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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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The Bristol Hippodrome

18th September 2013

After pocketing a trio of Olivier nominations for it's West End run, this touring production of the dark showbiz tale, directed by Rufus Norris, was simply sublime. From the moment Emcee (Will Young) emerges, leather lederhosen in tact, from an enormous ‘Willkomen' sign, which sits centre stage, to the gobsmacking and heart-wrenching finale, which foreshadows the fate of millions to the Nazi regime, the creation is exquisite.

Based on a book written by Christopher Isherwood, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, Cabaret tells the story of English showgirl Sally Bowles (Siobhan Dillon) and aspiring writer Clifford Bradshaw (Matt Rawle), living their lives in Berlin during the year 1931, as the Nazi's began their rise to prominence. The striking contrast between the blissful naivety and ostentation of the seedy ‘Kit Kat Klub' and the harsh reality of the growing dictatorship creates a hard-hitting punch to the emotions and a powerfully realistic narrative.

As with any star-studded cast, there is a lot of pressure on Young to not only wow with his vocal skills, but also prove himself as an actor. And the pop star does not let his audience down, giving a delightfully diverse performance as the flamboyant and whimsical yet dark and depraved Emcee; showing that he has come along way since his rise to fame on Pop Idol, 11 years ago. His voice is like nothing on this world, jumping from pitch to pitch, key to key and never faltering a jot throughout the entirety of his performance.

He is not the only performer of note on stage either - far from it in fact. Each and every member of the cast brings something of their own flavour to the showcase and there is no individual that seems any less competent than another.

That said there are moments when the characters' German accents do waver quite severely, especially during musical numbers. However, this is not off-putting enough to effect the enjoyment of the performances.

Dazzling, bright white stage lights fill the theatre, sparking the audience's attention from the very first ‘willkomen'. The chorus boasts an energetic group of gymnasts and dancers, who throw themselves – and each other - around the stage like rag dolls, in time to the pitch perfect and seemingly faultless on stage orchestra, who interact with the cast throughout.

Particular merit must be awarded to Dillion's portrayal of Sally Bowles. Her energetic interpretation of the enigmatic waif and stray are unquestionably brilliant. Her performances of title number ‘Cabaret' and equally notable ‘Maybe This Time' are beyond words. Whilst other memorable scenes include clever use of echo to represent the on stage presence at the Kit Kat Klub during ‘Don't Tell Mama', as the backstage scene plays out in front of a transparent curtain.

A tale of falling in love, growing old, facing fears, expression of politics, and - most of all - living life, this production of Cabaret is the epitome of the apparent laiseez-faire attitude of bohemian Europe prior to the war. From – alarmingly unexpected – full-frontal nudity and vulgar dance routines, to captivating romances and soul destroying realism, this is not a show for children, but if you are able to employ the help of a baby-sitter for the night, this is a show you don't want to miss.

Hannah Sweetnam