Home link
Order Tickets

Cabaret


Cabaret


 

Opening Night Reception Sponsor

Koi

Book by Joe Masteroff
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Music by John Kander

August 10–25, 2013

Cahn Auditorium
600 Emerson, Evanston, IL

Order Tickets

Berlin, 1931: revelers party nightly at the divinely decadent Kit Kat Klub, where cabaret singer Sally Bowles and her American lover play out their romance even as Germany descends into madness.

An unforgettable musical experience from the creators of Chicago.

Hit songs include:

Willkommen
Don't Tell Mama
and, of course,
Cabaret

Ages 12 and older

Running time:

2 hours and 45 minutes,
including one intermission

 

Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 8 pm
Sunday, August 11 at 2 pm
Wednesday, August 14 at 2 pm
Friday, August 16 at 8 pm
Saturday, August 17 at 8 pm
Sunday, August 18 at 2 pm
Wednesday, August 21 at 2 pm
Saturday, August 24 at 8 pm
Sunday, August 25 at 2 pm

Main Floor: $48, $68, $77, $92
Balcony: $32, $48, $68, $77

Age 21 and younger: 1/2 price
(suitable for ages 12 and older)

 

More About the Show

 

Revolutionary Cabaret

by Michael Kotze

 

Cabaret was the most influential Broadway musical of the 1960s. Its unique approach to musical storytelling caused a revolution; it was unlike anything that had come before, and it continues to inspire creators of new musicals to this day. But Cabaret’s creators—composer John Kander, lyricist Fred Ebb, playwright Joe Masteroff and director Harold Prince—didn’t start the project with the intent to be revolutionaries. That simply happened along the way.

“We were just trying to write an entertaining piece,” said Kander years later. It was Prince who initiated the project, though the idea to adapt John Van Druten’s 1951 play I Am a Camera into a musical had been contemplated by others before him. On the face of it, this source material did not promise anything groundbreaking. Based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel of life in 1930s Berlin, Goodbye to Berlin, Van Druten’s play is a small-scale piece with seven characters and a single setting, a room in a Berlin boarding house. It’s an episodic play, long on character, short on action. 

The “camera” of the title is Isherwood himself, put onstage as both participant and narrator. “I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking,” Isherwood writes at the beginning of his novel. The principal object of his stage avatar’s gaze is the loose-living nightclub singer Sally Bowles, upon whom Van Druten bestows his play’s star part. Julie Harris played it to the hilt in the play’s original Broadway run and got her first Tony award for her efforts: the show-biz cult of Sally Bowles had begun.

More than glitz

It was this flamboyant leading lady that attracted would-be musical adaptors, seeking a star vehicle for a Gwen Verdon, Tammy Grimes or Julie Andrews. But Harold Prince saw something else in the piece: an opportunity to draw a parallel between the anti-semitism and political upheaval in Thirties Germany and the racism and political upheaval in contemporary America. The musical Prince wanted to create wouldn’t be Hello, Dolly! with Nazis, but a cautionary tale of a nation losing its collective conscience and, ultimately, its mind.

One evening late in 1963, he had dinner with Sandy Wilson, whose loving evocation of Twenties musical comedy, The Boy Friend, had been a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Prince was astonished to learn Wilson was already hard at work adapting I Am a Camera. Indeed, Wilson had gotten as far as writing the complete score and most of the book of his adaptation, titled Goodbye to Berlin. Prince put his cards on the table regarding his interest in the project, and told Wilson he had engaged Joe Masteroff to write the book, and, most important, was on the verge of securing the rights to adapt Van Druten’s play.

Nice, but not for this

Briefly it seemed the logical thing to do was combine forces, until Wilson played his score for Prince and Masteroff, who later wrote, “there was nothing really wrong with the songs except that they all sounded like The Boy Friend.” Masteroff had a different musical style in mind: “It should sound like Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya. That’s the sound this musical had for me…” Wilson was politely shown the door; his Goodbye to Berlin would never be produced. At that point, Prince suggested bringing in Kander and Ebb.

The team of John Kander and Fred Ebb had only one Broadway credit under their belt, 1965’s Flora, the Red Menace, known today mainly for giving Liza Minnelli her Broadway debut. Though the show wasn’t a smash, the songs were admired by many, and marked Kander and Ebb as songwriters to watch. Of course, Harold Prince had known that all along, having been the producer of Flora; actually, he offered the new project to Kander and Ebb before Flora had even opened.

The creation of Cabaret was a true collaboration; as Kander recalled, “What I remember most is that for months Hal and Joe Masteroff and you [Ebb] and I would sit in a room and play a game that I call ‘What If?’…inventing incidents that were going to be part of the story. What if such and such happens?” An uncommon way of working, but one which insured all the pieces of the show really fit together, and one the collaborators relished. According to Fred Ebb, “There was such joy in that process.”

Separating the songs

The team knew they would need to “open up” the action of I Am a Camera and get Sally and her friends out of that boarding house. Kander and Ebb came up with a “Welcome to Berlin” prologue—five short songs, each giving a random snapshot of Berlin life. It was later decided to do away with the prologue and distribute those songs throughout the show, to act as little intermezzi between scenes. Most of them were eventually cut, but the idea of bouncing seemingly unrelated songs up against the book scenes—as commentary, as contrast, sometimes even as mockery—seemed to have great possibilities.

These songs were inserted into the action with great precision and relevance, and coalesced into a world of their own, separate from the story of Sally Bowles. Harold Prince explains, “We took all those numbers and peppered them throughout the show, dividing the stage between the real world and a limbo world.” Prince’s limbo was the Kit Kat Klub, with an enigmatic master of ceremonies who presides not only over this cabaret, but of Cabaret itself. Yes, Sally works there, but the “Klub” is on a different plane of existence from the I Am a Camera story. It’s a ghost world, an unsettling landscape of smoke and mirrors.

Ultimately, Cabaret is two musicals. One has a conventional narrative structure, and character songs to match, built along tried-and-true Rodgers and Hammerstein lines. The second is less easy to pin down, a cabaret revue that intrudes upon the other’s reality in an increasingly sinister fashion. Both are essential to the show’s success; it is the tension between the two that gives Cabaret its uncanny power, and makes it a truly unique creation.

Cabaret was not put together by self-conscious avant-gardists: Kander, Ebb, Masteroff and Prince were all steeped in the traditions of Broadway. They did not set out to revolutionize the musical, but they all took the art form seriously enough to explore its farthest reaches, and take it where it had not gone before.

Cabaret’s mix of the real and the unreal, and its unexpected shifts in perspective and tone were enormously influential to Broadway musicals of the following decades. Kander and Ebb’s next great hit, Chicago, is a direct extension of their work here, and Harold Prince’s subsequent collaborations with Stephen Sondheim (including Company, A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd) and Andrew Lloyd Webber (especially Evita) bear the stamp of Cabaret’s style of musical storytelling. After Cabaret, musicals didn’t just have a story and a score—they had a concept.

Not the movie

Today it is difficult to appreciate just how revolutionary Cabaret was, especially since our perception of it is colored by the movie version (which dispenses with the show’s dual nature by eliminating the book scene songs and taking the Kit Kat Klub out of Prince’s limbo) and the most recent Broadway revival (with its aggressive sexuality that spoke more to the time of the revival than to the authors’ initial conception).

Light Opera Works audiences will have a chance to experience the show that changed musical theater forever when we present the original 1966 Cabaret this August. Kander, Ebb, Masteroff and Prince may have set out just to make “an entertaining show,” but they ended up making Broadway history.

 

Cabaret opened in New York on November 20, 1966, at the Broadhurst Theatre, later moving to the Imperial and Broadway for a total of 1,165 performances. It won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Featured Actor in a Musical for Joel Grey as the Emcee.

The first Broadway revival opened in 1987 with Joel Grey again as the Emcee. The second Broadway revival opened in 1998, starring Alan Cumming as the Emcee, and based on London’s 1993 Sam Mendes-Donmar Warehouse production.

The August, 2013, performances will be the first production of this show by Light Opera Works.

 

Free Discussion

Free discussion before Cabaret performances

Join Light Opera Works business manager Mike Kotze in the balcony of Cahn Auditorium for a free talk about the creation of Kander and Ebb's Cabaret before the show, on any of these dates:

Sunday, August 11
12:45 pm (doors open 12:30)

Saturday, August 17
6:45 pm (doors open 6:30)

Sunday, August 18
12:45 pm (doors open 12:30)

No need to RSVP; just attend any talk (even if you have show tickets for another date).

 

Photos

Click on photo(s) to view larger

 

 

 

The Light Opera Works production
of Cabaret, August 10-25, 2013,
at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston.
Call (847) 920-5360 or visit
www.LightOperaWorks.com

Photo: Rich Foreman

 

Artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller stars as the Emcee in the Light Opera Works production of Cabaret, August 10-25, 2013, at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston.
Call (847) 920-5360 or visit
www.LightOperaWorks.com

Photo: Rich Foreman

 
       
   

 

Artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller stars as the Emcee in the Light Opera Works production of Cabaret, August 10-25, 2013, at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston.
Call (847) 920-5360 or visit
www.LightOperaWorks.com

Photo: Rich Foreman

 

 

Artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller stars as the Emcee in the Light Opera Works production of Cabaret, August 10-25, 2013, at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston.
Call (847) 920-5360 or visit
www.LightOperaWorks.com

Photo: Rich Foreman

 
       
   

Artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller (l) as the Emcee and Stacey Flaster, director of the Light Opera Works production of Cabaret, August 10-25, 2013, at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston.
Call (847) 920-5360 or visit
www.LightOperaWorks.com

Photo: Rich Foreman

 

 

The Light Opera Works production
of Cabaret, August 10-25, 2013,
at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston.
Call (847) 920-5360 or visit
www.LightOperaWorks.com

