Thursday 17 January 2019

Louise makes her debut in Cabaret, old chum

Infused with the chaotic decadence of pre-war Berlin, Cabaret, starring Louise Redknapp, glitters and engages

Louise Redknapp and Will Young star in 'Cabaret' at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in November and December
Louise Redknapp and Will Young star in 'Cabaret' at the Bord Gais Energy Theatre in November and December

Andrea Smith

That the musical Cabaret goes heavy on sexy fishnets, suspenders and corsets is a given - but it is also utterly thought-provoking beneath its glittery, hedonistic and somewhat debauched surface. I was blown away when I went to Cardiff to see the production ahead of its arrival at Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin, and was still thinking about it several days later.

Bill Kenwright's production is directed by Rufus Norris and choreographed by Javier de Frutos. The musical numbers are excellent, the dance scenes are superb and the storyline runs deep. It demonstrates why Cabaret has won 13 Tony awards, including best musical for the original Broadway production.

Cabaret tells the story of the ill-fated romance between nightclub singer Sally Bowles and bisexual American Cliff Bradshaw, who has arrived in Berlin hoping to find the inspiration to write his novel. In the process, it tackles the serious issues that underpin the political climate of the time in pre-World War II Berlin, when the Nazi regime was beginning to make its presence felt.

Handsome Philadelphian Charles Hagerty brings nuance and depth to the role of Cliff Bradshaw, who finds himself suddenly embroiled in the debauched world of Berlin cabaret, smuggling and politics. The story is told from his perspective, and it's a role that Charles - whose mum is from Derry - relishes. Having lived and acted for 17 years in New York, he moved to the UK last year after he married his British partner.

In Cabaret, the relationship between Cliff and Sally seems to be heading towards marriage and a move to the US, but it ultimately falls apart. Sally having an abortion and Cliff being beaten up are among two of the more dramatic occurrences.

"While it's a big production and has lots of razzmatazz, I wouldn't call it light entertainment," says Charles. "It's got meat to it, and has something to say - it's not just stringing together some great songs. I think it's one of the best musical theatre scripts ever written, and it's a treat as an actor to get to play a role of such substance."

Naturally, all eyes were on Louise Redknapp, 42, formerly of the girl-band Eternal, who stars as Sally Bowles. Her debut musical theatre role has generated a lot of publicity since the tour began in September.

This is principally because it was revealed over the summer that her high-profile marriage of 19 years to footballer Jamie Redknapp was in trouble. Having been out of the limelight for a considerable numbers of years, Louise's performing career was resurrected when she appeared in the 2016 series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Cabaret was first staged on Broadway in 1966, and Liza Minnelli famously played the role of Sally in the 1972 film version. Her stellar performance turned the part into one of the most coveted in musical theatre, and following in her stilettos is a hard task for anyone. While not quite as fearless and ballsy in the role, Louise, who trained at the Italia Conti school, is excellent and strong vocally, and acquits herself with aplomb in her debut musical theatre role.

While the Irish media interviews with Redknapp and Young were cancelled the night before we flew over due to a sudden "scheduling conflict", Louise admitted in UK interviews that she has tried to avoid the film recently, as the stage musical has a different take on Sally Bowles.

For a start, Minelli's Sally was American - while the original book and stage show has Sally as a British woman who has gone to Berlin to be a cabaret star and is headlining at the Kit Kat Klub.

Pop Idol winner Will Young plays the Master of Ceremonies at the club. He was nominated for an Olivier award for his performance in a production in the West End in 2012 and he utterly steals the show on this outing, too.

His persona is delightfully flamboyant and charismatic, yet sinister and menacing. It works brilliantly and provides many of the lighter moments in a musical that is dark and filled with debauchery and pathos.

A special shout-out to Susan Penhaligon playing German boarding-house mistress, Fraulein Schneider, and Linal Haft as Jewish fruit vendor Herr Schultz.

Their doomed romance will break your heart and is well played.

This production of Cabaret comes recommended, but prepare to go home dazzled, puzzled and provoked.

'Cabaret' runs at Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin from Tuesday, November 28 to Saturday, December 2. Tickets from €25 to €55 are available from

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