Cabaret Review | The Lowry | Manchester
Set in 1931 during the rise of the Nazis, American author Cliff Bradshaw (Charles Hagerty) finds his inspiration, losing his inhibitions in Berlin’s seedy Kit Kat Klub. A timely encounter sees Cliff connect to the world of the cabaret, smuggling and the spread of Nazi propaganda that is bleeding into everyday life.
The confrontational musical is threaded together through the cast in the club and Cliff’s boarding house owner, Fräulein Schneider, who falls for Jewish fruit shop owner, Herr Schultz.
The black, dreary backdrop is uplifted by the alluring lights of the Kit Kat Klub, where boundaries are blurred. The live band brings a sharp score, with catchy lyrics that seduce despite their nightmarish undercurrents of fascism, racism and passive oppression. The dehumanising and cutting conclusion of If You Could See Her is just one of the examples of the production blending its superb staging, casting and commentary together.
The Kit Kat Klub messaging is loud and clear. The shows striking production lays inventive props, terrific choreography and glitzy dancers to remind its audience that it is all about spin. Emcee, Will Young softens systematic oppression, despite leading an institution that centred around Otherness.
The plucky Sally Bowles, played by Louise Rednapp was not as convincing teetering between fragility and rebellion. Rednapp’s performance felt stiff when not carrying out a choreographed number. The larger than life Sally is not an easy character to portray but scenes in which Rednapp is forced to perform whilst sitting on a bed and missed lines during her final number did not help.
The show sandwiches the familiar hits like Money and Mein Herr between songs such as So What? and It Couldn’t Please Me More, for the second storyline that runs between Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. Susan Penhaligon and Linal Haft bring a grounded element of honesty to the production with their old school charm and earnestness.
There is much to love in Bill Kenwright’s production. Fundamentally, Cabaret is about its audience. It speaks to the dangers of Groupthink, detaching yourself from the truth and turning a blind eye to bigotry. Rufus Norris’ direction makes you feel uncomfortable, involved and engaged in the performances. Its retelling is a relevant reminder to its audience that we should continue to think critically and check our own moral compass in a world awash with fake news and alternative facts.