04/01/2014 at 05:00 PM EDT
back to Broadway!
Making her debut on the Great White Way, Michelle Williams
stars as chanteuse Sally Bowles in the first Broadway revival of the Kander and Ebb classic since 1998. Now in previews, this latest version officially opens April 24.
The musical, which first opened in 1966 (the movie version was in 1972), is based on author Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories
and set in the fictional Kit Kat Klub as the Nazis are coming to power. This production is "darker and grittier," says costume designer William Ivey Long, who also worked on the '98 version. "It's like a sucker punch."
Although she's been nominated for three Oscars, Williams, 33, had little singing and dancing experience before joining the cast. So how did the A-list leading lady fare?
"Michelle Williams? Give me a break," Long says. "She totally reimagined Sally Bowles. Her interpretation is not to be missed."
Staged at Studio 54 – which has its own sense of history – the production makes use of the space's clubby past, seating theatergoers at red-lit tables with costumed waiters and a bar at their disposal. "As an audience member, you're part of the story," Long says. "When you walk in, you are at the Kit Kat Klub."
And Williams is in good company. Alan Cumming reprises his Tony-winning role as the Emcee, adding a new layer to the character.
"We're more cynical than we were before, so the performances are much more chilling and biting," Long says of the glass-half-empty musical. "[Alan] is 15 years older. He's done so much, he's seen so much … He was world-weary the last time – he's even more so now. That's part of his charm."
Additional reporting by STEPHEN M. SILVERMAN