Cabaret Review

Cabaret Review: Wilkommen to Razzle, Dazzle, and Pure Cabaret Magic

18th May, 2023 | By Isabel Williams

The Cabaret review is out!

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, welcome to the seediest, spookiest, strangest show in town. Descend down, down, down into the red-lit bowels of the KitKat Club – don’t miss the free shot of schnapps on your way in – and up, up, up into the magnificent Gold Bar, where corseted dancers writhe above the top-shelf liquor. Inside the Playhouse, transformed from top to bottom by Tom Scutt, 1920s opulence meets the grit and sleaze of Berlin nightlife: ushers proffer champagne to tables, musicians warm up the crowd with jazz solos, and a hundred lamps pierce the smoky haze. When the tasselled chandeliers rise into the rafters, settle in and lose yourself in the dark magic of Cabaret.  

The classic Kander and Ebb musical is given a grotesque facelift by director Rebecca Frecknall, who beefs up the role of the Emcee (John McCrea, worthy successor to original star Eddie Redmayne), turning him into a sinister sprite whose increasingly demented solos parallel the creep of Nazism into Weimar Germany. Onstage at the KitKat Club, candy-coloured dancers twist and twitch with the woodenness of marionette dolls, while the darling Sally Bowles (Amy Lou Wood) sings “Don’t Tell Mama” in a cloud of tulle ruffles.

Sally’s love story with the American writer Clifford Bradshaw (the inexhaustible Nathan Ives-Moiba) is haunted by instability; Sally chases thrills but distrusts Cliff’s promises to provide in the long term, while Cliff becomes increasingly desperate to escape Berlin before the Nazis close in. Meanwhile, Cliff and Sally’s landlady, Fraulein Schneider (Vivien Parry, razor-sharp) opens her heart to her affable, fruit-peddling Jewish tenant, Herr Schultz (Richard Katz). But all is abruptly shattered in the Kristallnacht, sketched here with a blast of confetti and a crunch of broken glass. As love splinters between the two couples, the cast don beige suits and march in line around the circular stage, a nightmare procession to nowhere that anticipates Germany’s descent into fascism. Long after the final bows, the sentimental melody of the Nazi anthem “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” lingers like a chill in the night. 


Cabaret Review: Final Verdict ★★★★★

It's a delicate cocktail of absurdity and visceral dread, and it works. Kander and Ebb’s arch, sultry score benefits from an increase in the macabre, and Tom Scutt’s costumes carefully construct the vision of a nightmare burlesque: in the standout number “Money, Money,” the Emcee rises from under the stage dressed as a skeletal jester, encrusted with gold and pearls, while the ensemble shimmies in silver-fringed bodices and cloche hats. The cast is excellent in their roles, especially Wood as Sally, who sings the titular number “Cabaret” with the flailing abandon of a girl who knows but refuses to admit she’s lost everything. “Life is a cabaret, old chum,” she declares, but her jaunty veneer can’t quite conceal the horror show happening around her. It’s enough to send a shiver down anyone’s spine. Cabaret succeeds in creating an escapist fantasy that slowly, wickedly, becomes a gilded cage: they hope you enjoy the show, but they won’t let you forget what happens after the final curtain falls for Sally and her friends.

About the Author

Vandana Lohia
As a student of literature, Vandana has always been passionate about drama (in literature books and in real life) - who can resist Shakespeare's classics, after all? — and writing. Getting the opportunity to write about the plays and musicals she studied during her college days has been somewhat of a dream come true.