Re-review: Cabaret, The Kit Kat Club at the Playhouse Theatre

Callum Scott Howells and Madeline Brewer do wonderful work leading the new cast of this still-striking Cabaret at The Kit Kat Club at London’s Playhouse Theatre

“That is what comes from too much pills and liquor”

I would have loved to see Fra Fee and Amy Lennox in Cabaret’s first lead cast change but the truth is, the presence of a certain someone in the supporting cast meant that I would be damned before paying money to see them again (particularly whilst playing a Nazi…), having held my nose long enough to get through opening night. So my first return to The Kit Kat Club has had to wait for the major cast change that has just happened, which features Callum Scott Howells and Madeline Brewer in the roles Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley inhabited so successfully in Rebecca Frecknall’s spectacular revival.

The change has been worked spectacularly well so there’s a real sense of the show being the same but different, some shifts in energy hitting in different ways but balancing out overall in a similar manner. Callum Scott Howells (so very achingly good in It’s A Sin) is a revelation as the Emcee, Redmayne was excellent but something about a queer actor revelling in its unabashed queerness and then taking us on the journey he does hits with that much more wounding impact. And if Madeline Brewer (which reminds me I need to catch up on The Handmaid’s Tale) doesn’t have quite the rawness of Buckley’s interpretation, there’s more of a playfulness that makes her highly engaging, particularly as she wrenches those iconic songs from her soul.

Richard Katz and Vivien Parry do well to maintain the pineapple-scented beauty of the burgeoning relationship between Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, and Sid Sagar has a lovely openness as the genial Cliff. And the whole production still feels like a strikingly original piece of theatre in a West End that can too often feel averse to risk. It is undoubtedly a pricey show but it is hard not to feel that it is one which justifies the cost (and there’s affordable tickets popping up at all levels of the theatre). If you’ve not been, it’s worth the trip; and you have been before, this new cast makes a revisit well worth a festive splurge.

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Marc Brenner
Cabaret is currently booking at The Kit Kat Club until 16th December 2023

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