Cabaret, in the simplest of terms, leaves audiences longing for more. Directed by Jeremy Hutton, this piece is a fabulous conglomeration of all three components essential to producing a harmonized musical performance. With a timeless musical score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, in addition to the astonishing book by Joe Masteroff, this production is bound to bring audiences back into the popular entertainment that theatre provides. All three unities of musical theatre: acting, singing, and dancing, come together in this production to create what can only be underscored as a truly mesmerizing performance.
As the lights fade and the tempo picks up, we are invited into a multiplicity of narratives, all occurring in one historically significant location: Berlin, 1931. As historical context is of sheer importance to this production, as Germany was still undergoing a great loss from their defeat in World War One, in addition to the political failures of its Weimar Republic. Berlin became the cultural capital of Bohemian decadence and sexual promiscuity, brought upon by the ever-present war mentality still looming throughout the European continent. The indulgent party, however, was not bound to last due to the looming establishment of Hitler’s Third Reich in 1933.
The setting predominately shifts through Berlin’s notorious cabaret, the Kit Kat Klub, focusing on the love affair of the club’s headliner, Sally Bowles (Kylie McMahon), and American writer, Clifford Bradshaw (David Light). Multiple narratives are also established through the doomed love affair of Bradshaw’s landlord, Fräulein Schneider (Adeen Ashton Fogle), and Jewish shopkeeper, Herr Schultz (Don Berns). Also, one of Fräulein Schneider’s provocative tenants, Fräulein Kost (Jacqueline Martin), provides a great deal of comic relief with her entourage of sailors and the ‘entertainment’ she provides for them.
The show opens on an utterly exuberant note with the musical number, “Willkommen,” where we are immediately introduced to the Kit Kat Klub’s Emcee (Adam Norrad) and the fantastic ensemble of the Kit Kat dancers. The Emcee presents himself as the show’s narrator, in addition to paralleling the unfortunate historical events symbolized through the multiple Kit Kat Klub numbers. Special mention hereby goes out to Kylie McMahon for her phenomenally memorable performance as Sally Bowles. All aspects of McMahon’s performance from the sultry dance combos to the outstanding vocals were remarkable.
It cannot go without mention that a great deal of the performance’s success stems from the collaborative effort of the ensemble. The strength of this group was emphasized through their consistent connection to the score, however, more significantly to each other. Musical Director, Mark-Anthony Del Brocco, is hereby acclaimed as each note was perfectly harmonized and always on key, making the performance as equally addicting to consume. The music was evenly matched by the spectacular choreography of Erin Brookhouse, who established each high kick as entrancing and captivating. The orchestrations were described during the opening number by the Emcee as being: “beautiful,” however, this highly underestimates the talent and synchronization that the live orchestra provided.
In terms of the production’s design, the ornate structures were beyond gorgeous and marvelously constructed. Set Designer, Michael Galloro, transformed the main stage of the Lower Ossington Theatre into what can only be deemed as an elaborate engineering feat. The use of multifunctional set pieces ultimately intertwines with the narrative, providing audiences with a historical perspective into the decadence at hand. The consistency and choreography of the scene changes critically added to the enlightening performance experience, ushered by the extraordinary lighting design of Mikael Kangas. Costume Designer, Kathleen Black, provides an ensemble of costumes to which the element of seduction was slightly downplayed, remaining tasteful for the audience.
Cabaret leaves audiences in tears of enjoyment, longing for more laughter, musical numbers, and engaging entertainment. The production greatly emphasizes the historical context of the interwar period, significantly highlighting the unfortunate past through music, dance, and the ill-fated deconstruction of the two lovers’ embrace. As the title of this review suggests, this production is certainly not one to be missed.
Cabaret runs until February 23 at The Lower Ossington Theatre. Tickets are $49 for general seating or $59 for premium seating. Visit www.lowerossingtontheatre.com or call 416-915-6747 for tickets.
Photo credit: Seanna Kennedy