Cabaret. Presented by St Andrew’s College. Directed by Laurence Wiseman. Musical director Duncan Ferguson. Choreographer Ginnie Thorner. St Andrew’s College Theatre. 8 – 13 May, 2016. Reviewed by Kineta Knight Booker.
Provocative, risqué, promiscuous, prostitution, drug use… Not common themes for a school production, in fact, some might say completely inappropriate. But the risk St Andrew’s College has taken with Cabaret, albeit shocking, is a good one – because it works.
Cabaret is set in Berlin in the 1930s against a backdrop of the uprising of the Nazi party, centred around a burlesque theatre called the KitKat Klub.
The maturity shown by the whole cast to put on such an adult show is incredible. And the talent is outstanding.
From the outset, the second you walk into the theatre scantily-clad ladies chat-up the audience and show people to their seats. Then the stage comes alive with an incredibly talented young actor playing the Emcee (Cameron McHugh), with his song Willkommen – “We have no troubles here!” he promises, “Here, life is beautiful.” McHugh is confident, funny, has a mature understanding of his character, and holds the show together with perfect comic timing. Either he is a talent far beyond his years, or he had plenty of coaching from director Laurence Wiseman.
On that note, the show is an absolute credit to Wiseman for casting such a talent-filled show, but also for the hard work he’s obviously put into the musical. It shows the strength of not only StAC’s drama and music departments but technical too – the sound and lighting was sublime.
Choreography in this show is beautiful, naughty and actually quite stunning. Ginnie Thorner certainly met the brief. And the company carries out Thorner’s choreography with precision, ease and humour, bringing the stage to life every time they appeared.
The driving force behind this musical is the orchestra, lead by Duncan Ferguson. It’s hard to believe they were all students. Special mention for their Entr’acte – it was a definite audience favourite, and the drummer/percussionist (Patrick Moran) was a delight to watch, perhaps because he was so close to the stage. The orchestra was almost moulded into the set, and it worked well.
Neil MacLeod (Cliff Bradshaw) is another young actor who steals the stage. He’s reminiscent of a young crooner, with the understated personality of Clark Kent. MacLeod has a lovely voice, a wonderful stage presence and excellent, natural, acting skills. As does William Harrington, who plays the Nazi Ernst Ludwig. He maintains a great German accent, is charming, manipulative and scary.
And if you’re looking for some romance, then the relationship between Fräulein Schneider (Celine Bullivant) and Herr Schultz (Grayson Milligan) will melt you. A truly sweet couple, who finds themselves caught up in the middle of the anti-semitism movement.
There were times, however, in the show, that instead of singing, there was shouting. All I’d say is, take it easy as there is a week of shows to get through and your voices are your main tool.
For a school production this show is an absolute stand-out, in fact, I had to keep reminding myself how young the performers were. (And, to be fair, it wasn’t always when something debaucherous was happening, but mostly when the level of talent continually surprised me.)
It’s a shame the show runs for only a week, as I’m certain there are more people who will want to see it than there are seats left to sell.