National Theatre boss Rufus Norris’s sensational production of Cabaret returns in triumph to Oxford this week, reminding us of the unique horrors of the Nazi regime – as if this were necessary – and the status of the musical, at its best, as a genre not undeserving of the name of art.

Will Young, its star in the West End and on the New Theatre’s 2013 tour visit, is now succeeded in the pivotal role of Emcee by John Partridge. As the man whose openly gay telly character Christian Clarke helped enliven EastEnders, he might be judged a perfect fit for the androgynous host of The Kit Kat Club.

At once insinuating and terrifying, he looks with his red-lipped rictus grin and slicked down hair like some other ‘joker’ of the time. Yes, it’s Hitler I mean.

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Girls in skimpy basques and boys in black leather hot pants and garters – and there are plenty of both available in the Berlin nightclub – are of equal amusement to the menacing manipulator. His eight-in-a-bed antics are observable above.

Sexual versatility is the style, too, for American novelist Cliff Bradshaw (Charles Hagerty), whose story is notionally being told in a show with a genesis a little, er, complicated, even by the traditional standards of the American musical.

Its origin is in the Berlin stories of Christopher Isherwood – the real-life Cliff, though a Brit by birth – as dramatised by John Van Druton and later translated to Broadway by composer John Kander, lyricist Fred Ebb and book creator Joe Masteroff.

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Two great female performers are central to the huge success of this production. The first is Anita Harris, in the touching role of the boarding house owner Fraulein Schneider, whose autumn-of-life romance with elderly fruiterer Herr Schultz (James Paterson) founders on the rock of his Jewishness.

The second is Kara Lily Hayworth as the scatty, amoral, but always-endearing Sally Bowles. Her performance of the title song is the best I have heard, with a tripping, almost light musical treatment under musical director Phil Cornwell that’s miles removed from the bombast of Liza Minnelli in Bob Fosse’s film.

Until Saturday.