The press night vibes at the New Wimbledon Theatre last night was noticeably electric pre-show. With Will Young reprising his West End performance as the Emcee, joined by current national sweetheart, Louise Redknapp as the troubled Sally Bowles; the theatre was packed with excited theatre goers and theatricals looking for a thrilling time.
Young's performance is arguably the best Emcee the U.K. has seen since Alan Cumming at the Donmar Warehouse in 1993. The painted face enhancing the manic facial expressions which come and go in the blink of an eye, the instantly dynamic rapport with his audience; we are taken from the extreme highs of "Two Ladies" (a brilliantly staged number, full of surprises!) to the awkwardly tense close of Act One, and by the end leaving us utterly devastated. Young's performance is a fine example of meticulous attention to detail combined with a passionate intensity; and watching him flitting from flirty and fun, terrifying and threatening to truly gut wrenching is a magical experience.
There is a fine performance too from Louise Redknapp; making her theatrical debut as Sally Bowles. The role is filled with emotional highs and lows, big vocal numbers and that's before you get to the dancing. Redknapp tackles all with gusto, proving able to belt out more than a simple pop song; and it's clear once she relaxes into the role a little more, her performance will continue to grow. Compared with almost all the young female performers who have moved from pop careers into musical theatre, her performance is most certainly one of the strongest debuts in recent years.
Strong supporting performances from Charles Hagerty as Bradshaw, who brought more heart to the role than I've seen previously through his strong, rich vocal performance, and the delightful duo of Susan Penhaligon (Fraulein Schneider) and Linal Haft (Herr Schultz) whose rendition of "It Couldn't Please Me More" restores your faith in romance.
The energetic, committed cast give their all throughout; with outstanding choreography by Javier De Frutos, brought to life seemingly effortlessly by a supremely talented ensemble, and insightful direction from Rufus Norris sprinkling just the right amount of fun and glitter amidst the tragic reality of the lives of the characters in their political landscape. One shouldn't say too much about the production's conclusion, only to commend Norris' decision to risk poignancy over pizazz. It pays off, in spades.
A splendid night out, which is full of moments to make you laugh, cry and most crucially as rarely these days, to make you think. No doubt Kenwright has another successful tour on his hands.