Douglas Mayo ventured out to0 visit London’s hottest ticket as Rebecca Frecknall and her incredible Kit Kat Club creative team and cast turn what could have been a reasonable revival of the Kander and Ebb classic into something quite sensational.
Cabaret the musical
Kit Kat Club (Playhouse Theatre)
Recent productions at the Playhouse Theatre have dallied in reformatting the venue. Fiddler on the Roof and The Jungle merely dabbled compared what visitors to the Kit Kat Club will experience at this groundbreaking production of Cabaret.
WHAT GOOD IS SITTING ALL ALONE IN YOUR ROOM?
Along with many passionate theatre-goers, I struggled attending shows post-re-opening through paranoia and the realisation that the safety pr show put on by some venue owners was just that, a show. It’s pleasing to report that this was not the case here.
Because the audience and cast of this show are in very close quarters, producers announced a few weeks ago way ahead of the curve, that mask-wearing for this production would be mandatory as would the provision of a negative Lateral Flow Test taken within 24 hours of the show. It was tremendously comforting to have that test checked and to see so many audience members honoring that request. There’s food and drink provided through table service here, but I’ve got to say this was the best behaved and most respectful theatre audience I’ve encountered in months.
COME TASTE THE WINE
Tom Scutt and his team have turned the interior of The Playhouse into a Tardis of darkened nooks, dimly lit corridors, and a main performing area that is nothing short of breathtaking in which this cast can play. I had to remind myself this was London, this setting is so atmospheric that you become quickly surrender yourself to the show itself. They’ve installed tables and little drink stands if you’re in standard theatre seats and rather spiffy wait staff reminiscent of a time gone by are on hand to procure whatever you desire (food-wise that is, but you never know).
COME HEAR THE BAND
Musical Supervisor Jennifer Whyte and her merry band of fabulous musicians perched in plain sight along with roving musicians but up-close flavour injected life into Kander and Ebb’s score that other productions can honestly only aspire to. Forget Liza’s Cabaret, this production is so textured musically that you will feel it pump life force into you one minute whilst raising every hair and producing goosebumps in places where there were none before. How lovely to be able to see these artists out of a traditonal pit and having so much fun playing this score.
COME BLOW A HORN
Well metaphorically here. Led by Eddie Redmayne as Emcee and Jessie Buckley as Sally Bowles who are delivering performances you’ll be hard-pressed to match anywhere. Redmayne’s Emcee is contorted, angular, fractured almost as if seen in a shattered mirror – abstract. Buckley’s Sally hides fear under a Bolshy exterior. If she doesn’t acknowledge the oncoming storm she has convinced herself she’ll be fine. Between these two you get a rare view into even classics can be surprising. But don’t get too mesmerised by these two talents, underneath the showy underbelly there are beautifully intricate performances from Omari Douglas as Clifford, Anna-Jane Casey as Frauline Kost, and a multifaceted Nazi – smiling and friendly one minute but with a nasty bite courtesy of Stewart Clarke.
Of course, Liza Sadovy’s Fraulein Schneider and Elliott Levey’s Herr Schultz, characters are so beautifully drawn here by these two actors saw a whole new beauty to a song using a pineapple and a paper bag. You may think you know Cabaret but this moment in the show alone will get you looking at it with fresh eyes as you and I know the “it will pass mentally of the period was not to eventuate but to aid an unimaginable horror that would befall millions. Ramifications in the current climate can be seen.
In Frecknall’s Kit Kat Club, there are the normal Cabaret Girls who are we are told by Redmayne’s EmCee are “Bootiful”, I’d go more with seductive and brazen, and some assorted wanton types mostly played by Matthew Gent bouncing through some decidedly inappropriate and questionable audience encounters. With this ensemble, it seems that Club policy is “if it has a pulse hump it “is the order of the day, but the audience doesn’t seem to mind.
Julia Cheng’s choreography is a non-stop visual cacophony that oozes the Kit Kat Club’s sleazy charm, whilst Lighting from Isabella Byrd and sound by Nick Lidster just can’t be faulted. It is a rare treat to see something as special as this production of Cabaret, but to present it at this time is something that I will be grateful to this incredible company for. Thank you!
Life is a cabaret, Come to the cabaret!