CABARET Review – New Wimbledon Theatre

Life is a Cabaret!

Louise Redknapp & Will Young star in this opening night of Cabaret at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

We at The Live Review were kindly invited along to the press night of Cabaret at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

Originally opened in 1910 and re opened in 2004 this listed building is a great setting for the show, with approx. 1670 seats across 3 levels, ensuring as many people as possible get to see this show per day. This being the 8th largest theatre in London. We have been here previously and adore the setting and décor.

We at some point have all heard and be familiar with the song ‘Life is a Cabaret’. For some this is how we decide to live our lives. Living without a care in the world or paying attention to what’s going on around you. For others we are very aware and choose to live our lives according to what we see around us.

The above said this brings me to the Cabaret. Based on John Van Drutens 1951 play ‘I am a camera’, which had been an adaption of the 1939 Novel ‘Goodbye to Berlin’ by Christopher Isherwood. The original Broadway show in 1966 was a hit and went on to create subsequent creations in London & New York. In 1972 it spawned a film version also.

So here I am sat in my seat Thursday 21st September to see the Opening Night. Louise Redknapp making her stage debut as ‘Sally Bowles’ and Will Young no stranger to the role reprising his place as ‘Emcee’ in the cast.

Set on New years eve 1930 and subsequent months after, Cliff Bradshaw played by Charles Hegarty is seeking inspiration to write a book and so travels to Berlin after failed attempts in London and Paris. Meeting Ernst Ludwig at the train station he quickly strikes up a friendship and is offered a place to stay and a recommendation for club to visit with it being new years eve.

Its at the club that Cliff meets Sally Bowles and after some flirtation and poetry Cliff unsuccessfully invites sally back to his boarding house. The next day whilst teaching an English lesson to his new friend Ernst, Sally strolls into his room unannounced declaring she will be staying with him, having now been sacked from her role as performer at the club.

A secondary storyline develops also that is heart warming to watch and to see the development of a romance between the boarding house owner Fraulein Schneider and a resident Herr Schultz. Herr is a gentleman, and a successful fruit shop owner. He romances his would be wife with the freshest fruit he can bring her and impresses with a ‘pineapple’  long the journey. The boarding house also consists of another resident Frauleine Kost, a working girl who has a penchant for sailors.

It is this sneaking in and out and yet again getting caught in the house causes Fraulein to confront her lodger to which they get into a debate. It is during this that Frauline is talked down to and of which Herr Schutlz defends her honour and pride. During which he announces ‘as a lie’ that they are due to get married in a few weeks. Seeing it as a meaningless gesture initially Frauleine dismisses the gesture but after a brief thought agrees to say yes. Bringing our hearts to melt. An engagement party is then to be arranged.

Now that Sally has set up residence, her and Cliff start a relationship and with it the shock announcement that she is pregnant. By who we don’t know, but Cliff convinces her to keep the baby with the vision their life together will be a great family.  Now that Cliff is a parent to be he needs money and Ernst gives him an opportunity to do some work for him. Travelling to and from Paris picking up a ‘package’. No questions it becomes an easy way to provide money for living.

Thus far the play has been fabulous, a celebration of Berlin and what it has to offer if you succumb to its wild side. Relationships blossoming and it finally seems Cliff finding his inspiration. The second half was to be darker.

Then comes the engagement party. The would be groom getting drunk on schnapps, guests dancing, the bride to be having fun dancing with young men. Cliff had just returned from a visit to Paris with his latest package. Ernst with his overcoat on gets introduced to Herr Schultz, initially warming to him and welcoming the marriage. Upon taking his coat off, Cliff notices the armband he is wearing. A Nazi logo emblazoned proudly on his arm, representing the politics of the time and growing following the political party had. Cliff then realises for whom this secretive work has been for. Refusing to take payment on principle, Sally then happily strides through and collects – not worrying how or what it represents other than what it can buy them.

Our favourite working girl then happens to mention to Ernst that the would be groom although German born is Jewish. This horrifies Ernst as it clearly goes against his beliefs. Ernst then has a quiet word with our bride to be warning her this marriage would not be suitable and that the consequences may affect her personally, as she is reminded of all the lodgers she has been provided by Ernst ensuring she had a business to run.

Upset but concerned she re considers what she is to do. The next day Herr’s shop is vandalised and marked with the star of St David. Letting all know who h was. A Jew. After reconsidering the wedding is called off.

Seeing what is happening around him in Berlin and the uprising of this German party Cliff is keen to move himself, Sally and baby back to his hometown. and urges her to pack her stuff so they can leave asap. However Sally is made up when she is offered job back at the club to perform and is eager to go back of which she does against Cliffs wishes. When he finds out where she is he visits and attempts to get her to leave. Ernst being a familiar face at the club sees Cliff and offers him another job. Cliff swiftly refuses making it clear he does not believe in the values and work of the party and after hitting out at Ernst is then left to get a beating from his henchmen.

The next day Cliff is at home, packing to get ready when Schultz, tells him that he is moving to another boarding house to make it easier on his would be bride. Cliff asks why he doesn’t also leave town and in response Schultz believes these events will pass as he knows what Germans are like and being one himself knows them best. Sally comes home cold and ill looking for Gin. It becomes apparent that she has like previous occasions had her baby aborted and to rub it in the doctor stealing her fur jacket also. Cliff still urges her to leave but she wants to stay and live the life she knows. Cliff offers her a route to follow him to Paris without luck. Parting ways all she wishes him is that she be the inspiration for his novel.

Cliff then returns to the train station it all started at, declaring to the customs worker that he wouldn’t ever come back.

Louise stars as Sally Bowles, flirtatious, sexy and thriving in this role. Her voice articulate and stunning. With her relationship with Clifford Bradshaw you hope that the everlasting love would be there, but the wild child in her, the naïve outlook or ignorance to what was going on around in this Nazi uprising you always felt may be the downfall in the relationship, but that ignorance also gave her comfort and not a worry in life. Singing some fabulous numbers throughout ending with an amazing and captivating rendition of ‘Life is a cabaret, old chum’. Already a star of the pop world and more recently Strictly come dancing. Louise Redknapp knows how to perform and dazzle on stage.

Charles Hagerty leads well as an American playing an American, seeking something he feels is missing that will spur him on to finally write that Novel he has tried too. Encapsulated in what Berlin has to offer he reflects this in such a song ‘ Why should i wake up’ A Theatre professional you can see in his performance, polished and well acted he provides a good fit.

Amongst all the storyline we are often brought back to the ‘Kit Kat Club’  of which our host and master of ceremonies is Will Young who in this case is named ‘Emcee’. Will Young had already played this role in a previous staging of the show some years ago and this understanding of the role and character has certainly helped. No stranger to acting, originally a pop star he brought the humour, a fine voice and a great ability to hold his German accent throughout! A starring and memorable performance. The club provides itself as a metaphor through the play as Germany is a changing place, with the Nazis growing in influence amongst people.

As ever their always the names on the poster to promote but we also want to commend the performances of Susan Penhaligon and Linal Haft of our would be couple. A performance of two people who have lived their lives and have come to love eachother for the relationship to cease due to the potential affects of a german-jewish relationship, should the Nazis come to power.

Nicholas Tizzard as our Nazi supporting Ernst Ludwig and Basienka Blake as our favourite working girl in the boarding house brought intensity and humour to their respective roles. The supporting cast at the Kit Kat Club clad in suspenders and stockings brought lots of sexuality and the seedy underworld Berlin has to offer if you go and look for it.

Will Young tells us Life is Beautiful and to leave our troubles behind, and for 2hrs 20mins watching this we certainly did!