Studio 58
Cabaret book by Joe Masteroff , music by John Kander, Lyrics by Fred Ebb, based on the play by John Van Druten

Dates and Venue January 31 - February 24, 2019, 8pm (matinees at 3pm on Feb. 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24) | Langara College, 100 West 49th Ave., Vancouver

Director Josh Epstein Musical Director Christopher King Choreography Shelley Stewart Hunt Set Design Drew Facey Costume Design Amy McDougall Lighting Design Itai Erdal

Reviewer John Jane

Willkommen to the Kit Kat Kabarett Klub! The Kit Kat Klub provides the dynamic venue, through the antics of its ‘Emcee’ that so graphically illustrate the prevalent downward spiraling moral decay, and depraved sexuality. Director Josh Epstein has (perhaps wisely) targeted the audience's emotional involvement rather than reflective detachment. Even before the show begins, Kit Kat dancers in character engage with the audience. The staging also provides for tables and chairs used by performers as the action spills over from the stage into the audience.

To arrive at this point, Cabaret has undergone numerous adaptations, including Bob Fosse’s unforgettable 1972 film. This dark and somewhat grotesque film version naturally relies more on Christopher Isherwood’s original story than does this stage musical. Isherwood, who recorded his personal observations of the rise of the Nationalsozialistische Parti (Nazi) in the mid nineteen-thirties and eventually compiled them into a volume of short essays, entitled “Berlin Stories.”

With a bunch of memorable songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb, this production manages to encapsulate that stormy period in pre-war Berlin into a musical event with guts and a powerful storyline. The setting switches almost seamlessly between the subverted confines of the Kit Kat Klub and Fräulein Schneider’s rooming house. Alas, the latter setting retains Drew Facey’s (deliberately) gaudy night club set design.

Fräulein Schneider’s house provides a chilling juxtaposition to the facetious fun at the Kit Kat Klub, where her relationship with Herr Schultz (convincingly played by Moe Golkar), a kind Jewish merchant, forces the narrative towards the darker overtones of the foreshadowing menace of Nazi tyranny. As one of show’s main characters states late in the second act “In Berlin, the party will soon be over.”

The play also offers a whimsical romantic element. Deluded burlesque entertainer, Sally Bowles (Erin Palm) who headlines at the infamous club meets Cliff Bradshaw (Dylan Floyde), an American struggling writer and moves into his digs at Fräulein Schneider’s place.

Erin Palm, who, though not a Liza Minnelli, nevertheless manages to inject her own persona in the role and does an amazing job with two of the show stopping songs, "Cabaret" and “Maybe This Time.” Floyde works hard to make his rather ordinary character interesting and even has a pleasant enough voice.

But the show really belongs to Paige Fraser who is spectacular as the delightfully androgynous Emcee. Typically, this role is played by a man, but Fraser makes the role her own. She makes no attempt to hold back the decadence, but rather embraces it and happy to be invited to the party. In the risque number “Two Ladies” which goes beyond a mere suggestion of menage a trios, Ms.Fraser is camp with a capital ‘K.’

Among the supporting actors, Julia Muncs punches well above her weight as forlorn survivor Fraülein Schneider (actually, according to convention she should be addressed as Fraü). Her poignant rendition of one of show’s few melancholy songs “What would you do?” is heartbreaking. The Kit Kat Klub dancers go above and beyond the call – sexy, but stopping short of vulgar.

For anyone reading this review, and planning to see the show, I would prefer not to reduce the impact of the final scene. I’m sure the audience left the theatre at the end of the evening both entertained and provoked.

© 2019 John Jane