Cabaret at Bristol Hippodrome

KANDER and Ebb’s musical version of Cabaret opened on Broadway in 1966, was made into an eight Oscar-winning film, and has been produced on stages around the world ever since.

You won’t see a better production than the current tour, directed by Rufus Norris, starring Will Young and at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 21st September.

The original musical, based on Christopher Isherwood’s short novel Goodbye to Berlin, appeared only 36 years after its setting in 1930s Berlin, and that’s more than 80 years ago now. So perhaps it’s not surprising that a sizable percentage of the audience at Bristol on Tuesday seemed perplexed by the story and its staging, but delighted to see the stars of reality television contests on stage before their eyes.

Joel Grey created the role of the Emcee both on Broadway and on film, and it was widely held that no-one could do it better – until the extraordinary Mr Young. He was the first winner, 13 years ago, of Pop Idol, and is living proof that the shows can reveal real and lasting talent.

He is joined by another talent show graduate, Siobhan Dillon from the Sound of Music search for a Maria, and she brings a brash, tender desperation to the role of Sally Bowles, the London girl looking for fame, fortune and love in the demi-monde of Berlin.

Javier de Frutos has re-choreographed the show, never drawing back from the uncompromising sexual exploitation of the Kit Kat Club and the violence of the encroaching Nazi sympathisers.

He gives Will Young a challenging repertoire of styles from fey little boy though Tweedledum to screaming commandant, each carried off with astonishing skill.

Matt Rawle plays the Isherwood character, a sexually ambivalent American novelist who comes to Berlin to experience the city’s famed nightlife, and becomes embroiled in Sally’s life.

The sub-plot of landlady Fraulein Schneider and her Jewish suitor Herr Schultz is neatly underlined by the performance of Valerie Cutko (who made such an impression at Yeovil Octagon in Cinderella two years ago) as the aging whore whose power over her landlady increases with every new National Socialist advance.

The onstage band, under the leadership of James McCullagh, squeezes every nuance of sleaze and threat out of the score, providing a background to Katrina Lindsay’s clever, monochrome and mobile sets.

This is a remarkable production of one of the most powerful musicals of all time, and the finale is stunning, in the true sense of the word.



… And Mark went too, on the Friday Matinee 20th September.


THE 1972 film of Cabaret focussed on Sally Bowles, as portrayed by Liza Minnelli, with extra songs written to enhance the role, but the original stage version had the Emcee of the Kit Kat Club almost running the show, a role which won Joel Grey a Tony Award in 1967, and helped make him the only original cast member to reprise his role in the film.

The revival of Rufus Norris’s 2012 tour, at the Hippodrome in Bristol this week, includes numbers written for the film as well as most of the original Broadway songs, so audiences can hear beautiful ballads such as I Don’t Care Much and So What, sung respectively by popstars of the 2000s and 70s, as Pop Idol and Wellington School old boy Will Young returns to the role of Emcee, and New Seeker Lyn Paul takes over the role of Fraulein Schneider from Sian Phillips.

Young is completely and confidently in control of the show, from his first entrance through a camera iris, a clever reference to I Am a Camera, the play on which Cabaret is based, to his final naked walk to join the rest of his dancers in an emotional and deeply moving, silent, ending.  His voice has developed in maturity and covers almost four octaves in the show, from a low baritone to a high falsetto soprano.

Understudy Emily Bull, covering for Siobhan Dillon, was equally confident in her first public performance of the role, showing the vulnerability and flaws of Sally with a strong and natural voice.  Matt Rawle, playing American writer Cliff, brings many years of West End musical experience to a slick and well-drilled production, and Lyn Paul and Linal Haft portray Fraulein Schneider Herr Shultz, the older couple who almost get married, before the events which would lead to the Second World War intervene to stop them, with poignancy and sensitivity. Nicholas Tizzard is worryingly welcoming as Ernst, the helpful German who switches from friend to foe, and Valerie Cutko’s Fraulein Kost is the typical citizen who swims with the tide of Nazism.

The sexy, sassy, decadent underworld of 1930s Berlin is recreated by a slick, gymnastic ensemble and tight band which are full of energy and excitement for every single second of the show, and the deadly undercurrent of the Nazi threat creeps in gradually with sinister and tragic consequences. The final image of the show left this afternoon’s audience in silence for many seconds before any applause dared to start.

It is hard to find a weakness in this production, which continues around the UK until the end of November, and I strongly urge you to recommend it to friend and family around the country.


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