After Rufus Norris and his team managed to get Cabaret so right in the West End back in 2006 (and on its subsequent 2008 UK tour), it was a surprise to hear the same team were reassembled to once again re-imagine and develop a new production of the iconic musical. The show may be different, but the success still stands.
This version incorporates much more comedy, but doesn’t detract from the undeniable dark undertones, making them even more apparent and disconcerting than ever. This production’s ability to have the auditorium bursting with laughter one moment then deathly silent the next is truly something to behold.
New choreography by Javier De Frutos sets the large company numbers off at a cracking pace – a visual treat. The hardworking ensemble of ten clearly thrive in the movement, giving scenes a terrific life and making them a real pleasure to watch.
The surprise of the night is definitely Will Young. He is nothing short of spectacular as the larger than life yet deeply flawed Emcee, who guides the audience through the evening. Not only is his vocal performance first rate but he knows his character inside out and upside down, which makes the world of difference when we suddenly begin to see the character’s vulnerable edge – and boy can he move too! Young holds more than his own when dancing with the likes of various Laine, Bird and ArtsEd graduates.
Young is supported by class acts Sian Phillips and Matt Rawle, who are both splendid in their respective roles, Fraulein Schneider and Cliff Bradshaw. Harriet Thorpe is also delightfully dislikeable as Fraulein Kost, bringing some much welcomed comic relief to proceedings before sending a cold chill through the audience with her haunting reprise, ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’.
As Sally Bowles, Michelle Ryan doesn’t quite hit the mark in the same fashion as the rest of her cast mates. At times her lack of musical theatre experience is quite apparent and the role seems slightly out of her vocal reach. That said she does bring a lovely sensitivity to her character in the second act as Sally’s walls begin to crumble around her.
Excellent musical support is provided by the very well dressed nine strong orchestra placed above the stage and under the baton of the ever-impressive Tom De Keyser. As always he leads his musicians with clear expertise and panache, creating a marvellous sounding show.
Special mentions go to Katrina Lindsay (Designer) and Mark Howett (Lighting Designer) for creating a wonderfully atmospheric stage. This version is the perfect size for the Savoy and looks tremendous.
A fantastic production, which deserves a lot more than 16 weeks and a much bigger audience than it had the night I was lucky enough to “come to the Cabaret”!
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By David Coverdale
10 Oct 2012 – 19 Jan 2013
Savoy Theatre, London, WC2.