will and Louise

Will Young as Emcee and Louise Redknapp as Sally Bowles.


Malvern Theatres


With Will Young reprising the role that won him accolades in the West End, there's an air of excitement surrounding this touring production.

Add to that the likes of Louise Redknapp alongside him, tickets for its week-long stint in Malvern sold out quickly.

I must admit, I was wary about former pop singer and Strictly star Redknapp playing the role of carefree nightclub singer Sally Bowles (a part made famous by Liza Minnelli in the movie) in depraved 1930's Berlin. I thought she may come across as too wholesome and nice.

Instead she puts on a steely, aloof persona that results in an impressive theatre debut performance. Her time on Strictly Come Dancing has helped her keep in with the exact dance routines, but it's her voice that really is her forte. She makes decent work of songs Cabaret and Maybe This Time, in particular.

The limelight, however, firmly shines on Will Young. He's perfected the role of Emcee - a part he is reprising for this acclaimed Rufus Norris production. The first time around, Young was nominated for an Olivier award and won other gongs including a WhatsOnStage prize.

For those who don't know, the story is told through the eyes of aspiring American writer Clifford after he arrives in the party city of Berlin. It's a snapshot of life connected to a seedy cabaret bar he frequents and where he meets good time girl Sally Bowles amid the rise of the Nazis.

Act One is jolly and wild with titillating routines at the Kit Kat Club by a troupe of seductive dancers led by Young's master of ceremonies Emcee. It's all very enticing and funny with a touch of nudity and bawdiness about it.

There's hope and romance too but mostly from the elderly couple living as neighbours in Clifford's lodgings. Their scenes are probably the most emotional. Susan Penhaligon and Linal Haft are outstanding as mature lovers Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, who must face up to issues surrounding his Jewish heritage.

The close of the first act warns the audience of the gloom to come as Emcee appears as a puppet master with a striking resemblance to Hitler controlling the dancers to menacing song Tomorrow Belongs To Me.

Into the second act, it's a much darker tale but with some of the most stunning performances. Young comes into his own even more so and his performance of I Don't Care Much is beautifully sung with remarkable poignancy. It's not hard to see why he won awards.

The movie of Cabaret has set a high standard as it won eight Oscars, but National Theatre Artistic Director Rufus Norris has come close with this atmospheric, slick, memorable version. The dance scenes, choreographed by Olivier Award winner Javier de Frutos are stunning too and the striking finale is a touch of class.

This production has already enjoyed two smash hit West End runs and is now on this brief UK tour. It's an exceptional show all-round but the night ultimately belongs to Will Young. To 14-10-17.

Alison Brinkworth


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