Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Cabaret Show Review Wayne Sleep Samantha Barks Congress Theatre Eastbourne 2nd Dec 2008

Cabaret starring Wayne Sleep and Samantha Barks


Emcee - Wayne Sleep
Sally Bowles - Samantha Barks
Fraulein Schneider
Herr Schultz - Matt Zimmerman
Clifford Bradshaw - Henry Luxemburg
Ernst Ludwig - Karl Moffatt
Fraulein Kost - Suanne Braun
Fritzie - Danni Bowen
Hans (Young Nazi) - Theo Cook
Frenchie - Jessica Ellen
Rosie - Nouska Hanly
Helga - Lucy James
Bobby - Hendrick January
Rudy - Alastair Postlethwaite
Lulu - Rebecca Scarrott
Victor - Benjamin Timothy
Texas - Cydney Uffindell-Phillips
Hamburg Helmut - Tom Woods

First things first and it is quite clearly stated in the advertising for Cabaret (at least it is in Eastbourne) ..... this production contains male nudity. Actually, and not surprisingly given the picture Samantha Barks on posters everywhere, it contains female nudity too.

So the warning was there but still a few people walked out in disgust in the interval because it was "unsuitable for children" and they were so embarrassed they "didn't know where to look." Probably more a case of "I'm with my husband" and he "knew exactly where to look!"

As somebody, sitting next to us, pointed out any children that did end up watching this probably had much more idea of what was going on than their parents did at the same age. Having to explain to your kids why you have dragged them out is probably more awkward than just sitting out the rest of the show.

It may be harsh but I really think the advert of character Sally Bowles in a tight basque, stockings and suspenders might make your average parent realise that this isn't exactly Snow White. So my sympathy level is "0".

And just a bit more on the nudity. When it occurs in the show it is done in a beautiful artistic manner. It is not "in your face" and in the vast majority of cases you are only seeing male and female nudes from the rear..... with one exception.... shock horror.... one topless dancer walks across the stage (Rebecca Scarrott in this case). It really is no big deal and the nudity itself is limited to the ensemble not the main actors. Therefore unless your intent is solely to look for the nudity the main action is usually elsewhere on stage.

This version of Cabaret was specifically created for adults and sold as being unsuitable for under 12's. Seems fair enough to me.... you'd have seen more nudity on Eastbourne beach (although perhaps not on this exceptionally cold December day!)

Essentially the plot revolves around 2 couples. Raunchy club dancer, Sally Bowles, love affair with, the seemingly reserved, American writer Cliff Bradshaw... a love which always seems doomed to fail. Also the love of Jewish fruit seller Herr Shultz for brothel keeper Fraulein Schneider. With the Nazis persecution of the Jews you can guess that this relationship is going to be no bed of roses either.

It is really quite a dark and sinister story with a fine balance of solemn songs and lively Cabaret music.

Wayne Sleep plays Emcee in Cabaret 2008The role of Emcee, who keeps the story flowing, could not have been more aptly cast to Wayne Sleep.

If his date of birth is correct on Wikipedia, as July 17th 1948, Wayne is a magnificent 60 years old at the time of writing this.

He can still move and entertain just as well as somebody 40 years his junior. He really is an incredible artist and can even put on a very convincing German accent.

Samantha Barks stars as Sally Bowles in CabaretSamantha Barks has only been known to British audiences for just over a year following the BBC's I'd Do Anything - Andrew Lloyd Webber's search for a West End Nancy.

Sam came third behind winner Jodie Prenger and runner-up Jessie Buckley.

I hate reality TV programmes really as I never trust the voting system and the best artists always seem to get kicked off first. Week after week Denise Van Outen would describe Jodie as "the typical Nancy".

The end result seemed to be a foregone conclusion. Jessie seemed to be popular with the judges too but her constant sobbing just got on my nerves.

I thought four candidates stood out. Young Sam being one, Sarah Lark, Rachel Tucker and Niamh Perry the others.

Each one of these girls will go on to big things but I don't think the role in Oliver was ever going to be one of them.

I did think it a bit ironic that Niamh is already rehearsing for the forthcoming pantomime,Snow White, just a few yards down the road at the Devonshire Park Theatre at the same time Sam is at the Congress in Cabaret. Sam told me they had already met up for a chat.

But what a contrast!

Niamh playing the the sweet, innocent and virginal Snow White, Samantha the buxom, scantily clad, showgirl Sally Bowles.

So back to Samantha in Cabaret. So she didn't win I'd Do Anything ...Never mind The West End's loss is a national tour audience's gain and Samantha's performance was as brilliant as I expected it to be.

You'd never know this is the first professional production she has appeared in. She has the looks, the incredible voice and the talent that will mean this is the start of a very long career on stage (and screen?).

And how she managed to keep herself in that incredible outfit, especially on the quicker dance routines,will remain a mystery only Sam knows the answer too!

The rest of the cast were equally as impressive. I particularly enjoyed watching and meeting Matt Zimmerman as Herr Shultz. He has a wide range of theatre and TV credits but is still probably best known as the voice of puppet character Alan Tracy in Thunderbirds.

And I just had to ask Lucy James, who superbly played the raunchy, stroppy, misery Helga if it was cold on stage as it was uncharacteristically chilly in the auditorium. She said it was "bloody freezing" and they were trying to get some form of heating for the rest of the week (this was opening night). She said that the first actor who had a nude role couldn't get off the stage quick enough to get his clothes back on!

We have never seen any performance of Cabaret before but what a great musical extravaganza this is with extremely fine, dramatic acting from a very talented cast.

An evening finished off beautifully by a very nice invitation from Wayne to join them in the pub. But sadly one we had to turn down as I don't think alcohol and a 15 mile drive home would be a good idea.

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