Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club: Underbelly production's triumph at Olivier Awards had its roots in Edinburgh Festival Fringe – Steve Cardownie

I spoke to Charlie Wood of Underbelly yesterday to congratulate him and his business partner Ed Bartlam on their outstanding success at Sunday Night’s Olivier Awards.

Winner of no less than seven awards, their production of Cabaret at The Kit Kat Club stole the show. Best Musical Revival, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, Best Supporting Actor in a Musical, Best Supporting Actress in a Musical, Best Director and Best Sound Design were all captured by Cabaret.

Charlie reminded me that the winner of the Best Actor in a Musical Award, Eddie Redmayne, first appeared in the major role of the compere in Cabaret when Underbelly staged the show at their second Edinburgh Fringe Festival back in 2001 at the Cowgate.

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In his acceptance speech, Redmayne said that it was performing this role that convinced him that acting was the route that he should take and who would deny that the Oscar-winning actor made the right choice?

Set in Berlin on New Year’s Eve in 1932, the show celebrates the individuality and diversity enjoyed by the German population prior to Hitler’s rise to power when all such freedoms were mercilessly crushed. Charlie was keen to draw parallels with what is happening in Ukraine today at the hands of Vladimir Putin.

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Twenty-one years after Underbelly’s Fringe production, the new show sees cast members mingling with the audience, singing and dancing in a pre-show celebration of freedom of expression soon to be extinguished by Hitler and his Nazi Party.

Both Charlie and Ed have repeatedly acknowledged that Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival provided them with a fantastic opportunity – one that they were determined to grasp with both hands and Underbelly has been an ever-present at every Festival since.

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From their first performance space, in what were empty storage rooms in the Central Library on George IV Bridge, to prestigious award-winning ceremonies, their journey has been one of incredible hard work and commitment.

Their efforts have now borne fruit and it is entirely feasible that this latest accolade will be repeated and that Sunday will not be the last time that they step on the Olivier Awards’ Green Carpet.

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