“Brilliant”, “Fantastic”, “Amazing”. These are but a few examples of the countless superlatives that filled my mind as Cabaret, Colla Voce’s latest production, drew to a close.

Over the course of a one-night only gig at Theatre Delicatessen, the musical theatre company founded by third-year students Jack Robertson and Tom Williams won the unanimous approval of the audience.

But what made Cabaret so successful? After attending such a spectacular show, the answer appears quite obvious: its misleading simplicity beneath which actually lies hours and hours of intensive preparation.

The candour with which the performers expressed their characters never failed to enthrall us.

Indeed, from the very first seconds onwards, the tone was set. A small-scale orchestra picked up a whimsical cabaret tune, when a John Turturro-looking emcee appeared onstage. This “cheeky” gentleman, performed by Karam Deo, then started singing along in impressive “Français” as a reminder of what we came for: the mighty and ancient French art of cabaret. He pulled it off brilliantly, but his talent didn’t stop there. Throughout the play he equally shined at acting both as an entertainer and as a compere, energetically toying with the audience between every song. How could we forget the sassy lines with which he artfully bombarded us, such as “Get on my level, I’m a liberal” after casually blaspheming with a bible in his hands, or “Oh, again with this mist!” whenever the fog machines started doing their job.

However, we’re not here to lavish praise on the charismatic performance of a single man, but to discuss the overall artistic performance of a truly gifted company. The most endearing aspect of the show was the personal, heartfelt touch which characterised Cabaret. From a jaunty dude singing about his adventure with a naked Korean girl to a gentle nerd working up the courage to express his feelings, the audience got the full package. The candour with which the performers expressed their characters -and who knows, maybe a bit of themselves- never failed to draw us in and create a sense of unity between the audience and the actors. This is perhaps the most essential ingredient to a great show.

Photo credit JSP (Joseph Samuel Priestly)
Photo credit JSP (Joseph Samuel Priestley)

But let’s not forget to pay credit to the mesmerising quality of the vocals. If a cabaret can’t do without flamboyant performance, nor can it pass on true musical talent. All throughout the show, our comedians proved to be extremely skillful singers. From sweet melodies to vertiginous octave climbing, there were times when I felt that I was not in presence of amateurs, although they claim to be so. In this regard, Cabaret reached a climax twice: before the interval and then again at the finale (wittily entitled “The Opening”). The whole company joined together on stage and provided a perfect demonstration of vocal harmony, leading the audience into a hysterical avalanche of applause and admiration.

This is the magic of Colla Voce, where self-derision and sheer fun meet talent and sensitivity. And Cabaret, despite its humble enterprise, did much more than covering musicals: it recreated the genre, and emerged as a fantastic musical in its own right.


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