Broken Cabaret, who have just opened at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington are definitely on to something. A play centred around cabaret, performed in a theatre after another show (starting at 9:30pm), is well calculated to capture the later evening vibe that such a genre needs.
John Myatt and Simon Arrowsmith really can write songs, and while there is a slow build here, the early snippets have a strong Sondheim-esque quality that whet our appetite for the full numbers later in the show. The quality of the performers put together here is exceptional, either with a strong cabaret pedigree or real musical theatre stars in the making.
In spite of the stellar cast and songs, Something, Something Lazarus still needs to tighten some bolts before it can really hit its stride. The early interplay between the characters is too chaotic and manic to give a proper semblance of plot. The result is that the first half of the show is both confused and lacking in subtlety. Theatre impresario Daniel (Ralph Bogard) is thrown in his preparations by the arrival of a chair, a parting gift from a lost love. Attempts by his current lover, Jay (Daniel Cech-Lucas) to show him how to move on merely serve to prompt vitriol and violence, while raising the ire of the cabaret performers, who start to realize that Jay may actually have some talent.
Despite this difficult start, the production does really come into its own once Jay takes centre stage, pleading with the audience to help save his life. From here we get full production songs from each of the cast, which are all carefully crafted to fit with the plot and are delivered with great style and accomplishment. Leading lady Vee (Valerie Cutko) is a true cabaret star of old, initially an androgynous 1920’s Berlin type character, but ultimately a gin-soaked vamp with a troubled past. Daniel delivers his apologetic number with real power, and musical director Della (Daisy Amphlett) demonstrates great versatility both in solo and duet. But the show is ultimately stolen by Jay. His interaction with the audience helped the production overcome that uncertain start, and his ability to deliver the full meaning of the impressive lyrics was consummate.
The writers have utilised music that they wrote for an earlier production and they quite rightly believe that they have some work that deserves to be heard. They just need some work on the vehicle they use to deliver it.