Saturday, April 5, 2014

Wilkommen Back to Cabaret

[Fraulein Kost has been caught sneaking sailors out of her room]
 All day, sailors in, out, in, out. God only knows what the neighbors think I run--a BATTLESHIP? --Fraulein Schneider

Sixteen years ago, I discovered the Kit Kat Club. I had my first glimpse at the revival during the 1998 Tony Awards. While many went crazy over Lion King, I wanted to know what was this burlesque-like, seedy world that a scantily glad Emcee and dancers lured me to. CD purchased and tickets bought, I felt like an understudy to every character in the show. I watched the movie and fell in love and in sadness with the characters. I could not wait to meet Sally Bowles and the Emcee.

A little background on the show itself. Cabaret takes place in a nightclub in Berlin in the 1930's. It's a time of confusion as the Nazi party is beginning to have more power around the country.

Along with the lovable, dark, and sensual Emcee, there is the sad character of Sally Bowles, a London-born Cabaret entertainer. Enter Clifford Bradshaw, American writer, looking for inspiration in Berlin, running from the truth of his feelings. There is the budding romance between Jewish fruit shop owner, Herr Schultz and boarding house owner Fraulein Schneider.
It's a story of love, loss, and the end of innocence.

Sixteen years ago, I saw Cabaret with Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson. I was awestruck. It was even more perfect than I imagined. There was so much chemistry on stage between the actors.

Sixteen years later, when I heard Alan would be back in his role at Studio 54, I was not going to miss the opportunity. To see an actor reprise a role after so many years is like, well, running  through a field of grain and then drinking the whiskey it produced years later. It's full of experience, waiting, being stepped on, and loved. Sadly, this reprisal would be about loss as well, as his original Sally had passed. But Sally's role would be filled by someone who could understand Sally, Michelle Williams.

With sixteen years of life behind me as well, I wondered how I would react, things in the show that once meant nothing to me, now would mean the world or have some significant reaction that my once young self would not understand.
After having a very busy three weeks at work, I decided that, since I am not a teenager, Miss Paula would have an adult dinner. I literally stumbled upon Gato, Bobby Flay's new Mediterranean-inspired restaurant on Lafayette Street in NoHo. I could have survived on just smelling the food. The wait staff was honest and very friendly. Do yourself a favor, treat yourself to this place. I've been to Bobby's other restaurants and Gato blows them all away. It's a sensory experience between the food, the gorgeously renovated space, and the people that come and go. It took me a few times to realize that the seat I was in sat directly in front of the kitchen. So the entire time, my back was to Bobby Flay as people would pass by and awkwardly say, there is he in blue, go get your mother. I would have loved to raise my glass of Nero D'Avola Cusumano to him for my heavenly 11 Layer potato with sage, white chicory salad, and halibut with saffron-tomato broth and couscous. There was no room for dessert.
Onwards toward my date with my past, I so happily passed paths with some friends from my husband's old firehouse. It was so nice to see you all Ladder 4!!!
It was definitely like facing yourself in the mirror. I thought about how young I was when I first sat in the sit at The Kit Kat Club. When those lights went out and I hear those first few notes and then Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!
 Chills, memories, tears. It was perfect beyond perfection. First, Alan Cumming was not the young Emcee, what he gave to the performance was years of life experience. His young persona of 1998 was replaced by more of a enigmatic, omnipresent shadow watching every move of the characters.
Michelle Williams,  in her Broadway debut as Sally Bowles was stunning and brilliant. She made Sally into her own sad character. Her play off of my new Broadway crush, Bill Heck as Clifford Bradshaw was magnificent. Her blas√© attitude towards anything political or permanent was in contrast to Cliff's inner struggle with his sexuality, hatred toward the political situation around him, and loss of the slight glimpse of hope of a future with Sally.
Frauline Schneider and Herr Schultz, played by Linda Emond and Danny Burnstein, were simply perfectly magnificent in their roles. Their parts were politically impacted as Herr Schulz is a Jewish man who wishes to marry German Frauline Schneider. The world became filled with very raw emotion and sadness as the once happy cabaret world around them crumbled.

I walked away loving Cabaret even more. It is a show that is timeless as it does capture something so very real about our world. It captures something we all want: freedom. Freedom to be sexual. Freedom to be in love. Freedom to be who we are. It also captures the sad time of our world where so many lost their freedoms because of who they were, how they worshipped, and who they loved.  


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