Review Cabaret, The Kit Kat Club/Playhouse Theatre, London by James Ellis 

Photo credit: Marc Brenner 
5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Finding all the right words to talk about this superb show is an undertaking. The recovery period for it as well, can be daunting.

In what is one of the finest post-pandemic shows in London, a new version of Kander and Ebb’s iconic musical waves in the ether. From the moment you step into the Playhouse Theatre (or the Kit Kat Club as in the show) you are met with a bombardment to the senses. Cognac is offered at the door, the prologue dancers muck about in the foyer and a real sense of joy washes over you. This is a special show with some lovely padding before the main event. Very much a sense of “Welcome back!”

With a complete restoring of the theatre, the revolving stage is small and packs a lot of punch. The dancers make great use of the space, with thrilling moves and an all round sex appeal thanks to the choreography of Julia Cheng. The direction of Rebecca Frecknall should not be underestimated, the animation of this production reaches a fever pitch I’ve rarely seen on the stage. Amazing work from Jennifer White as music supervisor and director leading this immaculate bravado band. Sets and costumes by Tom Scutt are fitting of the Weimar era and have a real slick style to them. Not faired to show off some legs, thighs amongst other regions. Tis a very autumnal coloured show, cloaked in black.

What the musical is perhaps most noteworthy for is the colossal tonal shifts, with Hitler’s rise to power and the unwavering chaos this caused. The cabaret space becomes the place to express oneself though some songs also bleed I to the real life of the characters. There is little it takes to be moved by these proceedings as queer and Jewish characters become the focus of hatred and violence. These mood swings in the show are what makes it perfect, the threat of the Nazi is omnipresent as apposed to literal on the stage. Moments of panic lead to a absolutely belting dance number and vice vera. 

The cast shine eternal. Fra Fee as the Emcee is the master of ceremonies and our guide for the show. Ever the charmer, Fra has taken over from the big boots of Eddie Redmayne, talking the dream role with aplomb. 

Amy Lennox is a powerhouse Sally Bowles. I loved her little bit of screaming she did in the title song, her wry English wit ever cutting and blunt. An amazing voice never far away and her costumes, perhaps the best in show.  

Omar Baroud as Clifford Bradshaw is charming and quick witted, the plucky American writer who is taken Berlin and all it has to offer. It’s a lovely role with a big effect on the story.   

 Vivien Parry is quite touching yet also plays the spurious role of Fraulein Schneider. Her entanglement with Richard Katz Herr Schultz has some funny and lovely moments, a song about a pineapple remains a highlight. Ernst Ludwig is a challenging role due to his change in allegiances, here given up Stewart Clarke in a dashing, pristine take. The marvellous Anna-Jane Casey is both Fraulein Kost/Fritzie who was not in it enough and I was craving more. I’ve already spoken of the stupendous ensemble and band, yet I find myself mentioning them again. Their talents are other worldly.   

The Kit Kat Club is calling and you simply must accept the call. 

The new cast for Cabaret from  October 2022 includes RWCMD Graduate Callum Scott Howells & Madeline Brewer. 

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