I missed Cabaret when it was in the West End, but managed to see it last week as it embarks on a national tour. The musical is a haunting portrayal of the insidious nature of Nazism in 1930s Germany and its effects on ordinary inhabitants. Set largely in cabaret venue the Kit Kat Klub, the clash of tone – from debauched partying to harrowing Nazi attack – is handled sensitively and only serves to emphasise (and perhaps explain) how a party as divisive and dangerous as the Nazis could creep in to power.
There isn’t a weak link in Rufus Norris’ production. Visually, the choreography is stunning – and slickly and enthusiastically performed by the ensemble. The imaginative use of set and set changes are equally slick – impressively so for a touring production. The cast ring the emotion from Kander and Ebb’s music, and the songs are still in my head two days later.
Siobhan Dillon’s Sally Bowles grows in depth as her hard, carefree shell crumbles to reveal a mentally fragile and self-destructive woman struggling against the ‘prophets of doom’ who are threatening to bring her life and the Cabaret crashing down around her. This culminates in a heart-wrenching rendition of Cabaret – Dillon manages to stamp her own mark on this iconic song.
Will Young commands the stage with his astonishing performance as Emcee, veering effortlessly from frivolous jollity to sinister. He has a skill for bringing out the sinister in the overly cheerful, capturing perfectly the atmosphere of Nazi Germany. Tomorrow Belongs to Me is particularly chilling.
This is one of the best musicals I have seen in a long time, and demands your attention right to the last moment, yet its strong themes don’t detract from its entertainment value.