Wow. Just wow! I have never seen a show which leaves the audience in stunned silence for over 10 seconds at the end. What was the show? Cabaret, showing at Hull New Theatre, starring the fabulous John Partridge, Anita Harris and Kara Lily Hayworth.
Cabaret is set in pre-World War 2 Berlin at the rise of the Nazi party and the decadent thirties.
Partridge opens the show, setting the scene with that classic “Wilkommen” making the audience clear as to the type of club the Kit Kat is.
Cliff (Charles Hagerty) arrives in Berlin and, by chance, meets up with Herr Ludwig who recommends where to stay and what clubs to go to. Cliff takes a room with Frauline Schneider (Anita Harris) and then goes to the Kit Kat Club. A place that is gaudy, bawdy and naughty with mein host Emcee (John Partridge). He meets Sally Bowles (Kara Lily Haworth). Sally is sacked from the club and moves herself in with Cliff even though she has only just met him.
The dancers at the Kit Kat Club are sexy, provocative and athletic with some fantastic choreography and lots of trust between them as they gracefully fall and are caught by one another from height. Swift movement and fleet of foot, the troupe are on and off stage throughout and skilfully dance with amazing but simple moving scenery and props.
Cliff by now living in poverty At Fraulein Schneider’s rooms, With Sally now being pregnant; accepts work from Herr Ludwig, travelling to Paris and bringing back packages. He is not bothered who the packages are for, just the money he will get for being the courier.
In the background is the sweet romance of Fraulein Schneider and local Jewish greengrocer Herr Schultz. The story between these two characters is heartwarming and sweet. They become accidentally engaged when Schneider is confronted by one of her lodgers (a prostitute whom she has repeatedly told not to have gentlemen callers) realises Schneider and Herr Schultz have been together in Fraulein Schneider’s room.
At the engagement party, Cliff returns home from a Paris trip to find a raucous party in full swing. Herr Ludwig comes for his package and removes his coat, revealing that he is a Nazi. Upon discovery that Herr Schultz is Jewish, warns his old friend that she should not marry him.
The next scene is thought provoking and heartbreaking as it opens after Kristallnacht (when Jewish businesses were targeted by Nazi groups). Herr Schultz is clearing glass from the smashed windows together with scattered fruit. He offers his fiancée an orange, which she accepts before she goes on to call off the engagement.
There follows disturbing scenes of violence as Jews and homosexuals from the Kit Kat are beaten up and disappear
Sally is called back to work at the club. Cliff, having read Mein Kampf can sense that danger is coming and wants to flee with Sally, back home to America.
Ludwig wants Cliff to do another Paris trip. Cliff refuses realising he is being used as a courier by the Nazis, he gets into an altercation with Ludwig over this and punches him in the stomach. Cliff is then attacked by the Nazis in a well choreographed, yet uncomfortable timo watch beating.
Sally returns from the doctors having terminated the pregnancy. Heartbroken, Cliff leaves for Home, alone.
The Dancers strip off their clothes at the back of the stage as Emcee, by now taken by the Nazis to a concentration camp, dejectedly speaks to the audience before removing his robe and joins the naked people at the back. They are exterminated in the gas chamber and the scene closes leaving the audience in a shocked, reverent silence. In those quiet seconds, faced only with the opening scenery (Willkommen in huge letters) we sat there in perfect silence. My thoughts went to the millions exterminated by the Nazis. There was total silence that seemed to stretch for minutes before the scenery rises for the curtain call.
Listening to the audience leaving, they were shocked. It had been a brilliant and thought provoking performance. I couldn’t help notice Partridge wipe a tear from his eyes during the curtain call.
Looking at news from Germany in the present day, the intolerance of Jewish groups and the decadence of some groups, I thought that Cabaret could just as easily be set in the present; a chilling thought.
The entire cast were absolutely superb but Partridge stole the show with his portrayal of the sometimes grotesque Emcee. He interspersed most scenes and was mesmerising.
We were treated to songs long familiar, including ’Money makes the world go around’
‘Cabaret’, ‘Wilkommen’ and ‘Two ladies’ to mention a few. My feet were tapping throughout.
I must advise Cabaret is not one for children. There is full frontal nudity, violence and death. It’s a very ‘dark’ production which, as I mentioned, left us all in shocked silence. It is running at Hull New Theatre until the 2nd November and is worth every penny of the ticket price.