Entertainment | Theatre Review: Cabaret @ Leeds Grand Theatre

With Chicago being one of my favourite musicals of all time, it was a real joy last night to see another Kander & Ebb musical in the form of Cabaret at the Grand Theatre in Leeds. Usually starring Will Young and Louise Redknapp, our performance saw Young's understudy Jordan Livesey take the reigns as Emcee - and what a fantastic job he did too!
The show began with the Emcee appearing through the 'O' in Wilkommen, where despite the limited movement afforded to sitting in one of ten big letters, Livesey absolutely dominated the entire stage, giving us a sense from the outset of a gifted actor with immense stage presence.

The entrance of the other lead, Sally Bowles (Louise Redknapp), certainly had a lot of promise too. The choreography of 'Mein Herr' was brilliantly crafted and their use of the moving staircase bordering on the genius. Redknapp really brought her A-game to this number, but sadly this was not sustained throughout. Generally, I found her character somewhat lacking that touch of Sally Bowles charisma and even unconvincing at times. Much of this may have been as the Sally/Cliff storyline was poorly executed. The duo had about as much chemistry as a British person and a cold, weak cup of tea! There seemed to be no real process by which they fell in love and the only indication that they had was that she outright stated it. Show don't tell, guys... show don't tell.

Structurally, things went a little awry by where they split the acts and how they rearranged the usual track order. As a result, the pacing of the production was rather off - with a slow set-up in Act 1 followed by an Olympic sprint through Act 2. This had the unfortunate side-effect of sacrificing any kind of real development of Fräulein Kost, leaving me disappointed at the pointlessness of her character in this particular production. It also meant the 'Finale Ultimo', whilst a very poignant and beautifully crafted scene in its own right, felt shoved in at the end. The iconic 'Money Song' being moved from its usual place in the chronology was a bold choice and sadly not one that quite paid off (no pun intended). An absolutely fantastically choreographed and directed number in its own right, brilliantly performed by Livesey and the chorus, it just did not fit there.

However, for all my complaints, there were a lot of positives (I'm just a right moaner). 'Don't Tell Mama', a song not always included in the musical was very nicely staged and created a lovely framing for Bobby and Cliff's reunion. 'Two Ladies' was extremely cleverly staged, and had a very witty charm given to it by Livesey. I absolutely loved 'If You Could See Her', as its last line arguably a difficult one (having to be said with humour but intending to actually hit the audience with an entirely unfunny truth bomb) was delivered with perfect nuance by Livesey. The use of shadow theatre in this number was also something one does not see enough of but something that worked very well within the context of something as showy as Cabaret.

I really cannot praise Jordan Livesey's performance as Emcee enough. He was funny, he was jarring, he commanded attention whenever he appeared on stage. A truly versatile actor, his rendition of 'I Don't Care Much' had such a haunting quality about it whilst 'Wilkommen', and even his appearance in the Entr'acte had a great sense of fun and oozed charisma. My only quibble is that we didn't see more of him!

The set and the lighting were wonderful and I particularly liked the positioning of the orchestra elevated at the back of the stage. The chorus too were absolutely phenomenal. Each of them brought a different personality into each dance number and pulled off the choreography with an impeccable sharpness. I'm often left awe-struck by the talent of the chorus in a musical, and last night was no exception.

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