Cabaret is a scintillating musical experiencePeter Feldman
Peter Feldman: Many of us have seen Bob Fosse’s famous film with Liza Minnelli, Michael York and Joel Grey which ensnared us with its magic and charm. It encapsulated an era in a decadent Berlin just before the rise of the Third Reich.
Now, Kickstart, a Durban theatrical company, under the adroit direction of Steven Stead, has brought together on stage all those myriad facets that made the screen version of “Cabaret” such a phenomenon.
This stage version is blessed with an awesomely talented cast, singers in brilliant voice, dancers in fine form, and a stunning array of Neil Stuart-Harris designed costumes. The band provides a wonderfully live feel to the production, while the impressive Greg King stage set recreates the various elements.
Set in 1931 in Berlin, it revolves around a 19-year-old English cabaret singer Sally Bowles (Samantha Poe) who lives an anarchic, Bohemian life and who performs at the seedy Kit Kat Klub and her relationship with a new arrival, the reserved American writer and academic, Cliff Bradshaw (Bryan Hiles), who earns a pittance by giving English lessons. Sally tries unsuccessfully to seduce Cliff and suspects he may be gay. But Cliff responds by saying all his relationships with women were unsuccessful.
A sub-plot concerns Fraulein Schneider (Charon Williams-Ros), the German owner of a boarding house, and her doomed relationship with Herr Schultz (Peter Court), a Jewish fruit vendor. Overseeing the burlesque proceedings is the decadent and cynical Master of Ceremonies (Sascha Halbhuber) who monitors the action through songs and dancing with some acerbic observations sprinkled throughout. The nightclub serves as a constant metaphor for the tenuous and threatening state of the late German Weimar Republic.
The beauty of “Cabaret” lies in the strength and emotive quality of the Kander/Ebb songs and the production is punctuated with some of music’s most enchanting and touching compositions. When the excellent Charon Williams-Ros sings the emotive “What Would You Do” when she is facing the dilemma of her relationship with Herr Schultz, it taps into your soul with its sheer intensity.
Samatha Peo once again shines gloriously both on the acting side and when she delivers some of the musical’s most memorable numbers, the awesome “Cabaret” towards the end, her jaunty “Mein Herr” and the heart-tugging “Maybe This Time.”
For me, a vital element of the entire production is the Master of Ceremonies who cements it all together and in Sascha Halbhuber they have a performer with true international credentials.
There is a sly sense of depravity about his performance reminiscent of Joey Grey, but imbuing with his own nuances and insight. His pairing with Peo on “The Money Song” is a joy.
The supporting cast is uniformly good; Peter Court’s Herr Schultz, Lyle Buxton’s Nazi Ernst Ludwig and Kate Normington’s raunchy Fraulein Kost, with her never ending flow of willing sailors. The dancing crew of scantily dressed females (and not forgetting the males) add immeasurably to the overall impact of this wonderfully conceived, cohesive and highly entertaining musical.
Cabaret is on at the Pieter Toerien Theatre, Montecasino complex.
Feldman has been a journalist and arts critic for over 45 years and served on The Star in various capacities for 35 years, ending up as a specialist writer on films, music and theatre. During that time he travelled extensively on assignments and interviewed many international film and pop stars, both in South Africa and overseas. He also covered some of South Africa's biggest film and musical events. He is active in the freelance field and his work over the past 12 years has appeared in a variety of South African newspapers and magazines. He writes regularly for Artslink.co.za, The Citizen, South African Jewish Report, The Sunday Independent and is a contributor to "Eat Out" Magazine. He also contributes movie reviews on Mondays to The Gordon Hoffman Easy Morning Show on 1485 Radio Today (www.1485.org.za) and has worked on TV in his specialist capacity. Over the years Feldman has been the recipient of several awards for his contribution to music journalism and the SA record industry. He wrote lyrics for some top artists, including Sipho Mabuse, and had a hit disco single, "Video Games," which was released in 1988. After retiring from The Star in April, 1999, Feldman joined the PR and events management company, Dlamini Weil Communications, where he currently works as an entertainment and media consultant.
Montecasino Complex, Fourways Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa