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Theatre Review: Cabaret ****

Michael Cox reviews a solid production of a classic musical.

It seems like a ripe time to bring Rufus Norris’ production of Cabaret back on the road. Set in early 1930s Berlin, the story follows a group of bohemians at heart, some German and others international, who find their lives affected by the rise of the Nazis. Their stories are commented on by the sinister Emcee: a master of ceremonies at the infamous Kit Kat Club that serves as a hub for the main characters.

If the musical has one hurdle, it is the spectre of the highly acclaimed and influential 1972 film. The stage version is a different beast, having songs and characters that are not found in the film. While these storylines are compelling in themselves, they make for a completely different experience that may disappoint those expecting the film.

The production has many things going for it. Norris’ direction is clever, coming up with many interesting interpretations that bring original insights into the storytelling, and Javier De Frutos’ choreography brings out some of the cheeky subtext of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s songs. The design of the production works well and the ensemble perform with overall gusto in acting and in singing.

And yet, as solid as the production is, it also feels like it’s missing a certain ‘wow’ factor. John Partridge performs the pivotal role of Emcee well yet rarely commands the stage, and many of the chorus numbers simmer instead of explode. All of this results in a production that is more than worthy of its important lineage, even if it feels slightly undercooked at times.

Cabaret performs at the Festival Theatre until November 9th before continuing its tour.

Tags: theatre

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