Broadway Review: Emma Stone in ‘Cabaret’

Cabaret review Emma Stone review Broadway

Liza spoiled it for everyone with her thrilling perf as Sally Bowles, the flamboyant party girl in “Cabaret.”  Although her pitiful musical talents are the least of the services Sally offers patrons of the Kit Kat Klub, Minnelli’s star turn still bedevils femme thesps trying to play Sally as the amateurish entertainer she is. That also applies to It Girl Emma Stone, who’s taken over from Michelle Williams in the current Roundabout revival. But the red-headed beauty has found a good way to put her own personal stamp on the role — she acts the hell out of it. 

There’s more to Sally Bowles than the wild child who fled boring old England for the danger and decadence of Weimar Berlin.  Underneath the persona of the naughty girl who made a career of singing and dancing and prostituting herself at the Kit Kat Club is a vulnerable young woman out of her depth in this wicked city, terrified of being broke, of being without a man, of being alone.  That’s the Sally that Michelle Williams played in her pink baby-doll outfits.

Barely acknowledging that side of Sally, Stone goes straight to the little tramp who immediately took to the divinely decadent society of underworld Berlin. Stone’s Sally loves the attention she got as “The Toast of Mayfair.”  The parties, the gifts, the cocaine, the sex — it’s all great fun, until it isn’t.  This savvy Sally is no innocent outsider, but very much one of the Kit Kat Girls in “Mein Herr,” slutty and predatory and scary as hell.

Once things turn ugly, Sally loses her edge and becomes frantic, latching onto Cliff Bradshaw, the kind-hearted but naive American played (quite well) by Bill Heck, and hanging on for dear life.  That’s where Stone plays Sally, dancing on the edge of desperation and too scared to look down. It’s a bit narrow as an emotional platform, but a smart choice for her acting skills, the perfect fit for her sharp intelligence and kinetic energy.

While Stone is even less of a singer than Williams, she acts her way out of every tight spot.  When Sally dares to hope that there’s a future for her and Cliff, Stone makes “Maybe This Time” a cry that comes right from the heart.  And when those hopes turn to ashes, Stone pours all that pain and rage and despair into her electrifying delivery of “Cabaret.” Not too shabby for a non-singer, and exactly what you’d expect from a real actor.

It’s hard to tell whether the show was smartened up for Stone’s entry, but it’s a well-oiled machine.  As the decadent Emcee of the Kit Kat Club, Alan Cumming is having the time of his life playing to the audience, which is mad for him. But if he has somehow grown larger than his role, the rest of the company seems to have made a pact with the gods of discipline.

As the ill-fated older lovers Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, Linda Emond and Danny Burstein are looking more and more like the Lunts of the Broadway musical theater.  There seem to be no limits to Gayle Rankin’s skills; she’s funny and frightening as the house prostitute Fraulein Kost and truly formidable when she begins the choral singing on “Tomorrow Belongs to Me.”

And as the Emcee keeps telling us, the Kit Kat Orchestra really is quite beautiful.

Broadway Review: Emma Stone in 'Cabaret'

Studio 54; 893 seats; $172 top. Opened April 24, 2014. Re-reviewed Dec. 4. Running time: TWO HOURS, 30 MIN.

Production

A Roundabout Theater Company production of a musical in two acts, based on a play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood, with a book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander, and lyrics by Fred Ebb.

Creative

Directed by Sam Mendes. Co-directed & choreographed by Rob Marshall. Sets & club design, Robert Brill; costumes, William Ivey Long; lighting, Peggy Eisenhauer & Mike Baldassari; sound, Brian Ronan; hair & wigs, Paul Huntley; makeup, Angelina Avallone; dialect coach, Deborah Hecht; musical director & vocal arranger, Patrick Vaccariello;  orchestrations, Michael Gibson; dance & incidental music, David Krane; original music coordinator, John Monaco; production stage manager, Arthur Gaffin.

Cast

Alan Cumming, Emma Stone, Linda Edmond, Danny Burstein, Bill Heck, Aaron Krohn, Gayle Rankin.

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  1. Jale says:

    I really like Emma’s Sally. More flirty ,playful and childish Sally she made. And the way she showed her emotions through her character was just brilliant. I wish I could see her again as Sally. Well done Stone

  2. Simona says:

    I saw the show twice, once with Michelle and once with Emma. I think Emma is the perfect choice for this role. The way she uses her voice, her incredibly expressive eyes (and boy, they are big) and the manic energy and vulnerability she conveys as Sally are mesmerizing. And, she can sing (in my opinion, she did better than Michelle in that department). I did like the show with Michelle as well. I mean, the material is great, and Alan is too much fun to watch but with Emma I think it took another shape. It’s livelier, scintillating. I am not a big fan of her work in general (haven’t watched Birdman yet), but I think if given the right material, she could shine. She should definitely do more theatre as well.

  3. Emma Stone make her Cabaret role come alive and everyone after she leave the show will remember her a long time.

  4. Joyce Tyler says:

    Natasha Richardson acted the hell out of it in 1998, won a Tony Award, and had audiences leaving the theatre saying, “Liza who?” Just so you know, Emma Stone hasn’t discovered America here.

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