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Reviews Music

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Laughter and arias fill the town hall; but why did the Berlin Cabaret leave the Kit Kat Club behind?

Berlin Cabaret Axbridge Town Hall

With its lists of former mayors inscribed in wooden panels on the walls, it’s newly decorated toilets and fire exit signs Axbridge Town Hall is a long way from the seedy and smoke-filled confines of the Kit Kat Club. But as the band struck up a jaunty rendition of Willkommen, for a brief moment (if you closed your eyes) we could have been in 1930s Berlin with Sally Bowles ready to take to the stage alongside the Emsee.

Our Emsee for the evening was the gazelle-like figure of Sasha Herriman who quickly took us out of the Kit Kat Club on a sort of Cook’s tour of popular songs from the shows with much slapstick, humour and audience interaction. It wasn’t the Berlin Cabaret as billed but it was entertaining. Herriman was partnered with fellow singer Eloise Routledge whose golden vocals gave the evening a distinctly operatic tone with songs by Gilbert and Sullivan, Puccini, Rossini and Mozart. With her trembling chin, her flowing locks and soaring voice (which threatened as times to loosen the hall’s fixtures and fittings) we quite forgot the world of Christopher Isherwood and moved to the lawns of Glyndebourne and the gold and scarlet décor of Milan’s Teatro alla Scala.

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The band of Andrea Monk on keyboard, Tim Hill on saxophone and Sean Davey on bass needed to be versatile with such a range of songs that included arias, high comedy and soulful ballads. Gershwin’s Summertime, Puccini’s O Mio babbino Caro, Brecht’s Mack the Knife, and Bernstein’s I Feel Pretty featured on the lengthy list of songs in the Take Art event presented by The Bluebirds – a cabaret act usually including the singer Tami Ta, although her role was taken by Routledge on this occasion.

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With its slightly loose feeling and eclectic mix the show lacked narrative to give it focus and relied on the strength of the individual performers along with the irreverent and cheeky humour of Sasha Herriman – plus the singers’ stunning selection of gowns. Perhaps the mystery remains why the Kit Kat Club was left behind. Was it to appease the taste’s of audiences or because of Tami Ta’s absence? A pity as the rich seam of musical drama of Brecht and company has never been more popular.

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The show was at its best when Herriman and Routledge worked together playing off each other, egging members of the audience and clowning about and also in their duets such as Jealousy Duet and Sull Aria. Whether it was Now is the Month of May in which the singers used a middle-aged man as a maypole or another spectator as a cow and a third as a singing chicken the evening was never short of laughs and indeed musical talent.

Miranda Cornwallis  Reviewed: Saturday 4th October, 2014

The Bluebirds have a number of shows currently on tour. For more details visit http://www.thebluebirds.org.uk