I love going to the theatre and especially to see musicals, so I was really pleased to hear Cabaret was coming to the Bristol Hippodrome. When the cast was eventually announced and it was revealed that Wayne Sleep was playing the Emcee and Samantha Barks ('Isle of Sam' Sam, who finished third in this year's I'll Do Anything show) was Sally Bowles, I wanted to see it even more and was thrilled when we managed to get good tickets.
Last night, I went with my friend to see it. I love the film - starring the wonderful Liza Minnelli - and the soundtrack, so thought I knew what to expect, but the film and the stage version are very different.
The basic premise is that Sally is a nightclub performer in Germany. Along with her fellow entertainers at the Kit Kat Club, life is a string of shows, drink, sex and trying to piece together money for essentials (fur coats and gin!).
In the film, Liza plays Sally as an American, with Michael York playing Brian Roberts as the well-spoken Englishman he is. The stage version we saw had Samantha Barks playing Sally Bowles as a well-spoken Englishwoman and Henry Luxemburg as the love interest - American Clifford Bradshaw.
The play has all the songs we know and love from the movie - Wilkommen, Mein Herr, Maybe This Time and so on - but many I had never heard before. Of these, a couple were rather dull and forgettable, but there were some excellent numbers too, especially Don't Tell Mama (accompanied by an excellent, intricate dance routine). I have since been on Amazon pricing up the soundtrack CDs!
The main difference between the play and the film though was the emphasis on the historical background. Set in Berlin in the 1930s, the rise of the Nazis is the backdrop - contrasting with the fun and decadence of those involved in the city's nightclub scene.
When the play begins, the situation isn't too bad politically, but it becomes worse over time. The subplot of the play is the romance between landlady Fraulein Schneider (played by Jenny Logan) and Jewish market trader Herr Schultz (played by Jewish-American actor Marc Zimmerman). While it begins positively, things soon take a darker turn as more swastikas appear amid cries of 'Juden raus!'
While being aware of the Nazi theme in the film of Cabaret, it seems much more prominent on stage and the play has a very bleak ending, which makes the audience feel quite uncomfortable. I wouldn't suggest you take very young children to see this, as it would be upsetting for them.
The show itself is rather adult in nature, with plenty of nudity, skimpy costumes, raunchy dance routines and sexual banter. However, this is done very well and never strays the wrong side of vulgar.
The cast were all very good, with amazing dancers and wonderful choreography to admire. The staging of this was outstanding, with sets taking you seamlessly from front stage of the nightclub to backstage, from train station platform to bed-sit. The use of minimal props - a moving staircase, ladders, beds - is extremely effective and there is always something to watch. I was particularly impressed with the dancers throwing themselves off the staircase, which must take a vast amount of skill and trust.
For me, Wayne Sleep stole the show as the camp Emcee - part genial host, part sinister apparition. He both opens and closes the show and his decades of showbiz experience are easy to see. He encourages audience participation and proves he is just as talented an actor and singer as he is a dancer, despite being best known for the latter. In my opinion, he was as good as Joel Grey was in the film - and that's a big compliment!
Samantha Barks is very good as Sally Bowles and performs with a maturity way beyond her teenage years. She convinces throughout and is obviously a talented performer all round, although her singing is her strongest asset, her powerful voice hitting each note beautifully.
I was slightly disappointed by her rendition of the title song, not due to any fault of hers, but more due to the direction. Call me nostalgic, but in my opinion, the song Cabaret needs a chair and a hat!
Sam's version here was more of a measured performance, acted and sang beautifully, but often spoken and this failed to build up to the big crescendo this number deserves. She hit the money note and I enjoyed it overall, but I think this could have been amazing, if it had been directed slightly differently. I would love to see Sam in this same role in a few years and I bet she would be even better.
A special mention also needs to be made of the rest of the cast, especially Henry Luxemburg as Clifford, Suanne Braun as Fraulein Kost and Karl Moffatt as Ernst Ludwig. Ludwig is one of the more sinister characters in Cabaret, so it was rather sweet to see the actor come out of the stage door later with his lovely white Westie, Molly!
