PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Cabaret — Cumming & Going & Cumming Again

By Harry Haun
25 Apr 2014


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There are easier ways to make a Broadway debut than taking up musicals and a role with an indelible stamp on it. "I know," Williams nodded rather hopelessly, "but I couldn't resist it. The music is so beautiful. The part is so well-written. I couldn't say no. It was certainly better than any screenplay that I'd read for a long time."

Musically, Williams' leading man — the strapping Bill Heck — was in the same boat without a life preserver. "I've always sung, but just sorta casually," he grudgingly allowed. "I thought they were kidding when they cast me in a musical, but, if you ever get a chance like this, you gotta take it. It was terrifying at first because this is new ground for me, but everyone was so pleasant and talented and supportive that it was a genuine joy for me to do. Really, it was very satisfying."

Linda Emond, last seen on Broadway playing Linda to Philip Seymour Hoffman's Willy Loman, has another steep descent into tragedy here as Fraulein Schneider, the watchdog landlady who is softened up by her Jewish fruit-peddling boarder.



"I get the fun of dancing with pineapples ["It Couldn't Please Me More"] and the Studio 54 disco ball ["Married"] — all that fun stuff. Unfortunately, the Nazis show up, and some very hard decisions have to be made ["What Would You Do?"]."

The character has the best of both worlds for an actor, but who knew the actress could sing? "People forget I made my Broadway debut in 1776. I was Abigail Adams." And Cabaret turns out to be her second Broadway musical.

On the fun side of Fraulein Schneider's ledger is her running war with a prodigiously promiscuous prostitute-boarder, Fraulein Kost, who keeps a constant stream of sailors pouring in and out of her apartment, much to the shocked dismay of Fraulein Schneider: "What must the neighbors think I'm running here? A battleship?"

Gayle Rankin as the Kost in question and the disapproving Emond get some nice comic sparks out their repeated clashes. The secret, according to Rankin: "Linda's a great scene partner. I basically just listen to her, and my performance is set."

Fraulein Kost is a small, tart role, but Peg Murray won the Tony for it in the original 1966 Broadway production — over Lotte Lenya's Fraulein Schneider — and inherited that much larger role when Lenya left the show. She and Joel Grey, who won the Tony and later the Oscar as the emcee, are the last surviving members of the original cast.

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