Cabaret – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
1st – 5th Oct 2019
This is a musical based on a play that in turn was based on a novel. It also later became famous as a film! It’s a storyline that seems to work in almost any format. The original version was a novel called Goodbye to Berlin (1939) by Christopher Isherwood. It was later converted into a play ‘I Am a Camera’ in 1951 and eventually a musical in 1966 (with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Joe Masteroff). The film came later in 1972 and starred Liza Minnelli, Michael York, and Joel Grey. It went on to win 8 academy awards, including Best Actress for Liza Minnelli.
This version of Cabaret is produced by Bill Kenwright, and is touring the UK and Ireland. Dublin is the only date scheduled for the Republic of Ireland, although it does visit Belfast next week! The production has Kara Lily Hayworth playing the part of Sally Bowles, an actress known for her stage work such as Cilla the Musical. John Partridge plays the part of Emcee, who may be known to some as the winner of Celebrity MasterChef last year! Thankfully, he’s more than just a good cook. Cliff Bradshaw is played by Charles Hagerty, who is a regular on stage in the West End. Anita Harris plays the final major role, that of Fräulein Schneider. Harris has appeared in films such as Carry on Doctor (1968) and Follow That Camel (1967) . The production is directed by Rufus Norris, the current Artistic Director of the National Theatre in London.
The musical is set in Berlin in the 1930s, with the seedy Kit Kat Klub the main venue. There we meet the Master of Ceremonies, (Emcee – Partridge) who serves up a devilish dish to its patrons on a nightly basis. It’s a place of decadence and wild abandon, with its team of exotic dancers. A young American writer by the name of Cliff Bradshaw (Hagerty) arrives in Berlin for the first time. He meets a German man who recommends the boarding house of Fräulein Schneider (Harris). Later, Cliff visits the Kit Kat Klub and there he encounters Sally (Hayworth) in all her glory! The two quickly become lovers but their tale is not a straight forward one, as there is much political change in Berlin with the Nazi party coming to power.
The production has a number of very flamboyant set pieces, as we get to see the performances of the dancers and singers at the Kit Kat Klub. These are extravagant affairs, filled with animation and playful seduction. The other main location is Fräulein Schneider’s residence, where we get to see the comings and goings. These are more modest scenes, but allow for some solo vocal performances.
There are some impressive individual performances. While John Partridge’s German accent can be hard to decipher at times, he plays the part of Emcee with a manic grin which is very enjoyable. Anita Harris has been performing for over 50 years. Her strength is as an actress and she imbues the character of Fräulein Schneider with the harsh edge required. Kara Lily Hayworth does very well with the part of Sally Bowles, the young woman who does not realise the party is coming to an end, as the Nazis start to take control. The production is seemingly quite light-hearted, until the second act where things take a dramatic change. It does add depth to what could have been a simple love story otherwise. The ending is actually quite chilling, and is beautifully played out in this production. It’s rare to get this combination and it does leave you feeling you’ve seen something more complex and absorbing than just your average musical.