february 2019 | Volume 176
Production photo: David Cooper.
Book by Joe Masteroff
Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb
Based on the play by John Van Druten and stories by Christopher Isherwood
Studio 58/Langara College
Jan. 31 –Feb. 24
www.studio58.ca or 604-684-2787
Josh Epstein, one of the stars of Vancouver’s musical theatre scene, makes his directing debut with Studio 58’s Cabaret. It’s a great piece—powerful and political with marvelous music and songs, and a mise en scène rich with possibility.
But its familiarity and challenges present significant obstacles for a student cast: the decadence of Weimar Germany, the ascendancy of Nazism and its attendant anti-Semitism, the necessity for a star talent to play the Emcee and a great voice for the Sally Bowles character.
Epstein’s production rises to many of its challenges. This is a worthy Cabaret with a few transcendent elements.
One area where Epstein really shows his chops is the Kit Kat Klub. He opens the show with a couple of wonderful silent film-style add-ons: a racy burlesque nurse routine followed by a tightly choreographed boxing match, both slickly performed and funny.
The denizens of the club—boys in drag and make-up, girls in sexy underwear and push-up bras—are highly physical and fully committed to the playfully overt sexuality they’re asked to perform. These chorus scenes are imaginatively staged, with excellent costumes by Amy McDougall and terrific choreography by Shelley Stewart Hunt.
It helps that the student actors all dance well, or at least move like dancers. Christopher King’s six-piece horn-heavy band provides tight musical accompaniment.
The star of the show without a doubt is Paige Fraser, the first female Emcee of all the Cabaret’s I’ve seen. She’s not a great singer but she perfectly captures the attractive/slimy decadence of the character, she has a lithe physicality and the acting chops to make some of the best songs work beautifully: “Two Ladies” and “Money” with the full chorus, “If You Could See Her” and “I Don’t Care Much” solo.
Her coda that punctuates the end of the show is absolutely chilling, more so than the chorus’ Nazi anthem, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” which should make your flesh crawl but doesn’t quite here.
As Sally, Erin Palm is hit and miss. She does her best work with the bluesy ballad, “Maybe This Time.” Nolan McConnell-Fidyk gives a nicely balanced performance as nasty Nazi Ernst. Dylan Floyde needs to tone down his adrenaline-powered American, Cliff.
I’ve never found the play’s Fraulein Schneider/Herr Schultz scenes musically exciting but Julia Muncs and Moe Golkar give both characters a compelling sincerity.
Come to this Cabaret. Remember these are kids, but the kids are alright.
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