It is very ambitious for an amateur theatre group to take on a show which requires that almost all the characters put on accents, and Collingwood’s performance of Cabaret last night proved the difficulty of the task. German is a particularly challenging one to pull off, but in the absence of a voice coach they made a valiant effort.
There were one or two instances of microphones falling out of pockets, but otherwise the show ran smoothly from a technical point of view. The staging also worked well, the costumes were good, and the musical numbers were enthusiastically delivered. Unfortunately I was a bit too close to the orchestra, otherwise I might not have noticed it so much; it seemed to be well directed, but the players were rather under-practised. There was also some pretty uncertain choreography, which is not to say that the choreography itself was uncertain, merely that the cast did not know it well enough.
Perhaps the director should have left out one or two of the stage directions, for example Cliff Bradshaw’s two moments of physical violence, one a punch which landed a good few feet away from his antagonist’s face and the other a rather feeble slap. I appreciate the difficulty of stage fighting, but it does seem a shame spoil a dramatic moment by making it naff.
Most of the characters were somewhat awkward in movement, especially the chorus members. Even Bradshaw and the Master of Ceremonies, though strong on the whole, seemed unsure of what to do with their arms. However, they showed great potential and filled their roles well. The opening of the show could have been very effective – the chorus milled around in the auditorium to give the impression that we were all part of the Kit Kat Klub – if several members had not said rather too audibly things like, ‘What are we supposed to be doing?’, ‘I think we’re supposed to interact with the audience’, ‘I’m just going to go round in circles’ and so on, which made them seem rather unsure of themselves from the beginning. However, some members were very good indeed, in particular several of the cabaret girls, whose confidence stood out very clearly.
The two most consistent characters were Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, whose side-story was sympathetically and at times passionately presented to an audience very willing to love them. Their voices, too, were good, and they were altogether very successful in their roles.
It did not become apparent until the very end how well cast Sally Bowles was. I spent most of the show admiring how well she fitted the character of her part, but feeling disappointed that her voice was so young and innocent in tone. It is of course absurd to expect anyone at this level to follow in Liza Minelli’s footsteps, but her voice did leave something to be desired in the way of ‘grit’. I felt during the first half that one or two of the chorus line had better-suited voices. However, it was in her rendition of the title-song, ‘Cabaret’, that showed her true potential: she became suddenly powerful and intensely emotional and her voice took on just that quality I had been looking for. It was fabulous, and I hope her vocal chords survive until closing night.
The ending of the show was on the whole very strong, and despite the weaker aspects of the production the Collingwood theatre group gave me an enjoyable evening. Cabaret is one of those timeless pieces which, while seeming to be just a lot of rumbustious fun, really has something extremely important to say about the two human traits of prejudice and endurance. Collingwood put that across for me very well, and for that reason their performance deserves praise.
* * *
8 March 2012