Cabaret | Zen Zen ZoPhotos – Justine Walpole

‘Wilkommen’ to the world of Cabaret with a twist of Zen Zen Zo. This full scale musical production is a first for the renowned Brisbane based physical theatre company who are better known for their distinctive movement blend of Butoh and Noh theatre styles combined with elements of European avant-garde. Director Lynne Bradley has crafted an alluring and dark recreation of the iconic Cabaret. Sandro Colarelli playing the camp, endearing and naughty Emcee, immediately welcomes the audience with open arms and silken vocals. Colarelli’s performance is delicious and skilfully balanced beside the chorus of Zen Zen Zo performers who are the Kit Kat Club’s resident risqué dancers and singers. The eccentric Sally Bowles is performed by Emma Dean who brings bright vocals to the stage and an acting performance that is lightly sassy. When she holds the spotlight for the famous number, “Cabaret”, she sings with resolve to reveal Sally’s emotional vulnerability and foolhardy determination to remain performing.           

Musical Director John Rodgers leads the saloon orchestra, whose visual presence on a mezzanine platform over the rear of the stage enhances the tawdry atmosphere of the musical. Bill Haycock’s superbly simple and open set design defines the space perfectly and allows for effortless flow between scenes. His use of colour, across both set and costume design, is wonderful. Black and white with splashes of hot pink adds another layer of depth to strengthen the political and moral messages of cabaret, the monochromatic absolutes that fuel any form of marginalisation.        

Choreographer Martyn Flemming cleverly integrates the jazz and burlesque elements inherent in Cabaret with Zen Zen Zo’s distinctive and edgy physical theatre style to create dance and movement numbers that are tantalizing and unique. The chorus shifts dynamically from high kicks and groin thrusts to bodies slinking silently onto the stage, slowly building their presence, enhancing the mood of the scene. Then they disappear in single fluid movement that makes it seem as though they had never been on stage. “If You Could See Her” was an amusing and absurd piece, Emcee is partnered with a tall and dainty drag queen figure who grows to gargantuan proportions after being lifted upon the shoulders of a more stocky heavy male base. This base creates the stout legs that work in contrast to the slight and refined movement of the torso. The pair twirl and dance their way around the stage as a beautiful and bizarre amalgam, the kind of polished risk-taking expected of Zen Zen Zo.

Jillian Geurts plays Fraulein Schneider and her vocal performance is delightful. She creates a character that is easy to empathise with. Her performance is complimented by the great connection between her and fellow ensemble member Earl Kim who plays Herr Schultz. Earl physically embodies his role in every way.  Jillian and Earl’s duet is a joy to watch. “It Couldn’t Please Me More” aka ‘the pineapple song’ is a refreshing moment which is superbly supported by the chorus’ seemingly floating clockwork moment around the rear of the stage; the scene is momentarily stolen by one of the ensemble members, in a charmingly peculiar way, who acts as the bearer of the pineapple. He shuffles across the stage with his knees bent, bottom resting on his heels while his torso remains perfectly erect, all the while his head is regally adorned with the exotic pineapple.    

Zen Zen Zo has successfully surged into musical theatre with this production of Cabaret and has delivered a sultry and sophisticated piece. It stands alone when compared to many of the productions Zen Zen Zo has produced over the last 20 years. It is perhaps not as raw, confrontational or shocking as some of their other works but it is very entertaining theatre. It integrates the very best a musical like Cabaret has to offer with the incomparable and exciting creative physical capabilities that only a director like Lynne Bradley can bring to the stage with the amazing performers that are Zen Zen Zo.            

QPAC and PowerArts present
Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre in
book by Joe Masteroff | music by John Kander | lyrics by Fred Ebb
based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood

Director Lynne Bradley

Venue: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, Cultural Centre, South Bank
Dates: 4 – 20 August, 2011
Tickets: $39 – $49
Bookings: | 136 246

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