I was in DC, and per usual I checked whether there was anything running on the evenings that I had free. This past week I got good seats for Cabaret at the Arena. I called Tuesday and got seats for Thursday. It was nearly full on the night.
I've seen a few of the Broadway incarnations, and my first reaction was one of comparison. This show has good singing, minor league dancing, and tried to focus on the pathos of the play much more. The emcee is much weaker than any of the Broadway MCs. The dancing is more gentle posturing and motion. (There are few musical dancers to match Bob Fosse for edge and energy, and the more recent Broadway staging preserved that edge.)
The characterization and pathos is stronger and more affecting than Broadway. I found myself with much more understanding and feeling for these characters. They are more human, and their situations are more affecting. They lack the nihilistic energy of the Broadway "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die." The first exposure of the Nazi armband was a gut shot emotionally, in part because it was not facing the powerful song and dance competition found in the Broadway version.
I did find the variation of having the drag boys sing "Tommorrow belongs to me" in an early scene very effective. The contrast of song and future was compelling. This play has a mix of boys in drag and girls for the ensemble and band. The rest was OK. The weakest characterization was the emcee, who is portayed as a person, and not the heartless commentator on life. This does not fit the role well. The other leads are OK. The best performance, but for a minor role, is for the Nazi smuggler. He does a good job with the characterization.
Staging was simple but effective. Some of the techniques, like the toy train, could have been laughable but in context they were OK. Costumes were good.
With the lower cost of DC, I think it was worth the money.
There are only a few weeks left in the run, so I'm making sure to write this while it might be useful.