I think it is safe to say that since the Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society first started in 2011 they have never quite presented a show quite like Cabaret.
Presentations of Kander and Ebb’s iconic musical continue at the Harold Greenspon Auditorium until June 16, 2019. I was among those on hand for opening night and one could not help but be thoroughly impressed by Director Anisa Cameron and her crew.
One of the great musicals of a generation, Cabaret leads us between the worlds of the notorious nightlife and political turmoil of Berlin in 1931. An important and iconic piece of musical theatre, with book by Joe Masteroff, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, Cabaret invites audiences to witness the decadence and decay of a place teetering on the brink of catastrophe.
Craig Dalley as the Emcee. (Ian Cameron Photo)
“Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome…” With this friendly yet eerie salutation, the brilliant Craig Dalley greets in the audience in the role of Emcee and leads us through the story of American Cliff Bradshaw (Calder Levine) and his brief but indelible affair with British Berlin cabaret darling, Sally Bowles (Jeanne Motulsky, who played Penny in Hairspray).
On why she felt strongly the CSLDS should produce Cabaret at this moment, Cameron said: “Cabaret stands as a staggering, sumptuous, scintillating and stark lesson in the dangers of complacency, denial and willful ignorance in the face of unbridled nationalism and the rise of a fascist tide. In the political climate that we find ourselves facing today, I felt strongly compelled to produce this show.”
Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, who co-produced the show with Councillor Mitch Kujavsky, added: “From its inception, I was always intrigued by Cabaret. Its musical numbers sparked my first interest in musical theatre, while its story taught me so much. This is why we will be bringing musical numbers from the show to the seniors homes in Côte Saint-Luc and through a partnership with the Montreal Holocaust Museum, we will educate our high school and CEGEP students with special shows and talk backs discussions in the presence of Holocaust survivors.”
Kujavsky said he was unfamiliar with Cabaret prior to this production. “The depth of the show’s message is powerful and will resonate very strongly in our community,” he said.
Jordana Dobski, Kujavsky’s wife, is a past CLDS performer. She stepped in to the role of production manager for this show.
A scene from the show. (Ian Cameron photo)
Cabaret takes place from 1929-1930, a time when Berlin, in the midst of a post-World War I economic depression, is transitioning from a center of underground, avant-garde cultural epicenter to the beginnings of Hitler’s totalitarian regime and the rise of the Nazi Party. Into this world enters Bradshaw, a struggling American writer looking for inspiration for his next novel. On his first night in Berlin, he wanders into the Kit Kat Klub, a seedy nightclub overseen by the strange, omniscient and gender-bending Master of Ceremonies, “the Emcee.” Here, Cliff meets Sally Bowles, a vivacious, talented cabaret performer, and an utterly lost soul. Sally and Cliff begin a relationship, which blossoms unexpectedly into a dream-like romance.
As time passes, however, the situation in Berlin changes from exciting and vital to ominous and violent; Ernst (Edward Le Vasseur), Cliff’s first German friend, turns out to be an up-and-coming member of the Nazi Party, and Herr Schultz (wonderfully portrayed by Johnny Kovac), a fellow boarder at Fraulein Schneider’s (Linda Babins) guest house (and Schneider’s fiancee), is the victim of an anti-Semitic hate crime.
When he finds out that Sally is pregnant, Cliff decides that they must leave for America at once, before things get any worse. Sally, afraid, confused, and unsure that she’ll ever really be able to trade the sexy, illicit cabaret lifestyle for motherhood, gets an abortion, and tells Cliff that he must leave without her. Fraulein Kost, nemesis to Fraulein Schneider , is portrayed by CSLDS newcomer and McGill Jazz vocalist, Maria Jimenez. She also plays double duty as Lulu in the Kit Kat Klub as well. The Kit Kat Girls are: Genevieve Pertugia (Rosie); Marina Mendoza (Frenchie), who arrived via Cirque Eloize; Concordia Theatre Performance student Gabrielle Banville (Texas); McGill Jazz Vocal student Isabelle Rachiele (Fritzie); Ari Sterlin (Helga), veteran CSLDS performer, choreographer, writer and director; Nicole Arrage (Zelda) and Kaylah Langburt (Totsie ). The Kit Kat boys include: TY Jung (Bobby); CSLDS Veteran Natasha Lilliman (Victor), Jonah Zoldan (Hans/Rudy) (Joseph…) and Ryan Kligman (Herman), who doubles as Assistant Director. Rounding out this ensemble are: Shaun Nishmas as Kit Kat Klub owner, Max, and young rising star of stage and screen, 8 year old Ryan Hill as the voice of the young boy who sings “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”.
The Musical Director Benjamin Kwong witgh Alexia Gourd back as choreographer, assisted by Sterlin. Continuing the list, there is design by Sabrina Miller, Costume Design by Elyse Malo and Lighting Design by Babins . Technical Director is Scott Drysdale, with Samantha Stermer as stage manager. And a well deserved shout out to Ryan Nemeroff from the Parks and Recreation Department who serves an invaluable liaison for the CLDS.
Tickets for the run range in price from $28 to $45 (for exclusive Cabaret style seating that includes a beverage and refreshment. All tickets are available at The Eleanor London Public Library, The CSL Aquatic and Community Center, and online at CSLDramaticSociety.com, and can also be purchased at the door one hour before show time.
Opening night included a special VIP Gala Fundraiser, with a dinatoire and entertainment before the show.
Warning: Cabaret includes scenes of overt sexualityand some violence. Due to the time and location Cabaret takes place in, there will be imagery used which is associated with the rise of and atrocities committed by the Nazi party.
You can also see Glenn J. Nashen's review.