'Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum!'
This week I was invited to along to Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre to see the opening of the new UK 2019 tour of 'Cabaret' by BKL Productions, starring John Partridge (Emcee) and Kara Lily Hayworth (Sally Bowels).
It has been 80 years since the German's, Hitler and his Nazi party, invaded Poland in September 1939, sparking World War 2. Over the course of the war, the world was unveiled to shocking events and procedures caused by the Nazi's, who came to power in 1933 until the end of the war in 1945. Despite these catastrophic events, the 30's and 40's gave birth to some of the world's greatest Broadway Musicals and Movies to date, with titles like '42nd Street' (1933) 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939), 'Oklahoma!' (1943) and 'Meet Me in St. Louis' (1944), to name a few. It was the era of popularity for Vaudeville, Jazz and Cabarets.
'Cabaret' is a Broadway musical set in Berlin 1931 with the rise of Nazi Germany. We follow the story of Cliff Bradshaw, an American writer who comes to Berlin to write his novel, and Sally Bowels, a Cabaret singer at the Kit Kat Klub. The story spans over the 30's decade and unfolds the Nazi's power and the affects it will have on our characters in Berlin. 'Cabaret' began its journey on Broadway in 1966 and was an instant success and soon became international, having performances in both London and New York. The 1966 musical is also the basis for the 1972 movie of the same name, starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowels and Michael York as Brian Roberts - an alternate to the character of Cliff Bradshaw. The movie various somewhat to the musical, with the character of Sally being American opposed to British and Cliff, now Brian, is British. The movie, like its musical counterpart, was an instant success that lead to win 8 Academy Awards, including Best Director (Bob Fosse) and Best Actress (Liza Minnelli).
The 2019 tour began at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre on September 3rd - September 7th and then travels to Nottingham for September 10th. The show will conclude its final 2019 performance on November 23rd in Malvern. Upon arrival, I had only seen clips of 'Cabaret' from the 1972 movie. Liza Minnelli's captivating performance is nothing less than sensational, so I had high hopes for the starring role. I was not disappointed! Within the first 5 minutes I was completely mesmerised by the set, the music and sheer performance of the entire cast. The musical truly captures the essence of Berlin life in the 1930's and gives us elegant and touching performances throughout. The nightlife was seedy and dark, with gay romances, abortions, drugs and alcohol, all happening behind the closed doors as Hitler was planning WW2. John Partridge (Emcee), was exceptional in this role and really gave us all that he had. Narrating the story and singing his heart out, Partridge had me on the edge of my seat practically begging to see more! Kara Lily Hayworth (Sally Bowels) gave a very Liza-esque performance with her show stopping vocals, she sent shivers down my spine. The finale of the musical was cold and bitterly true to life. The Nazi's had taken over, Jews were discriminated and we saw the cast resemble a scene that would inevitably be the outcome of the war. The theatre was eerily quiet, you could hear a pin drop. I definitely shed a tear.
Much like the 1966 Tony Award Winning show and the 1972 Academy Award Winning movie, this musical is a definite 10/10 and I highly recommend you see it when it is in a town near you. You get drama, Jazz, Love, and the chilling truth about Nazi Germany. It's Captivating. It's Cruel. It's Courageous. It's Cabaret.