Cabaret, reviewed by Head of Academic Drama, David Aldred

An immersive and visceral production of Cabaret transported its audiences to the hedonistic pleasures of Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub in the 1930s as the Nazis rose to power.

The musical is full of contrasts – its frothy songs and frilly dancing giving way to pain and devastation as its characters are forced to make tough choices against the darkening political backdrop.

The cast and crew carefully executed these shades of light and dark, and were superbly led by the charismatic MC, Ben Courtney-Guy who opened with a brilliant rendition of Willkommen, and compered the show with verve and wit.

Will Monks and Katinka Hughes tenderly played Jewish greengrocer Herr Schultz and moralistic landlady Fraulein Schneider, whose humorous, fruit fed and schnapps fueled romance is so cruelly ended by Nazi pressures.

Oscar Paul oozed charm as smooth operator and sugar-coated Nazi, Ernst Ludwig; the moment he was unmasked and his political affiliations were revealed was simply breathtaking. Rosie Turner’s silk clad Fraulein Kost and her parade of sailor boy lovers afforded us moments of frivolity until she too succumbed to singing the Nazi anthem.

Matt Wilkins assertively provided the outrage and the story’s moral centre as mint sucking and ballad singing American, Clifford Bradshaw. Opposite him, Selena Thompson mesmerised as Sally Bowles, as electric as her cabaret persona, steely eyed and decadent as she aborts the child Clifford has made plans to father; her regret at losing her fur coat in the process was agonisingly callous.

The Kit Kat boys and girls danced effervescently across the stage and through the audience, stunningly choreographed by Head of Dance, Lisa Elkins. They provided a foot-stomping, visual feast with all the musical’s big numbers including Don’t Tell Mama, Money, Cabaret, and Two Ladies (adorably played by Josie Piech and Aniella Weinberger) earning thunderous applause.

Designer Lauren Mackrell created a monochromatic world in an art décor style with flashes of tantalising colour, fish net tights, string vests and swastikas. Above the stage, behind an ornate balustrade and beneath a giant swastika of strip lighting, Alex Tester and his band expertly played John Kander’s wonderful musical score.

It is on the balcony that we were left with the final image of our MC, now in striped concentration camp clothing, broken voiced and waving feebly: “auf wiedersehen”. Below him, performers crowded into the dance cages now reminiscent of the holocaust’s vehicles of extermination; others raised their arms in Nazi salute. This was a powerful and timely reminder of where the voices of hate can take us, deftly delivered by director, Kat Eden, and her talented team.

A gallery of images from the show can be viewed here.

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