Life Is Good, When it’s This Cabaret

A production with sleaze, glamour, music, and a message.

Photo by Seanna Kennedy.

  • Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Avenue)
    • Thursday, January 30–Sunday, March 2
  • $49-$59

It’s 1931 in Berlin, and the Nazis are on the brink of supremacy. But there remains another side to the city—one that’s decadent, permissive, and artistic. And that’s the world we meet when we’re beckoned into the extravagant and sleazy Kit Kat Klub by eccentric Emcee and his troupe of saucy dancers, performing “Willkommen.”

Cabaret’s primary plotline begins with the arrival of American writer Cliff Bradshaw (David Light). Without a real agenda, he’s come to Berlin to work on his novel and teach English. A patron of the Kit Kat Klub, he catches the eye of the star performer Sally Bowles (Kylie McMahon). A natural stunner, Sally is a bubbly young Brit with a powerhouse voice, a dancer’s grace, and a reputation for flitting from man to man like a bumblebee in a flowerbed. It’s not long before she and Cliff fall in love—though the question of whether he’ll be able to satisfy her wild side constantly hangs over their heads. The sweetness lacking in their relationship can be found in the romantic pairing of the boarding house landlord Fraulein Schneider (Adeen Ashton Fogle) and Jewish shop owner Herr Schultz (Don Berns). As appealing as they are, though, these middle-aged lovebirds are just as susceptible to trouble and heartbreak as their younger counterparts.

The goings-on at the Kit Kat Klub remind us that while we know what darkness lurks in Germany’s near future, these characters do not. Some, like Sally, just want to drink, dance, fall in love, and enjoy pleasures of the flesh until it all blows over. Lulled into this false sense of security, the first sighting of the swastika comes as a hard punch to the gut. The club’s once-playful cabaret performances take on an air of foreboding—the club cannot escape the growing shadow of the Nazi movement.

The Emcee—played by the immensely talented Adam Norrad—is the thread that weaves the romances, the entertainment, and the political aspects of Cabaret together. Having just finished his third stint as Frank’N’Furter in the Lower Ossington Theatre’s Rocky Horror Show, it’s no surprise that he is the cast member most at home in his role—another dark, ultra-sexual, androgynous character. While some of his co-stars struggle to sustain their various accents, Norrad nails his from the get-go, effortlessly transitioning between German, French, and English.

Thanks to the combined talents of director Jeremy Hutton, music director Mark-Anthony Del Brocco, costume designer Kathleen Black, set designer Michael Galloro, and choreographer Erin Brookhouse, the LOT’s production of Cabaret is something to behold. The costumes, which range from demure to daring, evoke the era’s sense of glamour. Feeding off of the flashy live score, the dancers superbly execute their high kicks, lifts, and intricate formations—all while tapping into the cheekiness of classic burlesque.

Cabaret has it all: entertainment, poignancy, and a message. Even if it didn’t also feature an excellent cast, choreography, and music, it would still be a production worth seeing. But since those elements are present—well, you know what you need to do.

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