Saturday, May 07, 2016
The Untamed Stage
Ich Bin Ein Berliner is the first song at a newly imagined Weimar era cabaret at the Hypnodrome, with Zelda Koznofski singing the catchy tune while playing the seen-it-all, done-it-all emcee for the evening.
The Untamed Stage is the latest original musical written by legendary local treasure Scrumbly Koldewyn above, who leads a huge cast from the piano in a series of cabaret tunes and an original one-act "Kabarett Musical Fantasy" which is a wild, surreal, outrageously sexual take on the rise of Nazi Germany.
In the program notes, Koldewyn writes that the musical inspiration was the songbook of Hollaender and Spoliansky. Not being able to get the rights to perform those originals for this show, Koldewyn decided to write his own new material in the style of the 20s Berlin songs. "Not to compete with Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, I chose to carry the irony and the explicitness a step or two further. However, the themes remain the same: man-devouring vamps, the blending of gender, social commentary, etc. These are songs intended to be performed with that certain Berliner attitude: "We are who we are." (Noah Haydon and Diogo Zavadzki above are drag hookers working the audience.)
So there is a song performed by David Bicha about Herr und Frau Anstatt, a married male and female couple who decide to change gender roles in public and private...
...a burlesque striptease with John Flaw serenading the magnificent Bruna Palmeiro in I Just Give 'Em What They Want...
...and the Sapphic duet between Nkechi Emeruwa and Carly Ozard in Having Fun Tonight...
...culminating in a shocking listing of outré perversions in Too Decadent for You by the trio of Jason Wade, Crystal Why and Barney Ford.
Act 2 has the perfectly Teutonic mouthful of a title: The German Thing to Do – or How a Cow Changes History: A Kabarett Musical Fantasy. It begins with a proto-Hitler Youth troupe called the Brown Shorts roaming the country and encountering a cow.
In a role and costume that could have been degrading or a lampoon, Bruna Palmeiro plays "The Existential Cow" as the essence of bovine contentment, eating and chewing and poooping. When she has no milk to give the Brown Shorts and they plot to lead her to slaughter, you actually fear for the poor cow, but in a wonderful plot turn she is saved by the sensitive young Wulf played by Diogo Zavadzki
Now things veer into surrealistic Cockettes territory where Scrumbly was an original cast member and troupe composer. Wulf is taken to Herman Hesse's Magic Theater where a film is projected that looks direct from the LSD-laced 1960s but features the present-day cast. Wulf becomes Kabarett performer Nola after his psychedelic experience...
...while his beloved friend Max played by Barney Ford ends up with mad German scientists trying to create a Superman semen serum.
The Existential Cow is acidentally injected with the serum and she entertains the Wild and Free Gang with her newly phallic appendages in a group orgy.
Through sexual liberation, Germany turns into a proto-hippie paradise and the entire cast sings a rousing anthem, The Divine Bovine, before fascists slaughter everyone and everything onstage. Though not spelled out explicitly, the parallels to 21st century San Francisco/Amerikka and 1920s Berlin/Germany are made fairly clear.
The score by Koldewyn is a marvel and the performers give it their all, including a rotating cast of special guest stars during the first half cabaret. The costume design by Glenn Krumbholz is constantly amazing, the direction by Russell Blackwood is tight throughout, and the show is highly recommended.