For those who have seen Liza Minelli in the film version of Cabaret, who can ever forget the opening lines of the famous song … ‘Wilkommen, Bienvenue and Welcome’? And indeed, from the opening sequence of this vibrant and polished musical performance at the Theatre on the Bay, ‘Life is a Cabaret Old Chum’! Cabaret has been wowing audiences at Monte Casino, and in 2011 won the Durban Mercury Theatre Award for Best Musical. This production a collaboration between Steven Stead’s KickstArt and Pieter Toerien.
It is Berlin 1931 and set against the backdrop of the storm-clouds gathering in Europe and the machinations of the newly formed Nazi party, the story is played out in the seedy, decadent Kit Kat nightclub where anything goes. Faded lead singer Sally Bowles (Samantha Peo) meets struggling American writer Cliff Bradshaw (Brian Hiles) and soon they are an item.
The German landlady, Fraulein Schnieder (Charon Williams-Ros) has her own love story on the side, and then there is the manipulative, persuasive ‘smuggler’ with a dark secret. Cabaret sets the scene for flawless, strong lead performances by both Emcee (young German musical star Sasha Halbhuber) and Sally Bowles (Samantha Peo), with Fraulein Kost (Kate Normington), Herr Schulz (Peter Court) and Ernst Ludwig (Lyle Buxton) in supporting roles.
Clever stage changes with the Kit Kat Club’s Girls and Boys form an integral part of the performance as they act and dance their way throughout. The orchestra is on stage and positively belts out the Kander and Ebb numbers with great gusto, led by Stefan Lombard on piano with punchy performances from all 8 band members.
Review by Liz Westby-Nunn
Images courtesy of Theatre on the Bay
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