Christopher Aruffo, MFA, MBA, MSc, PhD

Theater review

Life is a Cabaret, old friend

By Jack Leon and David Blascik | Ontario Arts Review | February 20, 2008

When you enter the Westside Theatre to experience Cabaret, you are whisked out of the cold night and into the frenzied heat of pre-Hitler Berlin. The seductive Kit Kat girls and boys greet you with an erotic and decadent demeanor that lasts throughout the 2-¾ hour production.

In the first scene we meet Cliff Bradshaw, who is played by Jake Maric. Jake gives us a strong interpretation as a young American with a passion for writing and love for the charming and delightful Sally Bowles. However, the decency of his character is challenged by the corruption of pre-war Berlin. His nemesis, the corrupt Ernst, played vehemently by Norman Kearney, tries desperately to seduce Cliff into smuggling for the Nazi Party. Kearney is very strong in his delivery of Ernst's character. In the next scene, Cliff follows an insistent Ernst to Fraulein Schneider's boarding house. Sarah O'Sullivan's mature interpretation of Fraulein Schneider has us to believe she is almost three times her actual age. Her singing is an expression of the sadness for the impeding entrapment of all the German people in the fall of the 3rd Reich. Her heart wrenching rendition of the song "What would you do" relays a sense of hopelessness.

Cliff's introduction to the Kit Kat club by Ernst is for the New Year's Eve celebration of 1928. During this scene, the audience is completely mesmerized by the Emcee. These writers expected the Emcee, gleefully played by Nerlind Sheshi, to be inspired by Joel Gray's interpretation of this character in the movie version; however director Shane McCartney assaulted us with a blend of Marilyn Manson and Alice Cooper. The grotesque mascara that framed the eyes did not allow this to mask the deviancy of this character. In Act II, as the Emcee becomes aware that he would be prosecuted for his bisexual and bestiality leanings-- the grotesque make-up is removed to explore his vulnerability.   Credit Nerlind Sheshi for two dominant must-see moments of song with "If You Could See Her" and "I Don't Care Much". Mr. Sheshi is very talented and we hope professional theatre companies continue to recognize this. At the Kit Kate club we meet the English singer, Sally Bowles. Sally, played by Blythe Stewart is a talented actress who impressed us with the resiliency of her character. Sally's chameleon-like morality in songs like "Don't tell Mama"; "Perfectly Marvelous" and "Cabaret" is self-evident. Ms. Stewart‘s voice is still maturing and will develop in endurance. To bring balance to Bowles, the audience is introduced to Fraulein Kost, played by Meghan Bodis, whose character portrayal is that of world's oldest profession.

David Sazant as Herr Schultz, reminds me of Jerry and Ben Stiller. Mr. Savant's character is Fraulein Schneider's boarder and love interest. Schultz accurately echoes the denial of doom by the Jewish population of pre-war Europe, which had devastating consequences for many families including this writer. If I had to recommend a cast member to understudy at Stratford's production of Cabaret it would be Mr. Sazant.

In the production dept.:  kudos to dialect coach Christopher Aruffo for providing David with a convincing Yiddish accent, moreover it suggests a strong Polish Yiddish accent. Callista Biermans as vocal director has applied the cast's vocal ranges with Hanna Matheson's musical direction to compliment the blending of musical abilities. Marie-Sjaan Berends accurately develops a lively and raucous choreography with Marya Follinsbee's costumes, and Kassey Gonzales's makeup all complete the Kit Kat Club's setting and characters.

The cast, crew, and band are to be congratulated on a wonderful presentation. The Director, Musical Director and Choreographer can take satisfaction in molding this brilliant ensemble for the past nine months.  As Schultz would say, "Mazel Tov".