“Wilkomen, bienvenue, welcome!” These opening words were never more sincerely spoken than at the Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society’s (AUTS) latest production, Cabaret. The show transports you straight to the Kit Kat Club, where inside all is fun and games while the outside world is crumbling. The play tells the love story of Sally Bowles (Callie Armstrong), a struggling dancer, and Cliff Bradshaw (Adrian Steiner), a starving author, and the life they lead filled with parties and celebration while the Nazis rapidly take over Germany.
Cabaret is AUTS’ fourth show following three immensely successful productions, including Little Shop of Horrors, Urinetown, and Hair. The piece, explains director Julian Silverman, was chosen both for its politically-charged history and its contemporary relevance.
Cabaret is a difficult play to stage, and AUTS masterfully uses all of Moyse Hall to capture the essence of a real cabaret. The play lets the audience leave their problems in the Montreal cold, and takes you on a journey of sensual, sexual, and dramatic beauty. Just like the Kit Kat Club, the entire cast of Cabaret is beautiful, and the quality and professionalism of the all members of the production make it hard to believe they are students.
My hat goes off – and in this case my shirt and pants also – to the Emcee. The brilliant Nicolas Allen plays the role to perfection. Look out for him during intermission, where he not only stays in character but stares you down in a way that would make Joel Grey jealous.
The legacy of Cabaret – whether it be the book, movie, or previous theatrical stagings – makes it impossible to enter the theatre without large expectations. As the piece evolves with every new production, it seems as though it would be difficult to ensure each new interpretation is on par with previous performances. AUTS not only stepped up to the plate but delivered all an avid Cabaret fan could hope for: passionate men and women, a fiery atmosphere, and a burlesque cabaret intermittently interrupted by the realities of Germany’s fascist beginnings.
The most surprising aspect of the show is its overt sexuality; as a student production, it would be easy to shy away from the erotic content of the play. Silverman explains that although he was a little worried about his parents’ reaction when they witnessed a few scenes, he figured the cast should have fun with it when they can.
Like most musicals, the song and dance allows the production to backhandedly deal with serious issues. Beyond perfecting the decadent atmosphere of the Kit Kat Club through dance moves that will make your head spin and an amazing yet simple set, the genius of the play remains in how it manages to grab the heart of the audience and transmit the atmosphere of fear from the era.
So ladies and gentlemen, whether you have seen the play a million times or have never heard of it before, come to Cabaret, where all your troubles will be forgotten and a unique spectacle will unravel in front of your eyes.
Cabaret plays at Moyse Hall January 21-23 at 7:30 p.m. You can reserve tickets online at http://auts-cabaret2010.blogspot.com.