Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Cabaret - Darlington Civic Theatre

Cabaret By Kender & Ebb
Director: Rufus Norris
Choreographer: Javier De Frutos
Reviewer: Ian Cain

For a story of anti-Semitism, homophobia, poverty, degradation and the fall of the Weimar Republic, Cabaret is a remarkably cheery piece. Since its Broadway premiere in 1966 and the famous movie version starring Liza Minnelli, Michael York and Joel Grey, it has won a staggering number of stage and screen awards including 8 Oscars, 7 BAFTAs and 13 Tony Awards.
This current production, which made its debut at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, in October 2006, is heavenly hedonistic, deliciously decadent and stylishly staged.
Samantha Barks, from BBC TV’s I’d Do Anything, easily establishes her worth as an actress and singer as Sally Bowles, proving that she is much more than just a reality show runner-up. Stepping into the shoes of Liza Minnelli must surely be an extremely daunting professional debut for an eighteen-year-old actress, but Barks shows no signs of nerves and delivers a performance that, in my opinion, betters Minnelli’s. Her voice is strong, clear and powerful and she raises the rafters with renditions of Mein Herr, Maybe This Time and, of course, Cabaret.

Wayne Sleep stars as the sinister Emcee and demonstrates that he is still as sprightly – or should that be spritely, you decide, both apply! – as ever. He excels in his performance of Wilkommen and is delightfully amusing in the risqué Two Ladies. Henry Luxemburg, as struggling novelist Cliff Bradshaw, is suitably handsome and the sexual chemistry between him and Barks is tangible. He strikes exactly the right balance between optimistic, noble romantic hero and deep, moody writer.

Jenny Logan, as Fraulein Schneider, fluffed a line in her solo, So What?, but recovered quickly and professionally and gave a good performance. The story of her short-lived romance with Herr Schultz, played with aplomb by Matt Zimmerman, is tender and poignant. Karl Moffatt as Nazi Ernst Ludwig and Suanne Braun as Fraulein Kost lead a talented supporting cast and particular mention must be made of Theo Cook who delivers a beautifully haunting rendition of Tomorrow Belongs To Me. The ensemble are amazingly energetic and very easy on the eye – and they need to be with so much bare flesh on display. Some of the most pert buttocks and perfectly formed breasts that I have ever seen were put, tastefully, on show.

Javier De Frutos’ choreography, which is bold, daring and effective, is complimented by Katrina Lindsay’s stunningly simplistic set design. The sensational costumes and atmospheric lighting contribute further to the overall effect which is accentuated by a fantastic orchestra under the Musical Direction of Tom de Keyser. The slick direction, from Rufus Norris, ensures that the action moves along at exactly the right pace.

Indeed, this production of Cabaret ticks all the right boxes. Aside from the decadence, debauchery and depravity of the Kit Kat Club, there is the terrifying spectre of the rise of fascism and the horrors that awaited around the corner for Berlin and the rest of the world.

Cabaret Runs at the Darlington Civic Theatre until Sat 21st Feb 2009
frontpage hit counter