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12 - 15th May 2004


John Kander, Fred Ebb, Joe Masteroff


Simon Cheetham



When the chairman, Geoffrey Start Esq, asked me if I would write the critique for Cabaret I wondered whether Parish Players, this time, would be overstretching their talents. The film version, with Lisa Minelli, may still be in the back of peoples’ minds and a lot of singing and dancing was involved. From pantomime to Broadway and Hollywood legend, could PPs pull it off? Frankly, I was totally and utterly disappointed with the show – why? Because it was flawless, and adding insult to injury I had to sit through a master class in musicals production.

We were transported from Church Path into a typical 1930’s night club in Berlin called the “Kit Kat Club”- suitably lit, with tables set for the hoy polloy of a decadent German society, still licking its wounds from The Great War. Out of this was to rise the worst dictatorship and war of all time and this is where the story begins.

Onto the stage greased the Master of Ceremonies who introduced us to the Kit Kat girls and the evening began. Hugh’s ability to change his character as the script required was exceptional. From sleazy Master of Ceremonies, to the sympathetic way he sang “If you could see her through my eyes”, to his dismay at the end in his concentration camp outfit were all clearly different persona and delivered with great skill. Hugh’s ability, just like a chameleon, was to be able to deliver many different characteristics and talents through the show. Hugh made this part his own and not a parody of Joel Grey in the film.

Our first sight of Clifford sees him snoozing in the railway carriage. Kevin Redfern was excellent in this role and his interplay with Sally Bowles showed his tenderness and care followed by his frustration at her lack of understanding of the situation in Berlin and selfishness in her desire to return to the Kit Kat club. Kevin’s singing was wonderful – what a marvellous new talent for Parish Players.

Ernst Ludwig was ably played by Phil Matcham as a loyal Nazi party member, convinced that his political view was right and that Cliff would be happy to smuggle for the party. There was an audible gasp from the audience when he took his coat off showing the swastika armband.

Kath Start’s portrayal of Fraulein Schneider, the shabby, gentile landlady was excellent, although we still managed to get her into a housecoat & slippers!. Her portrayals of affronted landlady to Fraulein Kost and coy lover to Herr Schulz were shown very clearly through her facial expressions and other mannerisms. Her opening song was delivered with feeling.

Fraulein Kost’s dalliences with what appeared to be the whole of the German high seas fleet was very well done. What energy this woman had. Another newcomer to PPs, Andrea more than ably acquitted herself in her debut role.

Herr Schulz’s arrival established the Jewish interest and David Golder played this quite difficult part with empathy, clearly showing his love for Fraulein Schneider, particularly his frequent gifts of “fruit” (does he get nectar points!?), and his conviction that he would be safe because he was a German. His duets with Fraulein Schneider were particularly endearing.

Sally Bowles – here we have at long last a role that fitted Jane Maisey like a kid glove; she has been able to show her range in her singing and her acting ability. Her solos were stunning and her duets, with both Hugh and Kevin, outstanding. Her portrayal of the predominantly selfish Sally Bowles hit the button. I thought she was stupendous and would actually pay money to go and listen to her sing in cabaret.

The Kit Kat girls - how wonderfully debauched they looked and just completely bored with a routine they had to do night in night out. Wonderful costumes suitably filled by lovely ladies who danced in perfect time.

The ensemble of waiters, singers, sailors, Berliners etc very ably complemented the main cast in every area. The hustle and bustle of the waiting at table during scene changes meant that the audience had something to watch other than what was going on on stage. Excellent cameo roles played by the night club customers, the two ladies, the gorilla and the customs man which all added to the authenticity of the Berlin scene.

The arrival of the Hitler Youth at the engagement party sent a shiver through the audience and they sang with a rare Aryan conviction.

The staging of the night club was well conceived and brilliantly produced – especially with the band playing in front of an art deco motif and the two arches gave perspective & depth. The interior of the railway carriage looked authentic - but perhaps a train hooter or a little dry ice for steam may have added a touch. The interpretation and decoration of Fraulien Schneider’s house fitted well with her feeling that the rooms were excellent, when in fact they were in need of a little care and attention.

The lighting gave exactly the right differentiation between the club and the domestic/railway scenes. Finally we had a follow spot which was entirely appropriate for this play.

Costumes – what can I say. Anita and her team have surpassed themselves. All the costumes were in keeping with the era – from the double breasted suits to nazi uniform to the silk lingerie and the floral frocks, with the Kit Kat girls’ costumes being duly risqué - their hair and make up making them look suitably squalid.

Props – well done in finding an old typewriter, I didn’t know you could still get typewriters let alone an ancient one! Suitcases, schnapps bottles, tin tooth mugs etc all in keeping with the 1930s period.

Choreography – what a joy to see dancers keeping in time and in step with each other – were Hitler’s training tactics used to knock them into shape? Annie Denton did a magnificent job and the hard work and commitment certainly paid off – well done.

Gemma Hitchin and her merry band of players were just utterly outstanding. It was good not to have the band in front of the stage but behind the performers, thus enabling the audience to hear the songs and, although this can cause problems for the musicians, Gemma and her band overcame any such difficulties and the music was wonderful.

All I can say about Simon Cheetham is yet another directorial scalp hangs from his already illuminated belt - so “don’t give up your day job” because you are just going to wreck it for every other aspiring director.

Robert Lawrence

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