Photo: Rich Foreman

 
Press Release

Contact: Christopher Riley

Director of Audience and Press Services

(847) 920-5354 ext. 10 (press only)

criley@lightoperaworks.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

LIGHT OPERA WORKS presents

CABARET

August 10-25, 2013

Artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller stars as the Emcee

Who

Light Opera Works

What             

CABARET           

Book by Joe Masteroff          

Music by John Kander            

Lyrics by Fred Ebb            

Directed and choreographed by Stacey Flaster           

Conducted by Roger L. Bingaman  

Run             

Press Opening - Saturday, August 10, 2013, at 8 pm       

Sunday, August 11, at 2 pm           

Wednesday, August 14, at 2 pm          

Friday, August 16, at 8 pm       

Saturday, August 17, at 8 pm        

Sunday, August 18, at 2 pm        

Wednesday, August 21, at 2 pm       

Saturday, August 24, at 8 pm           

Sunday, August 25, at 2 pm

Where             

Cahn Auditorium         

600 Emerson Street, Evanston, IL

Tickets             

Main Floor -  $48, $68, $77 and $92          

Balcony - $32, $48, $68, $77            

Ages 21 and younger half-price            

(847) 920-5360           

www.LightOperaWorks.com

 

Evanston, IL: Kander and Ebb’s Tony Award-winning musical, CABARET, will be presented by Light Opera Works at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston, August 10 through 25. The production utilizes the original 1966 Broadway version with 25-piece orchestra, including a four-girl “Kit Kat Klub” band on stage.

CABARET is based on John Van Druten’s 1951 play I AM A CAMERA, which in turn was based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel of life in 1930s Berlin, GOODBYE TO BERLIN. Revelers party nightly at the divinely decadent Kit Kat Klub, where cabaret singer Sally Bowles and her American lover play out their romance even as Germany descends into madness. Songs include “Wilkommen,” “Don’t Tell Mama” and “Cabaret.”

CABARET is directed and choreographed by Stacey Flaster and conducted by Light Opera Works music director Roger L. Bingaman. 

Rudy Hogenmiller stars as the Emcee, returning to the stage for the first time since being named artistic director of Light Opera Works in 2005. Other cast members include Jenny Lamb (Sally Bowles), David Schlumpf (Cliff Bradshaw), Barbara Clear (Fräulein Schneider) and Jim Heatherly (Herr Schultz).

The design/production team for CABARET includes Angela Weber Miller (scenic), Jesus Perez (costume), Sienna Macedon-Kusek (hair and make-up), Andrew H. Meyers (lighting), Tom Campbell (stage manager) and Katie Beeks (production manager).

The opening night reception for CABARET is sponsored by Koi.

CABARET is Light Opera Works' second production of 2013. The season will continue with the concert production GERSHWIN’S GREATEST HITS (October 4-13) and ANNIE GET YOUR GUN (December 21-31). 

Discounted season ticket packages are still available.

Ticket prices for CABARET range from $32 to $92. Ages 21 and younger are half price. To order tickets, or for more information, call the Light Opera Works box office at (847) 920-5360 or order 24 hours a day online at www.LightOperaWorks.com

# # #


Director/Music Director Biographies

Stacey Flaster (Stage Director/Choreographer) directed and choreographed CAROUSEL and THE SECRET GARDEN for Light Opera Works, where she also choreographed MY FAIR LADY, CARNIVAL!, OKLAHOMA! and DARLING OF THE DAY. She directed and choreographed A CLASS ACT at Porchlight Music Theatre, MARRIED ALIVE at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT and ROUTE 66 at Paramount Theatre, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, THE WIZ, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (Broadway World Award, Best Choreographer and Best Musical), FOOTLOOSE, CATS (Jeff nomination) and A WONDERFUL LIFE at Theatre at the Center. Choreography credits include JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT (Jeff nomination), HELLO, DOLLY! and THE PRODUCERS (Theatre at the Center), WILLY WONKA (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), MISS SAIGON and SOMETHING’S AFOOT (Drury Lane Oakbrook), YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN (Marriott Theatre) and MASTER HAROLD…AND THE BOYS (Steppenwolf Theatre). Stacey has performed at Light Opera Works, Marriott Theatre, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and Drury Lane Oakbrook, among other companies. She contributed choreography to the Ron Howard film THE DILEMMA.

Roger L. Bingaman (Music Director) has conducted H.M.S. PINAFORE, OLIVER!, CAMELOT, THE SECRET GARDEN, THE STUDENT PRINCE, BRIGADOON, HELLO, DOLLY!, I DO! I DO!, CAROUSEL, THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD, THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, MY FAIR LADY and A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Light Opera Works, where he has held many positions, including conductor, chorus master, assistant conductor and pianist. He was named the company’s music director in 2005. Since 1999, “Bing” has been the director of the apprentice program and chorus master for the Sarasota Opera, where he began his tenure in 1998 as an assistant conductor. He is music director of Irving Park Lutheran Church and artistic director of the Irving Park Fine Arts Series; also choir director and organist at Ezra Habonim, the Niles Township Jewish congregation in Skokie. He has worked with Lyric Opera’s Opera-in-the-Neighborhoods program, Michigan Opera Theatre, the Savoyaires, Milwaukee Opera Theatre, Dayton Opera, Opera Lenawee and Opera Lafayette, among other companies.

