* Twenty-seven years since the musical ``Cabaret'' made Broadway history, John Kander and Fred Ebb's ``old chum'' of a show is being reborn in London - as a harsh, biting piece stripped of anything resembling Broadway sheen.

Sam Mendes's new production, which opened Dec. 9 at Covent Garden's tiny Donmar Warehouse, follows local stagings of Rodgers and Hammerstein's ``Carousel'' and Stephen Sondheim's ``Sweeney Todd'' as London's latest second look at a Broadway stalwart.

While this musical set in pre-Hitler Berlin always transcended Broadway glitz, Mendes hopes his pared-down version - 14 in the cast, not the original 32 - will give its blistering tunes their due.

He regards Hal Prince's original conception as ``a minor masterpiece'' dependent upon ``an unholy marriage, as it were, between Germany and Broadway.'' And while he admired Bob Fosse's 1972 film, Mendes is out for something different - ``a laying bare of what's at the core of the piece.''

In a role immortalized by Liza Minnelli's 1972 Academy Award-winning turn, Jane Horrocks plays expatriate English entertainer Sally Bowles, and Alan Cumming inherits Joel Grey's celebrated part as the Kit Kat Klub's Emcee, the leering embodiment of a decadent age. Adam Godley is Cliff, the American writer through whose eyes the story is told.

Whereas the 1987 Broadway revival of ``Cabaret'' cost millions, the Donmar production is costing a scant $195,000.

Cameron Mackintosh, the British producer behind ``Phantom of the Opera,'' ``Cats'' and the current revival of ``Carousel,'' has put up $23,000. He gets first rights to transfer the production for a commercial run when it ends its limited engagement March 12.

Just 28, the Cambridge-educated Mendes has established himself as one of the most adventurous British directors. Last winter he had a success at the Donmar with his reworking of Stephen Sondheim's chamber musical, ``Assassins,'' which had received mixed reviews in its earlier off-Broadway debut.

This summer, Mendes staged Brian Friel's 1980 play, ``Translations,'' as a timeless study in political and sexual identity. That production has been discussed for a West End and New York run next year.

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.