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Review: Books, Theatre, Albums, Movies and Gigs


Liverpool Empire

Until 27th September

By Jeanette Smith

  Cabaret promotional image

A powerful portrayal of the uninhibited decadence of 1930s Berlin is brought to life in Liverpool Empire’s presentation of Cabaret.

So well known is this dark musical that it is refreshing to see it through new eyes. It is brought to the stage by local entrepreneur Bill Kenwright, but the accolades must go to director Rufus Norris and designer Katrina Lyndsey.

The inspired set embodies the darkness of Berlin nightclubs of the time, with illumination coming from gaudy spotlights which reveal much bare flesh, cross-dressers and transvestites. Stockings and suspenders are de rigueur – and that is just the men!


Sexual acts of all flavours are depicted – tastefully and dimly lit, which adds to the seedy, seamy atmosphere of this musical.

An early indication that you are in for titillation comes in the first scene when it’s not just the women depicting flappers of the era – as a naked man runs onto the stage surprising and shocking many in the audience.

The dancing is innovative and steamy, cleverly using beds and ladders in a way that seems so natural and in context.

Sally Bowles, the corrupted innocent from England, is ably played by Samantha Barks in her first major role after coming in the top three in the TV series ‘I’ll do Anything’. When she sings Maybe This Time, you can see why she is chosen for the part. Her rendition is melancholic and touching and interpreted in a way that makes you listen to every word.

Competing for top honours is Wayne Sleep as cross-dressing Emcee who looks divine in tights and suspenders. He is the whole package, dancing, singing, joking and bantering with the audience. Whenever he is on stage he commands attention. It seems he is made for this role.

However, it is not just all sex and joy. There are many dark moments, as the Nazis gain power. The carefree, anything-goes era, that was Berlin in the 1930s, slowly dissolves as Hitler’s presence is felt.

Violence creeps in leading us to the final shocking scene where we see naked huddled bodies, darkly lit in a red haze, where the only sound in the silence is  the hiss of gas amplifying the horror of the Nazi’s final solution.

The party is well and truly over.

Click here to view details and book for the Liverpool Empire Theatre



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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