Overall, I loved it and would definitely go to see it again. The staging was amazing, the costumes effective and the musical numbers a delight. The audience is taken through a wide range of emotions as we have the raucous comedy of something like Two Ladies contrasting with the hauntingly beautifully - but symbolically terrifying - Tomorrow Belongs To Me.
Due to the bleak ending, my friend and I came out of the theatre discussing concentration camps and the Holocaust, instead of the big grins and laughter we usually associate with our post-analysis after a musical. But a performance which makes you think is hardly a bad thing.
To round off the evening, we waited at the stage door to meet Wayne Sleep and Sam Barks, who were both lovely.
I would definitely recommend Cabaret to all of you. It's two hours and twenty minutes of great entertainment and music - but just be aware you may not come out thinking it is a feel-good kind of play.
"HELLO DARLINGS!" (in character- this is not me!- laughs). I have just got back from New York. I had a great time. I Saw 4 plays, two films, went up the Empire State Building, saw The Statue Of Liberty, ate Belgian Waffles, loads of Bagels and walked for miles. But what was the highlight of my week long stay? Christmas Day in New York? The weather? Cold but no rain. The food? Broadway? Well.... the highlight was a show called Cabaret. Read on and I will explain why. ***C A B A R E T *** AT STUDIO 54- NEW YORK *********************** Cabaret the musical returned to Broadway in 1998. Sam Mendes (the director of the highly acclaimed film, American Beauty) took the show and injected a sense of 'now' into the proceedings at the Donmar Theatre in London. He cast Jane Horrocks (Little Voice and Ab Fab) as Sally Bowles. After her amazing performance and the plaudits that the show received- America wanted a slice of this evergreen nostalgia. They got it- upgraded! The show was so successful that it moved to a new venue: STUDIO 54 the once famous nightclub where the in crowd would love to be seen- the ideal venue. 1,165 performances later and the show is still going strong on Broadway. It is now the fourth longest running revival shows in Broadway's history. The show's composer John Kander has said: "What Sam has done is revisit the piece in a way that makes it theatrically contemporary, whilst retaining the emotional relevance that was always there." HOW DID CABARET COME ABOUT? **************************** Cabaret is based on "I Am A Camera"- a 1951 play that John Van Druten derived from Christopher Isherwood's story "Sally Bowles." Isherwood's Berlin Stories vividly portrays the the poverty, political violence, and the ideological bankruptcy of the years 1929 to 1933. What made the show different was the fact that was i
t was sentiment free and able to deal with issues such as rebellion, prostitution and blurred sexuality. When I say blurred- at the time of the original production it was deliberately blurred as 'they could not get away with' the show you see now. THE FILM ********* In 1972 Bob Fosse took the musical and deighted film goers with his stunning adaptation. Who could forget Liza Minnelli in top hat and tails dancing with Michael York and Joel Gray? The film whetted the audiences appetite for more. Each time Cabaret has been staged it has been able to keep pushing boundaries and leave the audience gasping for more from "Mein Herr." REVIVAL ******** In 1987 the show was revived and got a far racier treatment than ever before. Eleven years later Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall picked the show up and upped the ante even more. The Cabaret you see now is quite diferent. Imagine Chicago but twice as racy and without someone from Brookside Close attempting to look sexy and this is Cabaret. THE REVIEW ********** Cabaret is about change, the need for rebellion and the growing threat of war on our doorstep. Just as relevant today as then. Set in The Kit Kat Club in Berlin; the audience are involved from the word go. As the show is staged in Studio 54, the famous NY nightclub- the audience are involved as more than mere bystanders. The club scenes are played out to the audience for the audience. Black chairs and tables adorn the floor of the famous nightclub and the stage has a platform in the middle with steps so the cast can walk out amongst the audience and chat to them completely in character. On the balcony above- other audience members look down on the nightclub scenes from up above wondering why they didn't pay more to be in on the act! Each table has a lamp which lights up whenever the club is part of the scene/act. REAL CABARET OLD CHUM ********************** Like C
