By Ruth Leon
03 Nov 2012
Photo by Keith Pattison
Rufus Norris' new production of Cabaret is shockingly good. I had misgivings when I heard that Will Young, the first winner of television's "Pop Idol," was to play the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret. This is an iconic role, as specific to Joel Grey as Yul Brynner was to The King and I, and I doubted whether Young had the dramatic chops to carry it. Wrong, again. He's really creepy in a disgustingly playful way, just as he should be, and Rufus Norris' dark production pays proper attention to the seedy and sordid side of Sally Bowles' Berlin life.
The score soars as always, Sian Phillips and Linal Haft are affecting as the older couple in '30s Berlin who simply can't be together because he is Jewish and she isn't, and, although young Michelle Ryan in her first major role, is no Liza Minnelli, her Sally Bowles has just the right touch of louche sexiness to carry her.
Javier di Frutos disjointed, spasmodic choreography is a true metaphor for a fragmented decadent society fast descending into goose-stepping Nazi chaos. The underlying menace, intentioned by its authors, leads to a terrifying final scene, which I won't spoil for you, but which confirms Rufus Norris, along with Jamie Lloyd whose Cyrano has recently won plaudits on Broadway, as the best of the young British directors.