By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: ***** RUNTIME: 165 minutes (including 20-minute interval)
WHEN?: Saturday 25 March, booking to 16 December 2023
It’s a sign of the quality of this production that despite 3 major cast changes it continues to punch at the very top of its weight.
- Read on for reasons including how Sex Education’s Aimee Lee Wood’s hilarious turn as Sally Bowles is the best reason to catch this Cabaret
Most remarkable is how the different leads have each been allowed to put their own spin on their characters and this is underlined brilliantly here by Aimee Lou Wood’s (main picture) comedic performance as Sally Bowles.
We loved Jessie Buckley‘s angry and gutsy singing in the original cast of this revival back in 2021 and, for us, no-one has come close to topping it since but Wood is so naturally funny in the role we’d love to see her perhaps in something even more challenging like the lead in Funny Girl.
What surprises is how Wood’s vocal becomes more assured as this piece continues from an intentionally childish Don’t Tell Mama, a rather shouty Mein Herr to a clearly challenging but impressive stab at the title track which doesn’t falter even during the big notes that Buckley was hitting with ease.
We’ve loved her in Netflix’s excellent Sex Education, for which she won a BAFTA, appreciated her sensitive and understated Sonya in Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter but this performance is different league and quite unexpected from a production which has been running 17 months.
McCrea plays the 4th EmCee and we 1st saw him in Sheffield as his star was rising in the 1st incarnation of the multi monsta-winning Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
We loved the emphasis he put on the description of Bowles towards the show’s close as the ‘toast’ of Mayfair which underlined how his character felt about her future but also how the EmCee has transformed from crowdpleaser (a little too soft for us compared with those before him particularly Callum Scott Howells) into something quite sinister.
The raucous Two Ladies is again his character’s highlight and like Callum Scott Howells before him he bares his backside at the number’s close although unlike any of the EmCee’s before him he displays washboard abs throughout.
Vivien Parry as Fraulein Schneider is now very much the beating heart of the show and her unlikely romance and then spurning of her Jewish suitor because of the rise of the Nazis is very much why this show remains the West End’s must-see revival ahead of the recent arrival of the brilliantly immersive but slightly less politically relevent Guys And Dolls across the water at the Bridge Theatre.
This was our 6th visit to the production and our 1st viewing from the front row of the Dress Circle and, although we missed the rough and tumble of being so close to the action in the front rows, this offered a perfect bird’s eye view for those not quite so willing to throw themselves into the deep end of a spectacular musical in the round.