Theatre review – Cabaret at Palace Theatre Manchester
PUBLISHED: 19:33 26 February 2020 | UPDATED: 19:33 26 February 2020
The Other Richard
Cabaret at Manchester’s Palace Theatre is just superb; every moment a glittering, tawdry, brilliant jewel
The success of Cabaret must lie in its mechanics as much as its cast's performance, and in this show every flicker of light, every movement of set and every note from the band is precisely, elegantly perfect.
Set in the last days of Berlin's dance with hedonism, just as the rise of the Nazi party begins to make itself felt, Cabaret is a dark tale that gets only darker as the story progresses. It follows the story of Sally Bowles, singer at the Kit Kat Club, one of Berlin's many dozens of cabaret bars, and new-to-town American, Cliff Bradshaw who takes full advantage of the 'anything goes' morality of the time. Their romance forms the centrepin of the story, but others walk strongly on the periphery - Cliff's lonely landlady Fraulein Schneider, her admirer Her Schultz, resident prostitute Fraulein Kost, the shady Ernst Ludwig, and of course, Emcee, the MC at the Kit Kat Club.
The show opens with Emcee, played by John Partridge, revealing himself as if from the lens of a camera. Partridge is divine - quite terrifying, intense, sinister and thrilling. My only complaint is that his German accent is just a little too good - I struggled to understand all that he said or even notice that he'd switched to English on a couple of occasions. It certainly doesn't help with his enunciation of the songs. He's superb, however; his sheer physicality quite overwhelming. I can't imagine how powerful his presence must have been for those on the front row. He is the source of every moment of pure humour in this show, from his antics in Money Makes the World Go Round and the hilarious Two Ladies (and a giraffe, apparently) but also the source of much of the deepest darkness. He's quite mesmerising.
It is in the big set numbers that this show - the mechanics and the talent - really shows its stuff. The choreography is superb. Every movement, every held pose and knowing glance is perfectly timed and executed. The lighting is beautiful, from placement to tone, it serves to create mood and movement and lead us through the glittering darkness of the last days of Berlin's golden age to the cold, blue light of Nazi rule.
Kara Lily Hayworth is a delight as brittle, desperate Sally Bowles. You can read her fear and her need, and oh, what a voice! The moment she delivers that first note of Maybe This Time she has the whole audience leaning towards the stage.
We can't ignore the love story of Frau Schneider and Herr Schultz, which from the moment we hear Schultz wish Bradshaw 'mazel' we know is doomed. It's beautifully done. Two lonely people who find a moment of light, torn apart by the rising Nazi anti-Jewish brutality. Schultz's protestations that this too will pass, that he 'knows Germany. I am German!' sending shivers down your spine.
There's no grand up-on-your-feet close to this play. The moments of silence that greet the closing scene, as the audience realise what they are seeing, speak volumes for the power of the performance, but then, as one we are on our feet applauding a difficult story done brilliantly, with brilliant performances from every single person involved.
I loved it.
Cabaret plays at Palace Theatre Manchester until Saturday 29 February 2020 https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/cabaret/palace-theatre-manchester/