In a dimly lit room with round tables and performers who double as waiting staff, a troupe of entertainers dressed in Charlie Chaplin-style garb break into song. It’s an upbeat number, welcoming the audience to ‘Cabaret at Tivoli’. Sad to say, though, it’s mostly downhill from this point.
“Outside it might be raining, inside it is … entertaining,” the cluster of bowler hats chide in unison while the crowd sip their drinks, nibble their peanuts and settle in for a three-hour variety show. It’s opening night and the seats are filled with Danish has-beens. These C list celebrities were huge names in their hey day and watching a show like Cabaret reminds them of the golden years. They clap and laugh and drink and heckle during the music, comedy, dance, karaoke medleys, drag acts, and magic. It’s an audience deserving of a line-up from 1983.
Most of the acts are in Danish, but Sunny Cagara, a magician/comedian who performs his quirky show in English, is a highlight among locals and foreigners alike. Cagara makes fun of his Asian heritage, proclaiming “I love you long time” and asking “Can you see me or am I too yellow?”, and the audience laps it up. Between jokes, he turns beer into cola, coughs up playing cards, and chooses a man who towers two feet above him for the audience participation bit. At the end of his spot, Cagara asks the audience politely if he can end the show in his mother tongue. A roar of laughter goes up when Cagara starts speaking Danish – and perfect Danish at that.
Danish comedy staple Amin Jensen also makes some racially-driven jokes, but they fall a bit flat. Norwegians, Eskimos and Mexicans all bear the brunt, but the real kick in the teeth comes with his Japanese impersonation, complete with squinty eyes. It’s as if the Tivoli lounge is stuck in a Danish 1990s stand-up time-warp. All the more likely, Jensen probably first delivered these jokes back then and hasn’t freshened up his routine. That didn’t stop a large contingent of the audience, most of whom were 40+, from laughing heartily. Though the non-Danish speakers miss out on Jensen’s subtler jokes, everyone can appreciate it when he plays his mouth organ with his nostrils (before putting it back to his mouth it should be noted).
Drag is also accessible in any language, though ironically, drag act Danny Stafford hails from the UK. These beauties strut their muscular legs on stage while lip-syncing to forgettable pop tunes. In fact, all the music throughout the night, except for Jens Christian Wandt’s opera performance, has a cheesy vibe thanks to the metallic synth sounds of an electronic keyboard. The ‘80s and ‘90s ‘karaoke-off’ between the male and the female chorus is the scrunchie on the ponytail.
On the subject of hair, queen of the Danish cabaret genre, Birthe Kjære, was also at the premiere. The Eurovision household name looked on while one of the MCs, Stine Bruun, came onto the stage dressed as her. Kjære told The Copenhagen Post the likeness was uncanny: “It was a really good wig. I think it’s because the hairdresser who did this show is the same one I had back in those days.” Which in itself is a pretty decent illustration of what’s wrong with this show.
‘Back in those days’ is the key phrase here. If you want to relive the 1980s when perms and fluorescent headbands ruled supreme, you’ll have a wicked night. But if your Danish is a little lacklustre and you prefer your entertainment rooted in the 21st century, maybe give this one the slip. Or go for the free bar.
Cabaraet at Tivoli
Falkoner Salen, Tivoli, Vesterbrogade 3, Cph V; ends Sep 22, performances Tue-Thu 20:00, Fri & Sat 20:30; Tickets: 315-415kr – includes free bar; duration: 3 hours; www.tivolicabaret.dk