Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Cabaret, May 1, 2017 ***

Book by Joe Masteroff based on the play by John Van Druten & original stories by Christopher Isherwood
Music by John Kander & lyrics by Fred Ebb; 
Original concept & direction by Harold Prince; produced by David M. Hawkins; 
Atheneaum Theatre, until June 3, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 1, 2017
Review also published in  Herald Sun Arts in print & online on May 3, 2017. KH
Chelsea Gibb & Cast_pic John McRae

The Berlin Kit Kat Klub, with its dissolute cabaret, comes vividly to life in the faded 19th century glory of Melbourne’s slightly musty Atheneaum Theatre for this revival of the provocative musical, Cabaret.

Gale Edwards’ production of Kander and Ebb’s sassy and saucy musical, with its audaciously sexualised choreography by Kelley Abbey, focuses on Berlin’s seedy entertainment underworld and the debauchery that was rife during the Weimar Period before World War Two.

The essence of this shabby, salacious and corrupt world is captured splendidly in the imaginatively decadent design (set and costume, James Browne) and evocative lighting (Rob Sowinski).

There is much to recommend this production, starting with the talented Chelsea Gibb as Sally Bowles, the slightly toffy English gal who scratches a living as a second-rate cabaret singer with a sideline in seedy prostitution at the Kit Kat Klub.

Gibb’s emotive rendition of the title song, Cabaret, is poignant and internalised at the beginning then escalates into heart-rending despair that brought the crowd to its feet on opening night.

However, the production had to overcome technical difficulties that made Gibb inaudible at the start of her big number, Cabaret, because of unbearable crackling in the sound system. Edwards stopped the show and sent Gibb off to get her microphone fixed – well, sort of fixed.

 Paul Capsis (centre) & cast_pic John McRae
The popular Paul Capsis plays the Emcee (Master of Ceremonies) as a camp and cynical voyeur who prowls the stage observing the sleazy, scandalous or despairing characters, commenting to the audience and making us complicit in his mocking observations.

Kander and Ebb’s music is the star of Cabaret, and the big crowd-pleasers are Capsis singing Wilkommen and The Money Song, Gibb’s Don’t Tell Mama and Jason Kos’s The Telephone Dance, all performed with the sassy, androgynous chorus of boys and girls.

Musical director, Lindsay Partridge, leads a tight and exuberant on-stage band that plays the award-winning music with pizazz.

Kos plays the American innocent abroad, Clifford Bradshaw, Sally’s friend and bisexual lover, and his singing has warmth in Don’t Go, although there is limited scope for development in this character.

A highlight is the poignant relationship between frumpy land lady, Fraülein Schneider, played by the sultry and funny Kate Fitzpatrick, and Herr Schultz, her Jewish fiancé, played with warmth and naiveté by John O’May.

Deborah Krizak is a riot as the shameless hooker, Fraülein Kost, and Michael Cormick gives an assured performance as the unscrupulous Nazi, Ernst Ludwig.

Strangely, the production lacks the requisite sense of impending doom, apart from during the unnerving chorus of Tomorrow Belongs To Me at the end of Act One.

The various components of the show – songs, dance, scenes and commentary by Emcee – all work independently, but somehow do not quite form a cohesive whole.

Although this production needs to settle and overcome its teething problems, the memorable music, eccentric performances and the cynical political commentary will still entertain audiences.

By Kate Herbert 

Choreography Kelley Abbey

Direction (Melb) Gayle Edwards

Paul Capsis Master of Ceremonies Emcee
Chelsea Gibb Sally Bowles
Michael Cormick Ernst Ludwig
Kate Fitzpatrick Fraulein Schneider
John O’May Herr Schultz
Deborah Krizak Fraulein Kost
Jason Kos Clifford Bradshaw
Kit Kat Gals
Michelle Barr
Angelique Cassimatis
Sam Hooper
Nick Jones
Matthew Manahan

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