Cabaret

Cabaret

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Set in Berlin in 1931 during the chilling rise of the Nazi’s, Cabaret introduces us to the unconventional love story of American writer Cliff Bradshaw and English performance artist Sally Bowles, who entertains nightly at the city’s decadent and debauched Kit Kat Klub.

An additional and deeply moving sub-plot detailing the ill-fated romance between elderly Jewish fruit seller Herr Schultz and German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider ensures that Cabaret is as intricate as it is entertaining, with its own Master of Ceremonies Emcee, ominously overseeing the action.

Cabaret

Amidst the razzle dazzle of the big numbers which are delivered spectacularly by an impressive ensemble the story is firmly anchored in the drama of the period as a much darker landscape emerges and the reality of the changing political climate is realised in everyday life.

Kara Lily Hayworth excels as good time girl Sally Bowles, with soaring vocals delicately delivered she finds the genuine vulnerability of this troubled soul. Charles Hagerty makes for a strong Cliff Bradshaw, wide-eyed in wonder initially he leaps headfirst into the decadence of the city until the stark reality of what is happening to Belin is realised.

James Paterson and Anita Harris are a real joy as Herr Schultz and Fräulein Schneider making the inevitable outcome of their doomed love story all the more heart-breaking to watch.

Cabaret

John Partridge makes for a commanding and charismatic Emcee, strutting and strong initially his journey from start to finish is the most humbling of all as we see the reality of this crushing regime played out. His transition from fearlessly flamboyant to painfully oppressed a bleak reminder of the grim history of the period. Director Rufus Norris gives us a stark and honest climax to the show which Partridge and the ensemble deliver with an unspoken sensitivity.

Designer Katrina Lindsay has ensured this complex piece engages from the off, the vibrancy of the Kit Kat Klub lures you in with it’s flashing lights and twirling staircases which in turn gives the gut-wrenching final scenes the impact they deserve.

The whole show is beautifully lit by Tim Olivier giving it a somewhat cinematic feel while Dan Samson’s sound design is superb. Javier De Frutos gives the ensemble cast some incredibly complex choreography which they deliver with ease bringing the Kit Kat Klub to vivid life.

Cabaret

Just as Kara Lily Hayworth sings during titular number “What good is sitting, alone in your room? Come hear the music play!” we can’t help but agree, with impressive staging, strong performances and superb choreography this is a Cabaret which will long stay with you.

Cabaret is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 29th February tickets are available here.

 

 

 

 

Cilla The Musical

Cilla-3

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Developed from BAFTA award winner Jeff Pope’s critically acclaimed 2014 ITV mini-series starring Sheridan Smith, Cilla the Musical is a new stage biography which tells the story of Liverpool’s most famous red-head, from her early rise to fame to the start of her much celebrated TV career.

Detailing her fierce ambition, the complexities of her relationship with boyfriend then Manager then husband Bobby Willis and the close friendship they both had with troubled Manager Brian Epstein, Cilla is a nostalgic and heart-warming jukebox musical featuring both Cilla’s hits and other fan favourites from the period, including The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Mamma’s and The Pappas. Cast-of-Cilla-The-Musical-Liverpool-Empire-Photo-By-Matt-Martin-004-1Kara Lily Hayworth more than succeeds in stepping into Cilla’s footsteps, having won the role through a tough open audition process, Hayworth belts out showstopper after showstopper with ease and oozes style. With stunning vocals, perfect Cilla like mannerisms and a flawless Scouse accent her performance is superb. When Hayworth closes Act I with Cilla’s 1964 number one hit ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ she literally brings the house down, goose-bump inducing brilliance, expertly delivered.

Both Carl Au as Bobby and Andrew Lancel as Brian Epstein are excellently cast. The chemistry between Au and Hayworth as Bobby and Cilla is wonderful; Au adds great depth to the character who many of us knew little about other than him being ‘our Bobby’. Lancel plays tormented and troubled Epstein sensitively, a true gentleman always having time for his acts despite his own personal demons.

Gary McCann’s set is impressive, the Cavern, various recording studios, the London Palladium, and even Cilla’s childhood home, all feature, contained within a series of proscenium arches, expertly lit by Nick Richings. Cilla Cilla the musical has clearly been a labour of love for director Bill Kenwright, offering audiences a charming and nostalgic walk down memory lane, act one for me lingers slightly too long in the Cavern days, although the performances are exceptional (Michael Hawkins as John Lennon is fantastic) the pace becomes a little slow, shaving a couple of the songs from this section wouldn’t be of any detriment to the story and would keep the audience fully engaged for the duration. That said, Cilla the Musical is a fantastically fun show, which at its heart is ultimately a love story, not one love story but several, the love story of Bobby and Cilla, Cilla’s love for the music, Brian’s love for his artist, Brian and Bobby’s at times love/hate relationship with each other and even our love for the Scottie Road girl who rose from rags to riches but always remained true to her Liverpudlian roots.

Cilla the Musical is a celebration, funny, charming and chock-full of superb showstoppers, a hugely entertaining night out and fully deserving of the standing ovation received.

On at the Palace theatre until Saturday 25th November tickets available here.