, Shoshana Feinstein, Brandon Ivie, Benjamin Rauhala and T. Oliver Reid.
This week I saw the veteran Broadway actor and monologist Martin Moran (Titanic, Spamalot) and his composing partner Joseph Thalken performing their utterly compelling solo musical Borrowed Dust. Some well-known friends stopped by to add a few more songs: Marin Mazzie, Rebecca Luker, Brian D’Arcy James and and Jason Daniely. It was terrific evening. Support this place!