 

Cast Biographies

Rudy Hogenmiller (The Emcee) makes his Light Opera Works performing debut, after being named artistic director of the company in 2005. His career as an actor, director and choreographer has spanned nearly 40 years, mainly in Chicago, at Marriott Theater, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Theatre at the Center, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse and Drury Lane South. Favorite roles include Applegate in DAMN YANKEES, Og in FINIAN’S RAINBOW, Zach in A CHORUS LINE, Mercedes in LA CAGE AUX FOLLES, Magaldi in EVITA, the Fashion Mogul in SONG AND DANCE and the Mute in THE FANTASTICKS. Rudy received his dance training from Lou Conte of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, danced for Gus Giordano and his company and for Ruth Page with Chicago Ballet. He appeared in the national companies of A CHORUS LINE, EVITA and THE FANTASTICKS, working with Michael Bennett, Hal Prince and Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, and toured internationally in EVITA and THE FANTASTICKS. His directing and choreography have earned him six Joseph Jefferson Awards and ten nominations. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

Jenny Lamb (Sally Bowles) makes her Light Opera Works debut in CABARET. Recent credits include SPEAKING IN TONGUES (Jane/Valerie) with Interrobang Theatre Project and the world premiere of TRAINSPOTTING USA (Alison et al.) with Book and Lyric Theatricals. Past projects include THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING (Ensemble) with Dog and Pony Theatre Company, HÄNSEL UND GRETEL (Stepmother/Witch) with The Building Stage, PIPPIN (Fastrada) with BoHo Theatre, ALL IN LOVE IS FAIR (Jenean) and THE OTHER CINDERELLA (Dorothy) with the Black Ensemble Theatre, THE TAMING OF THE SHREW (Kate), EVITA (Peron’s Mistress), JACQUES BREL'S LONESOME LOSERS OF THE NIGHT (Whore) and CABARET (Lulu) all with Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre. Jenny holds a BFA in theatre from Shenandoah Conservatory, is co-founder and co-artistic director of Li’l Buds Theatre Company and a teaching artist at The Second City.

David Schlumpf (Cliff Bradshaw) makes his Light Opera Works debut in CABARET. Recent Chicago area credits include TIMON OF ATHENS and AS YOU LIKE IT (Chicago Shakespeare Theater), DARTMOOR PRISON (Goodman Theatre), EVITA (Che, Unity Event), and LUCKY STIFF (Music Theatre Company). David just completed his third consecutive summer at Indiana’s Wagon Wheel Theatre, where his roles included Lord Farquaad in SHREK THE MUSICAL, Billy Flynn in CHICAGO, Charles in BLITHE SPIRIT and Tito Merelli in LEND ME A TENOR. In April he completed his MFA in acting at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, with a thesis role in THE GRAPES OF WRATH, directed by Steve Scott. He will next appear with Light Opera Works in GERSHWIN'S GREATEST HITS in October.


Barbara Clear (Fräulein Schneider) returns to Light Opera Works, where she has appeared as Mrs. Medlock in THE SECRET GARDEN, Mrs. Pearce in MY FAIR LADY, Mrs. Paroo in THE MUSIC MAN and Mamita in GIGI. In the Chicago area she was seen at the Apple Tree Theatre as Marina in UNCLE VANYA and Mrs. Curtin in A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE (After Dark Award—Best Ensemble). Barbara’s regional credits include the Pennsylvania Centre Stage, Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis and the Guthrie Theatre, where she spent two seasons touring the upper Midwest as an outreach artist, performing scenes from Shakespeare. 

Jim Heatherly (Herr Schultz) makes his Light Opera Works debut in CABARET. His credits among 50-plus productions during the past decade in Chicago include PAL JOEY and MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (Porchlight Music Theatre), BUS STOP (The Guild Theater Company), COMPANY (BrightSide Theatre), ALMOST AN EVENING (Circle Theatre), SEASON’S GREETINGS (Northlight Theatre), STATE OF THE UNION (Strawdog Theatre Company), CABARET (The Hypocrites), THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK and DAMN YANKEES (Metropolis Performing Arts Center) and HEROES (Remy Bumppo Theatre Company).  Jim will return to Light Opera Works in December as Charlie Davenport in ANNIE GET YOUR GUN.

 

# # #

 

Light Opera Works is a resident professional not-for-profit theater in Evanston, founded in 1980. The company's mission is to produce and present musical theater from a variety of world traditions. All productions are presented in English, with foreign works done in carefully edited modern translations. Maximum scholarship is employed to preserve the original vocal and orchestral material as well as the spirit of the original text whenever possible. Audiences have come to know that at Light Opera Works they will experience repertoire often unavailable on the stages of commercial theaters and opera houses, in modern productions with professional artists and full orchestra.

 

# # #

 

Light Opera Works’ mission is to produce musical theater from a variety of world traditions, to engage the community through educational and outreach programs, and to train artists in musical theater.

