BWW Reviews: CABARET at the Shaw Festival

May 15
5:57 PM 2014

BWW Reviews: CABARET at the Shaw Festival

Deborah Hay as Sally Bowles is a brilliant light shining in this otherwise very dark production of Cabaret, on stage this season at the Shaw Festival. Hayes has captured Sally completely, and in doing so, captivated the audience. Her rendition of "Maybe This Time" is so convincing that you believe she really wants the relationship to work. But then, as soon as Cliff starts packing for Pennsylvania, you can see the interest drain away from Hay's Sally.

Director Peter Hinton has emphasized the darkness of pre-Nazi Germany. It must have been a strange place as the hedonistic lifestyle swings right to the Nazi party. The story opens with Cliff Bradshaw's arrival in Berlin. An American, he wants to observe life in Germany and write about it. Sally Bowles, a singer at the Kit Kat Klub, moves in with him when her affair with the club owner and her gig both end. The two are so different - he is just an onlooker, she is an extroverted exhibitionist who just wants to be seen.

Gray Powell is a convincing Cliff Bradshaw, and it's interesting to watch him realize that he can no longer be passive but must act to avoid the coming Nazi atrocities. Unfortunately, Powell's singing abilities are not of the same calibre as Hay's.

Juan Chioran's Emcee is suitably creepy. Unlike some Emcees I've seen the past, who are in the spotlight and controlling the activity of the Kit Kat Klub, Chioran skulks around the darkness, then startling the audience when he comes to the front of the stage.

The Klub's girls and boys add the eerie darkness of this cabaret - their faces are blank, eyes staring at nothing, zombie-like. There is no real choreography, each character moving in his or own strange way.

The set, a monstrous iron spiral staircase on a revolving stage prevents any dancing. It adds coldness and even seems dark although there are lights on it. It casts cage-like shadows.

In the subplot, where Fraulein Schneider and her tenant Herr Schultz plan to marry, Corrine Koslo and Benedict Campbell add a tiny bit of warmth to the story. However, when Fraulein Schneider tells Herr Schultz she can't marry him because he's a Jew, the show becomes uncomfortable and disturbing again.

Only the opening provoked any laughter. Before the show, a series of instructions were delivered in German. Since most of the audience doesn't understand German, thankfully, there were diagrams showing no cell phones, (texting is verboten - meaning forbidden), no cameras, and no candy.

If you like a challenging production, one with symbols designed to provoke and make your squirm, you will enjoy this dark and challenging production of Cabaret.

As Ms. Hay defiantly sings the title song the words resonate: "From cradle to tomb,

Isn't that long a stay". In the murky world of Berlin in 1930, we know that Sally Bowles time, and the happiness she professes to have, will be cut short.

Cabaret continues in repertoire at The Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake until October 26. For tickets, visit or call 1-800-511-7429.

Toronto THEATER Stories | Shows

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Mary Alderson Mary has been a fan of live theatre since her first visit to the Stratford Festival as a child, where she saw Christopher Walken and Louise Marleau in Romeo and Juliet. As a teenager, she had a summer job at the Grand Bend Tourist Information booth. Huron Country Playhouse founder James Murphy gave her free tickets to his inaugural season so she could promote it to visitors. She has a vivid memory of sitting in a tent on a folding chair, with her feet up on the seat in front of her, to avoid the rivulets of rain flowing through the mud and gravel towards the stage. Unfortunately, the productions that summer were less memorable, but have improved greatly over the years.

Mary holds a B.A. in Honours English and an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario. After graduation, Mary was a reporter for the Exeter Times-Advocate and reviewed shows at Huron Country Playhouse. Many years later, in 2004, Mary returned to writing reviews and posting them on her blog at . She lives in Strathroy, Ontario, central to the Stratford Festival, London’s Grand Theatre, Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend, Victoria Playhouse Petrolia, the Blyth Festival and more. Mary is a member of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association ( By day, she works for the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations, ( ) where she sees first-hand how a professional theatre can be an asset to the economic development of a community.


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