After going to see a ton of shows in June and July, I didn’t see a single play or musical for all of August and September. It was a long, dry spell that I finally broke this weekend with a trip to Studio 54 to see “Cabaret” with my friend. Studio 54 is gorgeous — it’s a former nightclub and the home of the 1998 “Cabaret” revival, and the orchestra level seating is made up of small tables. As you might be able to tell from this photo (the only one we took inside, since it’s not really allowed), we had a great view — table was in the first row of tiered tables halfway back. There was a walkway in front of us and the actors often used it to go up onstage and off.
I’m not going to tell you the plot of “Cabaret”. You may already know it, or you can go look it up. Instead, I’ll tell you all that I knew going into it: It’s a cabaret, Alan Cumming plays the Master of Ceremonies, it takes place in Berlin, and it takes place either right before or soon after WWII. (The last one is important: it’s before.)
Usually going into a musical I’ve listened to the music. Going into a play, I may have read it, or googled a synopsis. At the very least I’ll read the summary in the program. But Studio 54 doesn’t give out the programs for “Cabaret” until the end of the show, so I didn’t know anything of the plot, I vaguely knew I’d heard the song “Cabaret” before but had no idea if I’d recognize any of the rest of the songs (I did know a few), and the only spoiler question I asked my friend before was if anyone dies. I don’t like sad surprises.
My friend loves “Cabaret”. She saw it for the first time at fifteen. This outing was her fourth time to see this production – and she lives in DC. At intermission and after the show she told me all about the show’s history, from the book it was based on to the first production in the 1960s to the first revival to this production. She talked about how Alan Cumming expanded the role of the Master of Ceremonies (or MC) and how his portrayal has changed from the first revival to this one. It was all fascinating information – I felt like I was sitting next to a theater historian.
So here’s my review of “Cabaret” – it’s strange, and dark, and sexy, and the music is all that too, but what struck me the most was all the history layered into it, the foreshadowing and the conflict that came just from when and where it was all taking place. It was a really thoughtful show, and a thoughtful production, and I just might have to go back and see Emma Stone in it, especially since Michelle Williams was out the day we went.
It doesn’t hurt that “Cabaret” is a Roundabout Theatre production, which means if you’re under 35 you can get two balcony tickets for $25 each through HIPTIX. Or you can do what we did and buy a HIPTIX Gold membership for $75, which gets you $25 floor seats to Roundabout Theatre shows for a year. I know I’ll use it later in the season (there are a ton of great shows ahead) but it was worth it just for this show.
If you’re looking for an interesting night or afternoon, check out “Cabaret” and let me know what you think!