Cabaret Comes Just in Time: Theatre Sheridan Review

Cabaret
Cabaret Comes Just in Time: Theatre Sheridan Review
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism and Performing Arts from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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If you think you’ve seen how brutally beautiful Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret can be, think again. Theatre Sheridan has delivered a new production that is as dark and daring as it is dazzling.

This is an outstanding production that makes courageous, creative choices. It is well worth seeing. Director Marc Richard makes new bookends for the story that beautifully shocks the audience.

His production is dark without being imposing. It’s sexy without being sleazy. It succeeds in many ways, but there are definitely a few gritty details that, while forgivable, could be more polished.

The Plot

For anyone unfamiliar with the play, Cabaret begins with an aspiring American novelist Clifford Bradshaw (Matthew Reid) arriving in 1931 Berlin. On his first night he meets Sally Bowles (Allison Ference) at the Kit Kat Klub where she performs. But what is dangerous is the Emcee (Ben Page) ability to distract his guests from the harsh world that exists just outside the doors of the cabaret.

I’m not a big Kander and Ebb fan, but this is their best work. This production was performed admirably with the soulfulness that it demands. Linda Garneau’s choreography is outstanding! The biggest numbers maximize the theatre’s space allowing Sheridan’s talented actors to shine, especially in act one’s “Money”.

Current relevance of Cabaret

With the tumultuous change of Ontario’s political climate and the upcoming 2020 American election, this is the perfect time to produce Cabaret.

Photo: John Jones and Theatre Sheridan

Photo: John Jones and Theatre Sheridan

The musical is all about the dangers of being distracted by what we want to see instead of what we must be morally willing to look at. Otherwise, innocent people get hurt and we are only culpable in their suffering. Isn’t that the exact crisis we face in politics today?

Director Richard and his production capitalize on that perfectly by using every element of its design and execution.

Some of the somber foreshadowing is occasionally too strong, and the tone some actors take (like Sally and the Emcee) hint at the incoming peril come too soon. The warning that something really awful is coming is too obvious.  Each of the three principals still do a fine job, and there’s a refined power in the whopping 39 student ensemble.

It’s the supporting players that really steal the show. The actors with the most charm and authenticity (not to mention truly excellent stage presence) come from Taylor Garwood’s Fraulein Schneider and Aaron Ryder’s Herr Shultz, doomed lovers caught in a city they can’t abandon.

With a production this creative combined with a willingness to surprise the audience with its stark awareness and purposeful storytelling, its weaknesses are brief and easily forgivable. But with this high standard, they stand out.

The only scene that’s less than excellent is the strange new overture/pre-show and mime scene. Recreating the set from the abandoned real-life Krupp factory into the famous club takes nine minutes. It’s too long and mismatched from the otherwise haunting and focused production.

The new opening is slow, and the underscoring electronic/techno sound confuses the audience. Even worse, the extended opening turns the already long first act into a 100-minute behemoth. Still entertaining, but that is a long first act to sit through.

(Even so, the set’s reinvention as the Krupp factory is great. It gives the same aura and industrial motifs that made this 1998 version of the 1962 classic so iconic, and creates the right amount of reinvigorated freshness.)

Cabaret at Theatre Sheridan

Cabaret - Theatre Sheridan College - February 2020

Photo: John Jones/Theatre Sheridan

Some details lose a bit of impact if you’re seated in the first few rows. For example, the fight choreography often has too much space between actors. That means it lacks the believability the rest of the show has mastered.

Also disappointing was that the theatre seating wasn’t at cabaret tables. It had been a staple of Theatre Sheridan for over 20 years, and it was a missed opportunity. If there was ever a show to capitalize on such an iconic part of that experience, this was it.

With all of this in mind, most everything else in the show is incredible to see. The overall product is the most spectacular show since 2018’s blockbuster Phantom of the Opera. It’s also Richard’s most exciting show since his Floyd Collins in the studio three years ago.

But the final 15 minutes, and especially the last 5, are boldly and masterfully unique from how Cabaret usually ends. The final scene is a doozy and is hugely impactful. It leaves the entire audience gobsmacked. I won’t spoil it for you, but even if you’ve seen Cabaret before, it makes this production worth seeing in and of itself.

This outstanding production makes courageous, creative choices – and it is well worth seeing. But there are definitely a few gritty details that, while forgivable, could be more polished.

Cabaret

3 1/2 out of 4 Stars

Director: Marc Richard
Composer:  L John Kander
Lyricist: Fred Ebb
Book by Joe Masteroff
Appropriate for Ages 13 and Up
Running time: 2hrs 40mins
Category: Musical Historical Drama

Starring:

  • Matthew Reid
  • Allison Ference
  • Ben Page
  • Taylor Garwood
  • Aaron Ryder
  • Bethany Monaghan
  • Jesse Drwiega

Ticket Information

Now Playing at Trafalgar’s Macdonald-Heaslip Hall, 1430 Trafalgar Road, Oakville, ON.
Runs until February 23rd, 2019. Tickets range from $20-30, available online at this link here, or by calling 905-815-4049.

Additional entertainment articles by Tyler Collins are posted on OakvilleNews.Org. Follow Tyler on Twitter @MrTyCollins.

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