Thursday, 17 March 2011

In Review: Cabaret

The cast of Cabaret, this year's joint musical show from students of Lancaster Royal Grammar School and Lancaster Girls' Grammar School. Photo: John Charles Taylor (
Liza Minelli and Michael York are a very, very hard act to follow. But the actors in the Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School and Lancaster Royal Grammar School production of Cabaret, directed by Timothy Hall, do not disappoint. And while there is all the glitz of the seedy, anything-goes Berlin Kit Kat Klub, complete with glamorous Kit Kat dancers, live music from the joint school orchestra (with musical director David Prescott), and those wonderful songs, the insidious Nazism of late 1920s Berlin is not subordinated, and the tone of the production is overall a dark one.

When young American writer Clifford Bradshaw (the very well-cast Ben Ashbridge) arrives in Berlin, a place to live is found for him, he is pointed in the direction of the Kit Kat Klub, and the next day Sally Bowles (Eleanor Boyle) has moved herself and her suitcases into his room. This sets the scene for the political events which, similarly, spiral out of control. While the early part of the production felt just a little wooden (this was the first night), soon it began to give and flow, and we sit back and enjoy Sally and Clifford’s ‘Perfectly marvellous’.

Of course, this happiness is not to last. The older Herr Schultz (Jamie Ranson) and Fraulein Schneider (Divolka Ganesh), Clifford’s landlady, enjoy their engagement party, and these are touching and sensitive performances. But Fraulein Schneider breaks it off the next day, realising that her fiancĂ©’s Jewishness, which yesterday had been irrelevant, was to be so no longer. The choreography of the engagement party is very good here, with Ernst Ludwig (Ruaidhri Johnston), whose swastika has only just become apparent – and shockingly so, both to Clifford and the theatre audience - circling menacingly and uncomfortably round the rest of the guests.

Young Sam Porteous’ beautiful solo rendition of ‘Tomorrow belongs to me’ is taken up by other characters, and the end of Act 1, with its dominance of Nazi salutes, is chilling. Sleepwalking is used as a metaphor, hedonism preventing so many from seeing what is really going on, and the production concludes with the Kit Kat MC taking off his Kit Kat costume to reveal his pyjamas.

The choreography overall is in fact excellent, in particular at the Kit Kat Klub, where flirting and more are the order of the day, and where there are a lot of people on stage a lot of the time. And so is the use of the stage. With the need to alternate frequently between the Kit Kat Klub and Clifford’s room, the front of the stage comes into play a lot. But rather than being clunky and full of irrelevant diversions, this device is used adroitly and well: people move (in greater and lesser states of sobriety) to and from the Kit Kat Klub, in ones and twos, with witty snippets of talk, and an increasing use of swastika armbands.

This very competent production is also graced with some fine performances. Jason Whittle, as the seedy and ambiguous MC, is a natural, and the famous ‘Two ladies’, sung by Jason Whittle, Sophie Allen and Daisy Whalley, is one of the highlights of the production. Olivia Clark’s Fraulein Kost, a tenant in the house who pays her rent with the assistance of a series of sailors, has attitude and conviction. Ben Ashbridge both looks and sounds like the idealistic young writer who is left sadder and wiser by his brief love affair with Sally and with Berlin. And Eleanor Boyle’s rendition of ‘Cabaret’ at the end is well worth the wait.

Jane Sunderland

Still to run: Friday March 18th, Saturday March 19th (7.00 p.m.)
Tickets: £9.00/£6.00
Venue: Lancaster Grand Theatre, St, Leonardgate, Lancaster LA1 1NL
Box office: 01524 64695

No comments: