"Thought provoking...brilliant! Olivia Stevens is a colorful singing actress"
"Olivia Stevens as the Cabaret Diva delivers sparkling moments"
"...Glamour and despair, decadence and personal courage...When the Diva puts on a moustache and sings feministic songs the subversive power of the vamp is revealed. When she sings a song in remembrance of the arrested colleague Judith, the backdrop of the era becomes a serious reality"
"We're in Berlin in the 40s. A shady basement locale is the stage of the remaining exile cabaret Katakombe. Gobbles has declared war against the city's cabarets that, according to him, have mocked the superior race and made fun of the political leaders. The majority of the ensemble has already been deported and the audience is informed that Judith's balance act, that everyone has come to see, no longer is on the repertory since Judith's been taken away by the Gestapo.
Left on stage is Petronella, the star of Kabaret Katakomb (Olivia Stevens) and her accordionist (Maria Peters). The balance act between trying to satisfy the officers in the audience while following ones own conviction becomes increasingly desperate. The consequences are fatal when Petronella decides to stop compromising.
Lacrimosa`s stage Gavelius is transformed to its advantage, into an intimate cabaret stage; the audience seated around little cafe tables in the cafe. Jewish composers in the 20-ies wrote the songs. Giddy and entertaining on the surface, but beneath the ironic lyrics hide provocative, political messages about corruption and a struggle for free love.
Steven's voice goes straight through your skin. She nuances between defying self-confidence and fragility in both singing and acting and her stage presence makes you catch yourself, more or less holding your breath throughout the entire show. It's as if the audience has a knife against its throat - The interaction with imaginary officers, the German accent and the nervous, meaning gazes to the accordionist Kathe, add an extra nerve to the drama. The repertory fluctuates between savvy, funny numbers and serious songs. During the last, trembling minute of the show the performers summon their courage to perform a final piece: a Partisan song in Yiddish that takes your breath away.
Cabaret Verboten is not only a fantastic experience musically but a beautifully seamless show about life on the brink of death."
"Forbidden Cabaret Takes Charge"
"Michaela Agoston has seen 'Kabaret Verboten' a colorful little show with forbidden songs written in Berlin in the 1930s: glittering, cheeky, and abysmal, when set against the backdrop of their history.
A bullied musician dressed in a strict brown suit, with a large rose in her long hair, plays intensely and sadly on her accordion. The glittering and heavily made-up Petronella stands by her side, striking stylish poses, flirting with the audience and singing seductively. They are the perfect cabaret duo!
'You mustn’t keep money in your mattress. Go out amidst the people and plant them there', Petronella (the actress Olivia Stevens) urges us, in a song that parodies our obsession with money. Fiery scenes where the diva turns into a master of ceremony in a circus, with a whip and German accent lead to still moments where the musician (Miriam Olden burg) makes long sighs with her accordion.
'You must play now', Petronellal shamelessly orders her musician whos sat down by the piano 'I am a Vamp, half beast. I should really be kept in a Zoo. I've picked Himmler's roses and smoke weed in Amsterdam. I bite my men and suck them dry and then I bake them in a pie...'
In a song about a secret club for lesbians in Berlin she reveals a triangle of pink feathers under her skirt. She hungers for freedom and is a rebel of love, singing: 'This is the end of you clipping off our wings'.
Midshow, she puts on a Hitler moustache and purrs: 'There’s something about men with a moustache - I turn into a little pussycat'. After a moustache cavalcade she suddenly grabs a hold of a violin. The moustache ends up on her left shoulder while she proceeds to express her despair over the fact that there are so few real men left in this world. She wants '...a brute who knows how to shoot'. For the first time during the evening, she gives a bit of appreciation to the musician: 'You know, sometimes you're actually quite good. I really mean it.'
No wonder the Cabarets were forbidden by the Nazis.
In January of 1941 the Minister of Propaganda for the Nazis, Joseph Gobbles, wrote: 'Despite my repeated warnings the Cabaret performers continue to mock our unique race. They openly criticize the Political, Cultural and Economical leadership of the Reich. Since my warnings have been in vain, I am forced to take strict measures on behalf of the Fuehrer.'
Plain clothed SS-men were sent to the Cabarets to make sure there was no political critique. The entire ensemble could be called in for questioning and the performers as well as the audience risked being sent to jail or to a concentration camp. But the performers didn't give up; they went under ground, changed venues and started up new Cabarets under new names, skillfully hiding their political messages, until they eventually had to escape to survive.'
'Cabaret Verboten' is based on songs written by Jewish composers in Berlin in the 1930s, translated by Monica Hamberg.