Article Title:Berlin - Cabaret of Desire
Author or Credit:Larry Jenkins
Published on:15th November 2006 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1479
Text:Berlin Silo Theatre, Auckland Monday, 13 November This show is hard, no, impossible, to pidgeonhole. It is neither theatre nor is it cabaret in the true sense of the word. Conceived by two of the people who share the stage – singing actress Jennifer Ward-Lealand and pianist/actor (in this instance) Paul Barrett, along with John Verryt who also directs it, it is really a compromise of genres. That said, it works and is certainly entertaining. The songs follow on one after another, which sets the piece apart from cabaret, in that there would be pauses for other acts if the formula were strictly followed I suppose one could and should say it's a “review”. Andrew Laing as “Freddi Klein” is flamboyantly queer and even sings a song or two about it – notably Frederick Hollander's “Lavender Song” in which he leaves no camp stone unturned. It is hilarious and rather chilling at the same time. Ward-Lealand and Lana Nesnas, as “Sabine Leutenegger” and “Angelique de la Manche” respectively, engage in a sort of amorphous fooling around with both Freddi (and he fools back) and with one another and they make a rather steamy but stylized kind of stage love in authentic Berliner style, or at least the way we all imagine it after seeing “Cabaret” in either the film or stage version. Come to think of it, except for the stunning Bob Fosse choreography, this show could be a direct descendant of that masterpiece. Some of the greatest moments are in the greatest songs – for me, Jennifer's delivery of Brecht and Weill's “Surabaya Johnny” was a real thrill, and her “Munchausen” (Hollander) was almost the same kind of experience. She brings to each song, perhaps from doing her show about Marlene Dietrich so many times, a distance which is so necessary for this music, as though her body were there but her mind might be on anything. Nesnas, on the other hand, is fully into such moments as Hollander's “Sex Appeal” and Brecht/Weill's “Pirate Jenny” afford a performer – both brought the house down. I didn't quite get it at the end, though. Finishing with an a capella version of the Heinrich Heine poem “Die Lorelei” in a setting by Friedrich Silcher was an interesting if rather anti-climactic way of rounding off the evening, and risky, too, as the four singers (Barrett joined in) failed to keep it quite in tune. That aside, this is a great evening and I think everyone should see this show. The Silo is positively transformed authentically into a Berlin nightclub from between the wars, so full marks to Verryt there, even if in the directorial slot he allowed the pace to be too slow in the first half. Andrew Malmo's lighting produced atmosphere without being intrusive, Marianne Schultz got the movement so right, and the other musicians, Aaron Coddel (bass), Tim Hopkins (clarinet and saxophone) and Barry Widerstrom (drums) replicated that gin-soaked sound of a cabaret band quite perfectly. Larry Jenkins - 15th November 2006    
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