BWW REVIEWS: CABARET at the Lower Ossington Theatre is Subtle, Sexy, and Shocking
Although staged productions of the Kander and Ebb musical CABARET are plentiful, the production put on by the Lower Ossington Theatre is not one to miss. If you have seen the movie or the show in the past, you will still enjoy the show as every rendition of CABARET is different, and the LOT's production is creative, innovative, and packed with impeccable talents.
Over the years CABARET has gone from book, to the Broadway stage, to the big screen, to the West End, and is now gearing up for a return to the Broadway stage with a new revival starring Michele Williams. The story of cabaret dancer Sally Bowles and writer Cliff Bradshaw is a story for the ages, and one that is considered a classic tale by many
The LOT's production of CABARET directed by Jeremy Hutton started off slow as its actors slowly but surely got into their roles. Set in Berlin under the Weimar Republic as the Nazi party gains power, CABARET takes place predominantly at the shadyKit Kat Klub. The cast performs with excellent German accents, with the exception of Sally and Cliff who respectively boast decent English and American accents.
The show started off strong with a killer performance of ""Willkommen" performed by the shows arguably most challenging character to play, the Emcee. While other actors may have taken a little more time getting into character, Adam Norrad steals the stage as the Emcee within the his first minutes of performing. The Emcee tends to be a balance between eerie and sexy, and can easily be done wrong. However, Norrad owns the role and makes it his own. With a spot on German accent, the perfect amount of sex appeal, and that key smidgen of creepiness, Norrad is CABARET's star talent as the shows narrator, the Emcee. This is admirable considering the role has been played expertly in the past by the likes of Alan Cumming (MACBETH), Neil Patrick Harris (HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, COMPANY, ASSASSINS), and Adam Pascal (RENT).
CABARET is as strong as it's leading lovers, Sally Bowles and Cliff Bradshaw. Kylie McMahon, a frequent at the LOT, takes the stage as the animated, carefree and tortured cabaret singer Sally Bowles. A British accent is hard to master, especially while singing, but McMahon quickly gets over the accent slump. Slipping out of accent seems forgivable when you can sing with the emotion and passion that McMahon does. It's even more difficult to criticize when the bombshell is wowing in a perfect glittery number belting out "Don't Tell Mama." Any reservations about McMahon as Sally is put to rest as she wows in every number, channeling a different emotion and sound for each. No doubt about it, McMahon is the epitome of a blonde bombshell as Sally. She displays Sally's can-do attitude, all the while making evident the dancer's clear vulnerability and helplessness.
McMahon's chemistry with her leading partner David Light as Cliff Bradshaw is undeniable as the two effortlessly banter and fall in love as the show goes on. Although Light and McMahon shine in their roles and will make you tear when their relationship reaches a tipping point, their love affair is only slightly outshined by that between Fraulein Shneider and Herr Schultz. Played by respectively Adeen Ashton Fogle and Don Berns, the older lovebirds are endearing and sweet, and their chemistry on stage is enough to give you goosbumps. Clearly, the only thing better than young love? Old love.
Of course it's always the smaller roles that make you laugh the hardest, and Jacqueline Martin doesn't disappoint as Frau Kost. Equipped with messy hair, a house robe and a multitude of sailors, Martin delivers her lines as the sex crazed houseguest with perfect comedy, and possibly the best German accent alongside the Emcee.
Although the Emcee's narration as Sally and her friends dance at the Kit Kat Klub provides many laughs, the show does drama just as well as it does comedy. The first sign of a swastika will give you a lump in your throat, as will all the events that transpire after the first unveiling of the rise of the Nazi's. With a shocking ending that will leave you choked up at the least, CABARET will make you laugh, and then tear your heart out and attempt to put it back. Norad's tone as the Emcee skillfully changes as the show goes on; he brilliantly sings lighthearted tunes and tells crude jokes as the show tarts, taking on more serious tunes and touching on important themes as the show comes to a head.
The shows shining moment is a toss up between the haunting performance of "I Don't Care Much" and McMahon' astonishing performance of "Cabaret" that will leave you in awe at the raw emotion expressed in the number. Sally is at her most vulnerable, and McMahon manages to belt out the song perfectly whilst not letting the incredible amount of emotion and vulnerability affect her vocal performance. The show ends in a way that will shock, awe, and leave you speechless.
In terms of the shows time period, the costume and set design will insert you into the world of the Kit Kat Klub. Together the sets and costumes will make you forget how small the venue is, as the LOT's CABARET is larger than life. Where it lacks in accent training, the show makes up for in sparkles, glitter, and extremely strong vocals. The LOT has outdone itself with this innovative production of a classic musical.
Where and When?
CABARET at the Lower Ossington Theatre
Now playing through February 23. Tickets available via TicketWise.
Photos by: SeAnna Kennedy