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posted: 4/26/2014 4:45 AM

'Cabaret' debut evokes simpler time for Williams

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  • Michelle Williams croons during a performance of "Cabaret" at Studio 54 in New York.

      Michelle Williams croons during a performance of "Cabaret" at Studio 54 in New York.
    Associated press/Polk & Co.

By John Carucci
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- When Michelle Williams stepped onstage for her very first opening night on Broadway, the feeling brought her back to a simpler time.

"Honestly, it made me feel like a little girl. It made me feel like a very lucky little girl," Williams said with a smile after tackling the role of Sally Bowles in "Cabaret" earlier Thursday night.

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The three-time Oscar-nominee made her Broadway debut stepping into some pretty big shoes.

She knew the legacy of the long list of actresses playing Bowles, including Liza Minnelli, who took home an Oscar in 1972 for the film version, and the late Natasha Richardson, who collected a Tony Award in 1998 for the last revival.

"I feel overwhelmed -- overwhelmed that I am allowed to walk in their footsteps. And truthfully, I admire every single one of them. And I look up to every single one of them and take every single one of them with me on this journey. It's like we're all in it together now. We're all mixed up in it together," Williams said.

Other actresses playing the vampy performer include Judi Dench, Julie Harris, Joely Fisher, Deborah Gibson and Gina Gershon.

The 33-year old actress worked hard on getting her vocals just right, and says conductor, Patrick Vaccariello, who plays piano in the show, had a big part. "He worked with me for a very long time, very hard and very patiently," Williams said.

Now Williams says she's hooked on singing.

"The truth is that it's very pleasurable because the song takes you on a journey and you just kind of have to attach yourself to the end of it and let it fly, so I've loved it," she said.

Williams also leaned on co-star Alan Cumming, who is making his return as Emcee. He also played the role in the 1998 revival. "He's been great with advice, wisdom and stories," she said.

Cumming sees the new show as something completely different than he did the last time.

"I didn't really remember anything. I went to the Lincoln Center Library and watched the recording of the 1998 production with me in it and Natasha Richardson just to familiarize myself with it." Cumming said. "The chemistry of having a new group of people made it a completely different experience."

Linda Emond -- who plays the landlady Fraulein Schneider -- is energized for another reason.

"Michelle is one of my best friends, so lucky me," Emond said. "This was a dream for us that our dressing rooms are across the hall and able to share this every single night, it's a dream."

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