Reviews

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club ***1/2

By: Paulanne Simmons

May 3, 2024: If you’re in for a good time, complete with drinks, snacks and pre-show entertainment, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, the British revival of the iconic musical that has now reached our shores, is the show for you. But if you’d prefer a thoughtful exploration of the show’s themes, you may be disappointed.

Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee.

By: Paulanne Simmons

May 3, 2024: If you’re in for a good time, complete with drinks, snacks and pre-show entertainment, Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, the British revival of the iconic musical that has now reached our shores, is the show for you. But if you’d prefer a thoughtful exploration of the show’s themes, you may be disappointed.

Steven Skybell as Herr Schultz and Bebe Neuwirth as Fraulein Schneider.

With Rebecca Frecknall at the helm and Tom Scuitt as scenic, theater and costume designer, the August Wilson Theater has been entirely reconfigured on three floors to accommodate the 75 minutes of pre-show entertainment. What’s more, the show is presented as theater-in-the-round, with a stage that rises to multiple levels.

Here’s the good news. In the scenes that take place at the Kit Kat Club, Eddie Redmayne as the emcee; Gayle Rankin as Sally Bowles, the British cabaret singer; and a funky and outlandish ensemble, supported by Julia Cheng’s over-the-top choreography, are all riveting.

Gayle Rankin as Sally Bowles.

But the show has problems. The most obvious is the lack of chemistry between Sally and Clifford Bradshaw (Ato Blankson-Wood), the American writer of unresolved sexuality whom she manages to seduce. For most of the musical, Blankson-Wood seems to be wandering around the stage, reciting lines he learned at school. If it’s hard for the audience to see why Sally has fallen in love with him, one suspects it may have been just as hard for Rankin to figure that out too. At the end of the musical, their idea of passion seems to be yelling at each other.

However, the scenes between Herr Schultz (Steven Skybell) and Fräulein Schneider (Bebe Neuwirth) are emotionally powerful. Neuwirth makes Fräulein Schneider  exceptionally sympathetic, despite her lack of courage in the face of Nazis terrorism. We understand the fear and pain behind her decision. And Skybell gives Herr Schultz a gentle understanding, never making him self-righteous or righteously indignant. He is our real hero.

Gayle Rankin as Sally Bowles and Ato Blankson Wood.

Natascia Diaz is excellent as the Nazi prostitute, Fräulein Kost, and Henry Gottfried Is excellent as the Nazi smuggler, Ernst Ludwig. In their performances the blandness of evil is palpably obvious.

Of course, almost nothing can harm Kander and Ebb’s wonderful score or Joe Masteroff’s book, which has withstood the test of time. But Cabaret, for all its music and dance, is a cautionary tale. And considering what’s happening in the world today, the lessons we learned from World War II and the Holocaust should not be forgotten.

Unfortunately, in this production, the horrors of the Nazi regime are lost in the fog of tits, ass and booze.

Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club ***1/2
August Wilson Theatre
245 West 52 Street
Photography: Marc Brenner