Kurt Weill is a composer perhaps best known for his association with playwright Bertolt Brecht but, after being exiled from Germany, he went on to success on Broadway. He worked with some incredible artists and writers in Berlin, Paris and New York, including Jean Cocteau, Ira Gershwin and Ogden Nash, and he composed music to the words of Walt Whitman and Robert Frost.
Weill was prolific and composed in a wide range of musical styles; given that he began composing at the time of the Weimar Republic, it is appropriate that the Adelaide Cabaret Festival should honour his memory and music. And who better than local talent Robyn Archer (winner of the 2016 festival’s Cabaret Icon Award) to be Master of Ceremonies?
Archer kicked the night off with “Mack the Knife”. A few spotlights hazily lit the band, several small tables and a leather couch simulated a sleazy scene, and Archer, in trademark black suit, looked and sounded as good as she ever has. It is clear she loves Weill’s music.
She and Barb Jungr were perfect role models for younger performers in cabaret singing; they both know how to look cheekily at an audience, how to find nuance and irony within lyrics, how to convey anything bawdy or lewd, when to employ the art of song-speak and how to hit someone between the eyes with song.
Jungr was once again in fine form with a superb performance of “Surabaya Johnny” from Happy End. Her variation of interpretation and ability to convey layers of meaning within one song was something special to experience. Later in the evening, she performed the “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)”, walking among and working the audience as she sang.
Hew Parham, in white face and dark dress, gave us a real taste of funny, gutsy cabaret, and Ali McGregor featured in “Je ne t’aime pas” and “I’m a Stranger Here Myself”. Eddie Perfect’s version of “What Keeps Mankind Alive” was booming but needed some variety in expression.
Archer is able to stand and command the stage with a turn of phrase and a glint in her eye; she provided the audience with detailed information of Weill’s achievements and delighted us when she sang “The Soldier’s Wife” and “Petroleum Song”.
The Weill File featured a cast of distinguished cabaret performers who gave us a taste of the range and power of Kurt Weill’s music.
The Weill File was presented for one night only at the Dunstan Playhouse as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, which continues until June 25.
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