A couple of weekends ago I had the pleasure of seeing the new production of Cabaret at the Birmingham Rep. I’d never seen the show or indeed the film before but had only heard good reports and this production did not disappoint.

Samantha Banks as Sally Bowles in Cabaret
Samantha Banks as Sally Bowles

Normally when it comes to theatre, I admit to being a stalls snob – if I can’t sit in the first 15 rows or so of the stalls, then I normally won’t go! I have a similar rule about flying long haul in economy…but that’s for another post. Cabaret had received such great reviews that it was fast selling out and the only option was to ‘slum it’ in the back row. More about that later.

From the moment Wayne Sleep pokes his head out of the O in the giant WILLKOMMEN letters to welcome us to Berlin, you know you’re in for a good evening. The cast are superb all round. Samantha Banks plays the female lead, Sally Bowles. In case you didn’t watch the BBC’s ‘I’d Do Anything’ talent search, she was one of the runners up. During the series I only warmed to her near the end, but if you see Cabaret, you’re in for a real treat. She has the most incredible voice even more so when you consider she’s only seventeen.

The only toe-curlingly embarrassing moment in the show is when Wayne Sleep breaks out of character and after a staged “mistake” involving switching places with a female dancer does a “you think I’m too old to do that do you?” routine with the audience. Suddenly we’re transported from Berlin in hot pants to Blackpool in panto. So tacky and unnecessary. Reminded me of seeing Connie Fisher in the Sound of Music when she got laughs for totally dropping out of character and being Connie. Something to do with eating a cake in a comedy fashion I seem to remember…

I can’t finish this post without mentioning the sound. I hadn’t been to the Birmingham Rep for many years and it’s such a great theatre. I don’t know whether it is known for good acoustics but every word was crystal clear and the orchestra sounded rich and sumptuous. Just wonderful, even from the back row. I heard other audience members commenting on it during the interval too.

So a big thumbs up for an amazing show. After Birmingham, the show visits Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester, Woking (I’ll be revisiting for a closer view), Cheltenham, Bath, Leeds, Truro, Northampton, Eastbourne, Malvern, Southampton, Hull, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and finishing up in Glasgow next April.

Full tour details on the Bill Kenwright site.