Straight from its sold-out season in Sydney at Hayes Theatre Co, Cabaret has opened its doors at Melbourne’s Atheneum Theatre.
Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret takes its basis from Christopher Isherwood’s novel The Berlin Stories, exploring sexual freedom and social deliverance during 1930s pre-war Berlin. Producer David M Hawkins’ dark, sexy take on the show creates an entirely new theatrical experience for this production, drawing on everything from Brechtian politics to the luridness of German Expressionism.
Hawkins said he wants this production of Cabaret to “[engage] audiences unlike any previous production,” and I can wholeheartedly say that it does just that. The production, from performance to creatives, transcends all other interpretations of Cabaret, creating an incredibly unique and salacious experience for the audience, and is one of the best productions I’ve ever seen. I had the absolute pleasure of speaking to Kate Fitzpatrick (Fraülein Schneider) and Michael Cormick (joining the cast as Ernst Ludwig for the Melbourne run) about their time working on the show, as well as some fun facts about them and their secret talents.
Kate Fitzpatrick is no stranger to Australian theatre, working extensively as an actress in more than sixty plays, with credits including The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Magenta) and the Threepenny Opera (Jenny). She’s extended her acting to film, television and voiceover work, and is an incredibly skilled and experienced actress.
Michael Cormick is an internationally renowned singer and actor, with Australian credits including Beauty and the Beast (The Beast), Cats (Munkustrap), Annie (Daddy Warbucks) and more recently, the concert version of Nine (Guido Contain) and Blood Brothers (Narrator). Alongside frequent television appearances, Michael has been a featured guest performer in Royal Command performances in London.
Could you provide a quick synopsis of the show for someone who may not have seen it?
Kate: It is a brief snapshot of a dark period in the history of Berlin – post WW1, famine, revolution and the Depression. Germany teetering on the brink of succumbing to the Nazi promise of prosperity. It is seen through the eyes of a young American writer who records the excess, poverty and desperation he sees in a sleazy club, peopled by incredible characters and accompanied by unforgettable music. It is a musical that is actually about something. A wonderful book with equally wonderful music and lyrics.
Why do you think people should see Cabaret?
Michael: It is an iconic piece of musical theatre with a wonderful book, interesting characters played by an extraordinary cast, an amazing score and directed by the incredible Gale Edwards.
In this political climate do you think the themes of the show are still relevant?
Kate: In the age of Trump, Marine Le Pen, Kim Jong Un and Brexit, a surge in xenophobia and the growing movement of exclusion it is more relevant than ever.
Michael: Without doubt. All we have to do is look at what is happening in the world today. It’s possibly more relevant today than any other time in recent history.
Do you feel that this production provides a new interpretation of the show?
Kate: Yes. It reveals the true meaning of the play by seducing the audience. They come along for the rocky ride with wonderful characters and fabulous music. They are left looking at their own lives questioning values and understanding survivor guilt.
What’s something that you think makes this production special?
Michael: The Cast, and the Genius direction of Gale Edwards.
Kate: The cast and the director are absolutely in concert. The characters seem perfectly cast. Paul and Chelsea are amazing. The band and sound incredible. The design and lighting beautiful and the choreography sublime.
Michael, how is it joining the cast for the second run of the production?
Michael: It is always a little daunting taking over a role. But I have been welcomed with open arms. Besides, most of the cast are my good friends.
How do you relate to your characters (Fraülein Schneider and Ernst)?
Kate: You mean apart from being 60 odd, having never married and qualifying as a survivor? I am clearly a survivor if I have lived long enough to land this terrific part.
Michael: Very difficult question. I found it a challenge to find a common thread with Ernst. His belief system is polar opposite to mine. Therefore I am using his unwavering belief in a power greater than himself as my inspiration.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Kate: Not worrying about singing in front of such a brilliantly talented cast. Doing justice to my wonderful character. Trying to get the balance right. I want the audience to understand her, even if they finally don’t like her.
Michael: Perfecting the German Accent and still making it clearly audible for the audience.
What is your favourite song from the show?
Michael: Tomorrow Belongs To Me. It evokes a sense of promise and foreboding at the same time. A great piece of writing.
What is your favourite moment in the show?
Kate: Paul singing I Don’t Care Much, Chelsea singing Cabaret, Matthew and Debora’s different renditions of Tomorrow Belongs to Me, Jason begging Sally not to leave, my duets with the adorable John O’May and all of the dance routines.
Michael: I love the dramatic change at the end of Act 1. It is truly spine chilling
Sally hides her desire to be a performer from her family. Do you have a secret passion that you pursue in your time outside the show
Kate: Apart from cricket? In my case it is not such a secret.
Here’s the big question, Stage show vs Film? And Why?
Michael: The Stage Show. I feel that the film glamourised the role of Sally Bowles, (understandable). In my opinion, Sally is a tragic figure and this gives the story more depth.
Kate: Stage – better parts, better parts for older actors. And I love interacting with the audience. However if a film role like Fraulein Schneider came up I’d leap at it. And film pays better.
Cabaret is playing now for 4 weeks only.
Tickets available at www.cometothecabaret.com.au