29 November 2021
CABARET (Playhouse Theatre) Review
I’ve never seen a production of Cabaret live, but I saw the Alan Cumming and Raul Esparza ones online, so the bar was rather high. On balance, it was a very enjoyable evening at the theatre.
To give the viewers a fuller experience, the Playhouse was reshuffled to have table seating in the orchestra and these lovely high-back seat boxes in the upper circle (dress circle looked pretty normal, but I may’ve missed something special they did there). There were also performers in certain areas of the building before the show to give the patrons what I presume is meant to be a cabaret experience. Some of it was enjoyable, and some of it wasn’t to my liking, but, on balance, the crowd seemed to be having a good time.
If my cheapest bracket seat was anything to go by, the sightlines were fantastic and pretty well-thought out. Also, even up high, it felt quite close to the action on stage. The lighting was terrific, and the faces were lit up nicely so that I could see all the facial expressions even from afar (which also contributed to the feeling of being close to the stage).
The costumes were lavish. There was a departure from the “traditional” emcee look, which I didn’t like during the show, as, to me, it was less cabaret and more Cirque du Soleil. On the way home, however, I thought a circus was a good metaphor for the play, so perhaps there was something to it afterall.
Eddie Redmayne is a marvel. I think comparing him to Cumming or Esparza isn’t something worth doing because he makes the role his own in his own way. Redmayne’s got a lovely singing voice, and he is so fit, you can see every muscle as you would in a medical drawing. His face is brilliantly expressive. From my perspective, he is the heart of this show, and it wouldn’t have been as enjoyable without him.
Jessie Buckley wasn’t a name I heard before Cabaret. She can carry a musical (not all singers can) quite well, and she put on a good show acting-wise, but her performance wasn’t as memorable as Redmayne’s.
Omari Douglas, Liza Sadovy, and Elliot Levey do a stellar job as supporting cast. The first two I’ve seen in other roles in the West end, so it was great to see them both do something different. Props to Rebecca Frecknall for keeping the show broadly aligning to the expectations of what Cabaret should be like, but also sprinkling in some uniqueness to make it stand out.
Cheapskate enjoyment value: £10.
Covid Note: Playhouse made a big deal out of everyone showing up with a negative lateral flow test result from the NHS, else no admittance. However, only texts were checked; no IDs… Nevermind that you don’t need to show your test to the NHS (you tell them that it was negative, and they just parrot it back to you in a message), you also don’t need to prove to the theatre that it’s your test result on your phone. A box ticking exercise that doesn’t really offer the patrons much of a protection. They would do better making masks mandatory and calling it a day.