It’s hard to get roles on Broadway yet some excellent performers are always employed. One such performer is the talented Queens-born Danny Burstein, who won accolades for his work last year in Talley’s Folly.
This year, the talented Burstein has returned in the revival of “Cabaret” at Studio 54 as the Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz. The story deals with the decadence of Berlin as Hitler and the Nazis ascend to power, and Burstein is the character reminding the audience of the impending horror.
The most recent revival of “Cabaret” is very like the last revival in 1998, including its leading man, the incomparable Alan Cumming as the Emcee and skilled director Sam Mendes. Even the venue, Studio 54 with its cabaret table seating, is the same.
What made the 1998 show so special was a sense of growing unease and discomfort, especially created by the sinister omnipotent Emcee. All the action led up to a gripping, troubling conclusion. This new revival works pretty much the same way. The stage version is much darker than the popular Liza Minelli movie.
Even the costumes create the mood. The Emcee is goth with highlighted eyes and skin tight black clothing. Sometimes, he wears suspenders but no shirt. The Kit Kat dancers wear dingy skin-colored lingerie. The whole sense is of depravity and grunge. In fact, the club atmosphere symbolizes Germany itself. “Cabaret” lacks the glitter and light as in a mainstream Broadway musical.
The Emcee pervades the show, sometimes watching from the audience, sometimes standing in the rear of the stage, casting a pall on even happy moments. Cumming is superb, both sinister and sexual.
In addition to Cumming, the show stars movie actress Michelle Williams as singer Sally Bowles. Sally isn’t supposed to be particularly good and neither is Williams. Her singing is mediocre with a pronounced vibrato. Her delivery is erratic and her speech pattern and accent distracting.
The secondary plot is the love story between Schultz and Fraulein Schneider (wonderfully portrayed by Linda Emond). Their affection and engagement are tender and its subsequent disruption because of his being Jewish foreshadows of Holocaust ahead. Their relationship is the real heart of the play. The only positive character is Schultz, but the dramatic irony is that the audience knows his fate. When he tries to reassure his fiancée that they will be okay, the audience wishes that he would heed Cliff’s advice and flee the country.
If you’ve never seen this version of “Cabaret,” then go. It’s a stunning interpretation. Cumming is superb and Queens’ Danny Burstein does what he does in all his performances – provide the show with humor, warmth and talent.