While Cabaret (written by the legendary Kander & Ebb team, who also wrote Chicago) has always been one of the darkest and most potent musicals. This 1998 renaissance directed by Sam Mendes digs deeper and cuts harder than previous incarnations. Even seedier than the original and movie versions (made famous by Liza Minnelli in the lead role of Sally Bowles, a nightclub chanteuse), Cabaret explores the German nightlife in 1930s Nazi Germany. The musical revolves around three separate couples and a troupe of nightclub performers, led by one devastating and compelling emcee. The music is enchanting and uninhibited, and the score features several classics, including "Don't Tell Mama," "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," "Money," and the titular "Cabaret." The Tony award-winning cast in this 1998 version is invigorating, featuring performances by the astonishing Alan Cumming (as the emcee) and Natasha Richardson as a much quieter-voiced and more emotionally expressive Sally Bowles than the Minnelli version. A definite must-have.
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AllMusic Review by Sarah Erlewine