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22 September 2012


Theatre Royal, Norwich
Saturday 22nd September 2012

From the first moments, as Will Young's Emcee peers through the middle of the front cloth to "Wilkommen" the audience in, it is clear he is going to be the star.  The success of his vocal performance almost goes without saying; faultlessly silky smooth throughout with a relaxed strength that makes it look so easy, he could sing the phone book.  It is his physical performing skills however that are a surprise triumph.  Grinning inanely, executing his way through some frantic choreography, his stage presence demands attention throughout in an excellent interpretation. 
Michelle Ryan looks fabulous as Kit Kat Club dancer Sally Bowles, most successful in her opener "Mein Herr" and the "Perfectly Marvellous" duet with Cliff, when being frivolous and theatrical.  She is, however, less impressive in the more emotional moments, and frankly disappoints in a flat version of "Maybe this Time".  By the title number, near the end, Sally Bowles should have the audience entirely bought in - the part doesn't even demand a wonderful voice, as long as the actress sparkles with charisma.  Ryan looks slightly uncomfortable and the song doesn't build to the glitzy climax that should convince us to "come to the Cabaret".
Among the rest of the cast, Matt Rawle plays the unconventional love interest Cliff with flair and emotion, Nicholas Tizzard is disturbingly charming as Nazi Ernst Ludwig, and Harriet Thorpe is a glamorous Fraulein Kost. 

Siân Phillips is entirely superb as landlady Fraulein Schneider, with her adorable love interest Herr Shultz played by Linal Haft.  The quiet beauty of their flowering relationship is in many ways both the highlight and subsequent tear-jerking tragedy of the whole show.  Sensitively directed and subtly performed, the storyline works wonderfully.
This was a highly sexually-charged production, with some moments bordering on the sadomasochistic, but it worked very well and was certainly hard hitting, with committed and energetic performances by a busy ensemble.  The show is full of dark plot lines beneath the initial glitz of the cabaret, with the Nazi Youth's "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" unsubtly but affectingly staged.  The final scene, by which time the Nazi's have taken over Berlin, hauntingly depicts the symbolic future for ordinary German citizens. 

Cabaret, with it's full-frontal nudity warnings and controversial storylines, will be something of a contrast for the Savoy when it replaces Soul Sister in the West End next month.  An unapologetically unsettling production - well worth seeing.

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