04/09/13 - Cabaret UK Tour at the Liverpool Empire

When I'm on the market for theatre tickets, I tend to favour shows I haven't seen onstage before.  This is a product of a tight budget and tends not to be too restrictive, as it means that as a result I end up seeing a variety of performances rather than sticking with old favourites.  However, occasionally a production will convince me to fork out for a show I'm familiar with and this week was one of those times.  When I saw that 'Cabaret' was touring, I couldn't miss it as I wasn't able to get down to its West End run.  My brother was happy to accompany me after we both saw the 2009 production starring Wayne Sleep as the Emcee, and it was interesting to see how this tour differed from the last.

Cabaret is a fascinating musical in many ways.  We follow American writer Clifford Bradshaw (the wonderful Matt Rawle) as he arrives in Berlin at the start of the 1930s seeking inspiration for his novel and, as you can imagine, these are fraught times he's stepping into.  On his first night in Germany, he goes to the sleazily decadent Kit Kat Club and meets the inimitable Sally Bowles (Siobhan Dillon).  A romantic friendship blossoms and Clifford is drawn into the glittering and tawdry underworld of a society on the edge of destruction.  The plot is narrated by Will Young's fabulously bizarre Emcee and interspersed by the troupe of sexy and flexible dancers performing impressive cabaret-style musical numbers.  It swings schizophrenically from manic highs to devastatingly brutal lows, ending with a chilling image which will stay with you long after you've left the theatre.

Will Young was fantastic as the Emcee.  At first, I was a little worried that he wouldn't be as good as I was hoping he would be; it can be difficult to judge with celebrity castings.  However, he really excelled my expectations, playing the exaggerated character aspect of the role really well and not shying away from the extremes of the role.  The poignant 'I Don't Care Much' near the end is a perfect chance for him to show off those beautiful vocals, showing the emotion behind the almost clownish white makeup.  And I have to say, he looked a damn sight better in those leather shorts than Wayne Sleep did.


Siobhan Dillon was incredible as the flamboyant Sally Bowles, with her rendition of 'Cabaret' probably being the highlight of the production.  The combination of vulnerability and ballsy resolve was perfectly balanced and when combined with a cracking set of lungs, it really was perfect.  While her acting might have lacked a little of the depth that the character really needs, her voice more than made up for it.

As a whole, the production was visually stunning and chock-full of talent.  I can't complete this review without a mention for the creative and versatile set, always finding new ways to utilise the space to great effect, and the insanely ambitious and acrobatic choreography courtesy of Javier de Frutos.  

It's in Liverpool until Saturday 7th September and the rest of the tour dates can be found here so if you can get to see it, I highly recommend that you do.   It was an absolute feast for the eyes and ears, and not to be missed if you can help it.

Have you seen Cabaret? 
Let me know what you thought in the comments!

[I do not take any credit for the photos marked '*' - courtesy of Google]

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