Michelle Williams' Sally Bowles Is Just What 'Cabaret' Needed
When it comes to the legacy of beloved musicals, it's a nearly impossible task for anyone to fill Liza Minnelli shoes in the role of Cabaret's Sally Bowles. She was, to state it simply, iconic. Which is why our unbridled excitement over that role next going to Michelle Williams in the Cabaret Broadway revival should not be underestimated. Because if there's anyone who can inhabit Sally Bowles and somehow make her her own, we think it might be Williams.
News of her casting broke last year, but performances of the production just started up March 21. The production also stars Alan Cumming, reclaiming the title of MC, a role he's been playing on and off since the 1993 Sam Mendes-directed London revival at the Donmar Warehouse. Accompanying this most recent Broadway opening, Williams is the subject of a Vogue profile — a profile which drives home over and over again what we knew all along: She's perfect for the role of Sally Bowles.
The first thing that asserts this is the prose itself, Vogue's Adam Green articulating what we've always felt about Williams' performances:
Williams’s acting is marked both by its invisibility and by the almost reckless courage with which she inhabits woundedness. It’s hard to imagine anyone bringing a fresher, more penetrating take to Sally Bowles, a wayward English songbird with a bruised spirit who takes up with a bisexual American writer (Bill Heck) and ruins everything. “She has a vulnerability and fragility—but also a kind of steeliness—that I find fascinating,” says Cumming of his costar. “She’s always completely in the moment, and because of that you believe every word that comes out of her mouth.”
And then there's Williams herself. And as always, she nails the act of getting down to the soul of her character. One of the great things about Sally Bowles is that, despite the belting power of those who've played her, like Liza Minnelli, her character does not depend on a powerful voice. She is, at her most honest, a moderately-skilled nightclub performer living at the epicenter of sexual freedom.
She decides she’s going to be billed as ‘The Toast of Mayfair.’ That’s what’s going to separate her from the other girls, make her special. It suggests talent, success, elegance. But she’s really just a few steps up from a call girl. [...] She’s somebody who won’t look past herself. As she famously says in the play, ‘Politics? But what has that to do with us?’ At the end, she’s alone, singing onstage while the city burns around her, still waiting to become a star.
We've already seen Williams embody a legend in My Week With Marilyn — now we'll get to see her do it once more.
You can read the full profile here — it includes a great anecdote about how the late Natasha Richardson influenced her decision to take the role.