Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Cabaret - Theatre Royal Brighton

Cabaret by Kander & Ebb
Director: Rufus Norris
Choreographer: Javier De Frutos
Reviewer: John Roberts

This touring production of Rufus Norris’s hit West End revival of Kander & Ebbs award wining musical has been on tour since May last year. Starring young 18 year old Samantha Barks as Sally Bowles, being one of the finalists from BBC’s I’d Do Anything this show is better by the fact that she didn’t win the role of Nancy for the West End’s revival of Oliver.

This production wowed audiences during its revival in the west end, and got them applauding in Birmingham when this touring production first started, but it looks like the life on the road is starting to take its toll on this show.

Telling the story of Sally Bowles and her work as a sexy cabaret performer in the Kit Kat Klub of 1930’s Berlin, this show oozes great musical numbers and Javier De Frutos’ sexy and ravishing choreography really brings a hedonistic feel to the proceedings helped along the way with racy costume designs by Katrina Lindsay, who’s black box stage design also helps the action move along without the need for cumbersome and overlong scene changes, but what was the point of the Chicago-esqe ladders?

Rufus Norris’s direction is clean and brings a freshness and sexier Cabaret than is usually performed but there were some ideas that seemed a little lacking and unfinished, not that I am a prude, far from it, but for me it feels like questions of ‘what am I saying with this moment?’ seem to have been misplaced for the desire to shock and titillate rather than strengthen the story that needs to be told or the message that is intended to get across to the audience.

Cabaret has two iconic roles, the first being Emcee played in this production by Wayne Sleep, it is unfortunate that when seeing this production his performance lacked any real charisma or stage presence, his singing voice was ok if a bit wobbly at times, but his performance lacked energy meaning the pace of the production slipped and dragged whenever he was on stage.

The second of these roles is Sally Bowles, and it is the professional debut performance of Samantha Barks that steals the limelight from all around her, not only is she very easy on the eyes, but her singing voice is sensational and her performance of ‘Maybe this Time’ will stay in this reviewers mind as probably the best rendition of the song I’ve ever heard. Samantha really is a professional triple threat and will no doubt be a big name in years to come.

Other notable performances come from Suanne Braun as Fraulein Kost, and Theo Cook also making his professional debut as the Young Nazi.

This is a production that could have swept me off my feet, but with a book that is starting to show its age, and performances that are under-coloured and under energised, one cant help feeling that a cast change or some re-direction is needed to bring this production back into its sexy size 8’s that it belongs rather than the cumbersome size 16’s that is grown into during the last six months.

Cabaret is on at the Theatre Royal until Saturday 17th January.
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