RUFUS Norris’s Cabaret takes you instantly back and Welcomes you to a time when life in Berlin was ‘beautiful’.

But it was also a dark and debauched, sinister and scary place to be as spectre of Nazism loomed over the nation and the infamous Kit Kat Club, its cabaret performers and clientele.

Will Young’s portrayal of the Kit Kat Emcee and puppetmaster to the action was the best I’ve seen, and I’ve been lucky enough to watch Norris’s production in its original West End outing and a previous tour.

The voice which won over a nation as the original TV Pop Idol has matured and his instantly recognisable tones never distract from the haunting, clowning characterisation.

His rendition of Tomorrow Belongs To Me, usually sung by a young Nazi soldier or prostitute Fraulein Kost, totally changed the tone of the show, which is more of a play with songs than a traditional musical.

As he made the puppet chorus dance to his increasingly angry tune, the direction of life in late-Weimar Berlin was clear, and terrifying. And I could hardly bear to breathe during I Don’t Care much, such was the intensity of atmosphere he created with an almost whispered sound.

This work will inevitably draw comparisons with the legendary film version, with the young singer Sally Bowles played to perfection by Liza Minnelli, so it’s a clever call to somewhat down play that role and give greater focus to the Emcee.

Siobhan Dillon, third placed finalist in How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, was something of a delicate, bird-like Sally, but her storytelling and grim-yet-manic realisation during the show’s title number was stunning and a real turnaround moment.

Like Dillon, Matt Rawle as writer Clifford Bradshaw, came into his own in the later stages of the production, turning from a classic all-American guy-next-door to a wounded soul – literally and physically come the oh-so-bitter end.

Gentler moments, although not without their dramas, were created between Lyn Paul and Linal Haft, as the ageing romantics Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz. Paul’s voice was simply devine.

Executing the sexual and seedy choreography by Javier De Fruitos, and writhing their ways around Katrina Lindsay’s framework set, the Kit Kat Kids really drove home the story and its undertones. And it was their dark closing moments which held the entire auditorium still and enraptured until the final chords had echoed their last, and drew a solitary tear down my cheek.

Perhaps most telling of the impact of this production was the reverential applause, the whooping and a-hollering which all too often accompanies the final moments of a musical these days was held back until the curtain call lights came up, and even then were at a somewhat muted level – at odds with the determined rhythm of applause.

  • Cabaret, Opera House, Manchester, Monday, September 9 Until Saturday, tickets from £17.90, on 0844 871 3018