Cabaret – the classic Kander and Ebb musical opened on Broadway in 1966, before transferring to London in 1968 (starring Judi Dench as Sally Bowles). Last seen in London in 2012, starring Will Young, the show is now back in the West End but is a million miles apart from the previous production.
Set in 1920’s Berlin, in a time with the Nazi’s were starting to take over, respite was taken in the Kit Kat Club – a sleazy hedonistic bar where people could be whoever they wanted to be, do whatever they wanted and explore their deepest darkest desires.
Clifford Bradshaw arrives from America with plans to write a book. He rents a room from Fräulein Schneider in a shady boarding house and soon meets cabaret singer Sally Bowles. But when a situation arises, Clifford needs to find a way to make money and turns to Ernst Ludwig (a smuggler) for some quick cash. Jewish fruit shop owner Herr Schultz falls in love with Fräulein Schneider and asks for her hand in marriage. She accepts until she is reminded of the political connotations that would come along with it and so, not wanting to upset the applecart, she breaks it off. Cabaret isn’t a light and fluffy story – it touches on some difficult topics but is an important reminder of history.
Eddie Redmayne gives a wonderfully creepy, contorted, clown-like performance as The Emcee – host of the Kit Kat Club and Anna-Jane Casey is glorious as prostitute Fräulein Kost, hilariously sneaking sailors into the boarding house, trying to stop Fräulein Schneider finding out what she is up to. Anna-Jane shines so brightly in this role – I only wish it were a bigger part so we could see more of her.
Cabaret features the iconic songs ‘Willkommen’, ‘Mein Herr’, ‘Maybe This Time’, ‘Money’ and of course the title song, ‘Cabaret’, heartbreakingly performed by Jessie Buckley who shows the true emotional turmoil of the song in what will no doubt become an award-winning performance.
It is great to see directors taking care with scripts to not sugarcoat important issues like we see in this story. This week I also saw a performance of Little Shop Of Horrors in New York where Audrey’s ‘Somewhere That’s Green’ was shatteringly emotional, really shining light on the domestic abuse she suffered.
The Playhouse Theatre in London has been transformed into the Kit Kat Club, where patrons enter through the back door, making their way through gloomy backstage tunnels where performers at the club are getting ready to go on stage. The audience are seated on two sides with the stage in the middle. This isn’t just a theatrical show, it is an experience that is well worth the ticket price.
Reviewed by West End Wilma