Kander and Ebb’s signature musical beautifully harnesses source material by Christopher Isherwood to recreate the exhilarating debauchery of Weimar Berlin, shot through with punchy reminders of the Nazis’ rise to power. This award-winning touring production does just fine with the former, offering up imaginative stagings of numbers such as ‘Two Ladies’ (which features veteran dancer/choreographer Wayne Sleep and companions in a spinning bed with strategically-placed peep-holes) and ‘The Money Song’, in which Sleep lands onstage in a fat suit made from balloons.
Sadly, the show’s momentum is derailed by some rather flat performances. It’s fun to see Sleep whirling in his coattails and suspenders as the Emcee of the Kit Kat Club, but he lacks the precise verbal delivery and air of menace required to conduct the audience through the story. A runner-up in the BBC talent search I’d Do Anything, Samantha Barks makes a decent fist of club singer Sally Bowles, bringing an infectious energy to musical numbers such as ‘Mein Herr’ and ‘Don’t Tell Mama’ while her ambivalent rendition of the title song underscores the irony of the central notion that ‘life is a cabaret, old chum.’ Yet she falters in the dramatic scenes, seemingly unable to get beneath Sally’s affectations, while her relationship with insipid American writer Cliff Bradshaw (Henry Luxembourg) is faintly unbelievable. You’re left lamenting a rather lacklustre production, albeit interspersed with some fine set pieces.
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until Sat 4 Apr; Seen at Playhouse, Edinburgh, Mon 23 Mar