MusicalReviewSouth East

Cabaret – Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Reviewer: Dan English

Book: Joe Masteroff

Music: John Kander

Lyrics: Fred Ebb

Director: Rufus Norris

Cabaret, Kander and Ebb’s hit musical set among the rise of the Nazis in 1930s Berlin, continues to dazzles as Rufus Norris’ lavish and spectacular touring production reaches Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre as part of its UK Tour.

The production, inspired by the 1931 Christopher Isherwood novel ‘Goodbye to Berlin’, charts the rise and fall of the Weimar Republic as fascism grows, but among this seismic political shifts sits the difficult love story between writer Cliff Bradshaw (Charles Hagerty) and performer at the eye-popping Kit Kat Club, Sally Bowles (Kara Lily Hayworth). The Kit Kat Club, a flamboyant, outrageous and risqué cabaret club, dominates the setting of this production, where its Master of Ceremonies, Emcee (Oliver Roll, usually John Partridge), thrives. The club, itself, becomes the focal point of the piece and it is here where most of the obvious influences of the political shift become clear, with harrowing depictions of fascism’s rise, and the heartbreaking impact upon the perception of Germany’s Jews, being clear to see.

Roll, as Emcee, steals the show as the outrageously bold ring leader of the Kit Kat Club. Roll’s sensuous and shocking delivery of this character is fantastic, and he captures the humour well. This is a fun, creative and entertaining portrayal of the character, but Roll also creates a sinister and menacing figure as his roll becomes a metaphor for Hitler in various parts of the piece. Roll is exceptional and looks at ease as the show’s most iconic character.
Kara Lily Hayworth is Sally Bowles, the flirtatious, flighty and fragile performer who captures the heart, at least in part, of Hagerty’s Cliff. Hayworth merges the various straits of Bowles’ character successfully, and is given plenty of opportunity to show off her impressive dance and singing range, which she does with ease. This is a powerful and captivating individual performance.

Anita Harris’ Fräulein Schneider is a subtly crafted character representing the gentle and quieter aspects of the production. Struggling to keep her guesthouse afloat, Harris’ portrayal is full of warmth, but as her romance blossoms amid the Nazi Party’s rise, her impending doom makes for tough viewing. Her tender and heart-wrenching chemistry with Jewish fruit market owner Herr Schultz (James Paterson) provides the play’s most moving moments.

Charles Hagerty’s portrayal of Cliff Bradshaw is a tender and multi-layered performance as Bradshaw struggles with his desire to fit into an ever-changing Berlin. His struggles are clear, particularly with his ambitions and sexuality, and Hagerty captures this vulnerability well, as it comes crashing around him.

Cabaret’s success is, in large parts, due to the fantastic and tireless ensemble whose swift costume changes and malleability pull off some risqué and ambitious choreography, created by Javier De Frutos.

The routines are stunning, with one particular sequence, as Act One closes, signifying the rise of Nazism, being especially memorable.

The design of this production, by Katrina Lindsay, only elevates the performance. The set creates a cold, pre-war atmosphere which settles an ominous tone to the piece. The juxtapositions between this and the flamboyant and outrageous costumes enhances the shocking nature of this piece, but this jarring is effective in enhancing the piece’s messages and concepts. The beauty of this work is the power it has to force you to think.

Where this production does dip, however, is in some of the awkward scene changes and awkward dialogue, particularly in the first half, which detaches you a little from the piece and doesninoact the piece’s momentum a little, though this is a minor misdemeanour.

This is a production full of glitz and glamour, with colourful costumes and well-executed routines which make this a strong rendition of the West-End success.

Runs until Saturday 14 March 2020 and on tour

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