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Review of Cabaret at New Wimbledon Theatre

Cabaret: Louise Redknapp as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, credit JIM MARKS
Cabaret: Louise Redknapp as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, credit Jim Marks

I should probably preface this by saying that Cabaret is one of my all-time favourites, although I haven’t seen a production since the 2002 Australian cast staring Tina Arena and Toby Allen! I’ve been disappointed a few times, not including the previous example, but still, you find yourself channelling your inner Liza and thinking “Maybe this time, I’ll be lucky!” and again taking the plunge. So, coming out the other side, what’s the verdict?

Bill Kenwright’s production, directed by Rufus Norris, is exciting, enthralling and poignant! Reprising well-known motifs, while taking the heart and soul of the show to a whole new level, it serves as a reminder of just how good this piece really is and why it’s won 13 Tony awards – including best musical for the original Broadway production!

Set in Berlin, pre-WWII, young American Cliff arrives in the city with the hopes of finding the inspiration to finish (and start!) his novel. Following a chance encounter, he finds himself dragged into a turbulent whirlwind of cabaret dancers, smuggling and politics.

It’s a given that with Cabaret comes fishnets, suspenders and corsets, but this production has something extra and manages to capture the tension of the era with a subtlety that reflects the insidious political climate of the time. The subtlety only extends so far though and, without giving too much away, builds to a bone-chilling final tableau which, for me, set this production aside from all others I’ve seen.

As our delightful host and Emcee, Will Young is exceptional! From the moment he appears, his warm presence and cheeky grin place you in that highly contented state that results only from knowing that a much-loved character is in very safe hands! His childlike innocence, a direct contrast to the debauchery of the scene around him, sets the paradox for the show as a whole. Without a doubt, Young carries this show. He is effortless on stage and the level of depth that he creates within the character knows no bounds. The audience are in stitches when he adlibs and close to tears during his soliloquy.

Cabaret 2017-6020 Will Young as the Emcee in Cabaret, credit JIM MARKS
Cabaret 2017: Will Young as the Emcee in Cabaret, credit Jim Marks

Likewise, in the role of Cliff, Charles Hagerty is equally strong, serving as a moral compass and providing a sobering influence within the production. There is a danger that this character can drift into slightly stoic or somewhat beige territory, particularly when compared to the flamboyance of Sally and the Emcee, but audiences can be assured that Hagerty does not fall into this trap. I have to say, he’s one of the strongest Cliff’s I’ve seen.

Liza Minelli left big shoes to fill following the 1972 film and turned Sally Bowles into one of the most coveted roles in musical theatre. Louise Redknapp has moments of pure brilliance and certainly looks like she was born to strut the role, however it does feel like she holds back, only hitting her stride vocally on the final number – which is superb by the way! Perhaps it’s a matter of artistic choice but the complex balance of fearlessness and vulnerability that makes Sally such a delectable character seems to be missing. That said, it’s press night, and characters like this have a tendency to grow!

As Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, Susan Penhaligon and Linal Haft are brilliant, coming dangerously close to stealing the show at times! Haft evokes memories of a younger Mel Brooks and brings a humility and sincerity to the role that makes the greater context all the more heartbreaking. Special mention should also go to Basienka Blake in the role of Fraulein Kost who has a superbly strong presence on stage and is responsible for some of the most memorable comic moments. They are supported by an outstanding ensemble who are engaging, enthralling and
flawless in their execution.

You may have seen this show before, but go again! This production has everything you loved about the original with a few added elements to keep it fresh and relevant. Life is a Cabaret old chum, go see the Cabaret!

4 stars

Review by Cassandra Griffin

In the role that earned him an Olivier award nomination and WhatsOnStage award, Will Young reprises his critically acclaimed performance of Emcee in Rufus Norris’ production of Cabaret.

Ever since winning the inaugural series of Pop Idol in 2002, Will Young has been one of the UK’s most popular and successful music artists and holds the record for the fastest selling debut single in British chart history. Playing Sally Bowles will be musician, TV presenter and 2016 Strictly Come Dancing runner up Louise Redknapp.


Thursday 21 – 30 September Box Office: 0844 871 7646
New Wimbledon Theatre

Tuesday 3 – 7 October Box Office: 0844 856 1111
Blackpool Opera House

Tuesday 10 – 14 October Box Office: 01684 892277
Malvern Festival Theatre

Tuesday 17 – 21 October Box Office: 029 2087 8889
Cardiff New Theatre

Tuesday 24 – 28 October Box Office: 0844 848 2700
Leeds Grand Theatre

Tuesday 31 October – 4 November Box Office: 0844 871 7652
Milton Keynes Theatre

Tuesday 7 – 11 November Box Office: 0843 208 6000
Salford Quays, The Lowry

Tuesday 14 – 18 November Box Office: 0844 871 3014
Edinburgh Playhouse

Tuesday 21 – 25 November Box Office: 020 3285 6000
Churchill Theatre Bromley

Tuesday 28 Nov – 2 December Box Office: 00353 1 677 7999
Dublin, Bord Gáis Energy Theatre

Tuesday 5 – 9 December Box Office: 0844 871 7650
Brighton Theatre Royal

Further dates to be confirmed…


1 thought on “Review of Cabaret at New Wimbledon Theatre”

  1. Agree Will Young very good.

    Sally Bowles is above all an actor’s part. It’s a big role and the character is complex. Perhaps the best ever was Judi Dench – she was and is an actor at the very top. And she sung the role credibly – that is to say she was good enough, but not too good! Read Isherwood and you will see that Sally is a pretty ropey performer! Liza Minnelli was great of course, but far too good a singer for the role. Louise Rednapp sings well and looks good – very good! But her acting is woeful. This is virtually a stage debut for a woman who is described elsewhere as a “Singer and Celebrity” – no doubt correctly. What she isn’t is an actress. I see enough theatre to know how good our acting talent in Britain is. There are literally dozens who would have jumped at the chance of playing Sally Bowles and who would have done it well. But I guess they wouldn’t have put bums on seats like Ms Rednapp does. Ha !

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