Monday, April 06, 2009

"Cabaret" - April 2009

A combination of some Theatre Tokens burning a hole in our pocket, and a relative who had been hooked on BBC's "I'd Do Anything" (aka the "Nancy Show" in our house) meant a family outing to the Theatre Royal. Especially since Bill Kenwright's Production of "Cabaret" featured our relative's favourite from "I'd Do Anything", Samantha Barks as Sally Bowles.

Set in the seedy side of Weimar era Berlin of the early 30's, "Cabaret" follows aspiring American novelist Clifford Bradshaw (Henry Luxemburg) and his encounters with the sexually liberated denizens of the Kit Kat Klub. As musicals go, "Cabaret" is definitely on the darker side with its adult setting and its look at the rise of Nazism and the persecution of Jewish people and other "undesirables".

Despite the promotional material focusing on the casting of Wayne Sleep as the Emcee and the aforementioned Samantha Barks, the strongest performances come in the side story of Fraulein Schneider (Jenny Logan) and Herr Schultz (Matt Zimmerman) and Jenny Logan's delivery of "What Would You Do?" far outshone the big numbers of "Money", "Willkommen" and even the title song. Whilst "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" by the Company was both beautifully sung and sinister at the same time.

So what about the leads? For me Wayne Sleep's performance suffered from a lack of clarity during the songs. I'm not sure if the levels were off, but I struggled to make out the lyrics during a lot of his numbers. The connection to the audience seemed lacking at times, although there was a nice mention of the Theatre Royal's sister theatre and a strong final scene from Sleep. Samantha Bark's as Sally Bowles has big shoes to fill as Liza Minelli is always in the back of your mind. Her delivery of the musical numbers was good, but she lacked the charm and the steel as Sally that would have made her relationship with the sexually confused Bradshaw seem plausible.

Some impressive dancing by the Company, especially leaps from the staircase and a very strong last moment rounded off a mixed night for a production that was just a little too uneven.