Life is a Cabaret as powerful show comes to Wolverhampton Grand - review
Put down the knitting, the book and the broom and head to Wolverhampton Grand Theatre for a night of glitz and glamour as Cabaret comes to town.
That's what I did last night, and I left the theatre shell-shocked after being bowled over by a powerful piece like no other.
Set in the glorious hey-day of the Berlin nightlife scene, the story begins at the Kit Kat Klub as midnight strikes on New Year's Eve, 1931, and aspiring American writer Cliff Bradshaw arrives in the city.
He is immediately spellbound by glamorous English cabaret performer Sally Bowles, and is plunged into the seedy underground club scene that sees them party every night away.
Meanwhile, sparks fly between German boarding house owner Fräulein Schneider and her elderly suitor Herr Schultz, a sweet and caring Jewish fruit vendor, against all odds.
But behind the party lifestyle, pressure mounts as the Nazis are rising to power, altering the lives of those in and around the Kit Kat Klub forever.
Overseeing the action is the Master of Ceremonies at the club, played expertly by award-winning actor John Partridge who captivated the crowd from the minute his makeup-slathered face appeared through the 'O' of a gigantic 'Wilkommen' sign on stage.
John's Emcee embodied the sleaze of the club scene perfectly with every pelvic thrust and passionate embrace with the female and male cabaret dancers. Whether he was taking a long pause between statements or simply pulling wild and wacky faces at the audience, all eyes were on John every time he was on stage.
His precise and powerful dance moves through each and every number were a real feast for the eyes, and his comedy delivery of every tongue-in-cheek line induced belly laughs across the room.
It's hard to steal even an inch of the spotlight against John's effortless charisma, but Kara Lily Hayworth as the sultry Sally owned the stage each time she strutted across it.
Her seductive performances earned loud cheers from the audience after each number, and her strong, soulful voice brought iconic numbers such as Perfectly Marvellous and Maybe This Time to life.
Her hair-raising and heart-breaking rendition of Cabaret almost moved me to tears as Sally took to the Kit Kat Klub stage and performed, despite her life falling apart around her.
Similarly captivating was Charles Hagerty as the naive and ambitious Cliff Bradshaw. His panic was palpable as the Nazis began to gain a grip on the Berlin he loved, and the audience felt every raised voice and panicked plea to Sally right in their hearts.
It was hard not to feel a lump in my throat as Cliff waved goodbye to everything he had loved and lost in the final moments of the show, proving just how gripping Charles' performance had been throughout.
James Paterson as Herr Schultz provided comic relief in the emotional piece as he stumbled drunkenly during his own engagement party, and wowed the audience with his deep vocals and superb range.
But it was renowned actress and singer Anita Harris who stole the show with her emotive performance as Fräulein Schneider.
The seasoned entertainer played the powerful landlady perfectly. Her renditions of So What? and It Couldn't Please Me More had the whole room hooked, while a tear-jerking performance of What Would You Do? left not a dry eye to be seen.
Cabaret uses the Kit Kat Klub as a metaphor for the political changes in Berlin at the time, and it does so flawlessly using clever costume changes, set pieces, and dramatic performances by the marvellous club performers.
The show excellently juxtaposes the excitement and erotic nature of the club with dark, politically-charged scenes that create an atmosphere of rising dread throughout.
The final scene of the show is one of the most powerful I have ever seen in a theatre show. Not a sound could be heard as the fear-inducing sounds of a gas chamber flooded the stage and mist descended upon the naked and vulnerable cabaret performers as the final curtain fell.
Earning a well-deserved standing ovation, Cabaret took us on an emotional journey that I won't forget.
Life is a cabaret, ol' chum! And this show runs until Saturday.