Director: Rufus Norris
Book: Joe Masteroff
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Reviewer: Helen Jones
The Public Reviews Rating:
Kander and Ebb’s tale of the hedonistic pre-second world war Berlin is known by many people simply for the iconic version of the title song by Liza Minelli. Thankfully there is far more to the musical than that and this production by Bill Kenwright makes a good attempt to show that fact to the world.
The musical opens on New Years Eve 1930 and is set over the months that follow as Nazi-ism begins to take a grip on German society. The notorious Kit Kat Club is the raunchy cabaret venue controlled by the Machiavellian Emcee. Innocent American Cliff Bradshaw gets drawn into both the sensualistic life of the club’s star Sally Bowles and the emerging politics by unwittingly helping the Nazi cause.
Will Young as Emcee appears to whoops and cheers from the audience. However his performance whilst capable is lacking in the menace of the character. He also has such a strong accent that he loses the diction of his vocals meaning that some Ebb’s witty and clever lyrics are lost.
Michelle Ryan as Sally Bowles is a revelation. She has good stage presence and a strong singing voice. Her portrayal of the good time girl is nicely drawn but she is better at the louder emotional feelings than the contemplative.
Sally’s love interest Cliff is played by Henry Luxemburg (standing in for Matt Rawle) who handles the rather understated role with aplomb. His sudden awareness that he has been working for the Nazis brings anger and distress which Luxemburg beautifully creates.
The back story of Fraulein Schneider, who runs the boarding house that Cliff lives in, and one of her residents Herr Schultz, a merchant who happens to be a German Jew, is the most revealing of life as it was in the build-up to the Nazi takeover of German politics. Sian Phillips as Fraulein Schneider shows why she is one of the most respected actors of her generation. She is magnetic on stage but subtle in her performance. She is nicely supported by Linal Haft as Herr Schultz.
In the relatively minor role of Fraulein Kost, Harriet Thorpe brings a ripe lushness to the part and it is a shame really that she does not have more to do.
Director Rufus Norris has kept true to the heart of the story based on Christopher Isherwood’s text while Katrina Lindsay’s mainly monochromatic set reflects the serious underbelly of the story admirably.
Whilst this may not be the most perfect production possible of this classic musical, it is well worth seeing.
Runs until 29th September 2012.Cabaret - The Lowry, Salford,
Tags: Bill Kenwright, Cabaret, Christopher Isherwood, Fred Ebb, Harriet Thorpe, Henry Luxemburg, James van Druten, Joe Masteroff, Katrina Lindsay, Linal Haft, Liza Minelli, Lowry, Michelle Ryan, Musical, Rufus Norris, Salford, Sian Phillips, Will Young