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Cabaret (Tour- Newcastle )

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed Theatre Royal Newcastle 6 July

For show that has sexual themes throughout, it is ironic that size does appear to matter. Having already seen this tour, with the same cast in a much larger venue, the intimacy of the Theatre Royal allows Cabaret to make much more of an impact.

Wayne Sleep as the Emcee pulls the show together and shows he can still dance. He is certainly suited to this role and now appears to be carving a career in musical theatre, he has already appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and High Society.

The start of the show sees Sleep appear through the O in the Willkommen front cloth, which is actually like a camera lens with the aperture opening to reveal the Emcee. This I assume is a subtle recognition  of the original play on which the musical is based, called I Am A Camera, by Designer Katrina Lindsay .

Samantha Barks, a finalist in TVs I’d Do Anything, appears to have taken the role of Sally Bowles in her stride as she leads this number one tour Although her excellent singing does outstrip her acting, she makes her mark as the Kit Kat Club singer so famously brought to life in the film version and her rendition of "Maybe This Time" stops the show. Her rendition of the title song "Cabaret", is every bit as good, all be it different, to the movie version. 

There are two relationship stories running through the musical, one centring on Fraulein Schneider and German Jew Herr Schultz, which falters under the weight of political differences. With the other being between English Sally Bowles and American writer Cliff Bradshaw, whose relationship falls apart when he demands they move to his native America. 

However here lies the problem with the production, as no matter how well Barks sings, there is no chemistry between her and Henry Luxemburg (playing Clifford Bradshaw). At no time do you actually care what happens to the characters and what should have been tense scenes between them are totally lost. This is in sharp contracts to the elderly couple, as Jenny Logan and Matt Zimmerman make you feel the pain their characters, Schneider and Schultz, are suffering.

This is a thought provoking production, which despite the curtain falling in total silence as a group of naked people walk towards the gas chamber, soon has the audience clapping along at the curtain call seconds later to the main songs from the show.

Birmingham Rep productions have pulled out all the stops on this show and are touring a first rate production, which is ideally suited to the size of the Theatre Royal. If only we had chemistry between Sally and Clifford that made you care about them, this would be an unmissable production.

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