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The ensemble cast of Cabaret. Photo: Tracy Reid

Theatre Review: Cabaret at Centrepointe Theatre—until 02.23.19

By Laura Gauthier and Samara Caplan on February 16, 2019


Laura and Samara spend their days as non-profit unicorns and fill every spare minute exploring the world of musical theatre as BFFs (that’s Broadway Friends Forever).

Willkommen, bienvenue and welcome to Berlin in the early 1930s; to the famous Kit Kat Club and to the world of cabaret. Suzart After Dark is running its own production of Cabaret, a cult-classic musical with a similar style to a production of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Cabaret is risqué, unapologetic, and can be just plain weird. With barely-there costumes similar to burlesque, sexy dance moves, blunt song lyrics and scenes, this show is bound to leave an impression—Cabaret even had a few older audience members giggling like teenagers at some of the sexual innuendo. But that’s half the fun!

Performer Vivian Burns. Photo: Tracy Reid

You may recognize the name Cabaret from the 1972 film of the same name, starring broadway royalties Liza Minnelli (that’s Liza with a “z”) and Joel Grey. If that doesn’t instantly place the show as a classic—then what will?

Cabaret tells the story of Kit Kat Club performer Sally Bowles—giving us a sneak peek into the seedy underbelly of Berlin, where people could be who they wanted to be (or truly were) in the darkness of nigh,t no matter their sexuality or even political beliefs. But, all that was about to change with Berlin on the brink of World War II and sweeping political changes coming about in Germany.

The show opens on the club’s emcee, a modern day jester. He provides comedic relief, shock value, and some performances that mimic darkness developing in the plot, including songs like “If You Could See Her”. Suzart’s emcee, Ryan Pedersen, commits fully to the performance—his eyes and face are so expressive it brings the character to a whole new level. The emcee is arguably the largest role in the musical and carries the entire show—Pedersen rose to this challenge and executed brilliantly, really giving it his all.

Another standout was Michael Smith, who played one of the Kit Kat Club dancers, Victor. Though not a front-of-house part, Smith stood out from all the dancers. Although his bio doesn’t reference any dance history, it seemed very prevalent in his performance. With effortless movements, and the perfect “cabaret” attitude, he was an instant draw in every group performance.

“Pedersen rose to this challenge and executed brilliantly.”

Prior to this experience, we had only seen the movie Cabaret, so we knew a lot of the music and the basic plot line. This production of the show was full of potential but a few consistent issues had a major impact on its overall presentation.

Though staging was pretty basic, the transitions between scenes were very long and tended to be a bit awkward, with dead silence throughout the theatre, but with the lights on full on the stage; as furniture, sets etc. were moved for the next scene. There seemed to be some issues with the curtains at the back of the stage and the set doors that were behind them, with the curtains often taking a long time to pull open, or getting stuck and the doors behind them squeaking loudly; often getting stuck when trying to close them.

The even larger issue we found was the timing of lighting throughout the show. Cues were consistently off—meaning that things that should have been done with lowlights or darkness, such as scene transitions, were done in full light, and then on the other hand, actors were singing in pitch black for near full scenes before the spotlight came on and found them or lights came up. Unfortunately, this wasn’t just one or two instances, but pretty consistently throughout the show.

These both seem like small things, you sometimes don’t realize how important these pieces of a show really are until they are just a bit off. It meant that the audience was constantly being pulled out of the show and was blatantly aware of the things going on behind the scenes—taking away a lot of the magic that comes with going to the theatre and being pulled into a story.

In a show like this, these are very important factors as the lighting and the curtains closed make it clear to the audience that what they are seeing is a performance at the Kit Kat Club (that is often mimicking issues occurring in the main plot) versus the open curtain and higher lighting making clear that you are witnessing a movement forward in the plot and a “real life” moment.

However, these are not be-all and end-all issues—most likely, it was opening night issues with timing and little kinks that still need to be worked out. Future performances of the show will have the opportunity to put on a great performance with seamless transitions and lighting cues.

Nonetheless, Cabaret takes you on a fun ride and brings all the artistry, depravity and freedom from the darkness of Berlin into the spotlight. A few key performances from the likes of Pedersen or Smith brought us back into the story and made the show enjoyable, despite the bumps between scenes. After all, life is a cabaret!

Get a preview of the music with our playlist that includes some of our favourite tunes from the show.

Cabaret is playing at Centrepointe Theatre (101 Centrepointe Dr.) at 7:30pm until Saturday February 23, 2019. Tickets cost $30–35 online. The show runs about 2 hours and 45 minutes with an intermission.