Wednesday September 27, 2017 @ New Wimbledon Theatre
Cast: Will Young, Louise Redknapp, Charles Hagerty
Cabaret is a well-known musical that I hadn’t been very familiar with until recently. I only watched the original film last month, so to be seeing this new touring production soon after, I was very much looking forward to it. A Kander and Ebb classic, Cabaret follows the life of performer Sally Bowles in 1930’s Berlin as the Nazi’s are rising to power. The context and exploration of this idea is used well throughout the show, leaving a powerful message and the idea that there are two sides to every story.
I was very entertained, thrilled and somewhat haunted – in a positive way – by what this version of the show had to offer. Will Young is exceptional as the Emcee. He has done it before and it shows. He knows how the character works and lifts the energy on-stage whenever he appears – numbers such as “Money” and “If You Could See Her” are performed with depth and spot-on irony, while “I Don’t Care Much” is hauntingly beautiful. One of my favourite moments was “Two Ladies” in which the Emcee and members of the Kit Kat Klub (a wildly fantastic ensemble) get up to various group sex activities. It’s a hilarious scene to watch and how they designed the bed to be able to fit everyone in (no pun intended) was genius.
I must admit I had quite a low expectation for Louise Redknapp as Sally Bowles and regretfully, it was rightfully placed. In the original film, Liza Minnelli’s portrayal of the character I found to be super intriguing and multi-dimensional. Where Redknapp falls short is her lack of depth, she has a very “I’m doing musicals now” attitude, but ironically, very little stage presence. It felt as though she had just memorised the script and was saying and singing the contents of the show without analysing what the character would be doing at this specific moment or in each specific situation. It’s very forced and misses the mark at several moments in the show, and during “Maybe this Time” she held back on some of the bigger notes and I just wanted more, and felt she could do it, but she just didn’t push herself. The moment I enjoyed the most was the title 11’o’clock number “Life is a Cabaret” but this was mainly due to the staging and Rufus Norris’ unique direction. I would love to see the show again with a theatre professional who would really be able to do the brilliant role justice.
The rest of the cast are great – I enjoyed seeing Charles Hagerty (as Cliff Bradshaw) again, having seen him in West End’s The Bodyguard. It’s great to see that another American actor following the likes of the talented Chris Peluso and Joe Aaron Reid, has rightfully come into his own on the London stage as a leading man (a few years ago all these guys were Broadway understudies – not that there is anything wrong with that because understudies are the best, it’s just cool to see their career progression!).
The production may not have the biggest budget, following suit of most Bill Kenright-produced tours, but it didn’t damper my experience entirely. This is a show that doesn’t need a big spectacle to help, or in some cases hinder, the material. And the material does it – it shines through, stands the test of time and is still relevant and powerful. There are beautifully written segments of music that are haunting and striking, and performed with sheer perfection by this cast and the on-stage orchestra – which we see a lot of as they suspend over the action.
Overall, Cabaret is a fun, brilliant, boundary-pushing musical, although I feel this mixed-bag production is not the fullest representation of all that the show can achieve.
The new production of Cabaret tours until December. I also run my own blog at stageytheatrelife.wordpress.com