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Cabaret review

Racy and poignant musical set in prewar Berlin explodes with fearless decadence.

Cabaret, the iconic musical inspired by the novel Goodbye To Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, arrives at Leeds Grand Theatre this week as part of a national tour.

Set in 1931 Berlin, Cabaret tells the story of a vibrant city in full swing, revelling in unfettered sexual decadence. Enter Cliff Bradshaw as a newly-landed American writer seeking inspiration for his next novel: Crossing paths with cabaret starlet Sally Bowles at the Kit Kat Club, he uncovers an irresistible hotbed of sensual liberation. Across Germany, however, the political landscape is rapidly darkening with an unimaginable threat from within…

Will Young reprises his Olivier Award-nominated portrayal of Emcee in this new touring production and is joined by Louise Redknapp in the iconic role of Sally Bowles, made famous by Liza Minelli in the 1972 big screen adaptation. It is a show brimming with hit numbers and sensual visuals, underpinned by a cautionary recount of recent history.

Young provides a compelling, jester-like commentary, bridging the show with a superlative vocal range and playful, almost Jacobean narrative voice. Front centre from the outset, Young’s performance is keenly energetic and arguably the most indelible aspect of the production, allowing the performer every opportunity to showcase remarkable talents in mime, dance, pantomime and song. It’s evident that Will Young adores the role, which is evidenced through the infectious, cheeky intercourse he establishes with his audience.

Will Young as Emcee in Cabaret. Photographer: Keith Pattison.

Louise Redknapp takes on Sally Bowles with an assertive elegance and glowing charm, avoiding a direct imitation of Minelli’s iconic performance. Whilst Bowles could arguably be a little rougher and gruffer around the edges, Redknapp delivers a polished and graceful interpretation, hitting all the big notes whilst exuding a cute sauciness. She shares a playful stage chemistry with Charles Hagerty as Clifford, arguably the play’s protagonist and one of the main voices of caution and reason in the story.

The production benefits hugely from a wholly superb supporting cast. In a captivating subplot, Susan Penhaligon and Linal Haft nurture a tender romance between Fraulein Schneider and German-Jew Herr Schultz; a senior love affair which is doomed by Nazi dominance. Their musical numbers, which are sung with an informal honesty, are the perfect counterpoint to the big showstopping numbers which punctuate the show.

Louise Redknapp as Sally Bowles. Photo: Jim Marks.

Tim Whiting’s musical direction is wonderfully bombastic and ferociously sleazy,  bellowing with bold brass and stomping drums. Featuring memorable numbers such as Willkommen, Tomorrow Belongs to Me, The Money Song, the famously seedy Mein Herr and title showstopper Cabaret, there is no shortage of memorable numbers which have been dynamically arranged for maximum theatrical impact.

Providing huge production value for a touring musical, Karina Lindsay’s design is an evocative triumph; dazzling with banks of tungsten bulbs and hard, noir spaces bisected with industrial angles. The stage makes way for choreography courtesy of Javier De Frutos which is suitably racy and raunchy, combining imperceptible scenic changes with innovative mime sequences. A particularly memorable sequence depicts youths as marionette puppets, telegraphing a clear, chilling message about political control. Bringing the visceral power of Cabaret to life on stage, the dance ensemble is comprised of a remarkable company of performers, each providing a relentlessly physical, sexy energy.

Cabaret is an urgent, indelible musical which is purposefully shocking and peerlessly outrageous. Poignant and defiant in its final, chilling message, this is a must-see musical which has lost none of its fearless, iconic vivacity. Don’t miss it.

Cast: Will Young, Louise Redknapp, Susan Penhaligon, Charles Hagerty, Linal Haft, Basienka Blake, Nicholas Tizzard. Director: Rufus Norris Writer: Joe Masteroff  Theatre: Leeds Grand Theatre Duration: 150 minutes Dates: Tuesday 24th – Saturday 28th October 2017.

Cabaret is at Leeds Grand Theatre to Saturday 28th October 2017. Tickets are on sale now priced at £20.50 to £41.50. Book online at leedsgrandtheatre.com or call Box Office on 0844 848 2700.

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