Quick Change Reviews - Cabaret (Tour)
Welcome to the Kit Kat Club. Located in the underbelly of early 1930s Berlin, the cabaret club is a haven for freedom with your body, your sexuality and your desires. It is the setting for the Bill Kenwright revival of the landmark Kander and Ebb musical, Cabaret, following the lives of couples finding love and themselves in pre-Nazi Germany.
Cue the unmissable opening notes of ‘Wilkommen’, as we meet the Emcee. Portrayed by John Partridge with his make-up caked face and a thick German accent he purrs; “So life is disappointing, forget it! In here, life is beautiful!” and introduces us to his ensemble of leather clad cabaret club dancers. Our host for the evening represents musical theatre itself and Partridge’s performance is the perfect balance of comedy and tragedy. He manages to be sleazy but sexy, charmingly camp but deeply unsettling, leaving all eyes transfixed on his hypnotic performance as he watched our story unfold from the sidelines.
Inside the club on New Years Eve, we meet Cliff Bradshaw (Charles Hagerty), an American novelist looking for something to write about. He finds it in the enigmatic performer, Sally Bowles (Kara Lily Hayworth), a fiery English girl who always wants a drop of gin and who will never answer questions. The two dreamers find themselves sharing a single bed as housing guests of Fraulein Schneider (Anita Harris), as they learn to navigate the complex emotions that come with being failing artists and confused sexuality. Their relationship is naively flirtatious and seems to be blossoming out of convenience rather than anything serious, like constantly being in the middle of a party where nobody shows any sign of slowing down. Hagerty and Hayworth perform with gorgeous ease, the contrasts of their characters slotting perfectly into place and complementing the duality we see so often in ourselves when we’re faced with a difficult situation with no clear solution. Bowles is glamorously dressed in selfish ignorance, whereas Bradshaw is an optimist, through his underlying anxiety he is eager to please as he attempts to stand up against the political unrest in the city.
Schneider falls for a kind and thoughtful fruit vendor, Herr Schultz (James Paterson), “a Jew, who is German”, as he presents her with a pineapple and accidentally proposes after holding it back for many years. As their relationship develops they must decide whether the love is worth fighting for as the impending takeover by the Nazis looms. The chemistry between Harris and Paterson is stunning to watch, as the two give an honest and heartbreaking performance of the fragility of a peaceful love and the cost it comes at.
As a story about freedom, the ensemble carry the symbolic narrative with a ferocious and determined attitude. Scored by a visible big band, the dancers were mesmerising in setting the scene and tone. Performing aerobic routines choreographed by Javier Du Frutos, they drip with sensuality. Flaunting in lingerie and lenderhosen, they are full of life and hope but gradually lose control and become puppets on strings performing in stiff, robotic synchronisation.
The finale, ‘Auf Wiedershesen’, rewinds back through the musical numbers where we met our characters topped with a twisted dreamlike narration. In a chilling final scene, the stage falls dark before light displays the cast nude and huddled, and you hear the unmistakable sound of a gas tap being turned on. The party is over.
Cabaret tour continues: https://www.kenwright.com/portfolio/cabaret/