By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHEN?: Monday 18 April, booking to 1 October 2022
RUNTIME: 165 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)
7 Oliviers, 3 monstas and 5 months after we 1st saw this production we return for a major cast change which sees 4 of its 5 leads depart.
- Read on for reasons including why this remains a 5* show even with the loss of its Oscar-winning star
So how does Cabaret in London’s West End fare without its stars Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne and Oscar-nominated Jessie Buckley?
Fee’s EmCee relies less on the exaggerated and almost robotic physicality of Redmayne and instead offers a warmer singing voice mixed with a desire to make sure everyone in the audience feels thoroughly welcome at least at the show’s beginning in this real-life Kit Kat Club.
You may have seen Amy Lennox’s rendition of the titular song on the Oliviers and it remains the stand-out moment of this show with her Sally Bowles singing with a greater clarity than Buckley’s but still remaining as ragged around the edges otherwise.
We felt Baroud’s Cliff was perhaps the only new cast member to have superceded their predecessor. We saw him 5 years ago at a special Westminster Abbey performance with Mark Rylance and here he is particularly believable in fooling himself that he would be happy with Sally in straight-acting domestic bliss despite his homosexuality.
Vivien Parry as Fraulein Schneider initially lacked the warmth of Liza Sadovy but we felt her singing was again strong and the only question mark was the age of the understudy covering for Elliot Levey’s Herr Schultz, who is the only lead not to have not left the production, but appeared a little young for the role.
Fraulein Schneider’s What Would You Do? in Act 2 is arguably very much the most interesting point of the production. Is it excusable for good people to make bad choices when Herr Schulz is extolling his love to aim a little higher for the ripest fruit?
In fact this production is full of people deluding themselves – not least Bowles’ ‘toast of Mayfair’ – and it is only really when we become immersed in their world that we realise, too late, how dark it actually is despite the liberation and freedom it initially appears to offer.
That is why the costume change at the show’s close, from colourful outrageous garb to bland-coloured conventional suits, is both so visually striking and emblematic of a society lurching headfirst towards nightmareish conformity without escape.
We read with some joy in the programme that director Rebecca Frecknall (Summer And Smoke, Almeida and West End) is to work with musician Florence Welch on The Great Gatsby as the promise of 2 such talents colliding is immense.
But more pertinently if you haven’t yet manage to catch this classic reinvention, don’t be put off by this major cast change because it’s a production that’s still as good, if a little different, as it ever was.
- Pictures via Facebook by Marc Brenner and courtesy Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club at the Playhouse Tickets
- Have you heard any of these songs or seen any of these shows? Let us know what you thought in the comments below
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