It's rare that a single show changes the physical landscape of Times Square, but that's just what Cabaret did. The reimagined revival came from London director Sam Mendes and his Donmar Warehouse. Mendes demanded that, for the sake of verisimilitude, his production be set in a nontraditional space tricked up to resemble the Kit Kat Klub featured in the show. And so, Henry Miller's Theatre was rescued from its life as a nightclub and disco and returned to legitimate service.
But not for long—just months after the show opened in February 1998 and established itself as the hottest ticket in town, a nearby construction accident shut down 43rd Street indefinitely. The Kit Kat Klub went dark. For a while, as the Roundabout scoured the city for a replacement habitat, losing money and momentum by the day, it looked like Cabaret would be shuttered before its time. But salvation came in the form of another discotheque. The dust was blown off the old infamous Studio 54 and the musical reopened in the fall of 1998. The move was costly, but proved worth it, as Cabaret went on to live a long, lucrative life.
And so the revival leaves Broadway with two more working houses than it had before the show arrived. The Henry Miller (the "'s" seems to have been dropped in the meantime) now hosts Urinetown. And as of a month ago, the Roundabout owns Studio 54, making the company the only nonprofit theatre in New York City to possess two Broadway venues.
As for the artists connected to the show, Cabaret established Mendes's New York reputation as a stage director and burnished that of his directorial helpmate, Rob Marshall. It also granted original Emcee Alan Cumming the status of celebrity (a position he has since exploited in endlessly quirky ways). Finally, it left Hollywood with its own small city of former Sally Bowles, from Gina Gershon to Molly Ringwald, Brooke Shields to Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Broadway can suffer the closing of a single musical and still have plenty to offer the tune-happy theatregoer. Play-lovers, however, are in for a bleak September. With last week's closing of Say Goodnight, Gracie and the coming Aug. 31 end dates of Long Day's Journey Into Night and Enchanted April, it became clear that during the first month of autumn Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out would find itself the only entertainment on Broadway without an orchestra. Not even that dependable classics factory, the Roundabout Theatre Company, has a straight play in operation. The fabulous invalid will rebound, or course. By the end of October, there will be (barring sudden closures) seven dramas and/or comedies in Times Square. One of those titles? The prolific Greenberg's own The Violet Hour. If Broadway one day goes without a single play on the boards, it won't be his fault.