Review: CABARET at Lido 2

A new production for a limited run in Paris

By: Jan. 09, 2023
Review: CABARET at Lido 2
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Cabaret at the Lido 2 Paris, soon after the sad news of the closing of the legendary Lido Cabaret on the Champs Elysees, came the good news that, instead of becoming a parking lot, would be resurrected as the new temple of musical theatre in Paris under the direction of Jean Luc Choplin, who was responsible for introducing the Parisian audience to classic American musical theater at the Châtelet, notably the works of Stephen Sondheim, for over a decade.Review: CABARET at Lido 2

Moving to the Theatre Marigny, Choplin give us two splendid productions, Guys and Dolls and Funny Girl (2019), both also in the original English with French subtitles and with a fully British cast and British creatives. Taking over the Lido, Cabaret was a natural choice, since it perfectly fits the shape of the venue with its large proscenium that advances towards the audience, making this production naturally immersive without all the over hauling that was necessary to turn the Playhouse Theatre in London into the Kit Kat Klub for the current London revival.Review: CABARET at Lido 2

Cabaret, probably due to the popularity of the 1972 Bob Fosse movie version, has been done in Paris more than any other Broadway musical, first at Mogador by the great Jerome Savary in 1986, which introduced a young Ute Lemper as Sally, succeeded by Dee Dee Bridgewater in the 1993 revival. Then to the Folies Bergères in 2006 came the French adaptation of Sam Mendes's darker Broadway revival, which transferred a few years later to the Théâtre Marigny. That version, produced by Stage Entertainment, incorporated the Kander and Ebb songs added just for the movie, "Mein Herr" and "Maybe This Time". A smaller touring production starring Nicole Croisille as Fraulein Schneider had already added to the song list of the original Broadway Production in 1996, itself coming on the heels of the Rebecca Frecknall's Olivier-Award winning immersive production. This new Paris stage version by contemporary opera director Robert Carsen is by far the most choreographed ever, with eighteen Kit Kat Girls and Boys perfectly drilled by Fabian Aloise, whose characteristically imaginative choreography has already won him multiple awards, notably for his outstanding work in Evita at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre.Review: CABARET at Lido 2

The costumes by Luis F. Carvalho are surprising, especially the Emcee's, taking divine decadence to another level, but also giving a contemporary edge to the production the set, which tries to get back to the show's roots. His costume actually works better than the ensemble's. The lighting by Giuseppe de Iorio, in collaboration with Carsen, is highly efficient, as are the minimalist set designs by Carvalho, but we are, after all, already in a cabaret! The video projections by Will Duke help situate the piece even more in its historical context-the rise of Hitler-and starting the show with "Willkommen" in the dressing room reinforces the authenticity of the experience.

The Voice alumnus Sam Buttery, straight from the concert version of Boy George's Taboo at the London Palladium, elaborates on the sexual ambiguity of the Emcee, as he performs the role entirely in drag-except for the Doc Martin boots!

Recently seen in On the Town at Regents Park and Sweet Charity at The Donmar Warehouse, Lizzy Connolly is a perfectly debauched Sally Bowles, rarely portrayed by a blonde. Movie actor Oliver Dench, whose great aunt Judi was the first London Sally, is a convincing Clifford Bradshaw, whose bisexuality belongs more to the movie and Broadway revival than to the original production. Ciaran Owens makes for a disturbing enough Ernst Ludwig, and Gary Minor, though comparably young for the part, makes a convincing Herr Schultz.

But the evening belongs to the great Sally Ann Triplett, a West End veteran-from Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes at the National and the Drury Lane to the Sting musical The Last Ship at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway. She owns the multi-layered part of Fraulein Schneider, doing full justice to "So What" and "What Would You Do?", perhaps the very best songs in the score, although they were, like the character itself, absent from the movie.

What is also exciting about seeing a new production of Cabaret, though one could say that the work at time seems overexposed, is that there as so many ways of approaching such a rich source of material. It's very good to have for the first time in a same staging the long abandoned "Telephone Song" production number, too often replaced by a gratuitous "Mein Herr", and a mashup of the movie's "Money, Money" with its ancestor "The Money Song", plus "I Don't Care Much", cut from the original but reinstated for the Emcee in the Donmar revival. Too bad Clifford's great ballad "Why Should I Wake Up" is again omitted, but the door is always open for future productions!

A last chance of a visit to the Lido 2 before refurbishing, this fresh and highly risqué production of Cabaret mixing the substance of the old with the style of the new is not to be missed, until February 3rd.