Friday, 27 October 2006

It was the end of the world ... and I danced with Sally Bowles

Went to see the new production of 'Cabaret' tonight with Chris. I've wanted to see it since it was first announced even though there was an element of uncertainty too - it's not the film and it's not the version I saw a few years back at Studio 54 in New York. And this had James Dreyfuss as the MC - not my favourite actor and that is such a pivotal role. But it was very enjoyable and quite thoughtful.

They went overboard on the sleaze and black leather, cross-dressing and posing, nudity and James D in fishnets and suspenders - not the prettiest of sights, especially when he flashed his naked arse not once, but twice. It probably tried too hard for sleaziness - which I'm not sure it achieved - but the cabaret girls and boys were good, very athletic, in their leather straps and stockings.

It took me a while to get used to Anna Maxwell Martin as Sally Bowles but she won me over, particularly in her two big songs ('Maybe This Time' and 'Cabaret' in the second half) when she slightly changed the emphasis in the lyrics to make it more personal and part of her story rather than try to compete with the 'gold standard' version from Liza.

James D also put in a sterling performance, particularly in the second act with ' I Don't Care Much' which says so much about his character and Sally, as he sprinkles her bed with what I assumed was meant to be cocaine to lure her back to the Kit Kat Klub.

The star of the show was Sheila Hancock - as soon as she walked on stage the first time it was obvious that acting was happening. The 'acting' vanishes as her character as the landlady on hard times brings some warmth to the show, as does the mature love affair with Herr Schultz (Geoffery Hutchings) that goes horribly wrong as the Nazis start appearing. She was excellent.

The final scene was quite harrowing in its own way, firstly with the Kit Kat dancers twitching in the dawn after the night before, coming down from whatever they were on. Then James D and the dancers slowly strip and huddle together for warmth in the snow, their bodies seeming to get smaller and emaciated, partly to demonstrate the opposite from earlier glory of nudity of young healthy bodies and partly, I suppose, to reflect the images of the liberation of Auschwitz and other camps. There was deathly silence as the curtain came down on this most powerful scene. It was a brave man down the front that started the clapping that went on for several curtain calls.

I think the production has had mixed reviews and I can understand why - it's quite brave of them to take on the show when we all know most of the songs from the film and have images firmly fixed in our minds. I enjoyed it - it entertained and it made me think. That's a good thing. I hope it enjoys a good run.

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