DO TELL MAMA, EMMA STONE'S SUPERB: Emma Stone plays Sally Bowles like no one else. Photo: Richard Phibbs

DO TELL MAMA, EMMA STONE’S SUPERB: Emma Stone plays Sally Bowles like no one else. Photo: Richard Phibbs

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CABARET
Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Based on the play by John Van Druten
Co-directed by Sam Mendez & Rob Marshall
Choreography by Rob Marshall
Through March 29, 2015
Studio 54
254 West 54th Street
(212-719-1300), www.RoundaboutTheatre.org

By David NouNou

As a rule, most critics aren’t invited back to review a new star who has taken over a role in a show that they have reviewed already. Each year for the last 10 years, as my birthday gets closer in November and I get the blahs of feeling older, I treat myself to a Wednesday matinee to cheer myself up. This year I chose Cabaret, not because the show is such a pick-me-upper, but simply because I wanted to see Emma Stone as Sally Bowles.

Ever since I was a teenager and saw the original Cabaret in 1967, I have been in search of a satisfying Sally Bowles. I saw the original Sally portrayed by Jill Haworth and she was drubbed by the critics, I believe it was The New York Times who said, “Her performance is not worth the cost of the mascara she uses,” something to that effect. The victor of the show emerged to be Joel Grey as the emcee and, like Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, and Yul Brynner as the King of Siam in The King and I, the emcee has become Mr. Grey’s signature performance. Then, in 1997, The Roundabout came up with an entirely reinvented Cabaret and the phenomenon was Alan Cumming as the emcee. Probably the only time in musical history that two actors have made the same part their signature performances in totally different interpretations. However, this is not about them; it is about Sally Bowles.

Since then, poor Sally, although the lead of the show, seems to have been relegated to almost a secondary character and the emcee has been elevated to such stratospheric heights. I’ve seen Jill Haworth, Allyson Reed, Natasha Richardson, Susan Egan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jane Leeves, Michelle Williams and each brought something to the role, and some brought none. I truly believed that Sally Bowles was an unplayable part, until November 12th when I saw Emma Stone, making her Broadway debut in what was only her second performance.

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Stone’s after seeing her in such movies as: The Help, Spiderman, and the current Birdman. Truly one of the most talented, lovely and gifted actresses of her generation, I had my trepidations about her ability as to whether she would be able to conquer Sally. And conquer it she does. It has been 47 years of waiting to see a fully satisfying and realized Sally Bowles. She is age perfect, delicious, has an impeccable English accent, can sing and belt out the Cabaret anthem, coquettish, exasperating, flirtatious, sometimes annoying, childlike, vamp and waif, all the qualities that exemplify Sally; all the emotions portrayed in their proper places. One of the scenes that I could never reconcile myself with is one in which Sally forces her way into Cliff Bradshaw’s living quarters, especially when Cliff has ambiguous sexual tastes. Ms. Stone is the only actress that truly made me believe how she could captivate Cliff and wriggle her way into his life.

Cabaret
is still one of the most magnificent musicals ever and this revival is strong proof of it. Ms. Stone was originally set to originate the role of Sally but due to prior commitments, she had to drop out and Michelle Williams replaced her. It is not usual for a star of Ms. Stone’s magnitude to come in as a replacement but what a thrill for audiences that she has. She will only be in it until February 1, 2015.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen Cabaret for the umpteenth time and you’ve already seen Alan Cumming; forget about it. See it one more time because you will be seeing the definitive Sally Bowles in Emma Stone’s performance. Ms. Stone has elevated Sally back to the starring role.

'PERFECTLY MARVELOUS': Emma Stone as Sally Bowles in 'Cabaret'. Photo: Richard Phibbs

‘PERFECTLY MARVELOUS’: Emma Stone as Sally Bowles in ‘Cabaret’. Photo: Richard Phibbs

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published November 18, 2014
Reviewed at performance on November 12, 2014

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