When director Sam Mendes first talked of bringing his award-winning production of Cabaret over the pond from London's Donmar Warehouse, the biggest problem was finding the right space -- a space that could dually function as a replica of an actual German cabaret house, as well as seat enough people comfortably to allow a commercial profit. After finding and renovating the Henry Miller Theatre (rechristened The Kit Kat Klub), packing sell-out crowds and then dealing with a month of canceled performances due to a nearby construction accident, Cabaret is now moving to the famed Studio 54, and starting the renovation procedure over again.
Several changes to the building itself (totalling $1.2 million) are being made to accommodate the site-specific nature of the show. Many of the aesthetic features seen first at the Henry Miller have been replicated, including the clotted mix of a red and black palette, leopard skin coverings and the orchestra table seating.
Specific changes not dealt with at the Kit Kat were needed for 54. The highly visible air-conditioning ducts have been ripped out, to be replaced by a more internal system, thus allowing the audience comfort while not sabotaging the site-specific design.
The building itself was opened in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House, and three years later became a legitimate theatre, changing its name to The New Yorker Theatre. The theatre was then redesigned by Billy Rose to become one of the finer post-show restaurants in the city, the Casino de Paree. After a brief ownership by the mobster Tommy Lucchese, the theatre was renamed the Paladium in 1936, shortly afterward being claimed for the Federal Theatre Project, until in 1939 it was re-dubbed The New Yorker. The space probably reached the greatest fame in the late 70's in its incarnation as the creme de la creme of New York night spots - Studio 54. A film based on the star-studded events of those times, aptly titled "Studio 54," and starring Mike Myers, Neve Campbell and Selma Hayek, was released earlier this year.
Evening curtain times for the show will change to the Broadway standard 8 PM. The earlier time for the Kit Kat run was due to the space's conversion each night into a nightclub. Cabaret, currently starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ron Rifkin, and Blair Brown, begins performances at the newly renovated Studio 54 on November 12.