Cabaret, The Kit Kat Club, Playhouse Theatre, London review ✭✭✭✭✭

Last Updated on 13 December 2021 by Showcall Editorial Team

Mark Ludmon reviews the revival of Kander and Ebb’s musical, Cabaret, at the Playhouse Theatre, London, with Jessie Buckley and Eddie Redmayne.

Eddie Redmayne Jessie Buckley Cabaret
Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley in Cabaret. Photo: Marc Brenner

Playhouse Theatre, London
5 stars
Book Cabaret London tickets

Any revival of Kander and Ebb’s 1966 musical Cabaret comes with baggage. The iconic film version, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse and starring Liza Minnelli, has been followed by acclaimed new interpretations in the West End and on tour, creating unforgettable images and performances. Award-winning director Rebecca Frecknall has turned her back on these and taken a fresh look at the book and music, helming a mesmerising and visually stunning new vision for the show.

Some of the choices are surprising but that makes it all the more interesting, especially for anyone familiar with past productions. The stage is literally set as soon as the audience enter the building, with the Victorian interior of the Playhouse Theatre, and its frontage, transformed into the fictional Kit Kat Club at the heart of Joe Masteroff’s story, based on a play by John van Druten and books by Christopher Isherwood. The traditional proscenium design has been replaced by a stage in the round where the cabaret venue’s performances are woven into the narrative.

Cabaret London tickets
Part of the ensemble in Cabaret at The Kit Kat Club at London’s Playhouse Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner

Omari Douglas is excellent as the sweetly innocent young American writer, Cliff, who has come to Berlin at the start of 1930 to find material for his novel and ends up witnessing the rise of the Nazis. He becomes friends with his long-suffering landlady, Fräulein Schneider, and another of her lodgers, a Jewish grocer, Herr Schultz, whose blossoming but troubled romance is beautifully told in two powerful performances by Liza Sadovy and Elliot Levey. Anna-Jane Casey shines as the sailor-loving lodger, Fräulein Kost, while Stewart Clarke brings plenty of charm and a hint of menace as Cliff’s German friend, Ernst Ludwig.

The stand-out performance is Jessie Buckley as the glorious but fragile Sally Bowles. She is as impressive singing the comic masterpiece “Don’t Tell Mama” in a pair of lacy pants as she is in a stripped-back “Maybe This Time” and a raw, tortured “Cabaret”. Through it all, Eddie Redmayne is ever-present as a sinewy, sinuous Emcee, brilliantly performing the cabaret songs that provide a gloss to the main narrative such as “Money” and “If You Could See Her”. He and the superb ensemble twist and bend in Julia Cheng’s striking choreography, combining a dynamic fluidity with moves that are sometimes close to contortion.

With Tom Scutt’s spare, expressionistic design and Isabella Byrd’s lighting, the circular stage revolves and changes throughout, creating a space that can be Fräulein Schneider’s busy guesthouse one moment and a Weimar-era cabaret club the next. The band, under musical director Jennifer Whyte, magnificently bring sparkle and spirit to Kander’s music, expertly balanced with crystal-clear vocals thanks to sound designer Nick Lidster. Along with its immersive setting, this masterful, inventive revival is an experience not to be missed, joining the list of the musical’s unforgettable productions.

Running at The Kit Kat Club (aka the Playhouse Theatre), booking to 1 October 2022, with new cast joining from 21 March 2022.

Omari Douglas Jessie Buckley Cabaret
Omari Douglas and Jessie Buckley in Cabaret at London’s Playhouse Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner

Cabaret extends run until 1 October 2022

About Mark Ludmon 318 Articles
Mark Ludmon has been a journalist for over 20 years, specialising in theatre, hospitality and drinks after starting in regional daily newspapers. He has an MA in early modern literature and history, focusing on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and a theatre studies MA from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He is a former panellist for the Olivier Awards. He tweets at @MarkLudmon.