Cabaret & New Westminster's Favourite SonSunday, April 15, 2018
|Lauren Stewart & Andrew Cownden , New Westminster April 14 2018|
Any musical with fishnets has to be good.
Driving to New Westminster with my granddaughter Lauren last night was for me what it always is when I go to that royal city. I get lost with its streets and avenues, I confuse Queen with Royal and the hills remind me of the city that Vancouver is not.
Going to the Massey Theatre on 8th Avenue and 8th Street (we did get lost and missed the first five minutes of the show) is full of memories that have nothing to do with any connection I may have ever had with New West. And yet…
Last night we enjoyed the opening of Royal City Musical Theatre’s production of Joe Masteroff’s Cabaret directed by Valerie Easton who has dance musicals running in her veins since I first met her around 1979.
|Raymond Burr - 1986|
But there was a lot more to this 1966 musical than meets the eye when one is sitting next to a 15-year-old teenager who happens to know a lot about dance as she is dancing full-time at the Arts Umbrella Dance Company.
We watched handsome boys dance with handsome boys and lovely women dance with other lovely women. We watched Clifford Bradshaw (a very tall Tim Howe) go through the tribulations on a sexual proclivity conundrum. We watched the not quite over the top (excellent for that reason) performance of Andrew Cownden playing The Emcee. We watched many women, with not too much on, wiggle here and there in their fishnets.
We watched and perhaps only the latter the wiggling women were any kind of a shock to us in this 21st century.
|Valerie Easton, left with René Simmard|
I grieved and felt melancholy for New Westminster’s favourite son, Raymond Burr.
He was my subject twice in the 80s. Both times when I knocked on the door his (with the usage of the time) boyfriend with full eye makeup opened it. We in the media knew this gracious man, Raymond Burr to be gay. It was irrelevant and in particular because Burr was kind to the media and was always acknowledging his connection to his dear New Westminster. The man was a gentleman.
I believe that it was only the Vancouver Sun when Burr died in 1993 that his sexuality was raise so that anybody might have known or suspected the man was gay.
So seeing Cabaret in 2018 does not have that shock (nor could the events of the play been shocking to many of the inhabitants of the Weimar Republic). This makes Cabaret a very important play for us old people to reconsider and an important play for someone like my granddaughter.
|Valerie Easton with Paul Williams and Jackie Coleman|
During the play there is a song in which a few young boys in light brown shirts and ties appear. I had to explain to Lauren who they were and I further explained the event that led to Hitler’s rise in post WWII Germany. She had no idea.
I further explained Stephen J. Cannell’s explanation that no play, no TV series can work without it being a Three-Act. I told Lauren that in the first act or Part I the protagonists, including the hero are introduced. In the second act, conflict enters the picture. And the third act is the resolution.
Cabaret, of course leaves you with an uncertain resolution unless you know that it all leads to war and that probably Herr Schultz (played by Damon Calderwood) will be shot or gassed with millions of other Jews and Gypsies.
|Lauren at the Massey Theatre, New Westminster, April 14 2018|
In short you can be amply entertained in this production of Cabaret by wonderful songs and a choreography that is precise (Easton is so). Watching one of the performances on cane-backed chairs was especially thrilling.
But you leave this musical with much reconsideration. One is that as a society we have gone far but with our media being attacked there is a warning that things can revert.
But most of all I wonder how Raymond Burr and his partner would have handled our present times.
As a very subjective addendum I must add here that in the original musical they had to make changes which included the incorporation of the song Money. Money is my favourite tune. In the height of the more permissive exotic dance scene my favourite dancer's signature song was money.