What better way to celebrate Kurt Weill’s birthday than listening to his songs, cabaret style, with a beer or three. Well that’s what we did on Saturday as Blitzkrieg Cabaret opened a new run of Saturday afternoon shows at the Dakota Tavern.
We got three singers; Danie Friesen, Hilary June Hart, Jackson Welchner supported by Nick Donovan (drums), Colin Frotten (piano), and Andrew Downing (bass) with Hilary also chipping in on the accordion on occasion. While Danie is a classically trained singer, Hilary and Jackson sound more comfortable in a jazzier idiom. That, plus the make up of the band meant that the show tended to the “Sinatraesque” version of Weill rather than, say, the grittiness of Pabst’s Dreigroschenoper movie. This was reflected in both choice of translation and performing style. I think this works for some of Weill’s stuff but it doesn’t work for me so well with the Brecht lyrics. I’ll go for Marx over McCarthy anytime! Other people may feel differently.
Getting specific, I would have gone for grittier translations of Mack the Knife, though to be fair the version chosen worked with Jackson’s performing style, as well as Pirate Jenny and Surabaya Johnny. Both were convincingly performed by Hilary but I think there are punchier versions. I loved Danie’s versions of Youkali and I’m a Stranger Here Myself though. And with twenty numbers spread over a couple of hours there really was something for everybody.
There were some cool touches. When songs were presented in French or German they used silent movie style cue cards for the translation. The singers’ outfits matched the mood. And the whole thing had a proper cabaret feel to it, even in the middle of the afternoon.
Chatting with Danie (and Renée Salewski who’s also involved somehow) I gather that this is a show still to some extent “under construction”. Many of the issues that I’ve raised in this review are still not finalized so it will be intersting to see how the show evolves.
I should add that the Dakota Tavern has a decent brunch menu and a much better selection of craft beers than most performance venues so if you are up for Saturday brunch why not fork out the extra $15 and see some live music too.
There are further shows at 1pm on the next three Saturdays (9th, 16th, 23rd).