On October 3 in the snug ambience of the Krudttønden theatre, the timeless Broadway musical ‘Cabaret’ came to life once again. Directed by the extraordinarily talented Christina Hildebrandt, this Copenhagen Theatre Circle production was an eclectic but ideal mix of risqué charm, bone-chilling sadness and riotous fun.
More than 50 years since the 1966 production of ‘Cabaret’ opened on Broadway, Kander and Ebb’s musical still remains disturbingly relevant, touching on prevalent themes of nationalism and ‘us and them’ sentiment.
Mixing dance, debauchery and desolation, this production successfully elicits a cocktail of emotions in the viewers, supplemented of course by the dedicated drinking of real alcohol by the actors on-stage and the audience off-stage.
Kat in knickerbockers at the Kit Kat
Set in the heart of a self-indulgent 1931 Berlin, the show is a politically-energised production that follows the lives of a few city people as the roots of Nazi Germany begin to germinate.
The protagonist, Cliff Bradshaw (played by Kat Nicholas), is a struggling American writer who comes to Berlin to glean some inspiration. In a seemingly chance encounter, Bradshaw strikes up a friendship with a Berliner called Ernst Ludwig (Tai Birkholm Segel) who leads him to a cheap room at a boarding house in the city.
Dressed in typical 1920 knickerbockers and a thick tweed coat, Cliff stumbles upon the Kit Kat Klub, a notorious cabaret club known for its pansexual gluttony and glittering performances.
The showstopper of the club is the indulgent Sally Bowles (Antonia Stahnke), a woman whose whimsical actions with Bradshaw land her in an unforeseen predicament. And although at first she seems too innocent to fully adopt Bowles’ erratic character, the audience soon witnesses a heart-breaking underlying self-awareness that Stahnke portrays exquisitely through her rendition of ‘Perfectly Marvelous’.
Pure, political, poignant
Sharing the stage of romance with Sally and Cliff are two other native Berliners: Cliff’s German landlady Fraulein Schneider (Bente Frederikson) and Herr Schultz (Frank Theakston) an elderly Jewish fruit seller.
They are the most relatable characters in ‘Cabaret’, comprising the heart of the show as well as the ideal to which Bowles and Bradshaw aspire.
This pure relationship fast becomes political when it dawns upon Fraulein that Herr is a Jew. Herr, still innocuous and naïve, refuses to believe that the anti-Jewish sentiment in Germany is real because “After all, what am I? A German!”
Enchanted by the Emcee
Both the love stories are intercut with intoxicatingly decadent scenes at the Kit Kat Klub. Sometimes the one too many subplots can leave the spectator’s head reeling. But the music played by the Kit Kat Band nestled in a corner of the stage is classic and infectious.
The best singing performance among the actors is hands down the Emcee, played by the brilliant Kristian Husted. As the unofficial narrator of ‘Cabaret’, he acts as a bridge between the audience and actors punctuating the musical with his characteristic moral abandon and lewd but insightful commentary.
Husted’s eyes twinkle with madness as he watches the drama unfold with feigned remorse and malicious glee. With his sexuality being very pronounced and even more fluid, the spectators witness him in the most “terrible and tacky” costumes, including a bright red onesie. He plays his character so perfectly that one is left wondering if he’s actually bonkers in real life.
A raucous rollercoaster
Although the production sometimes feels a little too long and stretched out, the fantastic acting and musical performances make the show worth it.
With its overdose of drama and fair share of complexity, it’s a real rollercoaster of feelings with laughs that make your stomach hurt and fears that give you goosebumps.