In aid of Rare Disease UK and St Martins Housing Trust, Minotaur Theatre Company’s vibrant production of Cabaret 2019 certainly delivered on its promise to provide “a night of thrilling musical theatre”.
The selection of songs from contemporary musicals was refreshing and successful in capturing the zeitgeist of the musical theatre landscape. At the same time, the show wasn’t afraid to shy away from musicals that are not necessary on the radar of the general public, which helped to give them well-deserved recognition. A real highlight was ‘You’re Going Back to Jail’ from the highly underrated musical Bonnie and Clyde. Even though the song is perhaps lesser-known than some of its counterparts, it more than earned its place on the set list with its high energy and the flawless comedic delivery of its performers, which helped to make it accessible to audience members who may not have been familiar with it.
Showcasing the versatility of the performers, ‘You Will Be Found’ from Dear Evan Hansen provided a heart-felt contrast to the more upbeat numbers. The amount of love and support radiating from the performers was extremely moving and inspired a feeling of hope and optimism, especially in the wake of recent events at UEA. It also generated a real sense of community and solidarity, much needed in the current political climate.
At times, the numbers suffered from the band being a little too loud, making it difficult to hear some of the lyrics as the singing was somewhat drowned out. Nonetheless, apart from a few minor vocal slip-ups—hardly surprising considering the physically demanding choreography—the overall quality was extremely high. The costume changes between songs were a welcome surprise, too, and really illustrated how much thought was put into planning and performing each number.
The choreography itself was impressive and executed to a high standard by its performers. The mark of a good choreographer is knowing that sometimes minimal staging can be just as meaningful as heavily constructed and physical demanding choreography. ‘She Used to be Mine’ from the show Waitress was a key example of this. The choreography, limited simply to its performers sitting on chairs, gave space for the exquisite harmonies and raw emotion to take centre-stage (hey, we love puns in musical theatre – have you heard Hamilton’s lyrics?). This was immediately followed by the energetic and heavily choreographed ‘Does Your Mother Know?’ from the smash hit Mamma Mia! Though placing such contrasting songs together ran the risk of giving the audience emotional whiplash, the transition between the slow-paced and the upbeat numbers was surprisingly seamless and allowed the show to maintain a good pace.
However, the main strengths of the show were the comedic ensemble numbers. ‘Hello’ (The Book of Mormon), ‘Gay or European’ (Legally Blonde) and ‘A Musical’ (Something Rotten) were all crowd pleasers. Indeed, the explosive audience response to the latter number made one feel that it would have been better placed as the closing number, especially as it sums up the very thing that united every individual in that room: an avid appreciation for the weird and wonderful entity that is musical theatre.
Overall, the performers and the design team should be applauded for their huge amount of hard work, passion and talent. In the wise, wise words of the High School Musical 3 ensemble, it truly was a ‘Night to Remember’.