Cabaret

November 6, 2019 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆  Have a Kit Kat (Klub)

Festival Theatre: Tue 5 – Sat 9 Nov 2019
Review by Martin Gray

Emotional truth and powerful staging make Bill Kenwright Productions’ touring version of Cabaret at the Festival Theatre to Saturday nigh unmissable.

Think Cabaret and you think Sally Bowles and the Emcee, but the English chanteuse and sinister club host don’t dominate this production. That’s not to say Kara Lily Hayworth and John Partridge aren’t excellent, but just look at the rest of them.

Cabaret Production Photos Bill Kenwright Productions  Book by Joe Masteroff Music by John Kander Lyrics by Fred Ebb Based on the play by John Van Druten & Stories by Christopher Isherwood  Director: Rufus Norris Designer: Katrina Lindsay Choreographer: Javier De Frutos  CAST John Partridge -EMCEE Kara Lily Hayworth -SALLY BOWLES Anita Harris - FRÄULEIN SCHNEIDER Charles Hagerty - CLIFF BRADSHAW James Paterson - HERR SCHULTZ Nick Tizzard - ERNST LUDWIG Basienka Blake - FRÄULEIN KOST Catherine Saunders - ENSEMBLE Oliver Roll - ENSEMBLE Sara Morley - ENSEMBLE Joseph Dockree - ENSEMBLE Gemma Archer - ENSEMBLE Sophie Hirst - ENSEMBLE Mary Hodgkinson - ENSEMBLE Hannah Nicholas - ENSEMBLE Ben Rutter - ENSEMBLE Francis Foreman - ENSEMBLE Tom Scanlon - ENSEMBLE  ©The Other Richard

John Partridge as the Emcee. Pic: The Other Richard

There’s Anita Harris as Fraulein Schneider, the lonely landlady of the boarding house where expat American Cliff Bradshaw is sent to stay, and James Paterson as Herr Schultz, the fruiterer tenant who brings her gifts of pineapples and oranges.

Basienka Blake is another boarding house dweller, Fraulein Kost, who pays her rent with help from visiting sailors. Then Nick Tizzard is Ernst Ludwig, the avuncular German businessman who eases Bradshaw into Berlin life, and Charles Hagerty, puppyish but no sap, as said wannabe author.

They’re all superb, bringing Kander and Ebb’s deceptively enjoyably musical about life in Thirties Germany to brilliant life with their nuanced portrayals.

Focus

While the focus of the show has generally been on the growing relationship between ambitious Kit Kat Klub singer Sally and bisexual Cliff, here we care equally about whether Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz will marry, as the forward march of the Nazis makes life for even German Jews like Schultz ever tougher.

Charles Hagerty, James Paterson, Anita Harris and Kara Lily Hayworth. Pic The Other Richard

Yes, the production numbers are wonderful pieces of music with blisteringly clever words, and especially well staged by director Rufus Norris, but the cast are really selling the drama in them. The title number, sung towards the end after Sally has made some tough decisions, isn’t defiant as in the film version, more questioning, ending on a downbeat physical note.

Partridge’s If You Could See Her, presented with a shadow play gorilla, is horribly sinister, while Harris’ So What? and What Would You Do? are masterclasses to be studied by young people starting out in musical theatre.

Other highlights include Hayworth’s vulnerable reading of Maybe This Time and the sheer quality of Hegarty’s voice in Why Should I Wake Up? Then there’s the chilling end to the first act as the Emcee leads the massively talented company in a nightmarish staging of Tomorrow Belongs To Me.

Authentic vibe

The players are helped by the production design and costumes of Katrina Lindsay, lighting nous of Tim Oliver and sound stylings of Dan Samson. There’s a nice nod to the Christopher Isherwood source material, I Am a Camera, in the Wilkommen set.

Cabaret Production Photos Bill Kenwright Productions  Book by Joe Masteroff Music by John Kander Lyrics by Fred Ebb Based on the play by John Van Druten & Stories by Christopher Isherwood  Director: Rufus Norris Designer: Katrina Lindsay Choreographer: Javier De Frutos  CAST John Partridge -EMCEE Kara Lily Hayworth -SALLY BOWLES Anita Harris - FRÄULEIN SCHNEIDER Charles Hagerty - CLIFF BRADSHAW James Paterson - HERR SCHULTZ Nick Tizzard - ERNST LUDWIG Basienka Blake - FRÄULEIN KOST Catherine Saunders - ENSEMBLE Oliver Roll - ENSEMBLE Sara Morley - ENSEMBLE Joseph Dockree - ENSEMBLE Gemma Archer - ENSEMBLE Sophie Hirst - ENSEMBLE Mary Hodgkinson - ENSEMBLE Hannah Nicholas - ENSEMBLE Ben Rutter - ENSEMBLE Francis Foreman - ENSEMBLE Tom Scanlon - ENSEMBLE  ©The Other Richard

