It's a dark, jagged and ultimately harrowing production that brings some welcome shade to a West End overrun with the lightness of 'enforced standing ovation' jukebox fare.
The restaging also offers the opportunity for Will Young and Michelle Ryan to make their musical theatre debuts. Young excels as the Emcee, all cheeky grins one minute and forlorn glances the next. His audience repartee could be cranked up a notch, but he sings superbly, the riotously choreographed "Two Ladies" a stand-out.
Ryan struggles to lend Bowles the darker edge necessary as the show progresses, but proves an excellent dancer and a more than capable vocalist (her clipped tones about as far removed from Zoe Slater as you could imagine).
Not everything works; the notoriously difficult "If You Could See Her" - which tricks the audience into laughing at a Jewish girl in order to highlight the casual ease of prejudice - is clumsily handled (we should be dumbstruck, not clapping), while the ensemble feels slightly thin in number.
Nevertheless, the ending remains brutally effective and produces an all-too rarely seen spectacle; an audience filtering out of a West End theatre in contemplative silence.
- Theo Bosanquet
NOTE: The following THREE STAR review dates from 25 September 2012, and this production's run at The Lowry, Salford
Rufus Norris' production of the classic Cabaret received mixed notices when it arrived in the West End for the first time. It featured a miscast Anna Maxwell Martin and the dark elements of the narrative were hammered home to the audience, therefore the shock impact was all but lost.
Sally Bowles is not supposed to the best singer in the world but whenever she steps into reality through the likes of "Maybe This Time" - you should feel an emotional connection, as the character's life spirals out of control against an ever changing backdrop in Berlin.
Michelle Ryan performs well when playing Sally the singer/entertainer. But whenever she has to emote, she does not fare so well. Will Young's Emcee is over-styled and comes across like a German Frank Spencer. Young does play to the crowd convincingly but the Kit Kat Club scenes are so brief and rushed that you never really feel like guests in the debauched venue, so everything feels a bit too clinical as a result.
Sian Phillips and Linal Haft are both brilliant, conveying poignancy and fear in equal measure as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz - an older couple finding love at a time of shifting sands. Harriet Thorpe is also reliably good as a lady of the night whose business is booming.
Javier De Frutos' choreography feels confused as much of it takes place outside of the club environment. Like Norris' direction, something is missing - the dirt underneath the fingernails, the bruises of oppression and a sense of hedonism coming to an abrupt end are all strangely glossed over in this inherently episodic piece.
Henry Luxemburg's Cliff seems to be starring in a far better production. It's a shame that his sterling efforts are not fully rewarded. Cabaret is uneven and slightly flat, although there are flashes of brilliance in between the 'speak and spell' style direction.