“No use permitting some prophet of doom”
Cabaret is a show which has had many a revival and many a cast recording made from those productions but it is Rufus Norris’ 2006 interpretation that seems to have lingered the longest, a new touring version starring Louise Redknapp and Will Young starts at the New Wimbledon in late September, one of many such revivals of this revival (I caught it in the West End in 2012 and the 2013 tour). And just to be clear, my comments are UK-based, for it is Mendes’ 1993 production that was most recently revived in the US (which I saw with Emma Stone at Studio 54).
And I have to say I love this particular cast recording – the sharpness of David Steadman’s musical direction is captured brightly and well on the record, and the performances sound pointed and fresh, a real testament to the recording process here. It’s a strong cast to be sure, led by the canny decision to cast Anna Maxwell Martin in the lead role of Sally Bowles. By no means a predictable choice, the decision to go for a shit-hot actress who can really focus on the character elevates the role entirely from all Liza Minnelli-based connotations and its notions that the role should be belted.
For the point is that Sally isn’t the strongest performer and it takes skill to play those rough edges with confidence and from ‘Mein Herr’ to ‘Perfectly Marvellous’ to the glorious blank-eyed hollowness of the title track, Maxwell Martin nails it. Such a strong sense of this Sally emerges from every number and that is no mean feat, especially with so iconic a role. James Dreyfus also impresses with his take on the Emcee, finding his own way past the equally bold incarnations offered up by Joel Gray and Alan Cumming.
I particularly loved Sheila Hancock and Geoffrey Hutchings as the ill-fated Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, ‘It Couldn’t Please Me More’ is a real highlight due to their chemistry. It’s also fun to see names like Alastair Brookshaw and Kaisa Hammarlund in the company. It’ll be interesting to see what comes from this new production – Will Young is returning to the role of the Emcee so he should be fine but Louise Redknapp is untested in the world of musical theatre and it will be fascinating to see how her acting and singing capabilities respond to the challenge.