Cabaret (2021 Original London Cast Recording) | Album Review
Monday, February 5, 2024
Redmayne delivers in spades, a gloriously excessive Emcee
Drum roll… and perhaps the most familiar vamp and first three words in modern American Musical Theatre: ‘Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome…’ With extraordinary sleight of hand, the masterpiece that is Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret invites – no, insists – its audience is in two places at once: inside and outside the seedy Kit Kat Club. Reality, parody and scabrous satire rub shoulders and collide in ways that make all of us participating complicit in its deceptions. It should be riotously enjoyable and deeply discomforting at one and the same time; and if the laughs don’t stick in the throat – like the still shocking pay-off of ‘If You Could See Her Through My Eyes’ – then the show isn’t working.
Redmayne delivers in spades, a gloriously excessive Emcee with exaggerated German vowels grotesquely stretching, distorting the text (and the improvs) this way and that
It also demands, like the recent SIX Broadway album, that even when we’re sat at home we are part of that audience. So recording Rebecca Frecknall’s immersive Playhouse Theatre revival live was a no-brainer, even if it meant that the Eddie Redmayne fan club would be in by the coach-load to whoop it up and to 100% leave their troubles outside. And Redmayne delivers in spades, a gloriously excessive Emcee with exaggerated German vowels grotesquely stretching, distorting the text (and the improvs) this way and that, and a series of sustained primal screams (somewhere between the sung and the roared) rendered wilfully off-key. Introducing his dancer Texas – ‘she’s American’ – he adds ‘I like a good Yank’, the unsubtlest of double entendres all the dirtier for the accent.
It’s wonderful that he and not some sweet-voiced Hitler Youth delivers ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me’ and doubly chilling that he sings it beautifully and with such reverence. The beer garden reprise later in the show only adds to the revulsion, a sole military drum emerging as its only accompanist. Elsewhere Jennifer Whyte’s fab ‘orchestra’, caught with great immediacy, vamp and schmooze and sleaze their way through the proceedings in true Berliner fashion. Then there’s Jessie Buckley’s Sally Bowles, who one totally believes belongs in the Kit Kat Club and not headlining in Las Vegas (sorry, Liza). Buckley is a very good singer but she makes you believe she isn’t by pushing the lyrics to the very edge of the spoken. ‘Mein Herr’ has a distorted decadence about it, and the title song is built and built to the pitch of hysteria.
Last words for the perfectly marvellous Liza Sadovy as Fraulein Schneider, who earned her Olivier with the most sensational rendition of perhaps the key song in the show: ‘What Would You Do?’ What indeed.
John Kander music
Fred Ebb lyrics
Joe Masteroff book
Cast Eddie Redmayne, Jessie Buckley, Omari Douglas, Liza Sadovy, Elliot Levey et al The Kit Kat Club Band / Jennifer Whyte (Decca)