Life is a Cabaret, Old Chum

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By Laurie Scarborough

The Fugard Theatre’s latest show, Cabaret, opened for previews early last week to much success. The 1960s musical is set in Germany in the tumultuous years preceding World War II.

Charl-Johan Lingerfelder as the Emcee guides the audience through the story and oversees the drama, voyeuristically observing the characters on their journey through Berlin’s decline into war. Following in the footsteps of Alan Cumming, the most recent Emcee for the Broadway production of Cabaret, Lingerfelder had big shoes to fill. As a big Alan Cumming fan, I felt that Lingerfelder lacked the essential cynical and biting edge that Cumming brought to the character. This was only a little missed though, and his performance is very entertaining and suitably obscene.

The sweet romance of Fraulein Schneider and the Jewish Herr Schultz is played by the lovely pair Mike Huff and Michele Maxwell, and this is initially a nice juxtaposition to the darker Nazi themes. Of course, the sweetness of their love affair only made it that much more impactful and sad when their doomed romance is destroyed by the Nazi Germany regime.

Maxwell’s performance in particular, was skilfully delivered. Her strong and weathered portrayal of Fraulein Schneider is never too harsh to miss a comedic beat, and she is able to merge a believable stoicism with the tenderness of her love for Herr Schultz.

The use of a man in drag into the “Two Ladies” number is quite genius, especially considering the sexually experimental life of the Clifford Bradshaw character that the song comments on. Indeed this change adds some humour and puts the existing “dumb-guy” character to good comedic use.

The show-stealer though, is the titular “Cabaret” number, sung by Claire Taylor as Sally Bowles. Her anger and contempt is excellently portrayed and her voice fit the bill in every way. Alone on an almost bare stage, she demanded every audience member’s attention with her emotional and well-informed performance. At the song’s dramatic conclusion she had the audience screaming and stamping their feet.

Another highlight of the production was the tight and talented group of dancers. I was impressed that although they formed part of the ensemble, they all had very distinctive characterization. Because of this they didn’t “blend” into a bland background haze of dancers, but instead shone on stage, and added a more realistic layer to the Kit Kat Klub. Seeing the dancers as real members of the Klub, and seeing their bruises on pale flesh, was another subtle reminder of the definitively unglamorous side to the underbelly of seedy cabaret burlesque clubs.

Louisa Talbot’s choreography was stellar, and the dancer’s execution was just as excellent. The aggressive routines were fitting for the characters and the themes of the musical, and suited the music perfectly.

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The dancers shine in Cabaret at the Fugard.

The final scene lacks the punch-you-in-the-stomach impact that should be expected from Cabaret, which is a pity since the rest of the show’s gradual build-up from a playful and hedonistic ignorance of the Nazi rise to a far darker tone of war and genocide is then left somewhat not actualized.

A special mention should of course go out to our Adrian Galley as the Kit Kab Klub owner, Max, as well as to the sensational Delray Burns and resident dance captain, Jenna Robinson. Burns dazzles as Rosie, the Baby Spice of the Kit Kat Klub seedy dancers, and Robinson glowers down her nose at the audience in between her racy (and exhausting) dance routines, playing Frenchie to a “T”.

Cabaret opens officially tomorrow, Wednesday 18th March. You can book on Computicket: online.computicket.com/web/event/cabaret/822660121/0/60235831

This is definitely not a show to be missed.

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