 

# # #

Reviews

 

Chicago Tribune

August 12, 2103

By Chris Jones

1/2

This 'Cabaret' has host with the most

A few sharp intakes of breath could be heard at Cahn Auditorium on Sunday afternoon when Rudy Hogenmiller, the former Broadway hoofer who morphed into the artistic director of the Light Opera Works of Evanston, made his first entrance as theater's most famous Emcee. In truly formidable dancing shape at 58, Hogenmiller had applied a little mascara, a hefty swath of rouge and a glistening sheen to his lean torso and close-cropped pate. Most of his on-stage appearances to date on behalf of Light Opera Works have been on the order of "Subscribe Now!," a duty with which he has never seemed entirely comfortable. This summer, the other side of Hogenmiller makes for quite the master of John Kander and Fred Ebb's "Cabaret."

The eye-popping Hogenmiller, whose legitimate dancing chops allow him to go places most Emcees cannot, or dare not, is joined atop Stacey Flaster's very enjoyable, potent and ambitious production by Jenny Lamb as Sally Bowles. Sallys tend to vary between young, sensual and frivolous and rapidly running-out-of-viable-choices; Lamb, an actress known for her work far Off-Loop, paints her as very much in the latter category, which always is the more interesting of the two. This was bold casting by Flaster and it paid off. Lamb's desperate, flailing, too-old-for-this-nonsense Sally is genuinely poignant and complicated. Indeed, Lamb is one of those singer-actresses the big musical houses have inexplicably tended to overlook for several years. Perhaps she has been seen as too edgy. Whatever. She can act. This is a big move uptown for Lamb and, when it counts in the title number, she owns the performance in every inch of her body.

Most productions of this brilliant musical these days owe something to the 1998 Broadway revival starring Alan Cumming and the late, great Natasha Richardson — a production that still haunts my bones — and this one has a similar note of gritty realism. There are some givens at Light Opera Works: a small number of union contracts, an unexciting college auditorium that tends to flatten out bold conceptual choices, limited dollars for Angela Weber Miller's scenic budget and a company that only gets a limited amount of time in its borrowed space. There is nothing edgy about Cahn Auditorium. So when you view what Flaster has achieved here in that context, this really is a remarkable piece of work, and a production that in no way copies from the palate of that revival; it makes its own bold choices.

Hogenmiller is a chillier Emcee than most, and thus considerably more intimidating. I suppose one loses an element of surprise in a number like "If You Could See Her," but Hogenmiller feels incredibly logical as a creature of this particular time and place. The Nazis did not come out of nowhere, contrary to the claims of some. Cumming's Emcee ended up in a concentration camp, the Sam Mendes revival famously suggested. Hogenmiller portrays someone more likely to end up as a guard, which makes perfect sense.

Playing opposite Jim Heatherly's gentle Herr Schultz, Barbara Clear's killer Fraulein Schneider skips much of the usual sentiment and presents a myopic, mercurial woman who could never even think about marrying a Jew, once the situation is explained to her. Indeed the only significant weakness of the production involves the always tricky relationship between Cliff (David Schlumpf) and Sally. Schlumpf is a handsome actor with a fine voice, but his character just seems to run out of steam in the second act, acquiescing a little too quickly to all of that unfinished business with the vacillating Sally. In the best productions of this musical, Berlin collapses into hell in tandem with the destruction of Sally and Cliff's ill-fated relationship, and both are high-stakes affairs throughout. Schlumpf gives up a bit too easily.

As is typical with this company, a 24-piece orchestra occupies the pit. Well, most of them do: Flaster pulled out a few players to form an on-stage band. These are not the Kit Kat Klub girls (which is a typical way to go now) but a mature all-woman company of piano, sax, trombone and drums. They don't look entirely comfortable, but Flaster makes that add to the funky ambience. All in all, this is quite the risk-taking enterprise by Light Opera Works standards, although the show sounds entirely legit when it needs to go in that direction, especially during "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," the only Nazi-style chorus ever written to be hummed, guiltily, on the way out the door.

This was Kander and Ebb's masterful way of underlining the point, articulated by Frau Schneider, that hate speech sometimes starts with the people whom you always thought were your friends; it takes a lot of doing to stand in their way, even at the cabaret.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chicago Sun-Times

August 13, 2013

By Hedy Weiss

RECOMMENDED

Life is a zesty ‘Cabaret’ at Light Opera Works

There is nothing like a first-rate revival to serve as a reminder of why a landmark musical has not only survived for close to a half century, but continues to prevail. Exhibit A: “Cabaret,” the John Kander and Fred Ebb classic that debuted on Broadway in 1966, became a hit film in 1972, and has been seen in countless incarnations ever since, including the first-rate version now being presented by Light Opera Works.

The show’s songs have long since become part of our collective DNA, so it is easy to forget that it’s the story that makes all the difference. The show’s book, by Joe Masteroff (inspired by the stories of Christopher Isherwood, and the play by John Van Druten), is a look at that dangerous cocktail of worldliness and obliviousness that can afflict any society. And any journalist might well be prompted to get up and cheer when one of the principal characters — a young American ex-pat writer living in Berlin just as the Nazis are coming to power — tells his flighty English girlfriend that she had better “read a newspaper” and wake up to what is happening in the real world.

