When one thinks of Cabaret, it is hard not to immediately think of Liza Minelli’s Oscar winning portrayal of Sally Bowles and all the other trappings of Bob Fosse’s film of the musical. Then there is the 1993 West End revival directed by Sam Mendes that won Alan Cumming a Tony award for his role as the Emcee. For anyone who decides to take this great musical on there are extremely big shoes to fill, especially if it aims to please the keen musical lovers as well as holding its own ground as a unique production. But after one meeting with Ramin Sabi, the second year Balliol student who has crazily yet admiringly taken on this colossal work, it reassuringly seems to be in safe hands. Having directed The Tea Party last Hilary and The Oresteia last Trinity, Sabi is looking to go bigger and better with his next project: with the biggest budget ever for a show at the O’Reilly Theatre, this promises to be an impressive production.
Sabi has deliberately watched all the versions of Cabaret he could find so that every single element of his production- design, choreography etc.- is completely different, ensuring that it steers clear from the staleness that can sometimes arise from revivals. Indeed, rather than focusing on the film adaptation and its lightened tone Sabi is looking to emphasise the darker tones of the original stage show; he has asked his actors to read Christopher Isherwood’s short novel Goodbye to Berlin, on which the musical is based, in order to really immerse themselves in the world of their respective characters. The bitter reality and foreboding of the pre-Nazi period in which the story is set is a theme Sabi shall highlight alongside the usual glitz and glamour.
Not to worry though, for those who have already booked their tickets, you can look forward to an offering of an authentic cabaret experience: the front seating in the O’Reilly theatre will be pulled back to make way for tables and chairs, turning the auditorium into a real-life cabaret bar. But you won’t get off that easy: Sabi’s interpretation aims to challenge the escapism created by the cabaret world, warning that the even the audience will be challenged too through their experience. However, it’s not all too serious and the fun side of the musical has not been left behind: not only does this show include Alice Pearse who was last seen rocking in last year’s commended production of Spring Awakening, Ramin Sabi has also referred to the chorus as fantastic and to efforts of the choreographer Emily Romain as amazing. I really hope that this production lives up to its spectacular feats.
PHOTO/ The Yorck Project.
Cabaret is on at the O’Reilly Theatre in fourth week.