MUSIC OWL AWARD: 5th – performance (Will Young)
When I went: 1 December 2012
Location: Savoy Theatre, London
Performers: Will Young (Emcee), Michelle Ryan (Sally Bowles), Matt Rowle (Clifford)
Creative team: Bill Kenwright (producer), Christopher Isherwood (book), John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics), Rufus Norris (director)
Approximate price: £65
Special points: Historical basis
Best bit: Money
If I could change one thing: Better Sally Bowles
Cabaret has been famous since the 1972 Liza Minnelli film. Its combination of some first-rate songs with a setting in a fascinating and terrible period of history has allowed it to endure through several West End and Broadway revivals. It has plenty of wit and dark humour to lighten the inevitable focus on the Holocaust and desperation of the characters trying to forge ahead with their private lives against an increasingly political background.
There is definitely a second half dip, with only the brilliant and timeless title song standing out in the second half, but there is a plethora of good songs in the first half, including Maybe This Time, Money and Mein Herr. The book is consistent throughout, weaving together the threads covering the personal lives of Fraulein Sally Bowles and her love interest Cliff and the looming political threat, punctuated by commentary from the strange and ageless Emcee.
This probably isn’t one to see with children due to the dark ending, but for adult fans of musical theatre, this is a must-see.
Will Young was outstanding as the Emcee, giving a wonderfully freakish and vocally strong performance. Unfortunately, Michelle Ryan didn’t reach the same high bar – Maybe This Time was nicely done but the title song didn’t have the right amount of sparkle and it felt like she was slightly self-conscious and wasn’t fully inhabiting the role.
Rufus Norris’ direction took the show in a dark direction, with some nudity from the characters in the least alluring way possible as they faced extermination at the end. This helped to hammer home the chilling lessons of history rather than focusing on the themes of free love and sex, music and dancing, and enduring entertainment.