Whatever is in the water in the Royal Welsh College of music and drama, I want some of it for myself. Despite being a fan of many years of the soundtrack for the musical and Liza Minnelli’s legendary portrayal of Bowles in the film version – I hadn’t until tonight seen the full stage version of the production.
The musical tells the story of the seemingly wild and carefree days of Berlin in the 1930s and the outrageous goings on at the Kit Kat club, a place where the harshities of the rise of right wing ideology and the slow tentacles of anti-Semitism and Nazism will eventually bring the party to an end. Until then, as the fabulously quirky emcee reminds us: ‘Outside your life is disappointing….in here, life is beautiful!’
For those who are unfamiliar with the usual style of the musical, the usual depictions are famous for some of iconic choreographer Bob Fosse’s trademarks – bowler hats, canes. gloves, black clothes, wooden chairs, a smoky vintage jazz club, waistcoats, stockings and sleek buns. This production has turned the classic Cabaret on its head. It gives us 50 shades of sass. It has been dry humped by Beyonce and licked by Miley Cyrus. If as I did, you should see this show with your Mam, she may disapprove of the sexy stuff – far too many open legs and bending over perhaps. This may of course encourage you to like it even more. Corey Jones’ uninhibited performance may make your Nan or you Mam blush, but he and the cast execute Tom Jackson Greave’s choreography beautifully. I loved the freshening and brightening up of Jessica Campbell Plover’s costume design: flashes of pink bra or turquoise stockings and some strategically placed PVC bondage tape, a sweep of Adam-ant style eye make-up brought some a more modern and edgy look to the cast. The look and feel in the Richard Burton theatre was fresh and industrial – pendant lights lowering and raising up to complement the mood and pace of the songs, a cage wall which will remind you of the musical and film ‘Chicago’ and a stripped down feel rather than focussing solely on the style of the 1920s/30s.
Although the role of Sally Bowles can be a difficult one to pull off once you have seen Liza Minnelli mic drop it in the 1972 film version, Adena Cahill’s vocals are incredible and her performance of the song ‘ Maybe this time’ was blinding. Special mention also to Rosie Archer as Freulein Schneider and Dafydd Gape as Herr Schultz for their sweet portrayal of a blossoming relationship than never has an opportunity to come to fruition. The story of the play is as relevant in 2016 as it was when the play was first performed in the 60s, during a time of great civil unrest in the US. Politics and all the ugliness that comes with it is absolutely about us all, whether we realise it or not. At one point, Nazi sympathiser Ernst Luvig (played by Tom Corbishley) tells exasperated American Clifford Bradshaw (played by Jonathan Radford): “Enough politics…what does it matter anyway?”. Sally poo-poos Clifford and encourages him run an errand for the Nazis, as it’s ‘nothing to do with them anyway’. The friends and associates we think we know…we actually don’t. But life is a Cabaret and the show goes on, eventually. As Fraulein Schneider tells Cliff about all the hardships she previously encountered: ‘I survived’. It’s a message worth remembering this last week, especially.
I doff my bowler hat and wave my jazz hands excitedly in the direction of the Royal Welsh College. The show was a little bit saucy and a little bit rude…and I for one found it bloody ‘wunderbar’.
Type of show: Theatre
Venue: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Dates: 22-30 June
Director: Paul Kerryson
Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Musical Director: Nathan Jones
Choreographer: Tom Jackson Greaves
Set Designer: Tina Torbey
Lighting Designer: Becky Heslop
Costume Designer: Jessica Campbell Plover