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"Victory goes to the player who makes the next-to-last mistake - Chessmaster Savielly Grigorievitch Tartakower (1887-1956)"

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Cabaret @ Playhouse Theatre...

Last Saturday night Stuart, Darren, Vince and I went to see Kander & Ebb’s great musical masterpiece Cabaret at the Playhouse Theatre (dubbed the Kit Kat Club) in London's glitzy West End.

Taking a slightly different tack to either the Sam Mendes or the Rufus Norris hugely successful versions this new revival production by Rebecca Frecknell sees the venue completely reconfigured into Berlin nightspot the dark and sexually charged haven of decadence Kit Kat Club during the end of the Weimar Republic. It's now a 600-capacity cabaret (sic) style in the round set up, with expensive food and drink options and additional entertainment available beforehand. So far, so immersive.

Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne takes on the role of the increasingly sinister master of ceremonies (nicely done, but who could match Alan Cumming's definitive portrayal?), Jessie Buckley plays Sally Bowles (magnificent voice and pitch-perfect acting), Omari Douglas was Cliff Bradshaw (never ceases to amaze), Liza Sadovy was Fraulein Schneider (the heart of the show), Elliot Levey was Herr Schultz (broad shoulders having to represent 6 million Jews), Stewart Clarke was Ernst Ludwig (suitably pantomime villainy for the season) and Anna-Jane Casey was Fraulein Kost (bringing nuance to traitorous role).

The cast all worked hard but as fascism slowly encroached in on what superficially looks like a decadent, liberated society we were left a little at sea. There was not the gut-punch of Norris's production with its yellow star / pink triangle / shocking nudity. Here we are sung a song and it's over. The Nazis have arrived.

That said, the songs are generally presented fantastically well and with great gusto. It's just not quite the ending I had expected / wanted / feared / hoped for.

On a more positive note, the key song of the show for me, the desolate What Would You Do? sung by Fräulein Schneider who rejects her Jewish lover in the interests of self-preservation, is simply wonderful.

A good immersive production but not quite worth the eye-watering price tag. £225 a head anyone?

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