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Review Round-up: Cabaret makes West End return

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Kander & Ebb's hit musical Cabaret, starring Will Young, Sian Phillips and Michelle Ryan, opened at the Savoy Theatre last week (9 October 2012).

Based on the stories of Christopher Isherwood and the play by John Van Druten, Cabaret has a book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. It premiered on Broadway in 1966 and in 1972 was made into an Oscar-winning film starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles, Michael York as Cliff and Joel Grey as the Emcee.

The production, which is choreographed by Javier de Frutos, runs at the Savoy Theatre until 19 January 2013.

Theo Bosanquet

…It's a dark, jagged and ultimately harrowing production…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…Not everything works; …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.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

Michelle Ryan…proves vocally confident and very watchable. But she lacks any air of the bohemian. Her Sally appears irresponsible yet never really brittle, vulnerable or wildly iconoclastic…Rufus Norris’s take on Cabaret isn’t new…it remains inventive but feels less concertedly political and less depraved. There’s more glamour and not so deep a sense of the disturbing. Javier de Frutos provides jagged, provocative choreography, and Katrina Lindsay’s design uses asymmetry to suggest the distortions of a morally corrupt society. Yet the chilling descent into Nazi nightmare isn’t realised with enough intensity. The central relationships don’t fully convince, and there is a lack of sensuality. Young’s vigorous interpretation typifies a production that has too little menace and contains a good deal of posturing.

Tim Walker

…Rufus Norris’s production, however, somehow manages to make its incongruous pieces fit together perfectly. The cast is a box of delights: Michelle Ryan makes a poised and rather endearingly old-fashioned Sally Bowles, and Siân Phillips is on typically scene-stealing form as Fräulein Schneider, who makes the mistake of falling in love with a Jewish tradesman...Theatre is seldom, if ever, powered by quite so much emotional and, for that matter, sexual energy. There are, too, some extraordinary visual flourishes – I’ll wager the final scene will haunt you long after you’ve left the theatre – but it is, ultimately, Young’s triumph. He is no longer a showboating television star, but a grown-up actor who somehow manages to wield it all together…Tomorrow does indeed belong to him.

Paul Taylor

…the production seems to have some lost some of its dangerous edge (the depravity can look a bit strenuously dutiful rather than driven). Young, of Pop Idol fame, sings beautifully and has bags of stage presence in his leather hot pants…he can't be accused of lacking guts or aplomb…Michelle Ryan, by contrast, signally fails to rise to the occasion of Sally Bowles…Deficient in either charisma or sense of inner conflict, her performance of both “Maybe This Time” and the title number is painful in quite the wrong ways. The show is still worth seeing for its bold imaginative sweep and for Sian Phillips's deeply touching Fraulein Schneider, even if coming to this Cabaret is not quite what it was, old chum.

Libby Purves

…Young is a worthy kingpin. Strong vocally and dramatically, he has an assured presence even during the battier numbers...Sian Phillips’s grainy rendering of So What? and Linal Haft’s beautiful Heiraten are superb, their sorrow restrainedly fine-drawn. Michelle Ryan’s Sally Bowles, on the other hand, is expressive, touching in song, but in dialogue her lines often feel, well, like lines…Javier De Frutos opts instead for a ropy realism — the Kit Kat Club was meant to be a dive, after all — and, despite some startlingly athletic moves it is deliberately slaggy, crotch-y, imprecisely seedy stuff. Which I quite liked, in context. As the hero remarks, “I like this town, it’s so terrible and tawdry”.

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