This “Cabaret,” skillfully directed and zestily choreographed by Stacey Flaster, has much to recommend it, including the choice to underplay the seedier and more perverse aspects of Berlin life at the time. That understatement makes the changes taking place feel all the more insidious and sinister.

The large pit orchestra, conducted by Roger L. Bingaman, plus the brassy onstage female quartet that forms the Kit Kat Klub band, create a winning sound. And the cast gives us crystal clear characterizations, with Light Opera Works’ artistic director, Rudy Hogenmiller (returning to the stage after a long absence), playing the Kit Kat’s ambisexual Emcee with subtle decadence. He also demonstrates he can still dance up a storm with pure Broadway finesse.

Jenny Lamb, another exceptional, impossibly leggy dancer, plays Sally Bowles, bringing an intriguing hint of Isadora Duncan to her portrayal as she suggests a flamboyant, neurotic, reckless spirit whose verve is a cover for sadness. Lamb also nails her big second act number, the show’s title song. And she is well-matched with David Schlumpf as Cliff Bradshaw, the tall, intelligent American whose life she invades, and who must struggle to hold on to his principles.

It is Barbara Clear’s stunning performance as Frau Schneider, the ever-pragmatic Berlin landlady, that almost steals the show with knockout turns in “Who Cares?” and “What Would You Do?” Schneider sees the writing on the wall and turns her back on what might have been a late-life marriage to Herr Schultz (Jim Heatherly). Schultz, the Jewish fruit-shop owner, fails to see what is coming.

The supporting cast, including a large ensemble of sassy dancers, moves with panache in this show that still packs a punch.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Pioneer Press
August 16, 2013
By Dorothy Andries

Unforgettable Emcee oversees a knockout ‘Cabaret’

“Cabaret” is one soul-searing piece of theater. The Tony Award-winning 1966 musical by Kander and Ebb is set during the dark days when the Nazis were seizing power in Germany, and Light Opera Works’ production which opened Saturday night in Northwestern’s Cahn Auditorium in Evanston spares us nothing.


The key power of this show is the company’s artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller, who has stepped out from behind the scenes to tackle the role of the ambiguous, undefinable Emcee with a vengeance.


In a tuxedo and wearing the white face of a mime, he unctuously welcomes the audience in three languages at the beginning— to make sure you all understand your role in the proceedings — and his laughter at the end is as diabolical as any Mephistopheles I’ve ever heard. From start to finish Hogenmiller is dynamite, a smarmy vision of decadence and cynicism. It is a star turn for him and an unforgettable portrait of that strange character.


He acts, sings, and dances, easily keeping up with the chorus girls in a kick-line that drew riotous applause opening night. He is reason enough to see this show, but there’s more.


This “Cabaret” also stars vivacious Jenny Lamb as the sassy Sally Bowles, leading lady of the Kit Kat Klub. She is a natural, making her Light Opera Works debut in a role previously played by such names as Lisa Minnelli in the film (which bears but faint resemblance to the stage musical) and Judi Dench, who had that role in the original London production in 1968. Lamb’s first number, “Don’t Tell Mama,” is emblematic of Bowles’ carefree, clueless attitude.


Bowles is an expat from England who thrives on chaos, mistaking it for life, and Lamb is a perfect whirlwind. Finding herself homeless, she inveigles herself into the room — and affections — of Cliff Bradshaw, a young American who has come to Berlin to write his new novel.
David Schlumpf’s Cliff is straight out of central casting, with his trusting smile and argyle vest. Though he’s naive at first, he soon begins to understand the evil spreading across Germany, and by the end finds he too is scarred by it.


Another couple, Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz, add a heart-breaking note. She is an older German spinster running the boarding house where Cliff and Sally live together. He is a lonely, aging Jewish fruit merchant who proposes marriage. She accepts, then breaks their engagement after Nazis break the window of his market.


Barbara Clear is a winning performer, capturing the early live-and-let-live attitude of Schneider in her number “So What?” She has played character roles in Light Opera Works shows, including “The Secret Garden, “My Fair Lady, “The Music Man” and “Gigi.” Jim Heatherly gives Herr Schultz a warm and loving performance. His number “Meeskite” is full of charm and we shudder for what is ahead for his character.


The show has plenty of production numbers, the most entertaining being “Sitting Pretty (The Money Song)” in which various international currencies are mentioned — the yen, the franc, the dollar — chorus girls appear in that country’s costume. The outlandish get-ups are reminiscent of Mel Brooks’s “Springtime for Hitler.”


This production packs a punch on all levels. Stacey Flaster’s direction and choreography are nearly perfect and music director Roger L. Bingaman makes his pit orchestra soar. And Rudy Hogenmiller’s memorable Emcee, inviting one and all to this “Cabaret,” is the stuff of theater legends.


This is, simply, the best thing Light Opera Works has ever done.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Windy City Times

August 14, 2013

By Jonathan Abarbanel

I saw the original 1966 Cabaret in its pre-Broadway tryout in Boston, where I was in school. I'd been invited backstage afterwards, and as I walked down the hallway, Joel Grey (the original Emcee) was just a few feet in front of me with his father, Mickey Katz, a popular comic bandleader. They walked with arms around each other's shoulder and I heard Grey ask, "Did you like it, Pa? Did you like it?"

