Cabaret at The Mayflower, Southampton (04/09/2012)

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I went to the theatre slightly apprehensive as I wasn’t quite sure what to make of a musical with a cast consisting of an ex Eastenders actress and the winner of a pop star reality show. Most shows that go down the route of having famous faces as their headline stars tend to go down badly, but it is safe to say that Cabaret has done the complete opposite, offering an excellent rendition of the Kander and Ebb classic, Cabaret!

Cabaret takes place in Berlin, Germany, during 1930 and 1931 depicting the uprising of the Nazi’s and the unfortunate demise of cabaret with many directors and performers of cabaret actually being taken to concentration camps. This does not mean, however, that Cabaret is a morbid and depressing story – it is a show of great comedy, flamboyance and love.

Will Young does a fantastic job in catching the audiences’ attention and making them focus solely on him while cast and crew work in the background creating a phenomenal set. It was the job of an MC in cabaret to show wit and be masters of improvisation and Young’s depiction of Emcee, the MC at The Kit Kat Club draws you in to a false feeling of truly being at the cabaret. Young also adds an excellent comedic value to the performance and I sit waiting for his next arrival.

Young plays an excellent transition between scenes, and this brings me on the point of how amazing the scenery and lighting was for the performance. Space was used excellently and, although simple, the set depicted mood and setting brilliantly. The use of cast members to move pieces of set, limiting members of crew on stage, truly creates the ambiance of this being a trip to the cabaret as opposed to a trip to see a musical at The Mayflower. The transitions are slick and I only noticed a few problems in the symmetry of set and the movement during one number but apart from this you could not fault the work of the design and technical team. The lighting compliments the set with bright bulbs used where appropriate.

To add to the feel of being at the cabaret the band were situated behind a movable screen and were only uncovered when scenes took place in The Kit Kat Club. This takes away the fourth wall and draws the audience in to the performance. In the words of Emcee ‘even the orchestra are beautiful’. At times there were a few sound issues with Young’s voice being drowned out at the beginning but this was soon rectified and was fine throughout the rest of the performance.

Michelle Ryan was the only person who disappointed me slightly. There is no doubt that her acting skills are excellent but I believe her lack in vocal talents were shown in places. I expected a lot more from her rendition of Maybe This Time but she redeemed herself when she sang Cabaret as she belts out many a note. I cannot fault her ability to portray the character of Sally Bowles I just wish her vocals were slightly stronger and in places it did look like she was lip syncing although this cannot be confirmed. I don’t know if the reason for being so critical of her performance is due to the familiarity of her Eastenders character but I do believe this detracts from simply analysing her performance on the night. She did please the crowd and received a tremendous cheer in the finale.

I can safely say that this was a well structured performance with little fault. I wanted more from the accents but you can understand the difficulty in singing with the German accent. It was actually Will Young who had the best accent from the whole cast. A mention must go to Sian Phillips for playing the instantly loveable Fraulein Schneider and I admire her portrayal of a lonely widow who just so happens to fall in love with someone society does not accept. Cabaret touches on some sensitive areas but this is done well and is depicted well as to not cause offence to any member of the audience.

Cabaret has a limited run at The Mayflower Southampton with performances carrying on until 8th September 2012. It then moves directly to the Savoy Theatre for a limited run on the West End stage. Knowing this, my expectations were high when I entered the theatre and I did not leave disappointed. Cast and crew worked effortlessly to produce a marvellous piece of musical theatre and I urge everyone to see it before it’s too late.

8/10

Tickets can be purchased from The Mayflower Box Office or on their website and Cabaret’s run ends on 8th September 2012. 

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