Cabaret: From Burlesque to Grotesque

 When I saw that Zen Zen Zo physical theatre company were doing a reinterpretation of the famous Kander & Ebb musical Cabaret, I knew we’d be in for something both shocking and exciting. 

 Presented by: Zen Zen Zo Venue: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC (Brisbane) Review date: Friday, August 5, 2011

CabaretWhen I saw that Zen Zen Zo physical theatre company were doing a reinterpretation of the famous Kander & Ebb musical Cabaret, I knew we’d be in for something both shocking and exciting. It wasn’t the sugar-coated movie musical or sleek sexy stage variety but the very raw underground bawdy cabaret which was probably more in line with the real underground cabaret of the 1930’s with the rising Nazi regime in the German Weimar republic. The show revolves around two relationships, that of the young English performer Sally Bowles and the American writer Cliff Bradshaw, and the controversial relationship between German Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, a Jewish grocer. Developed by co-directors Lynne Bradley and Simon Woods, Zen Zen Zo’s production utlised elements of burlesque, butoh, contemporary, and camp theatre styles.The choreography by Martyn Flemming was a highlight with very individualised choreography and only rare moments of unison, which gave the production an exciting landscape both as background movement and as show stopping dance numbers. The fact that the cast was not all stick figures was a welcome nuance and added to the underground portrayal of misfits in the Kit Kat Club. My favourite would have to be the clever dance with a 2-person tiered monkey in “If Only You Could See Her” and the Pineapple dance, which was very Zen Zen Zo. I only wish there were more moments like that.??The cast was an exciting “smoodge” of performers from various backgrounds – musicians, actors, physical theatre performers, singers, who were not all triple threats but together made up a fantastically diverse ensemble. Throughout the piece there is constant movement where the ensemble almost becomes the set in their landscape of unapologetically dripping of dark desires. Emma Dean as Sally Bowles had a perfectly marvelous voice that suited the perfectly marvelous role that she really brought her own charming interpretation to. Equally charming was Matthew Hadgraft as Cliff Bradshaw the American writer who showed the right balance between conservatism and experimentation. Sandro Colarelli as The Emcee, had the perfect vocal quality for the role – just sublime, although I would have like to have seen him a little more playfully naughty, but that’s just a personal preference. Jillian Geurts as Fraulein Schneider was endearing and elicited the needed emotional investment from the audience for her plight. Her vocal quality was also quite unique and lovely to listen to. The chemistry between her and Earl Kim who played Herr Schultz built up quite nicely and their relationship was palpable and despairingly tragic by the end. The saloon orchestra placed above the stage in full view of the audience, comprised of students from the Conservatorium of Music, added to the atmosphere by the all male musicians donning makeup and dresses to fit in with the feel of the Kit Kat Club. I especially loved John Rodgers orchestration and reworking of the score, in particular, the comical vocal take on Mein Heir and the foreboding underscore at the beginning of song “Cabaret”. The set design by Bill Haycock was well constructed, simple yet effective and really didn’t need to be anymore than it was. Parts of the stage were subtly transformed into bed scenes, train platforms, and inside trains with relative ease, with lighting by Ben Hughes complementing the set design perfectly.I liked some of the costuming in particular the skin coloured pants with the black front patch was naughty and playful yet I thought the top could have been more extreme or offbeat. Cabaret was a fantastic choice for the physical theatre company stretching into the world of musicals. I loved the re-interpretation and would have even liked for the Zen Zen Zo factor to be taken even further in this production, but overall a perfectly marvelous production. Dates 4 – 20 August 2011   Booking Information Ph: 136 246  

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

Bobbi-Lea is's QLD Co-ordinator, writer, reviewer, and reporter. She is also an actor, presenter, and theatre/film producer for Drama Queen Productions in Brisbane. Bobbi-Lea holds a Degree in Music Theatre as well as a Degree in Film & TV, and is currently doing her Masters in Screen Production.

Bobbi-Lea Dionysius

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