Korda’s Sexy and Emotional Take on Cabaret is a Winner in Every Way

CabaretI have a statement to declare. Before checking out Kordazone Theatre’s latest production last weekend, I was a Cabaret virgin.

I admit it, I’ve never seen the classic musical in any shape or form before walking through the doors of Korda on Friday night – not a single live show for me ever. It’s actually a show that’s never crossed my path in all my years of theatre reviews throughout Ontario and BC.

So this whole Korda Cabaret experience was exciting from the get go. It’s always exciting when you pop your cherry, right?

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 Clifford Bradshaw, a struggling American writer looking for inspiration for his next novel. On his first night in Berlin, Cliff 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, Cliff’s first German friend, turns out to be an up-and-coming member of the Nazi Party, and Herr Schultz, a fellow boarder at Fraulein Schneider’s guest house, is the victim of an Anti-Semitic hate crime.

As soon as you enter the theatre and walk around the black curtains at the entrance, it’s evident this is not the usual Korda fare. Once those curtains subside, the theatre takes a 180° turn with grandstand seating, lounge tables and a gorgeous set, complete with rounded staircases and an upper level.

This Koda Artistic Productions performance of Cabaret is the perfect example what theatre should be. Not only is there an awesome stage, but we’re also treated to solid production, live musicians and a stunning cast. For example, the role of Fraulein Schneider was almost as if it was custom made for Tracey Atin. This is her shining moment and the role of a lifetime. She was so captivating, she almost got a standing ovation during one of her songs. I could watch her do this all day.

The entire cast was top notch for this one. Martin Ouellette gave Cliff Bradshaw a solid performance, which peaked when he started having issues with the Nazi regime throughout the second act. Jeff Wilkinson kinda’ scared me – he was a perfect Nazi supporter.

Heather Hausmann was adorable as Sally – her voice was impeccable and far superior to the iconic Liza Minnelli performance. Her take on the song Cabaret was so emotional and tense that the audience was nearly in shock.

Another incredible standout was Will Licari as The EmCee. His performance was captivating, funny and supercharged. He can be my emcee any day of the week.

The Kit Kat Klub Boys and Girls were highly enjoyable to watch. It might have been the sexy risqué costumes and stellar dance routines or it just could have been that each one of them was ultimately adorable – they caught my eye from the moment they walked out on stage and stole my attention every time they were on the stage. The lingerie and costume selections opened a few eyes!

Everyone in the cast deserves a tremendous amount of respect for this show – there was no weak link in the entire production and my respect goes out to each one. Director Andres Hausmann selected a winning cast.

John Luther masterminded some great choreography and Tony Gyemi crafted that genius stage. Tucked behind the scenes on the upper level was a live band that made the music absolutely scrumptious. This was the best live music I’ve heard at any Windsor show since I started reviewing shows in the city three years ago. Ben Goldstein assembled a killer five-piece unit that sounded much bigger than it was.

Well old chums, Korda’s Cabaret is one hell of a way to kick off the 2019 season. It’s going to be hard to top this one, but they have quite a few more shots at it with their amazing lineup this year.

Girl In The Golden Fishbowl runs in April, Mother Courage and Her Children happens in May, the cult classic Reefer Madness takes the stage in June, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder is scheduled in September, The Glass Menagerie is in October and they close with a holiday panto version of Robin Hood in December. They also host the Extension-Korda Summer Sessions program which includes summer camps, musical performances, productions, cabaret nights and special events.

Cabaret continues with performances tonight (Feb. 22), as well as Feb. 23 and 28 and March 1 and 2. Tickets are $20 or $15 for Seniors and $10 for Students. Visit http://kordazone.com for more info.

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Photo: Jen Gurniak for Kordazone Theatre