Theatre Review: Cabaret opening night an audio disaster but slapstick splendour (performances until May 20th)

The show must go on, and that is exactly what happened after director Gale Edwards stopped the show right before Sally Bowles‘ iconic number, “Cabaret”. Of all night’s for there to be serious mic/audio issues of course it had to be opening night, right?! That’s the beauty of live theatre. In what was a marvellous show of team support, Emcee Paul Capsis offered his mic to leading lady Chelsea Gibb when an almighty “Stop!” was heard from the stalls, at which point Gibb ran off stage. In a flutter, Capsis maintained our engagement in a way only a true professional can.

Thi, in fact, is mostly what I took away from the show; the cast of 12 seasoned professionals banded together in what would have been a basket case of frustration and heightened emotion on and off stage. The show really was going so well, but the audio crackling disruptions were extremely distracting. Gibb was an absolute wonder though as she was reintroduced onto the stage. In what almost was a second “cut” from Edwards, Gibb pushed through and elevated the Athenaeum Theatre audience to their feet in a roaring standing ovation. Gibb is a star but she didn’t let this discrepancy ruin her character; in fact, many new comedic layers were found in the text of the song. Very well played by Ms Gibb.

I saw this musical on Broadway a few years ago with Alan Cumming as the Emcee and to be honest, I had very high expectations of what our Aussie cast and creatives were going to bring. I can proudly say that this Australian production was pure entertainment and a celebration of slapstick comedy, a directional choice confidently made by Edwards. Given the subject matter is rather dark and confronting, there was an element of missed opportunity to really pull back even more than they did. While the end of act one was chilling and heartbreaking, it was overshadowed by the overall farcical nature of the show.

It goes without saying but Paul Capsis as the Emcee is impeccable and I’m ashamed to say I’ve never seen him in any other work before. Rest assured, from now on I will be glued to his projects. Capsis is in a league of his own with his confidence to be utterly charming and grotesque all the more entrancing. Alan Cumming would be nothing short of proud to see him in this role, and if the only reason you see Cabaret is for Capsis, then that’s the only reason you need.

Choreographer Kelley Abbey has once again shown us why she is a force to be reckoned with in this industry. Her choreographic prowess shone through every number and given the execution of the movement was incredibly accurate from the performers, it shows she has context and intention behind it all. A stand out choreographic moment though was the tango in the ‘Telephone Dance’; a number performed in a kiss lock hold – brilliant! It was unlike anything I’ve seen before in musical theatre; a daring moment in a risque show.

As the show flowed from show-stopping number to show-stopping number including “Willkommen,” “Don’t Tell Mama,” “The Money Song” and of course “Cabaret”, I was left feeling somewhat empty at the end. It wasn’t until later in the foyer, while chatting to friends and eating donuts (yes, they had catered with donuts and pretzels) did I realise that “Mein Herr” and “Maybe This Time” were nowhere to be seen or heard. What an outrage! How? Why? They are two pieces to the puzzle that you simply cannot be without. Given, I didn’t realise until after the show meant it was well disguised, it’s just not the point. These are pivotal moments in the show and they were brushed under the rug. Quite disappointing actually.

In what was a performance of heightened tension, the highs did outweigh the lows. This is a strong cast who commit to the very end and band together through thick or thin. What’s not to love about dressing up in costume and spending a night out the the theatre? Get involved. Stop sitting alone in your room, go and hear the music play old chum!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrPJpOa_PXk

Cabaret is playing at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre until Saturday May 20th. For tickets and more info, head here.

The reviewer attended the show on Monday, May 1st.

Photos: Cabaret

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