Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club – Review – ★★★★★
Budget-busting ticket prices aside, this new production of Cabaret is a must-see tour-de-force, blowing all recent stagings out of the water.
Anything can happen on a first night – all bets are off, generally speaking, but that’s the real thrill of seeing a new production take its public bow for the first time. Some – including the marketing folk promoting this production – call these first shows ‘previews’, so as to indicate that what you see might not resemble the finished product. When stalls tickets are costing £180 and more (£255 a head for foodie tables), however (and Dress Circle tickets £155), audiences have every right to expect plenty of polished bang for their buck right from the off.
Thankfully, this magnificent revival of Cabaret is a spectacular success. A couple of hundred quid spectacular? Look, no West End show is worth that, it’s silly money. But beg, steal or borrow any ticket you can get and you won’t be disappointed – even up in the newly-configured gods, a ‘cheap’ seat gives a pretty impressive view of this barnstorming Cabaret.
Oh, what a show! Director Rebecca Frecknall has put her stamp on a show previously honed by such luminaries as Hal Prince, Sam Mendes, and Rufus Norris. Hers is an earthy Berlin, sombre tones of brown and grey peopled by sparks of light and colour, living on the edge of oncoming darkness. The set and costumes from Tom Scutt evoke the dying days of Weimar Germany through quiet understatement and rebellions of sparkling decadence.
And then there’s the cast. Eddie Redmayne is a simply outstanding, astounding Emcee – from his very first appearance, he holds the attention like the brightest star in the sky, and his commitment to the role is breathtaking. This is an Emcee for the ages, which frankly eclipses all those before it barring originator Joel Grey. There’s a danger, with a top-billing Emcee, that the main thrust of the story can feel a bit ‘so what?’ – no danger here though, because Jessie Buckley stakes a convincing claim for being THE Sally Bowles. Forget everything you thought you knew, and leave those Liza comparisons at the door: Buckley gives a career-defining, spellbinding performance. Her ‘Maybe This Time’ is an understated gem, performed with a beautiful, affecting stillness; her ‘Cabaret’ is from a different planet, an absolute barnstormer of a performance which fully deserved its show-stopping ovation. There are really no sufficient superlatives to sum up that latter vocal tour-de-force – mesmerising and magical, it is one of those theatrical moments that deserves to be spoken of for years to come.
Omari Douglas has the relatively thankless role of Clifford, the bisexual American writer who at first revels in anything-goes Berlin, but soon realises that the fun must stop. Douglas is good, and shares some great scenes with Buckley, but no-one is here to see the story of Clifford Bradshaw. Liza Sadovy and Elliot Levey get the better opportunity to make the most of their stage time, and take it, as Fraulein Schneider & Herr Schultz – their bittersweet story contains more heart than that of the younger Sally & Clifford, and numbers ‘So What?’, ‘It Couldn’t Please Me More (A Pineapple)’, ‘Married’ and ‘What Would You Do?’ more than hold their own.
The parts, then, are of high value. The sum of those parts? Even more so. This is one of those productions where everything just comes together, like a magical moment in time. It’s a pity more people won’t be able to see it, with this cast, either because tickets are in short supply, or because those tickets are just so damned expensive.
See it if you can – it really is the best show in the West End right now, and mark our words, it’s going to clean up at the Oliviers!
Previews continue until 10th December. Currently booking through to 14th April 2022. Buy Tickets Here.