Cabaret (New Wimbledon Theatre)

The latest stop in the tour of Kander & Ebb’s classic musical is in Wimbledon, which has become early 1930s Berlin for a week.

Cabaret centres on American writer Clifford Bradshaw, who becomes involved with Sally Bowles, an English performer at the Kit-Kat Club. It’s a musical based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel I Am A Camera, and deals with the rise of Nazism.

I last saw this show in 2008, in which Amy Nuttall played Sally and Alistair McGowan the Emcee. I recognise some aspects of that production in this one, notably the chilling final scene which hits home with the reality of what was termed “The Final Solution”.

John Partridge in Cabaret
John Partridge in Cabaret

Now we have Kara Lily Hayworth as Sally, who looks the part in numbers like Mein Herr but lacks the chemistry with Charles Hagerty’s Cliff. Their story arc is peripheral in a way – she closes her eyes to the unpleasant and the inevitable, and he finds himself a stranger in a country he recognises as “beautiful”, but with a poison seeping through it.

Much stronger in this cast is John Partridge as an Emcee who minces and hisses to his crowd, playfully conjuring up bed-pals for Two Ladies, giving us pause at the closing line and reveal of If You Could See Her, and slowly conjuring up the ennui and eventual horror, with a fake set of eyelashes stuck on like Alex sported in A Clockwork Orange.

Anita Harris and James Paterson play the elderly lovers who have their own moment of fantasy before reality ceushingly intervenes. Her What Would You Do is a devastating cry from a broken woman who lacks the time to run from a Germany starting to crack. Paterson’s polite Jewish grocer is a sad figure with his optimism about the future.

The company of Cabaret
The company of Cabaret

The set (by Katrina Lindsay) is lights, letters, ladders, legs, ladies, and bare walls. The orchestra are suspended high, and appear now and then, notably for an appearance at the start of an act two which turns progressively darker.

This revival of Rufus Norris’s production has many compensations, notably the staging of Tomorrow Belongs To Me (stronger, certainly, in the context of Bob Fosse’s film, but a fine act one closer here), and the quieter moments of Fraulein Schneider’s So What, Sally’s Maybe This Time, and the Emcee’s I Don’t Care Much (often done in flamboyant drag, but here quite the opposite).

Cabaret continues to tour to Manchester, Leeds, Canterbury, Sheffield, Cardiff, Stoke, Inverness and Milton Keynes, finishing on 25 April.

Images by Pamela Raith.

LouReviews purchased a ticket to see Cabaret.