Of course Pa liked it, and everyone liked it. There were some typical pre-Broadway changes to be made, and Jill Haworth as Sally Bowles clearly was the weakest link in a superb cast, but even so it had "hit" written all over it. It was an unusual show, which began without an overture, with the curtain up and a large mirror reflecting the audience. In addition, Cabaret had a pointed political message at a time when the Great Depression and World War II were vivid memories for most adults.

Today, the magnificent film version is far more familiar than the Broadway original. Indeed, subsequent stage revivals were altered to be more like the film, as well as increasingly sexual. They also turned the Emcee into the starring role, which it definitely was not at first.

It's a great pleasure, then, that Light Opera Works is staging the Broadway original, complete with original orchestrations by Don Walker and the roles of Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz fully restored. It confirms that Cabaret is solidly within the tradition of book-and-number Broadway musicals, and that the skill and complexity of its writing and structure are top-notch. Filled with rue and doomed people, Cabaret still produces goose bumps driven by a vivacious, varied and ever-fresh score.

However, Light Opera Works couldn't resist the Emcee as star, making him a silent observer in scene after scene, his rouged porcelain face a clown at one moment and a death's head the next, a complex mix of decadence and threat. Fortunately, Rudy Hogenmiller projects charisma as the Emcee. Although now chiefly occupied with offstage duties, he retains the dancing and singing agility the role requires.

Indeed, the entire company is solid and appealing, and musical values are first-rate, as ever. The well-matched couples are Jenny Lamb (Sally Bowles), David Schlumpf (Cliff Bradshaw), Barbara Clear (Fraulein Schneider) and Jim Heatherly (Herr Schultz), all performing with force and charm under director/choreographer Stacey Flaster and conductor Roger L. Bingaman (both Light Opera Works veterans).

With the serious physical limits of Cahn Auditorium, the scenic design by Angela Weber Miller relies on flown flats and curtains and furniture carried from the wings. It's serviceable but without dazzle. Stephen Ptacek's sound design is clear, well-balanced and natural.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chicago Theater Beat
August 13, 2013
By Lawrence Bommer

Life is a Cabaret!

Cabaret has stayed real by remaining dark, lean and mean. Light Opera Works’ director Stacey Flaster delivers a richly textured and superbly mounted revival of America’s favorite Weimar musical, eschewing the stripped-down, cabaret remake of Chicago, another second coming of a Kander and Ebb classic, for a glimpse of a sordid Berlin circa 1929-1930, wracked with inflation and barely recovering from the last war. Drenched in irony and attitude, this literally fleshed-out take on Christopher Isherwood’s bittersweet memoir amply chronicles his coming of age in an increasingly fascist Germany. Crucially, it all but melts in decadence and occasional (homo)eroticism not usually associated with an Evanston venue.


What was implicit in the 1966 original production, much less John Van Druten’s 1951 dramatization of Christopher Isherwood’s “Berlin Stories,” is in-your-face and unambiguous.


Though Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show almost swallows up Annie Get Your Gun (to be presented by Light Opera Works this Christmastide), the Kit Kat Klub of 1929 Berlin is only one ingredient in a backstage story that’s never just a show within a show. The conflation of illusion and delusion cleverly mirrors the musical’s anti-heroine, the cocaine-snorting, high-loving, lonely hedonist Sally Bowles, a modern Camille. For Sally, art and life are indistinguishable: Drifting on the illusion of talents that she can’t command, Sally is just as much collateral damage during the Nazi take-over as are the doomed Jewish fruit merchant Herr Schultz and his reluctant lover, landlady Fraulein Schneider.


Alternating with the showy surfaces of the Kit Kat Klub and its vulgar vaudeville are the doors of the corridor of Fraulein Schneider’s boarding house and the crowded bedroom where hopeful American novelist Cliff Bradshaw makes love but not marriage with British chanteuse Sally Bowles. It’s all properly distressed, a battered realm in sore need of the cabaret’s increasingly ugly make-believe.


This is the undisputedly decadent realm of the Kit Kat Klub’s emcee: Light Opera Works’ artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller – making a welcome return to the stage as the sardonic, slinky emcee – combines supple grace with opportunistic abandon. This omnivorous emcee stage-manages the story, insinuating his way even into the comparatively innocent courtship between spinster Schneider and Herr Shultz, her doomed Jewish lover. Hogenmiller ranges sardonically from the vaudevillian parody “Two Ladies” (where a Kama Sutra of sex positions is symbolized in silhouette) to the anti-Semitic self-hatred of “If You Could See Her.” (Sadly absent is the number written for the 1993 Broadway revival, “I Don’t Care Much,” which glumly echoes Sally’s emotional desolation.)


After Hogenmiller’s emcee, everyone else is support, even the intriguing and sensuous headliner Jenny Lamb. Employing a British accent that recalls Prunella Scales’ Sybill Fawlty and the American animation Betty Boop, Lamb delivers a feisty and tempestuous Sally Bowles, raging against the boredom of respectability–lonely, insecure, fragile and always threatening to veer out of control. Shouting out the title song, Lamb unleashes a robotic anger that shows us that Sally died long before we meet her.


