top of page

Review | Cabaret | Kit Kat Club at Playhouse Theatre | 30/11/2022

This isn't my first time at the rodeo, or Cabaret for that matter. Not usually drawn in by star casting, I went to see the phenomenal Eddie Redmayne in this production at the start of the year. I had spent my theatre going life doing the opposite of what every good English teacher would say, I judged a book by its cover. I wrongly had Cabaret down as a glitzy, throwaway show when in reality it is anything but! I'm so glad that I finally gave this fantastically powerful musical a chance.

Cabaret is one of the classics, first performed on Broadway in 1966. Set in 1930's Berlin, the musical leaves your troubles outside as you enter the Kit at Club oblivious to the rise of the Nazi's. Where this production differs is that you really do enter the Kit Kat Club when you arrive at the theatre. Led through a door, down a staircase and through smoky neon lit corridors, you are offered a free drink on arrival. The venue is usually a hive of activity with more of the mesmerising prologue cast around each corner. Whether it is cabaret girls applying make-up, dancers performing on top of the bar or saxophonists walking around the auditorium playing jazz. This however wasn't included in the matinee performance on 30 November 2022, which was a disappointment. This was apparently due to sickness, although it would have been better to see a lesser prologue than none at all!

The venue itself is unrecognisable from the theatre it once was. When you finally step foot into the theatre you find a small circular stage surrounded by tables for two at the front, with more traditional seating behind and in the circles above. Those lucky (and wealthy) enough to sit at one of the exclusive tables may even receive a pre-show or interval phone call from the cast if they are lucky, with each table having a telephone and light. The orchestra are cleverly placed into boxes either side of the stage, allowing the audience to be fully immersed in the production.

The stage, at first appears unassuming. This is often the case for in the round performances, as sight lines need to be clear from all angles without obstruction. However not all is as it seems with the stage having revolves built in as well as a centre trap door which Emcee uses to enter the stage for the opening number 'Willkommen.' At this performance Emcee was played by understudy Matthew Gent in place of Callum Scott Howells. Although I booked specifically to see Howells, I was by no means disappointed in having the privilege in seeing Gent who was truly fantastic. In particular, his rendition of 'Tomorrow Belongs to Me' was the most beautiful version of that song I've seen performed by anyone. What he got right was the gradual change in his character from jovial host to a much more sinister character.

Madeline Brewer gave a different take on Sally Bowles than 'the usual.' At first, I was unsure about her more paired back, almost childlike take on Bowles. However, this made her more likable and relatable than the character usually is which made it that bit more engaging. Her version of Cabaret was outstanding, and we really felt the tragic desperation of her character in this moment. The sustained applause was so intense that my hands still stung come the bows!

The ensemble are the unsung stars of this beautiful show. They constantly weave through the stalls and table seats interacting with audience members, which adds to the immersive element. If anything the show has got 'sexier' after a recent update, I was even told I was a naughty boy at one point. They clearly have a lot of fun in their roles, which makes the audience enjoy the show even more. For this reason, I would recommend stalls/table seating over circle seating if your budget allows.

What I didn't appreciate as much previously is the fabulous lighting design by Isabella Byrd which is so powerful. It commands your attention and cleverly helps shift the mood as the piece develops.

It is safe to say that Cabaret more than earnt all 7 of its Olivier Awards earlier this year. I think the real question is how it didn't win the other 4 categories which it was nominated in. This is easily the strongest and most unique show on a West End stage at the moment and I would recommend it wholeheartedly to any avid musical theatre fan. It isn't an easy watch at times, but this is what makes it so powerful and thought provoking, and that is exactly what good theatre should be.

If this review hasn't intrigued you enough to consider Cabaret as your next show, maybe this trailer will! If so, click below for tickets:


bottom of page