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Cabaret started life on the stage before it was turned into
a major film in the 1970s. There are a few significant changes between the two
however, in our opinion, the stage show is much better than film. Indeed, THIS
particular production of Cabaret is well worth seeing as it manages to control
two central themes, against a background of political upheaval in Germany,
without confusing the audience. But Cabaret is much more than that as a
consistently remarkable cast put on a real show at the Sunderland Empire.
Not everyone has seen the film. So, let’s start with the
The tale begins on New Year’s Eve, in Berlin, as 1930 is
turning into 1931.American author Cliff
Bradshaw (Charles Hagerty) has just arrived and he is in need of somewhere to
stay in order to write his new book. Lucky for him he bumps into Ernst (Nick
Tizzard) at passport control who seems to be smuggling perfume in order to make
a bit of money on the side.Ernst recommends
taking lodgings at Fraulein Schneider’s residence. He also suggests that they
meet up later at the Kit Kat Klub. Schneider (Anita Harris) offers him a room
and Cliff quickly meets up with the other characters at the house including fruit
seller Herr Schultz (James Paterson) and Fraulein Kost (Basienka Blake) who
seems to have lots of sailors popping by.
The Kit Kat Club may a dark, bawdy and shameless venue which
aims to entertain. Emcee, performed by the enigmatic John Partridge, leads the
opening number Wilkommen and he is supported by a very tight dancing ensemble.
In fact, the clubs scenes all benefit from, at times sensual, but always very
dramatic, dance and catchy memorable songs. The Emcee really cuts it by
breaking the 4th wall with the Sunderland crowd on occasion, but not too much. Adding
to the ambience is a live band, under musical director Phil Cornwell, sat
behind in raised position who did not put a note wrong all night.
It is at the club that Cliff meets English entertainer
Sally Bowles (Kara Lily Hayworth) who is sacked and decides to move in with Cliff.
The story then looks at this couples relationship whilst, at the same time,
moving the action back to the club to see the bigger picture, including the
political turmoil of German in the early 1930s.
Cabaret’s design helps to set the atmosphere. Lighting (Tim
Oliver) picks out action but also keeps some stuff deliberately in the
shadows.Sound (Dan Samson) too is sometimes
changed to reflect the setting/venue. Having some of the set pushed on meant
its arrival was sometimes choreographed (Javier De Frutos) into the action too.
The Fraulein Schneider lodging house scenes felt more
separate from the club scenes and that clarity helped make this a better experience
than the much-loved movie in my opinion. The issues around Fraulein Schneider were
well captured and Anita Harris has a stunning voice. Charles Hagerty’s Cliff
Bradshaw seemed less pathetic and naive than in the movie too. Likewise, Kara
Lily Haworth’s Sally captured the free spirit of the time. James Paterson conveys
the confidence that everything will be alright as the Jewish Herr Schultz,
despite the various warning signs.
There is some nudity in the show, but it is not on stage
for an excessive time.Indeed, used to
make a statement at the end.
The undercurrent of impending political change is not
laboured but hangs in the air from the start.The sequence of historical events flows organically across the piece. The
later stages of the show are less of a shock as the political themes overlap with
the residents of Fraulein Schneider’s house.
Cabaret is well worth seeing. It has plenty to offer as a
piece of theatre. There is no ‘mega mix’ to get everyone standing at the end
(unlike a lot of modern musicals) but Sunderland still gave it a well-deserved
standing ovation. The ensemble worked so
hard to entertain in this five- star performance.
NB: Officially the show is marketed as “Recommended
13yrs+ Please note this show contains nudity, strong language and adult themes.”
Yes, there is both male and female nudity. Parents will know best if it is
suitable for their children.