THE 3º CABARET, written and directed by Adam Nashman, choreographed by Nicola Pantin, with Pantin, Béché Ako, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Sean Power, Sarah Martyn and John T. Davis. Presented by Bald Ego Theatre at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander). Runs to June 3, Wednesday-Sunday at 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $12-$15, Sunday pwyc. 975-8555. Rating: NNN
The mood was relaxed and upbeat as Hammond organ wizard John T. Davis noodled out cocktail songs before the slick Jimmy J. Tee the Emcee (Sean Power) slithered onto the stage to get The 3º Cabaret rolling.
Then the shit hit the fan. No sooner had Jimmy flashed his first salacious grin at the crowd and warned all in attendance that what they were about to see was not what it seemed, than three Mafia thugs stormed in to shake him down for the dough he owed them.
And it's downhill from there for ol' Jimmy J. Tee as he dodges his creditors, gets beaten up by a nun-run morality squad, bilks his cast out of their paycheques, places absurd bets with his bookie Jewy (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee) and ponders the meaning (or lack of it) of life.
But between Jimmy's questionable schemes to keep his act together, the Cabaret itself sends off sparks as the enticing Sarah (Sarah Martyn) croons a sexy ballad about murder, Béché (Béché Ako) explodes in a hyper movement piece where his business suit gives way to a tribal costume and his briefcase turns into a drum, and Nicola (Nicola Pantin) redefines the table dance to the strains of The Look Of Love.
But director Adam Nashman's dialogue is, perhaps deliberately, often cheesy and superficial, and his comments on financial, political and moral issues seem strangely half-baked. It's tough to have much sympathy for the slippery Jimmy J. Tee, despite his begrudging attempts at human kindness. If any truth emerges out of the character, it's that you have to be a criminal to survive in this life.
But the cast is a riot. The singing and dancing -- by the slinky, sexual women and the funky and funny guys -- are by far the production's strongest suits.
And when Davis pipes up mid-show to plug his CD and rip through a dazzling version of Last Of The Blues, all the show's inadequacies vapourize into a bluesy haze, and you thank your lucky stars for the freedom of the cabaret.