Theatre at UBC


By John Kander and Fred Ebb Directed by Roberto Garcia

Book by Joe Masteroff

Frederic Wood Theatre

March 17-27, 1999


by Stefan Moraw

Chosen to be the last production of the academic year at UBC, Cabaret ended the season in the most pleasant of ways. The many times readapted Broadway musical once again won the audience applause from beginning to end.

Set in the 1930's, this musical brings us back to the Berlin in the years just preceding Hitler and the Nazi movement. A city in constant economic growth and a live cultural centre, Berlin presented itself as one of the most attractive cities in Europe. These are also the years of Charleston and Can-Can, years where brothel-style clubs were seen as common entertainment and attended by public figures.

Here is where an American writer, Mr. Cliff Bradshaw (Andrew Smith) plans to get inspired for his future novel. After a very short period of time, though, he finds himself overwhelmed by the crazy and outrageous life of the Cabaret, which seems to ignore the dangerous developments of the political situation. Throughout the events, he will realize that what is happening around him is much more than a political change and will bring the glamorous city to its ruin. The writer also encounters a series of interesting characters, each a sad product of the time and conditions in which they exist. The landlady of his rooming house, for example, is Fraulein Schneider. She plans to marry another of her tenants, Herr Schultz, a Jew, until she realizes that such union might be politically unwise. Ernst Ludwig, on the other hand, is a Nazi, whom Cliff at first befriends, and then fights both ideologically and physically.

Then there is Sally Bowles, a mediocre singer at the decadent Kit Kat Club. She  is vulnerable and naïve; she has known many men, but does not seem to be able to keep a constructive relationship. The most fascinating and crude of the play's characters is the Cabaret host Emcee. His was a symbolic character, representing all that was vulgar and ugly in the Germany of the early thirties. It is through this role that the audience feels the frightening advance of the Nazis. "Willkommen" was the song with which he greeted the club's guests, telling them to relax and have fun, because at the Cabaret life is beautiful and without care. A "perfect world" of indecency and pleasure which many times throughout the play shocked and made the audience blush.

I have to admit though that some of the choices made by Director Robert Garcia were felt by the spectators as slightly over-done in their sexual connotation. The role of Emcee was played by a woman, Sam Donabie, who seemed a little bit naughty, but at the same time she displayed remarkable talent in both acting and singing. We should not forget that Theatre is a temple of illusions and tricks with an appropriately slippery code of ethics. The role of Sally Bowles, was well played by Odessa Shuquaya .We all remember tunes like "The money song" and "Cabaret" which after the 1972 film adaptation with Liza Minnelli became major hits.

Sincerely felt acknowledgment goes to Nancy Hermiston in the role of Fraulein Schneider (from the Canadian Actor's Equity Association) and John Newton as Herr Schultz, for their sweet and sour performance, reminding us of our grandparents' stories and Ann Frank.

From a technical point of view, appreciation to set designer Adam Parboosingh who exploited to the utmost the considerably small stage of the Frederic Wood Theatre. Great choice of costumes as well, displayed by Jiucheng Ma and lighting effects by Lorenzo Savoini. Final recognition goes to the orchestra directed by Richard Epp, who perfectly recreated the atmosphere of a cabaret.

In the end, what counts is whether a show entertains once the curtain has risen. And Cabaret at UBC certainly did.