The cast of Cabaret. Pic: The Other Richard

The positioning of musical director Phil Cornwell’s nattily dressed band above the stage, seen only when we’re in the Kit Kat Klub, adds an authentic vibe. The use of a moving staircase as the sinewy singer-dancers of the ensemble perform Javier De Frutos’ spellbinding choreography for Mein Herr with Hayworth is terrific.

An unconventional fat suit conveys the idea of bloated capitalism in The Money Song. An assault scene required by Joe Masteroff’s script is disturbingly beautiful. Backstage and front cleverly coexist for Don’t Tell Mama. And the use of lighting, sound and silence in the closing moments makes for a truly powerful climax.

pretty near a perfect show

At times Partridge’s German accent is a little too thick for clarity, and his delivery isn’t always audible in I Don’t Care Much, which is as likely a sound problem as Partridge’s interpretation – the former EastEnder has done enough stage musicals to get it right. Let’s assume it was a first-night glitch.

This is pretty near a perfect show. The classic tunes evoke the era of pre-Second World Germany with appropriate heft. The performances of players and musicians are energetic and appealing.

And the gradual, insidious arrival of perhaps the darkest period in history is conveyed in entertaining manner, but never trivialised. If you’ve never seen Cabaret, there’s no maybe about it, this is the time.

Running time, two hours and 35 minutes, including 20-minute interval
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT. Phone booking: 0131 529 6000.
Tuesday 5 – Saturday 9 November 2019
Evenings 7.30pm; Matinees weds, Thurs, Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Cabaret on tour 2019/20:
5 – 9 Nov 2019 Edinburgh
Festival Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
12 – 16 Nov 2019 Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
19 – 23 Nov 2019 Malvern
Festival Theatre
01684 892277 Book online
Tour continues in 2020:
21 – 25 Jan 2020 Peterborough
Broadway Theatre
01733 852 992 Book online
28 Jan – 1 Feb 2020 Sunderland
Empire Theatre
0844 871 7615 Book online
4 – 8 Feb 2020 Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 7615 Book online
18 – 22 Feb 2020 Wimbledon
New Wimbledon Theatre
0844 871 7615 Book online
25 – 29 Feb 2020 Manchester
Palace Theatre
0844 871 7615 Book online
3 – 7 Mar 2020 Leeds
Grand Theatre
0844 848 2700 Book online
10 – 14 Mar 2020 Canterbury
Marlowe Theatre
01227 787787 Book online
17 – 21 Mar 2020 Sheffield
Lyceum Theatre
0114 249 6000 Book online
24 – 28 Mar 2020 Wales
Millennium Center
029 2063 6464 Book online
31 Mar – 4 Apr 2020 Stoke
Regent Theatre
0844 871 7615 Book online
7 – 11 Apr 2020 Inverness
Eden Court Theatre
01463 234 234 Book online
14 – 18 April Liverpool
Empire Theatre
0844 871 7615 Book online
21 – 25 April Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
0844 871 7615 Book online
Cabaret Production Photos Bill Kenwright Productions  Book by Joe Masteroff Music by John Kander Lyrics by Fred Ebb Based on the play by John Van Druten & Stories by Christopher Isherwood  Director: Rufus Norris Designer: Katrina Lindsay Choreographer: Javier De Frutos  CAST John Partridge -EMCEE Kara Lily Hayworth -SALLY BOWLES Anita Harris - FRÄULEIN SCHNEIDER Charles Hagerty - CLIFF BRADSHAW James Paterson - HERR SCHULTZ Nick Tizzard - ERNST LUDWIG Basienka Blake - FRÄULEIN KOST Catherine Saunders - ENSEMBLE Oliver Roll - ENSEMBLE Sara Morley - ENSEMBLE Joseph Dockree - ENSEMBLE Gemma Archer - ENSEMBLE Sophie Hirst - ENSEMBLE Mary Hodgkinson - ENSEMBLE Hannah Nicholas - ENSEMBLE Ben Rutter - ENSEMBLE Francis Foreman - ENSEMBLE Tom Scanlon - ENSEMBLE  ©The Other Richard

Tomorrow Belongs… John Partridge and company. Pic: The Other Richard

ENDS

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