Cabaret

Court One, Christchurch

20/11/2010 - 12/02/2011

Production Details



Goodbye West Auckland, Hello Berlin

Antonia Prebble goes from Outrageous Fortune to Outrageous Musical. 

Antonia Prebble may have finished her role on OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE, but the young actress is keeping busy, playing the lead role in the musical CABARET at The Court Theatre in Christchurch from November 20.

While Loretta West was a schemer who indulged in immoral (and illegal) behaviour on the popular NZ television show (operating a bordello in the most recent series), the role of Sally Bowles – a nightclub singer in 1930s Berlin – is “a fun mix of innocence and vice” for Antonia.  

This is two firsts for Prebble:  her first lead role in a musical and her first stay in Christchurch. During the first week of rehearsal the theatre had to be evacuated twice – once due to an aftershock, the second due to a fire drill. “It certainly keeps you on your toes,” Antonia says “growing up in Wellington means I’m no stranger to some small shakes, but rehearsing during aftershocks has been a new experience.”

CABARET’s director Sandra Rasmussen cast Antonia after auditioning her in Auckland earlier this year. "Antonia is a gifted young actress who managed to capture the emotional complexity of Sally Bowles – she’s gorgeous, talented and extremely smart" says Rasmussen.

CABARET is one of the world’s most popular musicals, set in a nightclub called the Kit Kat Klub in 1930s Berlin:  a society spiralling into debt, desperation and debauchery. Amongst the decadence of the Kit Kat Klub, Sally develops a relationship with writer Cliff Bradshaw (Cameron Douglas) the complexities of their affair play out as Germany is seduced by its darker desires with the rise of Nazism. The show was made into a widely successful film starring Liza Minnelli in 1972 and has enjoyed several revivals.

Antonia regards Sally as an iconic character and looks forward to developing her craft – as well as enjoying the “adrenaline rush” of live stage performance. “You’re not only giving so much energy to the audience, but receiving it right back from them tenfold!”

CABARET runs from 20 November 2010 until 12 February 2011. Book at The Court Theatre www.courttheatre.org.nz


CAST: 
Sally Bowles: Antonia Prebble 
Emcee: Nic Kyle 
Cliff: Cameron Douglas 
Fraulein Schneider: Rima Te Wiata 
Herr Schultz: Steven Ray 
Ernst: Jono Martin 
Fraulein Kost: Sandra Rasmussen 
Max/Officer: Michael Lee Porter 
Bobby: Kyle Chuen 
Victor: Pablo Lavia 
Texas: Claire Dougan 
Rosie: Amy Straker 
Helga: Anna Meaclem
Frenchie: Elsie Edgerton-Till
Hermann: Eddy Dever 

BAND: 
Piano/Accordion: Micahel Lee Porter 
Upright Bass: Tagan Grace 
Reeds: Georgina Rees-Stevenson
Drums: Tim Sellars

PRODUCTION TEAM: 
Set design: John Parker
Costume design: Elizabeth Whiting
Lighting design: Brendan Albrey
Sound design: Glen Ruske
Sound effects: Josh Major
Wardrobe Manager: Emily Thomas
Workshop Manager: Nigel Kerr 
Props: Nicki Evans 
Assistant lighting designer: Hamish Baxter-Broad 
Sound operator: Stephen Compton 
Lighting operator: Darren McKane 
Stage manager: Anna Dodgshun 
Production manager: Peter McInnes 



Strong account of wayward world

Review by Alan Scott 24th Nov 2010

If you haven’t seen Cabaret before, welcome to the Court’s version of the lurid Kit Kat Klub, the theatrical representation of the debauched world of pre-war Berlin.

It’s the cabaret of grubbiness not glitz, with sophistication lost in a desperate salaciousness; a world fuelled by drugs, booze and a destructive desire to live only for oneself, before Hitler’s henchmen obliterate its twisted universe forever.

After Sam Mendes re-interpretation of the musical, it’s hard for a company to play it any other way. Yet, for all Nic Kyle’s valiant attempt, as Emcee, to inject the required ghastly seediness, it all seemed more Rocky Horror Show than depravity in the fast lane.

