CABARET is always a dark musical, showing human relationships being played out in an increasingly fraught manner as the spectre of Nazism begins to rear its ugly head in pre World War II Berlin - although it does, nonetheless, have its brighter moments.
With the lack of any real scenery, save for tables, chairs, a bed and the occasional railway carriage, BBLOC’s production, with its frequently subdued lighting and predominance of black cloths, seems even darker. However, the necessary element of impending doom that should build throughout the show seems only to be hinted at, and I never really felt the sense of horror that I should have done at what was about to happen to these characters.
That, in my opinion, is the main thing that is wrong with the production – but there is so much that is right: a superb orchestra, led by musical director Ian Peters, who must also take the credit for the company’s excellent singing, plus outstanding choreography and some great characterisations thanks to director/choreographer Martyn Knight. Costumes are pretty impressive too.
BBLOC has some excellent talent within its ranks and there are cracking performances from the principals. Frank Ewins’ sleazy, clown-like Emcee has the unenviable task of beginning the show at the front of the auditorium with only a spotlight shining on him, but his ever-smiling, ever-so-slightly manic characterisation is perfect for the role, which suits his voice perfectly.
It would be hard too to imagine a better Sally Bowles than that played by Sally Wheeler, who manages to easily convey her character’s fear of commitment and head-in-the-sand approach. And I really liked Sam Street’s Cliff, although his movements seemed a little awkward and stiff at times.
David Bate (Herr Schultz) and Nikki Taylor (Fraulein Schneider) are absolutely delightful in their roles and there appears to be a genuine chemistry between them that makes their scenes together touchingly real.
There are good characterisations too from other principals, especially John Gerken (Ernst) and Svetlana Fry (Fraulein Kost), and excellent work from the chorus.