ELOPE Musical Theatre
Runs until May 11
ATB Financial Arts Barns
10330 – 84 Ave.
Tickets: $25 to $30. Call 780-420-1757 or online at www.tixonthesquare.ca
Welcome to the Kit Kat Klub, Berlin’s raciest nightclub where scantily clad boys and girls cavort on stage. It’s a place of dark secrets where alcohol intoxicates the senses and anybody can be purchased for the right price.
It is the setting for the notorious Cabaret, a stunning Broadway musical that tackled the 1929 rise of Nazi politics. It was an unforgettable era that created tensions, fears and distrust among neighbours, friends and lovers.
Elope Musical Theatre’s production, under the direction of Trish Van Doornun, seamlessly strips away the raunchy action and campy glamour of pre-war Berlin to remind us not to be complacent. It can all happen again and the price is too heavy to pay.
The musical rests on the shoulders of a romance between a young American writer, Cliff Bradshaw, and Sally Bowles, an English cabaret singer.
On the first night of his stay in Berlin, he wanders into the Kit Kat Klub where his bisexuality reveals itself. But when Cliff sees the vampy Sally charming the crowd, singing Don’t Tell Mama, he immediately asks for a date.
A secondary romance takes place between Fraulein Schneider, owner of a boarding house where Cliff rents a room, and the German Jewish fruit seller Herr Schulz. Their romance is by far the more interesting as it showcases wonderful, tender moments of humanity that unfortunately are torn apart by the Nazi regime.
Bridging these diverse individuals is The Emcee (Adam Kuss), a creepy, clown-faced individual who is fun and playful one minute while looking sinister and disturbing the next.
Kuss, also the show choreographer, stepped into role at the last minute. He steals the show and gives a superb performance as a Nazi Pied Piper who entices everyone to dance down a path of horrors until he too is trapped in a prison of his own making.
Two performances that deserve a big shout-out are St. Albert's Lucy Haines as the middle-aged Frau Schneider and Dustin Berube as Herr Schultz.
The Frau is a philosophical, practical woman who lost a love and never married. However, she’s survived under many gruelling conditions and is proud of it.
Despite the numerous difficulties encountered in life, the Frau has remained warm-hearted and generous toward those in similar circumstances. Unafraid to speak her mind, she nevertheless is quite shy with Herr Schulz, a gentle fruit seller who daily gifts her with his finest fruits.
Their initial timid flirtations slowly bloom into a deep affection, but at their engagement party, a Nazi guest warns Frau Schneider away from Jewish Herr Schultz.
During her first song, So What, Haines delivers a powerful anthem that made me want to know more about the character. But her last breakup song, What Would You Do?, is an indelible moment of stirring wistfulness. A survivor, Frau Schneider is filled with sadness yet does not regret leaving her lover due to the political climate.
Haines' voice cracked a couple of times attempting to reach high notes, but the emotion she injected into the songs and dialogue more than made up for it. And Berube played his role with the quiet dignity of a man who goes from hope and joy to despair and resignation.
Melenie Reid as Sally Bowles is the beautiful but alcohol-drenched star of the Kit Kat Klub. Reid has an elastic vocal range that runs the gamut from a belt to a whisper and through each song Sally reveals something of her dream girl fantasies and insecurities.
Contrasting the seductive Sally is the straight-up all-American Scott Boomer as Cliff, her lover and a role that is somewhat underplayed.
Cabaret is an unsettling production that reminds us not to become sidetracked by song and dance. What happens backstage behind the curtain is the real show.
It runs at the Westbury Theatre until May. 11.