hicago- Cabaret has a real raw egde which is really welcome in Broadway when so many musicals rely on sugar to make the medicine go down. The cast are adorned in various states of undress with bruises on their legs and arms. This is the world of Cabaret where the dancers perform favours for the clientele. The songs vary from the silly to the sublime. Each one has a sardonic edge which stays with you long after you have left the Kit Kat Club. "Mein Lieber Herr" "Life Is A Cabaret" "Don't Tell Mama....." Each song is immediately memorable, although like the revival itself - they remain fresh due to the excellent delivery. With subjects such as sexuality, prostitution, and anti semitism, the songs do need the edge to help the audience feel that beneath the free and easy lifestyles lies a threatening, imposing sense of doom. THE CAST ********* There have been many cast changes over the years. Among the many excellent performers to don top hat and tails are: Natasha Richardson, Jennifer Jason Lee, Brooke Shields, Gina Gershon and Alan Cumming. If you see the show at the moment, who will you expect to find in the Kit Kat Club? Someone pretty who used to wear pink? You guessed it? CURRENT CAST ************* MOLLY RINGWALD- Sally Bowles Yes, it's the Brat pack Queen from Pretty In Pink and The Breakfast Club! Never knew she could sing? Neither did I?!!! But boy can she belt out a tune. The bonus is she's a great actress too. So during the show's poignant scenes, you will feel Sally's pain. Molly makes a cracking Sally Bowles! You will smile as the ex brat packer walks amongst the audience shouting: "Hello Darlings" in a perfect English accent which will banish any memories you have of Dick Van Dyke 'aving a lovely 'oliday wiv Mary! RAUL ESPARZA- Emcee This role is a difficult one to fill as Alan Cumming originated the new Emcee.
But Raul is dazzling as Emcee- the bisexual narrator. With humour a plenty and dazzling costumes and great song and dance routines- Raul Esparza has a ball with this role and so will you watching him. Think Rocky Horror but twice as risque- this is Ecmee. MATTHEW GREER- Clifford Bradshaw Again, a tough role. Clifford is torn between Sally Bowles and a man who is set to betray him. Dazzled by Berlin but aware that the war will change his life forever- Clifford is running scared. Matthew Greer is brilliant in this complex role. His scenes with Molly Ringwald are particularly powerful. CAROLE SHELLEY- Fraulein Schneider The landlady in Berlin who has lived her life at everyone elses beck and call finally finds happiness with a Jewish gentleman. But with the ever changing climate the audience knows that the happiness will be replaced with tears. A great emotive performance from Carole Shelley. She proves to be a real trouper who does not allow the young co- stars to steal her thunder. THE REST! Every cast member from the scantily cald orchestra to the dancers who mingle with the audience give fantastic performances in this ground breaking revival. I could not fault any of them. WHERE IS THE SHOW ON? ********************** STUDIO 54, 254 West 54th Street Yes, the Studio 54! One of the most written about nightclubs in the world and the topic of the film 54. The venue is open one hour before the show so that you can order drinks/food. Waiter service is provided. SO, IT'S GOOD THEN? ******************** It's more than that. I went to New York in search of so much. I found it all- well I thought I did- until I saw Cabaret. From the opening scene my breath was left waiting to be taken away. It took me until the start of the second act to get it back! The venue was amazing and well suited. The cast mingle with the audience, brush past you and belt out the ter
rfic songs as if they are for your ears only. The story is emotive, thought provoking but the director never loses sight of the fact that Cabaret is supposed to be entertaining. The cast are amazing and the songs are familiar but like the show itself given such a credible makeover that they sound fresh and innovative. If you are lucky enough to go to New York, please check this show out. It is simply the best show on Broadway. Well, actually it's more than that- it's the best show I have ever seen! It's "Perfectly Marvelous!" PRICES VARY: ************* Here's the hard bit to swallow: From £25- £75 I know it seems expensive and it is. But for such a unique and involving show- I think it's money well spent. But the choice is yours. It is a once in a lifetime show. In the words of Emcee and Sally: "MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND... BUT LIFE IS A CABARET OLD CHUM- COME JOIN THE CABARET!" (yeah I know ... I've glued two songs together... but hey...) Thanks for reading, Glenn ** UPDATE** Molly Ringwald has since finished her run and Jane Leeves (yes, Daphne from Frasier) is currently wowing crowds as the new Sally Bowles. Cast subject to change. Also a new version of Cabaret is soon to be opening in Chichester. See www.whatsonstage.com for more details. More info: www.cabaret-54.com www.broadway.com www.stagebill.com