Chicago Theatre Review
Come Hear The Music Play! at Light Opera Works, Cabaret!
By Lazlo Collins
Light Opera Works current production of Kander and Ebb’s “Cabaret” is a solid audience pleasing event. All the cabaret creatures are present and accounted for in this lovely sung and decorated version.
“Cabaret” is a tricky musical to stage anywhere. It can be deceptively difficult to capture the desperation, and raw terror that accompanies the all too familiar score of this Broadway classic. “Cabaret” sets the scene in pre Nazi Berlin. The tensions are quickly mounting as Berlin’s culture is changed. Hitler sweeps his power over this once playful city. Sexuality is burgeoning and confusing in these last safe days of Berlin’s cabarets. Light Opera Works “Cabaret”, under the skillful direction of Stacey Flaster, plays it safe.
Safe is not bad. The show, as a whole, moves well and there are some outstanding performances; but, the piece moved quickly over the dark political and sexual play that is in imbedded in “Cabaret”. This “Cabaret” is pretty and breezy. It’s makes the most of the dancing and familiar song book; it was an obvious choice to keep the tone light.
The much anticipated performance by artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller, as the “Emcee”, was in evidence for opening night. Mr. Hogenmiller’s command of the piece was excellent. He set the tone of the show from the get go. His doll like make-up and sinewy frame made him appear other worldly; perfect for our guide weaving us through this complicated story. Mr. Hogenmiller has much experience on the stage and this showed through his superb stage presence and dancing. His energy made the audience engage almost immediately.
Jenny Lamb as “Sally Bowles” was an energetic firestorm. Her frantic need for acceptance, with her lack of her own self-worth, makes her a complex character to portray. Ms. Lamb clearly has the vocal chops to bring Sallys’ songs to a life. Her counter point to Cliff seemed too rushed and manic. I wanted to care more about her, and see more inside her character; however, Ms. Lamb held her own and prevailed.
Having seen more than a few productions of “Cabaret”, I always feel like the Cliff Bradshaw characters are always cast as wooden men, with no particular emotional depth. David Schlumpf’s “Cliff” was a refreshing change. Mr. Schlumpf brings dimension and life to a character searching for the answers as his own world is turned topsy-turvy by The Kit Kat Klub, and all Berlin has to offer. He worked well with Ms. Lamb on stage. His performance never felt insincere or rushed, and his voice was beautiful.
If I had to pick a performer that kept me enthralled, it would be Barbara Clear’s lovely portrayal of Fraulein Schneider. She was the heart of this production. Ms. Clear interpretation and energy was superb. Her songs made me listen to her and the emotions she provided. After she calls off the wedding to Herr Shultz, her interpretation of, “What Would You Do?” is haunting and crushingly beautiful. She brought realness to the proceedings.
As Herr Schultz, Jim Heatherly, is both pleasant to hear and see on stage. Mr. Heatherly’s likeable acting style and engaging storytelling songs where great. He keeps the story moving and is always in the moment on stage.
The chorus and ensemble of players were right on the mark with all the dancing and singing. The gentleman that sang the lead in “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” was outstanding. He has a lovely haunting tenor to be sure.
I loved the Kit Kat Klub band on the stage. You ladies are rocking it, especially, just before the second act begins.
I also loved hearing this score with a beautiful orchestra under the direction of Roger L Bingaman. The music was superbly well done. It was rich and well balanced.
Angela Weber Miller’s scenic design was both practical and interesting. I liked the startling difference between the areas. I also like the way the glass store front was broken. The costuming, by Jesus Perez, was excellent with flair and sparkles where needed.
This “Cabaret” was a great evening out of solid entertainment.
Light Opera Works “Cabaret” continues through 25 August 2013 at the Kahn Auditorium in Evanston.
Tickets for “Cabaret” are available at www.lightoperaworks.com
For information on this and other productions visit www.theatreinchicago.com