Cabaret | Hayes Theatre CoPhotos – John McRae

Quite simply – this is a must see production.

At a time when right wing fascism is once again rearing its ugly head throughout the world, and the leader of free world is behaving in a remarkably similar way to the leader of Germany in the 30’s, a visit to Berlin’s famous Kit Kat Klub and the world of Sally Bowles is more than timely.

It is a dangerous time, and this production captures that danger magnificently. The MC is the role Paul Capsis was born to play, and he doesn’t disappoint. Edgy malevolent and a little insane, he drives this tale with a manic energy that keeps the evening teetering on the brink of uncertainty throughout. No mean feat for a show as well known as this one. He looks amazing, sounds amazing and owns the stage.

And what a stage – Designed by James Browne and lit by Rob Sowinski it’s one of the cleverest uses of this small space I have seen, and I cannot heap enough accolades on the production team for managing to avoid the obvious and bring a really fresh new look to this production. It focuses on telling the story with an intensity that is at once both confronting and rewarding for its audience. Nicholas Chisto’s Brechtian influenced staging is clever and wisely claustrophobic and the heightened reality it creates works perfectly. I loved the way it enabled the songs to be woven directly back into the story rather than sitting outside it as in other productions. The universally recognizable Kander and Ebb score sounds different in this production, reinvented to throw focus onto the characters journeys. It’s a tribute to the sharp, jazzy musical direction of Lindsay Partridge, and what was a damn fine band. That Trombone just sang!!!

And Kelley Abbey’s choreography was dynamite. Sexy, vulgar, and energetic, it was even exhausting to watch – in all the right ways.

The energy that pervades this production is palpable, and the entire cast rise to the challenge of keeping the evening simmering with focus and passion. Where do you start heaping praise on a cast as diverse and obscenely talented as this? Jason Kos delivers a wonderfully engaging and innocent Clifford. The ensemble Nick Jones, Michelle Barr, Matthew Mamaham and Michelle Smitherin give a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘triple threats’. John O’May and Kate Fitzpatrick are both unexpected and heartfelt. Lots of tears here! Marcus Graham is a suitably Machiavellian Ernst Ludwig, and Debora Krizac nearly steals the show as a taut, quivering, steely Fraulein Kost.

Which leaves me with Chelsea Gibb as Sally Bowles. It’s a nearly impossible task to wrench any audience away from the iconic movie portrayal by Liza Minnelli, but Miss Gibb manages to achieve it. The human equivalent of Jessica Rabbit, her Sally flames with an uncertainty and brittle need every bit as vibrant as her hair. Weaving sexiness with frailty she manages to navigate that most difficult of paths, making us love a character as mannered and flawed as Sally. Her rendition of the song Cabaret was just devastating. 

In short – get a ticket and go. The opening night standing ovation was both well deserved and touchingly received. Sure I had a few quibbles around some of the diction being sacrificed to the energy level, and you may not like every choice the production team has made, but hell, this production really feels like it means something. Cabaret may have just had its 50th anniversary but it’s always timely to be reminded that racism, sexism and homophobia are not OK and we all need to fight the bullies that propagate it, no matter how high an office they hold. Bad hair may have replaced bad moustaches, but xenophobia is alive and well. 

David M Hawkins in association with Hayes Theatre Co presents
book Joe Masteroff | music John Kander | lyrics Fred Ebb | based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood

Director Nicholas Christo

Venue: Hayes Theatre Co | 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point NSW
Dates: 9 January – 5 March 2017