Cabaret at Playhouse Theatre
Cabaret seems to be the hot ticket in London this season so I took myself along during previews to see what the fuss is about.
Cabaret is set in Berlin during the Nazi’s rise to power. We meet Ciffod Bradshaw (Omari Douglas) who has just arrived in Berlin with ambitions to be a writer. On his first night there he heads to the Kit Kat Club where he meets Sally Bowles (Jessie Buckley) a singer who arrives at his room the next day and convinces him to let her stay. Along the way we also meet Fraulein Schneider (Liza Sadovy) who owns the rooms that Clifford rents and Herr Schultz (Elliott Levey) a Jewish fruit shop owner who have a blossoming romance. Overseeing the show is the Emcee (Eddie Redmayne)
The first thing that strikes you about Cabaret is how the show starts as soon as you enter the venue, phone cameras are covered to keep it all under wraps and this just enhances the magic. In 2 of the bars and the auditorium there are musical performances and dance during the pre-show by the prologue cast. The auditorium itself has been redesigned so the stage is in the centre and tables and chairs make up the front portion of the stalls. The musicians are housed in what was part of the old dress circle, leaving the sightlines perfect for the audience. Even the Front of House staff are dressed in attire that suits the production. You really get the vibe that you are entering into the KitKat club.
The vibe that you are sitting in the intimate Kit Kat Club continues as soon as the show begins. The actors emerge from all areas of the stalls really helping the audience feel immersed in the action. The set is kept uncluttered and instead it relies on a revolve that not only rotates but also rises and sinks into the floor. This allows for scenes to flow and for the audience to be transported from the Kit Kat club to Clifford’s room and back to the Emcee in moments. The dramatic moments are perfectly framed throughout the show and by the end (no spoilers as to how it is staged) you could hear a pin drop. Cabaret is stuffed full of iconic songs but quite often the glitz and glam element of musical theatre can overt take the dark story underlying this show. Not so in this gritty production. The personalities of those in and around the Kit Kat club remain in the fore throughout this show and each song underlines a point that drives the narrative or character forward.
The cast are all top notch and I would be shocked if there isn’t multiple nominations in for both Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley. Redmayne as the Emcee is delicious quirky and dark. He flicks from playful with the Kit Kat girls to menacing as the show heads towards its climax. As the Emcee he takes on multiple personalities seemingly everywhere in Berlin. Buckley is incredible as Sally Bowles, she gives an incredibly raw performance and her downfall from a woman with a glimmer of hope in front of her due to Cliff in ‘Maybe This Time’ to displaying a woman in the process of having a breakdown during ‘Cabaret.’
I also really enjoyed the individual personalities of all of the Kit Kat girls and boys, quite often they can merge into simple ensemble roles however not in this production. Each of performers were distinct characters in their own right, helped due to distinctive costuming. Sadovy and Levey as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz were wonderful together and the warmth between them made the rise of the Nazis even more chilling.
All technical aspects of the show were superb, I’ve already mentioned the wonderful set and costumes designed by Tom Scutt but equally the sound is balanced brilliantly and the lighting enhances the mood even further.
Cabaret is a great example of what theatre can be, not only do the audience feel immersed as soon as they step into the theatre but the creativity and talent on so many level of this production really makes this the hot ticket of the season.
Cabaret is currently booking until 14th May 2022 with Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley appearing until 20th March 2022. You can find out more and book tickets on their website.