Cast interactions with the audience that were supposed to make us part of the club had a whiff of self-consciousness that at times stretched believability.

I’m not sure if the audience would agree with me, though, judging by some favourable comments overheard after the show and, indeed, this production, certainly had a lot going for it.

There are some good characterisations, a great opening, some lively numbers and some striking and telling moments when the cast truly bring home the real nature of 1930’s Germany.

Perhaps it was opening night nerves but there were times, especially in the first half, when a certain flatness pervaded the whole production.

Even Outrageous Fortune star Antonia Prebble, for all her glowing presence, sometimes seemed more English tourist in the wrong club, than naïve runaway desperate to burn her boats.

Cabaret is both funny and outrageous, yet it has a point to make. It’s a classic musical and, despite some reservations, the cast, at times, give a strong and entertaining account of its wayward world, reckless humour and political insight. 
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Lacks polish and dynamism

Review by Steph Walker 21st Nov 2010

While Cabaret rather famously opens with a drum roll and a cymbal crash, this Court Theatre production of Cabaret starts from the moment you stand in the foyer with double entendres flying from the mouths of Kit Kat Klub characters – they’re shamelessly flirting with you, tattooing you with Kit Kat Klub temporary tattoos, and then showing you to your seats.

Once inside the theatre there is an organised chaos, with the audience cajoled in to singalongs or German drinking songs.And on it goes until the lights go down, and the production begins on stage proper.

Director Sandra Rasmussen, in her director’s note, describes the extreme and confrontational nature of Weimar Berlin.
The show, particularly the first half, oozes sex – the talented ensemble cast commit to a tawdry mix of characters who aren’t afraid to sex up the stage with provocative moves, carefully placed tassels, and lines that aren’t just suggestive, they’re down right dirty. Everyone gets a pash, and even our wide eyed tourist Cliff Bradshaw (Cameron Douglas) has a kinky side to him.

I love that the Court has embraced this rampant sexuality, it is so much a part of the world the play inhabits, as much as the dark Nazi shadows lurking in the background of this tale. I’d have liked to see the darkness of this pre-WWII, depression era setting brought out more however; it is a lurking tension that is lacking in the first half, but pervades as the second half goes on.

It is Sally Bowles that is the star of this Cabaret, the exotic British wannabe actress holed up at the Klub – emphasis on the ‘wannabe’. The anticipation in the Christchurch audience is, of course, helped by the added anticipation of seeing Outrageous Fortune star Antonia Prebble in the flesh too.

She immediately endears us with her ill timed entrance, all wide eyes and energy. Her Sally Bowles is frantic, at times a little too much so – heading occasionally into melodrama. I had difficulty empathising with her at times, only really feeling for her in the last scenes of the play, but I guess one could argue I should really have been identifying more with the ‘straight’ man of the show, Cliff Bradshaw (Douglas) anyway.

The title song is not a ‘pretty’ rendition, Prebble almost speaking much of the lyrics then showing us the painful truth of Sally’s character in the climax, almost crumpling onstage after seeing the horrors of impending Nazi occupation.

While my companion thought it was terrible and felt embarrassed for Prebble, I thought it was brutally peeling back all of Sally’s fronts we’d constantly seen throughout the show. And yes, the singing wasn’t amazing – but I don’t think that this British bird in a washed up German Cabaret club was ever a talent to behold anyway, I’m sure Christopher Isherwood would agree (he wrote the semi-autobiographical books the show is based on).

Nic Kyle, as the Emcee, has a fantastic voice and worked his costume to the max. I’d like to see a bit more grunt from him, his falsetto (while gorgeous) veered the Emcee off course in to a more innocent vibe. I’d have loved both Kyle and Prebble to be on wireless microphones, I lost a few lines throughout the show.

