Auckland's cabaret season made a stylish arrival with Jennifer Ward-Lealand breathing new life into songs that were heard in the nightclubs of Berlin during the tumultuous flowering of the Weimar Republic.

Directed by Shane Bosher, the show reveals an intimate familiarity with the politically engaged song-writing of the period and along with the Kurt Weill classics, we hear lesser-known songwriters like Mischa Spoliansky and Friedrich Hollander.

Using a limited vocal range, Ward-Lealand displays a marvellous ability to inhabit the emotion of a song and her shifting moods are well matched by a lively five piece band under the direction of Robin Kelly.

It's All a Swindle presents a biting satire on a world where honesty has died and Friedrich Hollander's Baron of Lies sets up radiant visions of peace and justice which are sharply undercut in the chorus, Liar, liar, liar.


Punk inflected guitar kicks off Kurt Weill's Whiskey Bar which plunges into the fatalistic world of addictive compulsion and there is some up-close-and-personal audience interaction in an amusing ditty about "turning knowing into yes".

Surabaya Johnny explores the lower depths of human experience, with Ward-Lealand spitting out the bitterness of a women trapped by her love for an abusive partner. A stirring 1920s' feminist anthem struck a chord with the audience with jaunty lyrics suggesting women should "replace men or even better erase them".
A similar contemporary resonance comes with Mischa Spoliansky Lavender which fiercely demands freedom for "the love that dares not speak its name."

Kurt Weill's Youkali evokes a lyrical yearning for the forgetfulness experienced in dreams and the show reaches its emotional climax with a timely warning on the perils of silent acquiescence to power.

The night ends triumphantly with Mack the Knife belted out in the original German above the thumping rhythms of a highly energised band.

•The Auckland Live Cabaret season continues until Sunday.

What: Delicious Oblivion
Where and When: Wintergarden, The Civic; Saturday.
Reviewed by: Paul Simei-Barton