Wholehearted Spirit of an Era
The Shaw Festival’s presentation of Cabaret embodies the excesses and illusions of a group of pre-World War II Berliners. Despite Nazism on the horizon, the Kit Kat Club supports an alcohol-drenched, free-spirited patronage. From the viewpoint of a young American caught up in the collective denial of times, we see the onslaught of Hitler from all standpoints — the young and the old, the idealistic and the pragmatic, the Jew and the Gentile.
On the whole, most of the main characters hold their own with strong individual performances. Gray Powell as Cliff, the drifting American writer, brought strength and subtlety to a performance full of excess. As the earnest everyman, he gained and held the audience’s sympathy throughout the play. The view of the crazy Berlin world, after all, was his, and as his disillusionment grew, so did the audience’s.
As the foil to Cliff’s everyman, Sally Bowles (played by Deborah Hay) was the over-the-top star of Cabaret . The overly dramatic elements of her character were perfectly appropriate, and she maintained the emotional believability and sincerity of her character. “Don’t Tell Mama” highlighted both her voice and self-assurance.
Corrine Koslo assumes the role of Fraulein Schneider and transforms the character from a crotchety old lady to a spunky, independent spinster forced into making painful decisions. In “So What,” “It Couldn’t Please Me More,” and “What Would You Do,” she elicited laughter and heartache from the audience.
As the sardonic emcee, Juan Chioran looks in complete control. Most impressive is his ability to smoothly pull off the allegorical aspect of the story without making it too obvious or heavy-handed.
Overall Cabaret is a play that shines with wholehearted spirit and a distinctive stage setup. It’s soft, smooth and impressionable.
Review by Jonathan O’Neil