The most endearing love story in the show is that of Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, played with true professional polish by Rima Te Wiata and Steven Ray. Te Wiata, especially, brings true emotion to a woman torn between love and making a living. Ray is heartbreaking as the Jewish Fruiterer Herr Schultz who stays optimistic that Germany will come right again – when we all know the sad truth of what will happen to him. These two performers truly stood out for me on the night, their stage presence and experience worth bucket-loads to this production.

The whole show takes place within the confines of the Kit Kat Klub, with scenes outside the Klub played out on the raised platform in the middle of the stage, under which the musicians are crammed. These scenes have a small number of props, passed, or played by, the ensemble cast – dare I say it’s a tad Brechtian in parts.

That raised stage in the middle is the only major feature in a minimal set by John Parker, a set of red octagonal stool/tables being moved around by the actors to portray all scenery. All kudos to Parker, a recent Arts Laureate, but the set is just a bit too minimal for me. For me, the Kit Kat Klub needs more texture, more faded glitter and grittiness than this setting gives to the production.

In fact, I would say that about the whole show. It just needs something a bit more; some more depth to Sally Bowles and the Kit Kat Klub’s precarious situation at the dawn of the Nazi era, and some more pizzazz to really make the place fizz.

This isn’t a pretty Cabaret. While Elizabeth Whiting’s costumes are beautiful (watch out for Elsie Edgerton-Till’s first outfit), you wouldn’t use words near luxurious to describe this Kit Kat Klub – I don’t think the club had seen any glitter or sequins at all, apart from the many disco balls hanging above the audience.

In fact, the whole piece lacks the polish I expected from this show – something which may come through the season. There is a dynamism missing that will come once the performers truly own this chaotic, sexual world they have created alongside Rasmussen and Musical Director Richard Marrett.

Comments

John Smythe November 25th, 2010

Also I think this is consistent with the Sam Mendes-directed Donmar Warehouse revival, which transferred to Broadway in March 1998.  It seems all the productions recently or currently staged in NZ have been informed by the Mendes interpretation. 

Of Jody McCartney’s Sally Bowles, in Wellington, I wrote: “
Her inevitable loss of innocence is powerfully rendered in the final ‘Cabaret’, sung with a profoundly deep emptiness.” Adey Ramsel describes Amanda Billings’ rendition ‘Cabaret’ (in the Auckland Theatre Company production) as “sung with heartfelt sarcasm, and a sense of futile dreams shattered in every word.”  

And above, Steph Walker describes Antonia Prebble as:
“brutally peeling back all of Sally’s fronts we’d constantly seen throughout the show” and “showing us the painful truth of Sally’s character in the climax, almost crumpling onstage after seeing the horrors of impending Nazi occupation.”

John Smythe November 23rd, 2010

My thinking on this is that Liza Minnelli’s full-on showbiz rendition in the film of Cabaret has set up erroneous expectations for the average punter.  

Steph’s companion may well have been speaking for many who came with that preconception, and it is therefore perfectly valid to acknowledge this in passing, while making it clear that Prebble’s version “was brutally peeling back all of Sally’s fronts we’d constantly seen throughout the show” – an approach I agree is far more valid at that point in the show. 

Lillian Richards November 23rd, 2010

I appreciate that this reviewer was left lacking and I appreciate also their attempt to express, in parts, why this was- but I find it totally inappropriate them mentioning their ‘companion thought it was terrible and felt embarrassed for Prebble’
Who is your companion and why does their scathing unevaluated emotional response get mentioned in your review? It is not helpful, professional nor thoughtful and would probably do unfair damage as an illegitimate comment to a performer who is likely to take it to heart, regardless of its lack of grounding in anything other than an unknown’s limbic brain. I may be wrong, but it is my observation (as a reviewer also) that taking a companion helps with bouncing ideas and balancing responces, however it is not the companion who is reviewing and there are reasons for that- those reasons are best kept in mind when writing a review. At most I'd put their comments through the wash; see if there's any theory in them, something unassailable there, helpful even, but using their awkwardness (which could exist for a number of unanalysed reasons)  as some kind of test for artistic veracity,  does not a fair review make.

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