Ian’s 4* Review:
Will Young’s performance is quite simply brilliant. His acting is mesmerising, and his vocal performance is flawless and full of character. I couldn’t take my eyes off him when he was on stage.
Michelle Ryan was much weaker – I didn’t think she managed to put across the emotion that I think the part of Sally requires. The vulnerability, fragility, mercenary actions, her volatile, almost bipolar nature, the depression and the energy. None of it was really there. Her vocal performance in the first half was competent but lacked charisma, but in the big number in the second half she just wasn’t hitting the big notes.
The rest of the cast did a competent job but the girls fell short of sexy some of the vocals weren’t that strong. It was hard to live up to the standard set by Will Young.
Production-wise, it was visually attractive if unspectacular. I felt the design and lighting could have done more to support the change of mood over time, and the different scenes didn’t quite stand out from each other enough.
It’s hard to decide an overall score. Will Young was exceptional and deserved 5*. Everything else was lacklustre, but I’d go again just for Will if we hadn’t been there on the second last night of the run!
Ruth’s 4* Review:
The thing about Cabaret is that it is a dark dark story and in some ways the stage version is even darker than the film. Which I like. Set in 1930s Berlin, it explores the unexpected relationship between Sally (a nightclub singer) and Cliff (a writer) as the Nazi influence starts to overwhelm the city. Sally is an optimist in the sense that she hopes she’s going to make it big and she hopes that the next guy she meets is going to be the one that sticks. But she’s complicated, fickle and laden with emotional baggage so she never seems to get what she hopes for. In the film, Cliff (well, Brian in the film) is a bit of an innocent who Sally draws in to a lifestyle on the margins of society, but in the stage show he is much more of a complicit partner. But either way, Cliff is a traveller passing through Sally’s life. When things get tough with the relationship, and when his ideological opposition to the Nazis gets too much, he can leave. And he does. But Sally is stuck in Berlin in a destructive cycle that she hopes will turn into something amazing. It doesn’t turn out well for anyone. Basically it is doom through and through, and it is the doom that gives it its edge.
And it is the desperation in Liza Minelli’s interpretation of Sally that made the film in 1972. Michelle Ryan showed no desperation. Or even any plucky optimism, or sexiness, either of which I guess could be another interpretation of the character. It was a bland emotionless performance lacking in any depth, and she came across a bit like a public school girl on a school trip. This made the big number at the end (Cabaret) very disappointing. No hopes, no dreams, no completely deluded and misjudged optimism. Just a very mediocre karaoke version of the song. I’ve seen a non-English speaking ‘female impersonator’ in Malta do a better job (true story).
I wasn’t hugely keen on the romance between the old couple in the boarding house either. It was nice, and then painful (in a good way), but it slowed things down a bit.
But don’t think I didn’t like Cabaret, because I did. And the reason was the bright shiny star that is Will Young as the EmCee. I thought he was outstanding in every way, I could not fault his performance. He was funny and mischievous and sinister and creepy. He looked great, he danced well, and his singing was bang on. It’s a tough role and very exposing but he easily pulled it off, making even the hardest bits seem effortless. The song at the end of first act – Tomorrow belongs to me – was a particular highlight. It includes singing with and without accompaniment and shifting the tone from pure to evil over the course of a couple of minutes. He brought tremendous presence to the role. I think it might be the most impressive performance I have ever seen in a musical, I will certainly go out of my way to see him in other things in the future.
And the end was chilling. Which does finish things off nicely and make up for the nonsense that was Michelle Ryan’s last song.