DIRECTOR: Steven Stead
MUSICAL DIRECTION: Evan Roberts and Justin Southey
SET DESIGN: Greg King
COSTUME DESIGN: Neil Stuart Harris
CAST: Sascha Halhuber, Bryan Hiles, Samantha Peo, Charon Williams-Ross, Lyle Buxton, Kate Normington, Duane Alexander and the Kit Kat girls
MD AND PIANO: Stefan Lombard and the band
VENUE: Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino
DATES: Until August 5
It’s almost as if we’ve all been invited into the Kit Kat Club where Emcee (Halhuber) introduces us to his hot line-up with the sassy Sally Bowles (Peo) as the star of this pre-war cabaret.
With writer Clifford Bradshaw (Hiles) unwittingly compromised by the charming Ernst Ludwig (Buxton), he is drawn into this make-believe world where guests are enticed to leave their troubles outside and come to the place where “life is beautiful, the girls are beautiful and even the orchestra is beautiful”.
Who does not react to those familiar words that start off this tale of darkness about the rise of the Third Reich, with most of the characters aware that something is happening, but not yet ready to embrace their fate? They prefer this world of make-believe.
It’s a powerful piece and as with any iconic show, this one perhaps more than others, the songs are part of our musical consciousness. Part of experiencing the show is the interpretation, with especially Halhuber and Peo tasked with breathing new life into their characters.
Halhuber looks the part and from the opening song (as well, of course, the advance notice from the Durban run), one knows he will pull it off. His every move, accent and costume is there to establish the persona, but perhaps on opening night, it was too much performance with not enough substance. But that will come.
Especially on opening night, it’s often all systems go with a role that is so well established, while some of the flesh and blood is left behind in the attempt to pull it off too perfectly.
Sally Bowles (a role that was appropriated by Liza Minelli in the classic film) is a tough one to tackle. How do you make it your own? If one had to pull a name out of a hat, it would be Peo – and she does.
The biggest test is the title song, which she owns with a gut-wrenching performance. She has a magnificent voice, but it is the interpretation of the song Cabaret that clinches the deal.
There’s bravado as Bowles decides to ignore the signs and grab hold of any piece of life that comes her way.
Peo performs with an underlying pathos that unleashes all the darkness Bowles is not ready to face.
Other star turns include the solo performance (What Would You Do?) by Williams-Ross, Normington’s feisty Fräulein Kost and the ensemble numbers.
The set and the costumes enhance the period, with a quality performance by the band led by Stefan Lombard.
One could have expected a much darker interpretation, but this isn’t it.
More than anything it is the performances that turn this into something extraordinary.