Cabaret is clever, jarring, and Jessie Buckley is certainly the star of the show… but where’s the Broadway glitz and glamour?
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Eddie Redmayne has been offstage for about a decade. Now he’s back in Cabaret. This hot ticket has been praised to the skies.
The Victorian theatre has been reconfigured into the sleazy Kit Kat Club in Berlin, 1929. There are seats behind the stage, tiny tables for the seriously pricey tickets, louche musicians in your face and schnapps on offer as you go in.
But Redmayne – a performer who exudes industrial quantities of niceness – is miscast.
Eddie Redmayne (above) – a performer who exudes industrial quantities of niceness – is miscast in Cabaret
He would have been perfect as Sally Bowles’s sweet boyfriend. Instead he’s appearing as the sinister Emcee, the club’s Master of Ceremonies, a part that’s forever in the shadow of Joel Grey from the 1972 film.
Redmayne plays the part in a skirt with a sardonic grin, hunched like a camp Quasimodo, and with a thick German accent. Instead of being ingratiating and then increasingly creepy, he starts creepy and stays there. I got bored of him.
The show belongs more to Jessie Buckley, whose Sally Bowles banishes memories of Liza Minnelli. She’s steeped in gin, mad as a box of frogs, scarily brittle.
Buckley’s rendition of the title song is a scorcher. But there’s not a lot of chemistry between her and the wannabe writer Clifford (Omari Douglas), whose snog with another chap signals the production’s sexually ambiguous, gender-fluid vibe.
The show belongs more to Jessie Buckley (above), whose Sally Bowles banishes memories of Liza Minnelli. She’s steeped in gin, mad as a box of frogs, scarily brittle
Liza Sadovy plays the landlady, Fraulein Schneider, with Elliot Levey as her Jewish suitor, Herr Schultz. Both are wunderbar – with the most credible relationship, sadly doomed under new Nazi laws.
Rebecca Frecknall’s production is clever, jarring, and ladles on added ironic hindsight that’s already built into Kander and Ebb’s 1966 masterpiece.
But while this is fashionably raw and political, it forgets to be what Cabaret also is: a big Broadway musical with glamour and showbiz allure.
Alan Bennett’s 1973 sex farce, Habeas Corpus, is a celebration of good old British smut. This simply couldn’t be written now. It’s lascivious, randy, groping, end-of-the-pier stuff – but with a knowing twist.
It comes with a good cast, with Jasper Britton as the GP who is devoted to extramarital nookie. Caroline Langrishe is an imperious ‘white settler’; there’s a sex-starved vicar, a nubile blonde and sundry stereotypes.
Catherine Russell, as the doctor’s wife who has her frontage endlessly manhandled, is a joy.
But somehow the laughs often slip through director Patrick Marber’s fingers. What should be an antidote to today’s censoriousness seems dated rather than refreshing.