Theatre review – Cabaret (5/5)
Redknapp does a decent job of emulating the role made famous in film by Liza Minnelli, but the show stealer of this performance at the Edinburgh Playhouse is the singer Will Young.
Painted in clown face for most of the show, Young is a revelation as Emcee with his range going far beyond his reality pop star status.
Young, who reprises his Olivier Award-nominated role, opens the action by proclaiming “Wilkommen” and it heralds a night of bawdy entertainment typifying the mood of a city on the cusp of Nazism.
Susan Penhaligon with a long pedigree in theatre and television (Upstairs Downstairs, Bouquet of Barbed Wire) plays Fraulein Schneider, the landlady of a louche rooming house with plenty of characters passing through.
The era, in all its depravity, is suitably depicted in the dazzling sets by Katrina Lindsay and choreography from Javier de Frutos.
Mood changes see the backdrop change from the colourful Kit Kat Club with to Fraulein Schneider’s grey and oppressive looking house where she constantly rebukes the ladies for bringing home their “nephews” and “brothers.”
The original songwriting from John Kander and Fred Ebb includes stand-outs Maybe This Time and, of course, Life Is A Cabaret.
Redknapp delivers these with perfect range though the performance would benefit from her growing into the tragedy of the role as the tour progresses.
The overall pervading mood of the action is impending doom as swastikas start to appear just before Hitler takes power in 1933.
As the city shudders no-one is holding their breath and the whole company shows how these free-living Berliners partied until they were powerless against the impending doom.
Young is central to the change of tone as the tragicomic Emcee. This is a very physical performance showing a range of comic buffoonery and clown-like lamentations as the era comes to an end.
The choreography is simply stunning with many set pieces including Emcee as a puppet master while some of the company dance robotically. There’s a lot of symbolism in this production.
Penhaligon and Linal Haft as Herr Schultz bring some serious acting to the stage but Young is not far behind – his performance is outstanding and the whole company should be praised for their dazzling energy.
The poignancy of the finale gives the production a twist that was missing from the movie version.
It’s not hard to see why the hype around this filled almost every seat on opening night. Highly recommended.
Cabaret is at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday