Putting the Will into the bracing opening number Wilkommen, Will Young returns to the role of Cabaret’s MC. Having previously played it in the 2013 West End revival, he now owns this role as firmly as its original creator Joel Grey and Alan Cumming who played the role on Broadway.
It must be irresistible to play the sinister, white-faced figurehead of the 1930s Berlin hangout, the Kit Kat Club. Young seizes each of his many moments in the spotlight with a showman’s flair, but there’s also a glinting sadness to Rufus Norris’ production: with the rise of the Nazis, time is running out on this club and its inhabitants.
It is English cabaret singer Sally Bowles’ tragedy not to notice what is happening in front of her face. TV personality Louise Redknapp, making her stage debut, captures her guileless lack of awareness even though her line readings tend towards the mechanical. Her singing is fortunately much more assured, and even if she cannot erase memories of Liza Minnelli in the iconic film version that doesn’t matter. Sally is not meant to be a star presence. If she was, she wouldn’t be working in this fleshy, sleazy dive.
Javier de Frutos’ choreography remains a jagged, intricate joy, as raunchy as it is sleazy. Norris’ production also features more tender homespun moments, with Charles Hagerty’s Clifford Bradshaw offering a delicately nuanced portrait of the outside observer, and Susan Penhaligon superb as landlady Fraulein Schneider who has to pragmatically end her late romance with Jewish grocer Herr Schultz.