KT Sullivan/Karen Kohler – Vienna to Weimar

Reviewer's Rating

Although I am a cabaret virgin in many respects, KT Sullivan and Karen Kohler are a marvellous duo, who introduce a unique and stylised cabaret performance with a historical twist. As London welcomes its first Cabaret Festival, all I can say after what I’ve seen so far is that I hope it becomes a permanent fixture. No more than a year old, The Crazy Coqs itself is a flourishing venue with its mixture of cabaret, live music, fine wine and dining along with staff who spoil you in this luxurious ambience, all making this one place you shouldn’t miss. The minimal stage creates an intimate space between the performers and audience allowing us to feel a part of the experience as KT Sullivan and Karen Kohler talk us through their songs and the historicity of their chosen pieces. The fashionable bar and mirrored ceiling create an atmosphere of elegance and sexy suaveness which I have rarely seen, with the place complementing the stylisation of this performance.

KT Sullivan and Karen Kohler are two of New York’s favourite cabaret artists and whilst they often perform independently, they have teamed up for this talented, cheeky, provocative and sexually, politically and emotionally playful journey from Vienna to Weimar. Their classically trained voices are beautifully incorporated into these challenging, endearing and occasionally hilarious songs. They effectively counterbalance each other to create an interesting contrast that works well for the repertoire they have chosen, ultimately producing a unique and compelling performance.

It was a treat to experience two award-winning artists and whilst I was sceptical at first with the possible language barrier, due to the incorporation of German songs, these performers put my mind at ease the moment KT Sullivan walked through the audience clinking her champagne glass with us and singing Wien, Wien nur du allein (Vienna, City of Dreams). As they take the audience on a historical cabaret journey, introducing us to its origins from the 1870s in Vienna to the 1930s of Berlin, they integrate the original German songs with the translations (mostly translated by Jeremy Lawrence, Hollywood’s translator for Marlene Dietrich) presenting a balanced portrayal of authenticity with an interpretation for a London audience.

The cabaret is filled with tantalizing songs. KT Sullivan eases the audience into the humorous element of the performance with Ich bin ein Vamp (I am a Vamp) toying with the notion of a woman with a sexual appetite being part woman and part beast. The line, “I bite my men and suck them dry” particularly amuses the audience as she coyly teases us with the playful lyrics before Karen Kohler joins her on stage to sing Wenn die beste Freundin (When the Special Girlfriend), which equally has the audience laughing with its upbeat tempo and tongue-and-cheek gay and lesbian insinuations. The repertoire is an interesting mixture of amusement, feminism and love with melodies that capture your heart strings whilst others make you wish you could be taking part yourself. The tempo slows to an almost dream-like lullaby as the performance draws to an end, the artists finishing with Take this Waltz, which neatly incorporates the opening performance by once again singing within the audience area and clinking glasses in a final goodbye. As they waltz gracefully on stage together, the audience are lulled with their lyrics and wistful voices.

Both are highly accomplished artists and the research that has gone into producing this set has made it an exceptional piece offering a unique insight into cabaret which is filled with love, laughter, sexual innuendo, emotional turmoil and drama. Whilst I would love to write about every song and the way in which these pieces interact with one another in this wonderful performance, all I can say is that it’s a must see for even those who have never considered cabaret and cabaret lovers alike! Enjoy!