The ”new” revival of Cabaret is either a revolutionary, provocative shockfest or a high-concept, top-notch production of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s 1966 musical classic. That all depends on if you saw Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s 1998 revival, of which this is a carbon copy. From the nightclub-style seating to the bruised and tattooed ensemble, every detail is faithfully re-created — right down to the swastika on the Emcee’s bare butt. (Even the butt itself is the same: Tony winner Alan Cumming is back as the Mephistophelian host.)
Mendes and Marshall’s drugged-up, de-glammed portrait of Weimar-era Germany remains dangerously seductive — as does Cumming, with his piercing gaze and puckish grin. Even so, some luster has been lost in the other goings-on at the Kit Kat Klub, where American novelist Cliff Bradshaw (Bill Heck, making the most of a chiseled jaw and a thankless role) meets singer Sally Bowles (Michelle Williams, in her Broadway debut). With her baby-doll dresses and Kewpie-doll features, Williams is less overtly sexy than Natasha Richardson was in 1998. And Sally subsists on gin and cocaine, a trait that Williams’ porcelain skin and bright eyes don?t quite convey.
Still, the ill-fated romance between Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz (Danny Burstein) and landlady Fräulein Schneider (an extraordinary Linda Emond) is more shattering than ever. Cabaret’s skimpy costumes and crotch-grabbing choreography may get the attention, but nothing compares to two unlikely lovebirds serenading a pineapple. B+