Cast of Cabaret. Photo: Marc Brenner

Cabaret review round-up at the Kit Kat Club Playhouse Theatre starring Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley ★★★★★

The new revival of Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club / Playhouse Theatre has opened in London to rave reviews.

Starring Eddie Redmayne as Emcee, Jessie Buckley as Sally Bowles and Omari Douglas as Cliff Bradshaw, Cabaret is directed by Rebecca Frecknall with choreography by Julia Cheng, musical supervision by Jennifer Whyte, lighting by Isabella Byrd and sound by Nick Lidster.

Testament to the extraordinary musical that Kander & Ebb have created, Cabaret receives rave, four and five star reviews, but the critics vary wildly on which performances they rated. There’s much love and respect for Redmayne, Buckley and Douglas, plus the rest of the supporting cast, but not everyone loves everyone!

The set and costume design by Tom Scutt gets universal praise for his transformation of the Playhouse Theatre, in this much anticipated and now officially “smash-hit” new production. Expect awards.

See below for a round-up of all major reviews including the Telegraph, Times, TimeOut, Guardian and more.

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Average Critics Rating

Cabaret reviews

The Telegraph

"Eddie Redmayne dazzles in the kill-for-a-ticket theatrical triumph of 2021"

"Rebecca Frecknall’s staging of the 1966 Kander and Ebb classic re-affirms the sensuous joy of performance and sends shivers down the spine"

""Redmayne, returning to theatre after a decade, offers a dazzling vision of the Emcee role, so long associated with Alan Cumming in the Mendes production, that makes it freshly glinting and sinister," wrote Cavendish.

"As Sally Bowles, the English deb turned devil-may-care show-girl, Buckley achieves no smaller feat: she makes you laugh, breaks your heart, has you hanging on her every word - sung or otherwise," he continued. "The Irish actress's period accent and distinctive attitude, nonchalance combined with subtle forcefulness and vulnerability, sets her far from Liza Minnelli in the 1972 film."

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
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The Independent

"A vibrant and frightening revival that belongs to Jessie Buckley"

"London’s Playhouse Theatre is transformed into the Kit Kat Club – and Eddie Redmayne is its emcee – for this immersive and starry production"

"Surely the most powerful moment – and perhaps the best musical-theatre performance I have ever seen live – is Buckley’s rendition of the title song. While in many productions (the 1972 film with Liza Minnelli included) it is performed with peppy razzmatazz, here Buckley is a woman on the edge of a breakdown. “Life is a cabaret old chum,” she bellows, at first dripping with sarcasm and then spitting with fury. It is astonishing."

"Back in the Sixties, the musical’s original director Hal Prince called Cabaret “a parable of contemporary morality”. In such capable hands, it’s a parable that still packs a punch."

Alexandra Pollard, The Independent
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The Evening Standard

"Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley dazzle in a transformative show"

"Wow. Rebecca Frecknall’s new revival of Kander and Ebb’s musical set in interwar Berlin is a stunning, breathlessly exciting theatrical happening. It feels loyal to the 1966 original yet astonishingly contemporary, and properly immersive. The Playhouse Theatre has been reconfigured by the designer Tom Scutt as the Kit Kat Club circa 1929, with pre-show performances in the bars and food and drink served at tables surrounding a circular, central stage. By the looks of it, the hugely expensive, three-course menu package isn’t worth it. The show emphatically is."

"In this fine balance of spectacle and grit, decadence and despair, Frecknall proves herself one of our most exciting directors, and she draws superb performances from all involved."

Nick Curtis, The Evening Standard
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The Guardian

"Eddie Redmayne is electric in this blinder of a show"

"Redmayne and Jessie Buckley ‘Willkommen’ us into this Weimar-era Berlin nightclub for an evening of flamboyance, menace and magnetism"

"It does not matter that Redmayne’s voice is drowned out by the orchestra at times. He gives an immense, physicalised performance, both muscular and delicate, from his curled limbs to his tautly expressive fingertips."

"Tom Scutt’s stage design is expressionistic and imaginative: a train journey is represented by a model train revolving around the outer part of the three-tiered, circular stage. “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” has miniature model men standing to attention on the revolve, replaced by real men in its reprise, which is infused with ominous, stomping movements and a martial drum beat, prefiguring the terror to come."

"Redmayne creeps around the fringes of the stage when he is not performing, watching scenes from afar. If this show is sold on his star turn, we get more than our money’s worth with his blinding performance – in this blinder of a show."

Arifa Akbar, The Guardian
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Daily Mail

"At Eddie’s Cabaret, even the set’s wunderbar"

"It may be a little parsimonious in its pleasures, but this eagerly anticipated new staging of Cabaret certainly looks good, sounds good – and runs like clockwork."

"John Kander and Fred Ebb’s musical is really about the feisty singer Sally Bowles (Jessie Buckley) and Clifford Bradshaw, the young American writer who becomes her lover – a revelation here in the form of Omari Douglas."

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail
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The Times

"Sinister Redmayne and sumptuous set are a seductive combination"

"Eddie Redmayne may be the star — and he’s mesmerisingly good too — but he really shares top billing with the venue itself. In Rebecca Frecknall’s revival of the classic Kander & Ebb musical, the Playhouse’s interior has been transformed into a sumptuous, in-the-round space with tables for those closest to the compact, bare stage."

"Jessie Buckley’s Sally Bowles is going to divide opinion. She’s true to John Kander’s description of the anti-heroine as “a fairly untalented middle-class girl”. (In Christopher Isherwood’s original story, we glimpse her murdering the song Exactly Like You in an arty bar called The Lady Windermere). Whereas Cumming’s foil, Jane Horrocks, gave Sally a grating, jolly hockey sticks speaking voice, Buckley — who makes her first appearance singing Don’t Tell Mama, looking like Shirley Temple in Doc Martens — is more of a troubled soul, splashing acid in all directions.

