Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nordic Reviews: Cabaret

Greetings from Sweden, everybody! I'm currently on a little Nordic winter holiday tour, to see some Swedish and Danish musical theatre. And to review it a bit too, of course. I'll try to write a short text about each of the shows I see.

Starting with Malmö Stadsteater's production of Cabaret.

I saw Cabaret some years ago in Finland and, since then, thought it's a musical I don't like. I booked my ticket to see it in Malmö for one reason and one reason only: Lindy Larsson as the MC. I saw Larsson play Che in Malmö Opera's recent production of Evita and have been a fan ever since. So if I'm planning a trip to Sweden and he's in a musical, though one I don't like, but right on my route? Of course I'll see that!

So, let's talk about Larsson first. Another case of me having huge expectations and yet not being one bit disappointed! He made a fantastic MC. I don't feel the character was a real human being here, I don't think he quite existed in the same dimension as Sally and Cliff. The narrator really felt like a spirit or a symbol of the era depicted in the show. And what a symbol! Larsson's incredibly powerful voice and strong stage presence and incredibly high heels ensured that my attention was on him all the time. From creepy moments to sweet and everything in between, a powerful performance all the way through. (By the way, this production has a woman listed as u/s MC. I would love to see that happen, too!)

I'm glad that I decided to see this production for other reasons too, though. Hugo Hansén's direction helped me understand that though it has its weak bits and boring songs, there is plenty in Cabaret that makes it an interesting musical, a show still worth producing and still worth seeing.

Sure, this production was as far from the traditional take as you can get. Kit Kat Club was turned into a voguing house, and the choreography and music reflected that. Many of the songs were hardly recognisable in the new style. But! Apart from a couple of needless references to the fact that they are, indeed, voguing, and that the Kit Kat Club is, indeed, a place where said voguing happens, it suited the piece. And the modern aesthetics served as a reminder that the story, sadly enough, isn't quite outdated yet. When watching a version with period sets and costumes, one can more easily dismiss Ernst's lines about certain people not belonging to a certain country as a creepy part of history that's thankfully in the past. But the modern visuals and tunes seemed to underline that it's still happening – that, today, there are still people who have similar thoughts as Ernst does.

It's a shame the last two minutes of the piece were such a mess, then. I think the show should've ended when the MC was shot. It might've been a bit over the top, but still, it would've worked as a metaphor of an era being over. But no, it didn't stop there. The running-around-with-a-gun-women-screaming-fake-blood-falling-from-the-ceiling-rising-from-the-dead action that followed... Oh boy. I don't know what they were trying to achieve with the ending, but I at least left the theatre with a bitter aftertaste. To me, it felt like the show didn't know how to stop. (If you've seen this production and have some theories about what the ending might symbolise and/or reasons why it's good as it is, feel free to enlighten me.)

Overall, though, Malmö Stadsteater's Cabaret was a good production. From now on, I'll be giving new productions of Cabaret a chance a bit more eagerly, if the show happens any pop up near me again. Even if the cast list doesn't include Lindy Larsson.

Photos by Markus Gårder.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to hear you saw a production you liked! Sounds fascinating. The Tampereen Teatteri production I saw in 2008 or something was also quite wacky, but not to that extent. I share your opinion on the musical itself, and I think it's one of those musicals that require extravagant or otherwise memorable details to work, not least because everyone knows the movie.