Cabaret – Review – Leeds Grand

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cabaret leeds grand review will young louise redknapp

Cabaret – Review

Leeds Grand, October 2017

by Sandra Callard

The musical Cabaret, written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, first appeared on Broadway in 1966 and sketches the decadent and hedonistic era of Berlin prior to WW2, when the rise of the Third Reich and the nightmare of the concentration camps were becoming an insidious reality.

Caberet is based on the stories of Christopher Isherwood, a young British/American writer who went to Berlin in the Thirties in the hope of gaining inspiration for his book, but found instead a city on the edge of Armageddon and politically heading for Nazism.

The show has been has been popular ever since and is now on the road again with the lead role of the MC at the Kit-Kat Club, unsurprisingly named EmmCee, being played by Will Young. Those of us who remember the magnificent film of Cabaret, when Liza Minnelli gave a once-in-a-lifetime performance as Sally Bowles, will also remember the bizarre and unsettling performance of Joel Grey as EmmCee, with his undercurrent of lurking menace behind a facade of fun.

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Will Young is not quite so menacing, but plays EmmCee as a sexual degenerate whose aim is to have as much fun as he can, while he can. His wears the peculiarly child-like, but sinister, Bavarian lederhosen with a confidence that belies the absurdity of the attire.

Young plays EmmCee to the manor born, his hair black, shiny and slicked, thirties style, flat to his head. His mouth is red-lipsticked and wide, he laughs hysterically with a mixture of bravado and chilling fear, and he is quite, quite wonderful. He sings Hitler’s national song for the Hitler Youth, ‘Tomorrow Belongs To Me’, to a collection of youngsters who are tethered to his hands, as he manipulates them by the strings of a puppet master. It is appallingly redolent of the beginning of the Holocaust, and Young’s final, mad crescendo is frighteningly real.

The sleazy clubs of Berlin, and in particular the notorious Kit-Kat Club, are a magnet for the sexually adventurous and the brazenly curious, and amongst the flotsam of lost souls comes Sally Bowles. Sally is played by Louise Redknapp in her first musical after her success in television’s Strictly Come Dancing last year.

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She looks appealing and dances well, but her personality is flimsy and her voice is not strong enough for stage musicals. She sings the signature tune of Cabaret, which should be a show-stopper, but she has an odd way of stopping slightly before the word Cabaret, which usually comes at the end of a sentence. The assumption is that she will then belt out the word, but she either speaks it or sings it with no impact. It sounds very strange and slightly annoying.

The Isherwood persona is in the form of Clifford Bradshaw, played by American-born Charles Hagerty, who is a good foil for Sally, although the two never really gel. There is no spark of love, or even comradeship, between them. He does begin to blossom as an individual as his suspicions about Nazism begin to take shape. and he takes a brave stand against it.

There is a gentle autumn love affair between landlady Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, beautifully played by Susan Penhaligon and Linal Haft, and its sudden demise as the Jewish Schultz hits the Nazi radar is heartbreaking. They are believable and funny, and the fact that neither of them can sing, but do, is extremely appealing.

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“Raw power”

The dancers in the Kit-Kat Club, male and female are simply superb. They move with both a feline grace and an awkward, sexually explicit stance of careless boredom. They exude an aura of abandonment of hope and morals which is painful to watch, and their skills as dancers is exquisitely defined.

Cabaret manages to capture the tension of the era with a subtle but raw power that reflects the creeping danger of the political climate of the time. The final scene is horrific and unexpected, and carries a haunting reality and sadness that clings as you leave the theatre.

A good solid show full of surprises, but the night belonged to Will Young. He has journeyed from pop music into the realm of stage performer and emerged triumphant.

images: Pamela Raith Photography

3 Comments on "Cabaret – Review – Leeds Grand"

  1. Mark Watson October 27, 2017 at 6:43 PM · Reply

    My wife and I went on Thursday night. Louise was a bit wooden but the understudy for Will was absolutely amazing and got a standing ovation the end!!

  2. Anonymous October 27, 2017 at 12:16 AM · Reply

    Was very disappointed when arrived at the theatre and no Will. However, his understudy was absolutely brilliant!

  3. Anonymous October 26, 2017 at 10:26 PM · Reply

    Understudy took will Young’s as will was indisposed he was excellent

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