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Life is a cabaret this week at The Lowry Theatre...Sarah Tierney sees the opening night show

Published on June 23rd 2009.


When the Cabaret girls and boys first arrive on stage, you spend a disconcerting few minutes wondering whether the Birmingham Repertory Theatre is going to present a cleaned-up, de-menaced version of the hit musical about 1930s Berlin.

Wayne Sleep as Emcee is also very good. He's way too old to be wearing knee-high, lace-up boots and tight leather shorts, and he knows it.

The girls from the Kit Kat Klub have lost the impassive, bored look they have in the 1972 film and are waving and smiling coquettishly at the crowd. With Sally Bowles played by Samantha Barks, runner-up in hit BBC talent show I'd Do Anything, you hope they've not gone for mass-audience appeal at the expense of the story's darker side.

Thankfully, it's not the case. This is Cabaret as it's meant to be: tawdry, bold and sometimes shocking. There's nudity, same-sex couplings, seedy outfits and perverse dance scenes a-plenty. There's also that most unlikely theme for a musical: Nazism. It surfaces slowly, a swastika here, a Star of David there, until it eventually takes centre-stage with a German guard knocking over all the giant letters that spell KABARET, apart from an ominous initial, A.

Samantha Barks is very competent as a feverish, frenetic Sally Bowles, though she's not got the beguiling oddness of Liza Minnelli. Wayne Sleep is also very good as Emcee. He's way too old to be wearing knee-high, lace-up boots and tight leather shorts, and he knows it. It's disturbing and funny. Along with the excellent choreography and fine, belting voices, these are two things that this production does particularly well.

Cabaret is showing at The Lowry Theatre every evening until 27 June with a matinee performance on Wednesday. Tickets £20-£32. www.thelowry.com

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AnonymousJune 23rd 2009.

I really didn't think Samantha Banks was right for the role. more mary poppins than sally bowles.

AnonymousJune 23rd 2009.

I went to see Cabaret last night and it was amazing!

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