Left – Paul Capsis
My first experience with Cabaret was, like many, the 1972 film version starring the incomparable Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey. Forced to study the text for year 12 English, I fell in love with the seedy Kit Kat Klub and its colourful characters. From that moment Cabaret became my favourite musical, and I was delighted to hear it was returning to Australia with Paul Capsis and Chelsea Gibb at the helm.
Based on Christopher Isherwood’s 1945 collection of stories, sketches and diary entries, The Berlin Stories weaved its way through the glittering and gritty world of 1930s Germany and of one girl in particular, Sally Bowles, “a second-rate English singer with a cute black bob and emerald green nails.”
This is where Cabaret began, and now 51 years after the original production opened on Broadway, the themes are as relevant as ever before. Set in a time of political upheaval as Nazi’s and Communist parties fight to take control, Berlin is the center of the world and the Kit Kat Klub a reprieve from reality.
Capsis works his magic as the magnetic Emcee, captivating the audience with his exceptional comic timing and nuanced performance. Gibb kept her cool through some technical difficulties and received a well-deserved standing ovation for her rendition of the show’s title song. This was one of the few moments when the audience was able to witness the desperation, vulnerability and grit of Sally through Gibb’s performance.
Produced by David M. Hawkins, this production is unlike any I’ve seen before. Focusing on reserved Clifford Bradshaw (Jason Kos) as the hero of his own story, the young American writer is caught up in the vibrant nightlife of 1930s Berlin where he meets Sally, and Ernst (Michael Cormick) whose political leanings of Nazi-ism cause Clifford great distress.
It doesn’t seem to matter how long it has been since Hitler’s rise to power, but the Nazi Swastika remains as shocking an image today as it ever was. Ever more evident during the patriotic “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” and kick line that becomes military goosestep.
Kate Fitzpatrick as world-weary landlady Fraulein Schneider and kindly fruit selling John O’May as Herr Shultz steal the show with their rendition of “It Couldn’t Please Me More (Pineapple Song)”. Fitzpatrick is particularly moving during the heartbreaking “What Would You Do?”
Although marred by a few technical difficulties, the enduring love for this production makes a glitch easy to forgive. Fifteen years after I first saw Cabaret and this wannabe Kit Kat Klub girl is as enamored as ever with Kander and Ebb’s score, Gale Edwards direction and flawless performances from the entire ensemble.
Come to the Cabaret… you know you want to.
David M. Hawkins presents
book Joe Masteroff | music John Kander | lyrics Fred Ebb | based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood
Melbourne Director Gale Edwards
Venue: Athenaeum Theatre | 188 Collins Street, Melbourne
Dates: from 27 April 2017