EMOTIONS run high in Penrith Players’ first-rate production of the darkly-themed musical Cabaret, which is due to be performed for a final time at the town’s Playhouse, in Auction Mart Lane, tonight. Lucy Ivison is simply superb as sultry singer Sally Bowles  the star turn at the Kit Kat Klub. There is so much more to the character of English rose Sally than immediately meets the eye and Lucy’s emotionally aware performance of her motivation and sensibilities gives rise to real dramatic tension. Naive American Cliff Bradshaw, played by James Shorrock, falls head-over-heels for Sally and, initially, it appears she has really lucked out to have found a genuinely nice guy. But, as we are told in the show’s hit number “life is a cabaret, old chum”, it can only really be enjoyed for as long as it lasts.

Set in 1930s Berlin against a backdrop of the rise of fascism and the Nazi party, the Kit Kat Klub promises to be a place where guests can leave their cares andworries behind them and enter a world of entertaining escapism. Taking the role of the nightspot’s cheeky gorilla-loving Emcee was Jeff Phillips, flanked by deadpan dancing girls Sarah Beeden and Melissa Stewart. Together they keep the show ticking along really nicely. But it’s Helene Phillips’s passionate portrayal of guesthouse owner Fraulein Schneider which steals the show. Her singing would melt even the coldest of hearts and her relationship with Jewish fruit shop owner Herr Schultz (Charlie Ridley) is a joy to behold. Craig Batey is excellent as smiling villain Ernst Ludwig and Emma Johnson gives a very eye-catching performance as the “working girl”, Fraulein Kost, whoentertains a different sailor every night  all of them looking like Dennis Henderson.

Director Bill Turner should be congratulated for engineering a show which will live long in the memory. The set  with its moveable “toblerones”  worked well, and the live music provided by Ian Butterworth, Dawn Smart and Laura Shuttleworth was spot on. Cast: Emcee, Jeff Phillips; Kit Kat girls, Sarah Beeden and Melissa Stewart; Cliff Bradshaw, James Shorrock; Ernst Ludwig, Craig Batey; train guard, sailor, taximan, Kit Kat Klub bouncer, Dennis Henderson; Fraulein Schneider, Helene Phillips; Fraulein Kost, Emma Johnson; Herr Schultz, Charlie Ridley; Sally Bowles, Lucy Ivison; Kit Kat Klub bouncer, Bruce Armstrong-Payne; Kit Kat Klub Orches-trio, Dawn Smart, Ian Butterworth, Laura Shuttleworth.

Behind the scenes: Director, Bill Turner; musical  director, Dawn Smart;choreography, Sarah Beeden, Lucy Ivison, and Emma Johnson; stagemanager, Roger Bird; costume, Judith Henderson; lighting design/soundscape engineer, Matty Collingwood; lighting operator, Judith Henderson; props, June Jameson, Diane Rylands, Gwenda Armstrong-Payne; set, Rebecca Borgogno, Alasdair Stobbs and Jonathan Dinham.

Cumberland & Westmorland Herald, 23rd April, 2016