In the fifty years since it opened on Broadway, CABARET has featured dozens of brilliant leading ladies in the delicious role of Sally Bowles. Vulnerable, histrionic, hedonistic and more than a bit delusional, Sally hides her pain by reveling in the tawdry glitz of the Kit Kat Club. Sally cajoles, carouses, and flirts; she suffers a nervous breakdown; and she sings several of Kander and Ebb’s most iconic songs… it’s no wonder so many great actresses have lined up to play her.
Here’s a sampling (roughly in chronological order) of some of the actresses who’ve played the toast of Mayfair… Fräulein Sally Bowles!
Broadway and The West End (1966-1969)
Penny FullerMs. Fuller was the original Broadway standby for Sally; she eventually took over the role. A few years later, in 1970, she earned a Tony nomination for her performance as as Eve Harrington in APPLAUSE (pictured).
Ms. Hart (not to be confused with TV actress Melissa Joan Hart) played Sally on Broadway and originated the role in CABARET’s first national tour.
1st Broadway Revival (1987-1988)
Alyson ReedBest known to film audiences as Cassie in A Chorus Line, Alyson Reed played Sally in the 1987 Broadway revival of CABARET. She appeared opposite Joel Grey, who reprised his role from the original production.
West End Revival (1993)
Jane HorrocksDirector Sam Mendes took a new look at CABARET in 1993, and his West End production was a smash, starring Jane Horrocks as Sally and Alan Cumming as the Emcee. A multi-talented powerhouse, Jane Horrocks headlined in several West End hits, but American audiences may know her best as Bubble, Edina’s ditzy assistant on Absolutely Fabulous.
2nd Broadway Revival (1998-1999)
Natasha RichardsonThe Sam Mendes production of CABARET came to Broadway on March 19, 1998, starring Natasha Richardson and Alan Cumming. A radiantly intelligent and talented actress, Ms. Richardson played against type, embodying Sally as a capricious and tragic figure woefully lacking in talent.
After Natasha Richardson, the 1998 revival continued for six years, bringing in some of the most famous actresses in television and film. Those included:
Susan EganCelebrated as Belle on Broadway and Meg in Hercules, Ms. Egan first joined the Broadway company as Sally in 1999. She subsequently returned several times, doing multiple 2- or 3-month stints until 2003.
US National Tour (1999)
Broadway Revival, continued (1999-2004)
The 1998 Broadway continued, starring the following leading ladies:
US National Tour, continued (2001)
UK Tour (2008)
3rd Broadway Revival (2014-2015)
US National Tour (2016)
The US National Tour featured two actresses in the role:
Wait… you didn’t seriously think we’d forget about the movie, did you? Of course, in 1972, Bob Fosse directed the film adaptation of Hal Prince’s stage musical. The celebrated film won eight Academy Awards, including one for its leading lady…
Liza defined the role for generations, introducing the songs “Maybe This Time” and “Mein Herr,” which both became part of later stage productions. With a powerhouse persona onstage and an aching vulnerability offstage, Liza presented a brassy yet painfully insecure Sally Bowles: a tragic figure who had the talent – but lacked the opportunity – to find success in show business and in life.
That’s our salute to Sally Bowles. So… who will be the next Toast of Mayfair? We can’t wait to see.