Cabaret review: 'Fra Fee's sensational performance will send him into the stratosphere'

Cabaret remains the most intoxicating, dazzling, and ultimately disturbing musical currently on in the West End, writes Simon Button.


Words: Simon Button; pictures: Marc Brenner

Following Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley in Cabaret is a daunting prospect that would scare the lederhosen off even the most confident of performers, but Fra Fee and Amy Lennox aren’t just up to the challenge - they’re so damn good they make you forget the Olivier award winner’s takes on the Emcee and Sally Bowles as soon as they make their respective appearances.

Rising as Redmayne did through the three-tiered revolving stage in the middle of the Playhouse Theatre turned Kit Kat Club, Fee has the same party hat at a jaunty angle and similar red hair. But as he sings ‘Willkommen’ to welcome the audience to 1920s Berlin he’s less menacing than Eddie and more playful.

Fra Fee as the Emcee in Cabaret (Photo: Marc Brenner)

His Emcee has a youthful glee and a glint in his eye that draws us in, and he has a wonderful singing voice. A rising star, this sensational performance will send Fee into the stratosphere. Pardon the pun but a Fra is born indeed.

Lennox, meanwhile, has the same frou-frou frock as Buckley as she vamps her way through ‘Don’t Tell Mama’ but her Fraulein Sally Bowles is also younger-seeming and captivatingly naive, at least until she tears into the ‘Cabaret’ song with such anger at how her life has panned out that it’s devastating. She too is a rising star who is destined for greatness.

Amy Lennox as Sally Bowles in Cabaret (Photo: Marc Brenner)

The plot - for those who don’t know already from the original stage production, the Liza-Minnelli-starring 1972 film or numerous revivals - revolves around the arrival of pansexual American writer Cliff Bradshaw in a hedonistic Germany where the divine decadence of the Weimar Republic is on the brink of being toppled by the Nazi Party.

Now played by Omar Baroud, taking over from Omari Douglas, Cliff is more sexually fluid than in previous productions and Baroud brings huge likeability to a part that is perhaps not as fully fleshed out in the script as the other characters.

He has dalliances with men but he’s also crazy about Kit Kat Club headliner Sally, who is as deluded about her talents as she is desperate to have a good time, and Baroud and Lennox have a lovely chemistry.

Omar Baroud as Clifford Bradshaw in Cabaret (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Under the masterful direction of Rebecca Frecknall, this new Cabaret is thrillingly queer, set in Berlin which in the 1920s welcomed gay men and women with open arms and peopled with a gender-fluid ensemble who flit flirtatiously around the tables that surround the stage.

They, like the production itself, blur the line between show and spectator in what remains the most intoxicating, dazzling, and ultimately disturbing musical currently on in the West End.

Fee’s Emcee invites you to “leave your troubles outside” but Frecknall’s fierce, provocative reframing - with themes of religious persecution and racial hatred at the fore - doesn’t let you off the hook that easily.

Rating: 5/5

Cabaret is at the Kit Kat Club, London. For tickets click here.