Cabaret is the iconic invention of the famous Kander & Ebb, adapted from a play adapted from a novel and playfully documenting the rise of the Nazi party in a 1930s Berlin. The show experienced great success as a film and the current production of the stage show (seen at the New Wimbledon Theatre) is worthy of equal regard with outstanding choreography and perfect casting.
It’s 1931, Berlin is a haven of divine decadence and the legendary Sally Bowles is about to take the stage at the infamous Kit Kat Klub…
Cabaret is clearly the best example of Kander & Ebb’s genius. Musically, they can do it all – classic cabaret with witty lyrics and unforgettable tunes along with easily recognisable musical theatre numbers and emotional ballads. But not only that, the plot is sound. Joe Masteroff’s book keeps you suitably interested in Cliff and Sally’s story (and Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz’s romance), while subversively commenting on the political climate of Berlin at the time. Not that this comment is necessarily subtle… The fun and the raucous is brashly contrasted with the violence, control and racism of the upcoming Nazi party. Upbeat cabaret numbers begin as recognisable performances in the Kit Kat Klub before slowly turning into abstract expressions of outrage and ridicule. The use of the art form to make the audience question injustice is nothing less than sublime.
Leading us through the show as Emcee, John Partridge excels. His performance epitome of what Cabaret attempts to do, championing the ridiculous before throwing in a hard and fast point for consideration. He does this with ease and swagger. Kara Lily Hayworth shines as Sally Bowles. Making her strangely likeable from the moment she appears, Kara also does the score absolute justice. Her voice seems ideally suited for the seedy bars of thirties Berlin, and Kander and Ebb’s gifted music. Anita Harris portrays both the strict and gentle sides of Fraulein Schneider beautifully while Charles Hagerty skilfully guides the audience through Cliff’s awakening throughout the show.
Rufus Norris’ direction only lifts the talents of the cast and the brilliance of the book, this being only narrowly overshadowed by the excellence of Javier De Frutos’ choreography with Mein Herr being a particular highlight with Javier finding ingenious new uses for a set of stairs on wheels! A mention must also go to Katrina Lindsay’s design, creating a beautiful and functional look with a minimal feel.
This outstanding show is a lesson in how to bring together all elements of musical theatre to make a stark and striking point, a point that could do with hammering home even in our modern world.
Photography credit: The Other Richard