CREAGH/CARR REVIEW: Cabaret, MK Theatre

Cabaret
Cabaret

The Creagh/Carr Review gives you two for the price of one – the opinions of elderly hackette Bev Creagh and flamboyant newshound Stewart Carr. Here, they share their views on Cabaret playing at Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday, November 4.

CREAGH SAYS .... Cabaret tells the story of Sally Bowles, the English girl free with her favours who is carving a career in a bisexual Berlin burlesque bar before Hitler begins clamping down on the city’s decadent life style – and its Jewish population.

Liza Minnelli made the role her own in the 1972 film version. She’s etched in everyone’s mind as the quintessential Sally – a very hard act to follow.

Louise Redknapp – former singer with Eternal – has a lovely voice but she lacks edge and experience. And while her performance is perfectly adequate, it lacks that essential pizzazz.

But the rest of the cast is absolutely outstanding. Will Young as the effeminate Emcee with the Charlie Chaplin walk is brilliant, his sense of timing faultless, his voice rich and strong.

Susan Penhaligon is equally good as Fraulein Schneider , the elderly boarding house owner trying to turn a blind eye to the naughty goings-on under her roof. She has a soft spot for Herr Schultz (Linal Haft) and their scenes together are both touching and amusing, particularly when he attempts to get down on one knee to propose.

Basienka Blake is ravishing as red-headed harlot Fraulein Kost and Charles Hagerty makes a credible Clifford Bradshaw, the American writer who realises what’s happening in Berlin and tries to persuade Sally to go back to Britain with him.

The dancers are incredibly sexy in a sadomasochistic sort of way, the perfect backdrop to the dark story unfolding on stage.

And the orchestra, playing in a box looking down on the set, makes the production even more engaging.

This is entertainment at its best - another triumph for MK Theatre.

CARR SAYS .... Anyone with even a passing knowledge of its source material will know roughly what to expect with this starry-eyed production of Cabaret.

But it’s in the little nuances that deviate from the 1972 classic where this show really packs its punch.

Cabaret tells the story of Berlin’s licentious nightlife in the 1930s – where the liberal laissez faire is soon to be destroyed by the arrival of the Nazis.

Will Young is Emcee, the host of the Cabaret and also its spritual sprite. Looking beyond his singing prowess – which seems only to have grown over the years – Will Young as Emcee is wonderfully funny, frivolous and artlessly camp. He’s the soul of a scene which becomes broken under Nazis brutality.

Young upstages Louise Redknapp in her headlining role as Sally Bowles. English to a puritanical tee, it’s hard to envisage Redknapp as the sultry queen of cabaret. Every word seems laboured and she lacks the on-the-spot flair which Liza Minelli famously enfused into the character.

Charles Hagerty as her bisexual lover Clifford Bradshaw is on form, blessed with a pitch-perfect musical theatre voice. But the chemistry between him and Redknapp fails to float above the writhing of body-beautiful dancers who surround them.

My favourites were Susan Penhaligon and Linal Haft as Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schulz. Their story is among the more poignant sequences of the show.

Blunt in areas where the film was more suggestive, Cabaret is both wildly fun and at times, strikingly dark. Undoubtledly one of the highlights of MK Theatre this year.

See here for tickets.