"Her singing really is unalluring, though. Maybe This Time falls flat, and the closing rendition of the title number overeggs the tortured expressionist mannerisms: Buckley’s feverish gestures reminded me of those 1920s photos of a manic Hitler practising gestures in front of a mirror."

Clive Davis, The Times
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The Stage

"Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley are sublime"

"But Frecknall’s direction doesn’t let style sideline substance. Perhaps her strongest play is the careful balance she maintains in terms of the Nazis as metaphor and as literal Nazis. This is a production specifically about antisemitism and the rise of fascism in 1930s Germany. It’s also about attacks on sexuality, gender, ethnicity and religion – or any other marker of identity at any other time."

Tim Bano, The Stage
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The Hollywood Reporter

"While Rebecca Frecknall’s offering bears a certain kinship to the Mendes/Marshall model — in its manifestation of the Kit Kat Klub offstage as well as on, its lusty, comic vitality and a larger-than-life Emcee — it confidently charts its own course. Transforming one of the West End’s smaller theaters into an intoxicatingly immersive space, and with its star pairing of Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley, this is spectacularly staged, fabulous fun — decadent, delightful and absorbing."

Demetrios Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter
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"Jessie Buckley gives the performance of the year and Eddie Redmayne is a bit much in this spectacular Kander & Ebb revival"

"Jessie Buckley’s star has been on the rise ever since she starred in the talent show ‘I’d Do Anything’ as a teen: she followed it by going to drama school and building a credible screen and stage career. But a Bafta-nominated turn in ‘Wild Rose’ has really amped up her stature. Her Sally is some of the usual things: posh, inscrutable, maddeningly oblivious to the rise of Nazism. But she’s no ingenue or sex kitten: she’s a roaring force of nature, a proper rock star, vamping about in a green faux-fur coat, absolutely not giving a stuff what anybody thinks about her. In many of the later scenes she’s free of make-up, her severe bob the only ornate thing about her as she shuffles about in bare feet and a dowdy white shift. But she is always utterly magnetic, a force of nature."

"Almost in the same league is ‘It’s a Sin’ star Omari Douglas as Clifford, the penniless, wandering American who falls in with Sally and, for a time, almost persuades her to leave her world. He has an intensity but also a deep vulnerability from the off – not the booming American who only reveals his secrets drop by drop, but a beautiful and different young man whose guilelessness, honesty and – frankly – need of mothering overrides Sally’s natural defences."

"Really the whole production is a triumph for (Tom) Scutt, who not only remodelled the theatre and designed the set, but created the costumes too. I’m not going to pretend I’m any sort of expert in the apparel of the clubs of the late Weimar Republic. But I’d say Scutt has channelled their spirit, added some alluringly anachronistic modernism, and moved things away from the slightly naff ‘sexiness’ of recent productions of this show: costumes are angular, vivid, somewhat grotesque; the performers’ faces are sardonic, or sinister, not submissive or lusty."

Andrzej Lukowski, TimeOut
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"A Triumphant and Thrilling Cabaret Returns to London"

"A curious, elusive sensation, often hard to come by—and especially so of late—will have tingled up your spine if you happened to make your way down to London’s Playhouse Theatre this past week."

"Director Rebecca Frecknall and her gifted team—designer Tom Scutt, choreographer Julia Cheng—have certainly tilted the rudder. Their Kit Kat club, and its performers, bring a neat timelessness to proceedings, with shades of rebellion of every decade since the 1930s at play (the chorus’ footwear alone feels like a timeline of 20th and early 21st century dissent). As flailing, failing nightclub chanteuse Sally Bowles, Buckley's performance feel spiritually at home in the 1970s, while the club workers and dwellers are a brood of flappers-cum-punks, who’d fit in easily at any number of London’s current queer all-nighters.

"It’s all incredibly fun and looks sensational, rendered in the color scheme of a late '90s Urban Decay makeup palette."

Giles Hattersley, Vogue
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i News

"Eddie Redmayne is chilling in this unsettling, stripped-back revival"

"Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome to the most eagerly anticipated show of the year. Redmayne is compelling and Jessie Buckley proves a superstar in the making at this bleak party at the end of the world"

"Buckley’s Sally Bowles, first seen in a short frock paired with heavy black bovver boots, is more bitter and less bouncy that we’re used to; desperation rather than fun propels her from the start and Buckley’s glorious voice – perhaps fittingly for the decidedly average performer Sally in reality is – is never allowed to rip free.

"By the time she reaches the title number – Kander and Ebb’s bitingly witty songs weave their customary magic – she offers the most stark and downbeat take imaginable, alternating between jerky contortions and frantic whirring. Usually a defiant ode, the song is now downright unsettling."

Fiona Mountford, i News
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The Financial Times

"Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley thrill and chill in sensational Cabaret"

"Finally, the party gives way to the Party and the dancers, now kitted out in sombre suits, line up stiffly on the slowly revolving stage — identikit denizens of hell. It’s a sensational production, only overshadowed by the eye-watering cost of the top-price tickets"

Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
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"Eddie Redmayne Dazzles in Triumphant West End Revival"

"This is no directorial flourish. It’s typical of the production’s immense authority that the rising Nazi power is never brandished for effect. Like everything else in this genuinely extraordinary portrait of not just individual figures but the whole of Berlin, it has been subtly built in all night. Its inexorability makes it devastating."

David Benedict, Variety
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👤 📅13 December 2021
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📷 Main photo: Cast of Cabaret. Photo: Marc Brenner

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