From the glitzy, gaudy, sleazy opening you wouldn’t guess what unfolds in Cabaret. But this is a story — and a production — that runs the full gamut from cheeky humour to unspeakable horror, with the only constant delight the superb performances of a top notch cast.
Many in the sold-out auditorium will have been attracted by Will Young’s starring role as Emcee, and he strikes a strong and distinctive note as an archly-camp ringmaster turned unspeakable cipher as the dying spasms of the Weimar Republic give way to the rise of Nazi Germany.
But the real surprise of the night was Michelle Ryan in her first musical lead. Her voice and presence in her first number alone will silence any critics, embodying with charm and panache — and the sweetest undertone of fragility — showgirl Sally Bowles.
Henry Luxemburg, drafted in late to take on the part of Clifford Bradshaw, dropped in to the role with ease, and Sian Phillips as Fraulein Schneider and Linal Haft as Herr Schultz provided a grounded foil to the main story. The muscial accompaniment, led by Tom De Keyser, was exemplary, matching the action as well as designer Katrina Lindsay’s creative and stunning set.
Rufus Norris’s direction deftly handles the two very contrasting strands of the piece, the extravagance and decadence of the first half serving only to intensifying the inhumanity of the latter strands of the tale.
A remarkable achievement.