The Grand Theatre, Leeds – until Saturday 7 March 2020
Reviewed by Aimee Liddington
It is Berlin in the early 1930s. Germany is in the midst of political and economic turmoil and there is an overwhelming feeling of decadence and laissez-faire. With the country dancing on edge of the Nazi rise to power, the KitKat Club opens its doors and welcomes us into a world where moral boundaries are blurred and people frolic and fool around on the edge of society. In this club, anything goes and drugs, sex and American jazz is used to distract the nation from their fear and incertitude.
From the very beginning of the production John Partridge charms the audience with his cheeky and salacious portrayal of Emcee. As the (almost) omnipresent narrator, Partridge illustrates an unbridled sexual freedom and makes extreme sexuality and eroticism appealing. With his electrifying promiscuity and audacity, the audience can do nothing but embrace the thrilling awkwardness he creates. With his strong singing voice, convincing accents and ability to convey a variety of emotions, this EastEnders actor swaps the screen for the stage and he couldn’t seem more at ease.
By the same token, Kara Lily Hayworth sparkles and dazzles playing her dream role as the divinely decadent Sally Bowles. Hayworth manages to portray the light-hearted, coquettish lure of the character whilst also exposing her desperate sadness. Her powerful voice sends chills down your spine, particularly in numbers such as ‘Maybe This Time’ and the famous ‘Cabaret’.
Each of the members of the cast could be named individually for their efforts as they are all memorable in their performances and the creative team deserve to be applauded for bringing the talent together with their imagination and direction. Although I won’t give too much away, the direction of the finale scene is particularly powerful and really highlights the devastation of the Nazi treatment of the Jews among all the excitement and self-indulgence in the city of Berlin.
‘Cabaret’ is a tale of sex, love, debauchery and sadness – ‘What good is sitting, alone in your room? Come hear the music play! Life is a cabaret, old chum! Come to the cabaret!’