Cabaret – what’s wrong with sitting alone in your room?

Tuesday 26 September 2006

Oh dear. Well, it’s probably sufficient to report that the highlight of this production of Cabaret – currently previewing at the Lyric Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue – is the pineapple song (“It Couldn’t Please Me More”).

Andrew and Phil can’t recall exactly when it became acceptable to cast non-singers in West End musicals but this really is beyond the pale.

Neither Anna Maxwell Martin (Sally Bowles) nor James Dreyfus (the emcee) are strong enough to do justice to Kander and Ebb’s songs. Sheila Hancock (Frau Schneider) gets away with it but that’s probably because (a) it seems appropriate to her geriatric character and (b) we love her. Enough of this excuse that Sally Bowles couldn’t really sing; it’s a feeble excuse to get the role out of the shadow of Liza Minelli. Well, it backfired, because it just made us long for Liza even more.

James Dreyfus was amusing enough, but presumably the current interpretation is that the emcee “couldn’t really sing either” and “wasn’t really sinister” although in a press conference Dreyfus said “We’re going quite dark with [Emcee], like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Very strange, very weird. We’re trying to make it incredibly different [to the film], much darker, more unpredictable; so he’s not just the showman.” Did you ever see the film, James?

And frankly, the idea of chorus boys beating people up never really works in musical theatre, but here they have changed out of their basques and stockings and into Nazi uniforms to do so, so it’s Springtime for Hitler that runs through your mind more than anything.

And there’s an awful lot of gratuitous nudity in it. Now Andrew and Phil are no prudes, but we’ve seen naked people before thank you very much and although the first nude scene is in context and funny, after that it gets rather wearing.

Enough about the cast. What about the rest of it? Well, a rather lackluster set with Chicago-style ladders rolling in and out of the wings failed to impress, although the giant letters standing on the stage during the finale spelling K-A-B-A-R-E-T (in case you suddenly woke up and wondered were you were) provided a particularly amusing diversion when the principals tried to squeeze their way between the letters to get off the stage. Hysterical.

Andrew was particularly irritated by the dingy atmospheric lighting which denied us any sight of the actors’ expressions – even from row J of the stalls.

The choreography by Javier De Frutos veered between uninspired and chaotic; the orchestra rarely appeared on stage. “The Money Song” was pretty terrible, as was “Cabaret”, “Maybe This Time” and… well practically everything apart from the pineapple song.

Still, to be fair, it was a preview, so maybe some of this will get sorted out. But until it does, rent the DVD of the film and sit alone in your room. We’ll guarantee you have a great time.

The damage:

  • Ticket: £40 (£10 cheaper than normal because it was a preview)
  • Glass of wine: £3.60
  • Programme: £3.50

The alternative:

  • Buy the Cabaret – 30th Anniversary Special Edition DVD from Amazon: £5.97

7 Responses to “Cabaret – what’s wrong with sitting alone in your room?”

  1. […] But what the hell. As long as they don’t do a Cabaret on it, should be worth a pop. […]

  2. daveonthego Says:

    God You were right, I really wanted to love this production. I have listened to the London cast recording with Judy dench 100 times. I should have listened to your advice, although I could have done with a bit more nudity. Loved Shelila Hancock and Shultz and the violinist but everyone else were just adequate. Ok if one or two are adequate but everyone just leaves you flat. What a dissapointment and with so much to work with. What a shame. What’s with those brass beds, I was so sick of the site of them by the end.

  3. andreworange Says:

    You people won’t be told, will you? Sometimes the West End Whingers wonder why they to to all the bother of writing this stuff up. Do you think we do it for our own amusement?

  4. […] Schadenfreude is one of our favourite words. So WEW are rather pleased that Cabaret (Lyric Theatre) is struggling to compete in a musical heavy market. But if you really need to make up your own mind call 020 7439 4000 quoting ‘Metro Reader Offer’ you can get a top price ticket for £50 with a two course champagn meal at Bertorelli’s . (Mon-Thurs evenings 2nd Jan – 8th Feb). Right this way your table’s waiting. […]

  5. Snead Nesbitt Says:

    Problem with this production is you wonder why you don’t leave the theatre humming and whistling a rousing tune. But then, to your horror, you find yourself doing just that a little bit later, and then without any sense of irony whatsoever — to the strongest song this production delivers: “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” which is the only pro-NAZI tune in the show.

  6. BB Says:

    Thanks for publishing an accurate review here – the reviews for this have been great, which I find pretty astonishing now that I have seen it. Went on Saturday night and thought it was very ropey. Sheila Hancock appears to be the only performer you liked; sadly she has been replaced by Honor Blackman, who can’t sing or act, which becomes painfully obvious very quickly. Kim Medcalf gives it a good go as Sally Bowles and was the only person in the cast I actually kind of liked. We had an understudy performing as Cliff Bradshaw and he was quite poor. The nudity was indeed gratuitous and there was quite a bit of humour around body parts including the song in which the Emcee is in bed with two women – I can’t actually remember what the song was, now – and there is some waving of fake genitalia which we are supposed, I guess, to find amusing – I thought this was quite pitiful. So too was James Dreyfuss’s overdoing it generally. The audience loved it and gave whoops and cheers. I & the person I saw it with thought it was rubbish.

  7. tomlovespatti Says:

    I saw the production on what must of been the 3rd preview or something like that and I have to say I really really loved the show. I may have only been 15 at the time but I remember thinking that it was one of the most fantastic things I had ever seen on stage. I also thought all the cast were very good the singing didn’t really bother me because it was so clear that the actors were entirely in touch with there characters all the way through and the duff notes almost sounded intentional. The one thing I really remember is sitting there watching the legend that is Sheila Hancock sing her first number in act one and thinking “I want to stay here forever” It’s a shame that you didn’t enjoy it because the musical itself is so good that it deserves the best revival possible.
    Now they should revive the rink and 70 girls 70!!!!!

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