Come to the Cabaret and leave all your troubles behind, shouts the flamboyant Master of Ceremonies as the show begins. The classic Broadway production, Cabaret, is brought to life by the CATS Mainstage Theatre Company, a group comprised of “pre-professional” youth talent from around Toronto and the GTA.
A really interesting story, Cabaret follows an American named Cliff Bradshaw, a struggling writer who relocates to Berlin in the hopes of writing the next great novel. While in Berlin, he meets Sally Bowles, a cabaret dancer at the Kit Kat Klub, who turns his life upside down, taking him to party after party, delaying his completion of the novel that he is already having difficulty writing.
The catch? All the lavish craziness of Cabaret and all the relationships formed are set against the backdrop of the early 1930s when the Nazi Party was rising to power and gaining popularity. For a historian like me, seeing this show was a no-brainer, although I think overall it has a lot more potential for greatness than this specific production was able to offer.
Two actors that really stood out to me for their impressive performances were Hytham Farah (Cliff Bradshaw) and Sophie Dushko (Sally Bowles). Having never seen Cabaret before, I was honestly shocked (although it being a musical, I probably shouldn’t have been!), when Farah opened his mouth and started to sing with such an incredible voice. He did a wonderful job of playing an ex-pat living in Berlin who became more and more disgusted with the anti-Semitic practices of the Nazi Party as it starts to hit close to home.
Dushko played the perfect part of a wishy-washy flapper and party girl, who flits from man to man until Cliff comes along. She did a spectacular job of performing her solos that were backed up by the Kit Kat Klub chorus and one of my favourite songs she sang was Don’t Tell Mama. As a gin-loving young woman, one of my favourite moments was when she and Cliff slurped down a raw egg and Worcestershire sauce drink called an Oyster Pearl, Sally’s cure for a hangover!
Although I found a lot of the group numbers to be a little lacklustre, one of the best parts about Cabaret is how the always-expressive Master of Ceremonies, often accompanied by the Kit Kat chorus, sets up most of the scenes and provides an interesting backdrop against the storylines in the musical. The songs that are sung by the Emcee and chorus serve as an indication of the growing discontent and changes that are occurring in Germany during this period.
Other than the musical numbers and the excellent comedic timing, probably my favourite thing about Cabaret is all the perfectly imperfect endings. Problems in real life are rarely tied up neatly with a pristine little bow and Cabaret did an excellent job of portraying this fact. And even though I walked away with one of the catchier songs stuck in my head, I was left with a bit of a sad feeling when the play was over. Because despite all the lively songs and fun costumes, you knew that when the play ended, life in Nazi Germany began with all of its imperfect flaws.
– Cabaret is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille at (16 Ryerson Ave) until June 10
– The show runs from June 7 to June 10 with shows at 7:30pm and Sat/Sun matinees at 1:30pm
– Ticket prices are $30 and $15 for students
– Tickets are available at 416-504-7529 and online