Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cabaret (and One New Tool)


PC from Quoteflections (see my blogroll) suggested that I write a post about the plays that I saw at Stratford. I'm no critic; my approach when reading, viewing or listening is for the entertainment value. I tend not to analyse but to feel and make connections. Since I don't want the post to be too long, I'll do this in installments. However, don't look for the next installment until August - I'm going away for a week and I'm not taking my computer with me.


Cabaret

My previous experience with this play is the well-known Liza Minelli/Joel Gray Hollywood movie version. I saw it in the 70's and mostly remember the songs more than the plot. So seeing this play performed in Stratford was like watching it for the first time. The movie version was heavily adapted and focused on the Liza Minelli character (Sally Bowles). The Stratford version is the original play from 1966. Here is a short synopsis (from Cabaret's program):

On New Year's Eve, 1929, a young American writer, Clifford Bradshaw, arrives in Germany to teach English and work on a novel. On the train to Berlin, he is befriended by a stranger, Ernst Ludwig, who secures him lodging at the boarding house of Fraulein Schneider and persuades him to sample the city's night life at the Kit Kat club. That club, presided over by an eerily flamboyant master of ceremonies, features and English cabaret singer named Sally Bowles, who takes an immediate interest in Cliff and loses no time in charming her way into his rooms and into his heart. But even as Cliff surrenders to the dream-like distraction of this love affair, he finds himself increasingly disturbed by the ominous changes taking place in the country (i.e. Hitler's rise to power and the anti-Jewish sentiment developing - my words here) around him - and by their implications for the people he has come to think of as his friends.

There is a subplot in the play about an autumn romance and the Fraulein Schneider/Herr Shultz subplot was new to me. Fraulein Schneider owns the rooming house in which Bradshaw lives while he is in Berlin. Herr Schultz, who is Jewish, owns a nearby fruit store and romances Fraulein Schneider with gifts of rare fruit. They decide to marry, but Fraulein Schneider calls it off when she sees which way the wind is blowing in her country.

I actually felt that in this version, the Sally Bowles/Clifford Bradshaw plot was almost secondary to the sub-plot of the Schneider/Shultz romance. Not sure why. The Emcee's constant presence in every scene was a joy to watch - his facial expressions (and other body parts) reflected the emotions of each scene. The music was excellent of course but it was really hard to forget about Liza Minelli's version of the theme song Cabaret and enjoy Trish Lindstrom's (the actress who portrayed Sally Bowles) version. This is probably because I've been belting out Minelli's version in my shower for the last 30 years!

This year, Stratford is moving back to it's Shakespearen roots, so all of the musicals have been moved to the smaller Avon Theatre rather than performing them at the much larger Festival Theatre as they have in the past. The Avon was packed for the matinee; not an empty seat in the house (in comparison, the evening performance of Taming of the Shrew, held at Festival, had a multitude of empty seats. I'll write more about this when I post about 'Shrew'). I do recommend this play if you like musicals. I'm never disappointed with my Stratford experience.

On a completely different note, I have to share a tool that was posted on a recent Joyce Valenza blog. It's called Glogster and it lets you design really cool graphic pages for your wiki. I quickly made one in about 10 minutes then added it to my pd wiki. When I have time, I'll play with it some more.

Image: http://jam.canoe.ca/Theatre/Reviews/C/Cabaret/2008/05/31/5732196-sun.html

1 comment:

pc said...

Thanks, for the review. It's always good to balance a musical with Shakespeare. I'm not sure I like the artistic director's decision to allocate the musicals to the Avon. Theatre goers may miss the dramatic intensity that is capable at the Festival Theatre.

Also your PD Wiki is very user friendly and inviting with Glogster. Thanks for the information.