“This show is called ‘Perfectly Marvelous,’ but it may be imperfectly marvelous,” said a nervous Anne Hathaway on Wednesday night at Joe’s Pub. “We’ve only had a day and a half of rehearsals.” She needn’t have been so hard on herself as she presented an evening of songs at Joe’s Pub from the 1966 Broadway musical “Cabaret” with a stellar group of friends, including Audra McDonald, Eddie Redmayne, Linda Lavin, Harvey Fierstein, and Bryce Pinkham. By the time Hathaway finished a raucous version of the famous title song, the packed audience rose to give her and the cast a spontaneous standing ovation.
The one-night-only event at the intimate 187-seat venue became the hottest ticket in town when it was announced earlier this fall that Hathaway had approached Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public, with the idea of a concert of “Cabaret.” The production, directed by Ted Sperling, was part of the month-long re-dedication on the Public, which is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. But it was also, Hathaway told the audience, the realization of a life-long dream to play the “divinely decadent” Sally Bowles, the free-spirited cabaret singer in 1931 Weimar Germany who is blithely unaware of the coming storm. “I grew up listening to these songs,” said the New Jersey native whose mother, Kathleen Ann McCauley, was an actress and singer who once played Sally in a college production.
With a short-cropped bob, bra-less in a black sleeveless top and black shorts over patterned black stockings, she was a terrifically convincing Sally from her come-hither stare to her fingernails painted bright green. Like the rest of the cast, she played multiple roles, even donning at one point a pink tutu and gloves in the shape of simian paws to impersonate the dancing gorilla in the number, “If You Could See Her Through My Eyes,” sung by Pinkham. Not much later she sang in her bell-like soprano “I Don’t Care Much” with dramatic intensity, no doubt egged on by the fact that Audra McDonald had just knocked it out of the park with a rousing and unforgettable “Maybe This Time.”
After McDonald’s stirring performance, Hathaway quipped, “The only problem with doing a show with Audra McDonald is doing a show with Audra McDonald.” Hathaway added that both had recently gotten married, she to actor-designer Adam Shulman and McDonald to actor Will Swenson. She then indicated the appropriateness of the song “Married” on the roster. But, in deference to New York’s gay marriage law, Hathaway added that she and McDonald had decided to sing it lovingly to each other. In one of the show’s emotional highlights, they were joined by duets between Redmayne and Pinkham, and Lavin and Fierstein.
While the entire cast was in top form, most surprising was Redmayne (“Red,” “My Week with Marilyn”), who co-stars with Hathaway in Tom Hooper’s film version of the musical “Les Miserables,” slated for a holiday release. He acquitted himself admirabl, as Cliff, the American writer who hopelessly falls in love with Sally, in two numbers, “Why Should I Wake Up?” and in a duet with Hathaway on “Perfectly Marvelous.”
At a post-performance reception in the Library — the Public’s new restaurant designed by David Rockwell, which is part of the $40 million restoration of the historic building — Redmayne admitted that he had been “terrified.” “The microphone was literally shaking in my hand,” said the 30-year-old actor, noting that he launched his career fifteen years ago with a performance as the emcee in a production at the Edinburgh Festival. Hathaway also admitted to a bad case of the shakes before going on, notably because in the audience were two the creators of “Cabaret” — composer John Kander and librettist Joe Masteroff. Wreathed with compliments from them, Hathaway was relieved to the point of tears. Also in the audience and at the party afterwards was movie magnate Harvey Weinstein who was equally complimentary.
Which, of course, brings up the question: If there is to be a remake of the film “Cabaret,” would Hathaway be a front runner for the part of Sally Bowles? There has been chatter from time to time, but it’s a daunting proposal. Bob Fosse’s 1972 classic, which won an Oscar for Liza Minnelli, is listed on AFI’s top 100 greatest movies and ranks 5th among the best film musicals of all time. But if a producer, say Weinstein, was to make the plunge, last night proved that Hathaway deserves a shot at the role. Maybe this time…..
Image: Actress Anne Hathaway/Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images