Continuing in the long line of inventive small scale reworkings of classic musicals at the Hayes Theatre, David Hawkins’s new production of the Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret is nothing short of brilliant. For those who only know the show from the Liza Minnelli film, this production will be quite a revelation … and all the better for that.
This production subtly refocuses the spotlight on the journey of the Cliff Bradshaw character, rather than Sally Bowles, revealing a whole new set of possibilities, of which director, Nicholas Christo and choreographer, Kelley Abbey, take full advantage. It also returns the show closer to the original Christopher Isherwood stories which inspired it.
An explosive combination of impeccable casting, imaginative staging, red hot choreography and a sizzling band, has produced a fire-cracker production which had the audience at this performance screaming for more.
Heading the all-star ensemble cast, Paul Capsis, as The Emcee, is completely mesmerising, offering one of his most unforgettable creations. Preposterous makeup, oozing decadence from every pore, and all the charm of a snake, he completely owns the stage, defying the audience to tear its eyes away from him as he struts and flirts outrageously.
With her flaming red hair, creamy white skin and long show-girl legs, Chelsea Gibb not only looks stunning, but is remarkably affecting, as the lovable, silly, doomed cabaret singer, Sally Bowles. The realisation of what she has lost, and the inevitable fate that awaits her, is strikingly portrayed in her sensational interpretation of the title song, which provides a brilliant high-point in the show.
The first person, and the last, you see in the show, is Cliff Bradshaw, arriving and departing Berlin. Bradshaw is charmingly portrayed with an air of bemused detachment, and a fine singing voice, by handsome Jason Kos. At first, curious but uncommitted, he willingly submits to the temptations proffered, but finally flees the city, without Sally, when he can no longer cope with the results of his profligacy.
Cliff and Sally join The Emcee in the Kit Kat Klub for clever new staging of Two Ladies, The Money Song and Sitting Pretty, moving more of the focus on to them without detracting from the Emcee.
Stylish performances from Debora Krizak as Fraulein Kost, Marcus Graham as the manipulative Ernst Ludwig, Kate Fitzpatrick, heartbreakingly defiant as Fraulein Schneider, wringing every ounce of pathos and almost stopping the show with her performance of What Would You Do?, and John O’May, touchingly bewildered as Herr Schultz, add considerable gloss and star power to an already classy production.
The rest of the cast is made up of triple threats, Michelle Barr, Michelle Smitheram, Nick Jones and newcomer, Matthew Manahan, who makes an eye-catching entrance playing a young German, Rudy. Everybody doubles in small roles, giving the impression that the cast is much larger than it actually is, an impression enhanced by the full-throated vocals, lightning fast costume changes, and dazzling dancing.
Lindsay Partridge leads the terrific band tucked in behind James Browne’s witty costumes, and atmospheric setting which includes members of the audience seated at tables, and which transforms seamlessly from decadent cabaret room to run-down boarding house at the blink of an eye. Members of the cast efficiently take care of necessary props as they enter and leave the stage. No hiding mischievous Andrew Worboys however, popping onstage with his accordion, just to prove that even the orchestra is beautiful.
This production is destined to become the hot ticket wherever it’s playing. Don’t miss out; get yourself a ticket while there are still some available.
Hayes Theatre Co. 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point
Performance: Thursday 19 January 2017
Season continues to 5 March 2017
Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins Street, Melbourne
Season: 1 – 20 May 2017 (previews: 27 – 30 April)
For more information, visit: www.cometothecabaret.com.au for details.
Image: Cast of Cabaret with Paul Capsis (centre) as The Emcee (supplied)
Review: Bill Stephens OAM