Easy girls, easier men, the height of Berlin before the Nazi devastation hit … it is 1929.
That is the seedy underside that you find in the Kit Kat Klub, a German version of the 1880s Paris type saloon, trying really hard to give the appearance of posh but never really succeeding. This is all as it should be when you find yourself drawn into the musical Cabaret currently on stage at the Fugard Theatre.
This is a story about pretense, about ignoring the truth and embracing a lie while desperately clinging to frivolous ignorance … or at least it is from the Sally Bowles perspective, as she attaches herself to a young American writer, Clifford Bradshaw, for the love of money and fame. While, if you look at it from a Herr Schultz and Fraulein Schneider perspective, it is a story of lost love, prejudice and pride … the story of a German who wasn’t allowed to love a Jew.
It is the lost love storyline that came across more prominently for me, as I sat there silently crying while some of the audience laughed at the dancing Gorilla in the Emcee’s version of If You Could See Her Through My Eyes.
Charl-Johan Lingenfelder is absolutely brilliant as the Emcee! He grabs your attention with his sarcastic undertone from the first delivery of the iconic line, “We are all beautiful!” It was a little strange to get use to the clearly very talented Claire Taylor as a blond Sally Bowles, although I could see how such a choice may have been an artistic attempt to steer people away from comparison, but it rather drew my attention to a Kit Kat Girl that is the spitting image of Liza … Lara Lipschitz. Another Kit Kat Klub member who clearly embodied his character in the awkward German way that one expects, is Sven-Eric Müller. He truly did impress too.
This Matthew Wild directed version of Cabaret is definitely darker than the version staged at Theatre on the Bay a few years ago. The Nazi symbolism and the use of children to drive the Nazi propaganda of Tomorrow Belongs To Me home is nothing if not chilling. I would however have liked that darkness to come out more prominently throughout the show, especially at the end when it hints to the gas chambers with Herr Schultz and one of the Kit Kat Girls donning the striped prisoner outfits so clearly identifiable with the death of one group so another could "arise, arise”. A missing link in the build-up of such darkness is perhaps that the relationship between Clifford Bradshaw (Daniel Buys) and his undercover Nazi friend/English student, Ernst Ludwig (Ludwig Binge), is not fully explored.
As is appropriate, sadness is the undercurrent of the political satire that is the Berlin story through the eyes of a cabaret performer, even if she herself refused to see it like so many others. It is definitely a show that every musical fan should see. It leaves your skin crawling at appropriate moments, while tugging on your heart strings at other times.
As the stage is raised, I would advise that you book to sit in the middle of the ground level, otherwise you may miss out on some of the details that crawl through numerous doors at unexpected stages of this dark walk through Berlin.
You have until 30 May ’15 to book via Computicket to experience the rise of Nazi power at the cost of real people who lost loved-ones, futures and lives in Berlin 1933 and thereafter, if you dare to let the Emcee lure you in with his seductive "Willkommen…"