Around The Town

5 Reasons Why Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club is an Experience to Behold.

By: Iris Wiener

April 29, 2024: There is immersive theatre, and then there is Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, which takes immersion to an entirely new level of theatergoing and entertainment.  Based on Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin and John Van Druten’s dramatization of the piece, I am a Camera, the new revival of John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Joe Masteroff’s Cabaret is set in Weimar-era Berlin as American writer Clifford Bradshaw (Ato Blankson-Wood) arrives to work on his novel and enjoy the sultry nightlife. He meets English cabaret performer Sally Bowles (Gayle Rankin) and a tumultuous relationship ensues. The musical unfolds as the Nazis ascend to power and the horrors of World War II begin to progress. The revival, which also stars Eddie Redmayne as The Emcee, is truly transcendent. Here are five reasons why:

By: Iris Wiener

April 29, 2024: There is immersive theatre, and then there is Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, which takes immersion to an entirely new level of theatergoing and entertainment.  Based on Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin and John Van Druten’s dramatization of the piece, I am a Camera, the new revival of John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Joe Masteroff’s Cabaret is set in Weimar-era Berlin as American writer Clifford Bradshaw (Ato Blankson-Wood) arrives to work on his novel and enjoy the sultry nightlife. He meets English cabaret performer Sally Bowles (Gayle Rankin) and a tumultuous relationship ensues. The musical unfolds as the Nazis ascend to power and the horrors of World War II begin to progress. The revival, which also stars Eddie Redmayne as The Emcee, is truly transcendent. Here are five reasons why:

1.    The transformative space and set design is surrealistic and sets the tone for a completely unique evening of theatre. The August Wilson Theatre was once a proscenium house; now reconstructed into a theatre-in-the-round with a large gazebo-like center stage, the viewing experience itself is an artistic vision. Scenic and theatre designer Tom Scutt dreamed up a dark world to match the tone of the new production imported from London with Rebecca Frecknall at its helm. The Kit Kat Club’s orchestra seats have small ledges for drinks, or patrons may be sat at lamp lit tables. For all of its welcoming grandiosity, the ironic goal of Cabaret is to make audiences feel unsettled. The intimacy in such a large space is a feat that spins comfort in an illusionary fashion, making the dark story markedly impactful. 

2.    Attendees receive a club entry time, so that they may enjoy an “interactive prologue” prior to the musical itself. Upon entering the Kit Kat Club, guests enjoy complimentary cherry schnapps and a performance of writhing musicians and dancers on a basement dance floor and orchestra piano bar. At certain ticket levels, guests can even partake in a meal before the show. The opening festivities, bathed in a red and gold, swarthy glow, exceptionally set the tone for the musical itself.

3.    Rebecca Frecknall makes her Broadway directorial debut with Cabaret, though it is no surprise that the British director won the 2022 Olivier Award for Best Director of her production of Cabaret.  Actors swarm the storied platform from all sides and angles, including entrances from underground and the mezzanine, interacting with guests as they join center stage. From the get-go, Frecknall’s Cabaret is also unique in that it focuses intently on the bleakness of the world in which the characters (queer people, Jewish people, and political outliers) find themselves trying to survive and thrive. Audiences are usually enveloped in the festivities and feel the world unfurling alongside the players; at this Cabaret, there is never a question of the dark journey that lies ahead…

4.    ….in part thanks to the brilliant, alluringly militaristic choreography from Julia Cheng, who is also reprising her work from the London production. At any given moment the astoundingly talented company is mesmerizing, whether simulating sex or punctuating the inevitability of their fates with slow marches and blank stares. 

5.    Gayle Rankin thankfully offers what might be the most complex Sally Bowles (whereas one couldn’t help but root for Liza Minnelli and Michelle Williams in their own incarnations of Cabaret), but Rankin’s take is the most haunting in its irascibility and grittiness (see the 11 o’clock number, “Cabaret”). Her sense of urgency and frustrating naivete is heart-crushingly vulnerable. Rankin’s take on ‘Maybe This Time” is unforgettable, as she reveals her resignation and dreams left unanswered. 

Eddie Redmayne (center) in ‘CABARET at the Kit Kat Club’ at the August Wilson Theatre. Photo: MARC BRENNER