Cabaret, Opera House, Manchester


The complete and utter silence of an audience can only mean one of three things. One, they have fallen asleep, two they have left, or three – they have been stunned into the impressed silence that precedes a standing ovation.

Cabaret was number three. Rarely have I seen a crowd so seemingly moved, so shocked and awed by a performance in equal measure. And I was holding my breath among them.

Never is a story more difficult to pull off than the tale of colliding humanity, set to the backdrop of encroaching Nazi Germany and its horrors for humanity – but this undoubtedly succeeds. Based in Berlin in 1931, the setting is the seedy Kit Kat club and the musical revolves around the unorthodox relationship between American writer Cliff Bradshaw and English nightclub performer Sally Bowles – a role made famous by Liza Minnelli.

While the club itself is a metaphor for the menacing political situation, its relevance is brought to bear by the Master of ceremonies – Emcee – played by the incomparable Will Young. He without doubt makes this production, at once whimsical, camp, threatening and ubiquitous, his shockingly compelling and intelligent performance is nailed on – and his raising the rafters singing voice only emphasises his versatility as a performer.

Siobhan Dillon, as Sally Bowles, bounces off Will and Matt Rawle’s Cliff effortlessly. Her personality-filled interpretation of Sally is a triumph. The small but perfectly formed ensemble cast is versatile – you also see a lot of them, literally. I could see a fellow theatre-goer regretting taking her mother when a male dancer got his bits out in scene one...

But the extreme smut of the situation works extremely well to dramatise a nation trying to grasp a last gasp at freedom before those not submitting to society’s new rules were punished.

This is a must-see, old chum. 10/10