Our evening begins at the infamous Kit Kat Klub, in the heart of Berlin nightlife and as the clock strikes midnight we celebrate with revellers, greeting the uncertainty of all that 1931 will bring to Berlin – a city which had fast become the Babylon of the world.
We are welcomed, in many languages, by the Master of Ceremonies, Emcee (John Partridge winner of Celebrity MasterChef 2018, well known to TV audiences as EastEnders’ charismatic Christian Clarke and one of West End theatre’s most prolific leading men (A Chorus Line, Chicago, and La Cage Aux Folles). One second he appears to be our friend as he captivates us with his provocative gyrations and pelvic thrusts, the next he demands respect from anyone on whom those heavily made up sharp eyes’ land upon. No wonder it is made clear to us that, the multi award-winning production of Kander and Ebb’s landmark musical, Cabaret, presented by Bill Kenwright, contains nudity, strong language and adult themes. Well, we are, after all, experiencing the glorious hey-day of Berlin’s nightlife scene.
Our fresh faced, wannabe writer, Cliff Bradshaw (Charles Haggerty – Ivo von Hove’s adaption of All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre) arrives in the city after a long journey from his small hometown in the USA. Through a chance – or was it – meeting with the outward charming Ernst Ludwig (Nick Tizzard) Cliff’s life changes in seconds, as he falls under the hedonist spell, not only of the decadent club but of English cabaret performer, Sally Bowles (Kara Lily Hayworth – Cilla The Musical). Sally captivates us with her seemingly effortless but no less seductive performances of the iconic ‘Mein Heer’ and her soulful rendition of ‘May Be This Time’ brought a split second of absolute silence before the audience erupted in applause and cheers.
Every would-be writer needs a place to rest his typewriter and so Cliff Bradshaw convinces boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider (Anita Harris, who rose to fame in the 1960’s and on screen (Follow That Camel and Carry on Doctor) and on stage, most notably as Grizabella in the West End’s Cats) to let him stay at half the rent until his fortunes change.
While sleaze might be the order of the day at the KitKat Club, there is a very gentle romance in the air for Fräulein Schneider and her old friend, Herr Schultz (James Paterson – TV credits include London’s Burning, Close to Home, Bird of a feather). The comic relief they provide is a joy but there is heartache to come, will their love endure? There were few dry eyes following the scene stealing performance when the lovelorn landlady’s performance of ‘What would you Do?’
continue to be entertained throughout by our Master of Ceremonies contorting his face at us, showing his displeasure or pleasure at providing us with his wild expert dance moves or providing male and female cabaret dancers with suggestive embraces. There is, however, a sinister chill in the air, the world is changing and as the Nazis increase their hold on Berlin.
Our writer has still not written his book but sees the dangers looming and implores Sally to leave ‘now’ and go with him to the USA. His pain is palpable as we catch the melody in his spoken words as he entreats her in vain.
Heartbroken but resolute Sally returns to the debauched Kit Kat Club and provides us with a heart stopping interpretation of ‘Cabaret’.
Directed by National Theatre Director, Rufus Norris, the light and shade provided by this production takes us on a roller coaster of emotions against a backdrop of a dimly lit seedy underground club and the encroaching dark forces of Nazi Germany.
‘What use is sitting alone in your room?’ Come to Cabaret! It awaits you until Saturday.★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Cabaret is at The Palace Theatre, Manchester from 25-29 February 2020. Visit Kenwright.com for full tour details.
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