David Schlumpf as Cliff Bradshaw brings more charm than power to the author’s bisexual surrogate (damped down in the musical as it wasn’t in the movie). But he anchors his anger in the political morass that no one but Cliff seems to loathe. Its prime exemplar, Matthias Austin makes a suavely antiseptic Nazi. The real heartbreak comes from the play’s sole lovers, Fraulein Schneider and Herr Shultz: As played by pros Barbara Clear and Jim Heatherly, they stay too real to get cute and, when they waltz to “Married,” a battered boarding house seems transformed into an aqua-tinted ballroom. The superb chorus are top-notch in everything they touch–from the novelty numbers to the tap-dancing pizzazz of “Sitting Pretty (The Money Song).”


The chilling finale stays true to the original musical’s realism: Unlike the 1993 revival, it doesn’t lift up the backdrop to reveal a harshly backlit silhouette of the death camps. (Shorn of his mystique, the emcee appeared in prison garb, wearing both a yellow Star of David and a pink triangle. (Wilkommen, indeed.) For almost a minute the audience seemed too shocked to applaud.)


Instead, Light Opera Works’ more grounded and authentic treatment, richly served by the superb 25-piece orchestra and the musicianship of conductor Roger L. Bingaman, sticks to its source. It delivers the goods of a timeless musical that still asks the burning question: What would you do?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chicago Critic

August 10, 2013

By Tom Williams

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Stunning production true to the 1966 Broadway original is a major achievement

Rudy Hogenmiller, the artistic director at Light Opera Works, returns to the stage after more than a decade, as the Emcee in Kander & Ebb’s ground-braking Cabaret. Hogenmiller’s performance is a tour de force. Welcome back to the stage Rudy!

Set in 1931 at the Kit Kat Klub of Weimar Berlin, featuring the rich John Kander score with Fred Ebb’s biting lyrics, Cabaret is a multi-layered musical of decadence and desperation. Based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel, Berlin Stories, Cabaret from its 1966 Broadway opening (winner of 8 Tonys) and the 1972 film (winner of 8 Oscars) has been mounted often to varying levels of success. Stacey Flaster’s Light Opera Works production is quite true to the original production with all the music and transition. It is a stunning visual and audio achievement.

Cabaret’s opening, “Willkommen” (one of the best ever of a Broadway musical) must create the sleazy atmosphere of the 1930 Berlin club. Rudy Hogenmiller pays homage to Joel Grey with his the eye-popping expressions and campy style necessary. He entices us into his world. With the terrific Kit Kat Girls and the sweet Kit Kat Boys, the Kit Kat Klub has a staff of deliciously sexy performers. Flaster’s choreography hints of Bob Fosse’s style. This eye-popping opening foretells the atmosphere of Berlin in 1931.

Cabaret has two relationship stories—an American writer, Clifford Bradshaw (the charming David Schlumpf) who falls in love with a wild English showgirl, Sally Bowles (Jenny Lamb) and an older German woman, Fraulein Schneider (Barbara Clear) who loves a Jewish merchant, Herr Schultz (Jim Heartherly). The undercurrent in Germany is the rise of the Nazis. Bradshaw is befriended by the German Ernst Ludwig (Matthias Austin) who lures Bradshaw into minor smuggling. When Sally moves in to Bradshaw’s boarding house, sparks fly between Sally and Cliff. Add the flamboyant whore, Fraulein Kost (Patrice Egleston) and Cabaret has enough story and unique characters to depict the decadence of 30′s Berlin.

Cabaret is filled with terrific songs. “So What?” is Fraulein Schneider’s ode to her loneliness. Barbara Clear is terrific as the older German woman starving for love. She knocks out “What Would You Do” with a haunting feeling that goes to the heart. Her duets with Jim Heatherly (Herr Schultz) “It Couldn’t Please Me More” and “Married” were pure romance and quite charming.

Hogenmiller as the Emcee delivers several campy and satiric songs: “Two Ladies,” Sitting Pretty” and “If You Could See Her.” Rudy is amazingly effective as the mood-setting Emcee who comments with body language and electrifying eyes on the story.

But Cabaret needs Sally Bowles to be a flighty, hedonistic and emotional insecure soul. Jenny Lamb was effective as Bowles. She combines a fine voice with her sex appeal to become a winning Sally Bowles. She delivers “Don’t Tell Mama,” with zestful sexuality. She brings deep emotions to the signature tune “Cabaret” that tops off a worthy performance.

This powerful production is emotionally deep as it drills into the audience’s heart. It hints at the troubles to come through the scary German patriotic song “Tomorrow Belongs To Me” that taps into the nationalistic pride of the Germans that the Nazi’s exploited.

It is most refreshing to see such a richly staged, visual stunning and richly orchestrated version of Cabaret. Young theatre patrons and theatre artists need to see this production to experience how the original production was staged. Stacey Flaster’s innovative additions just made the work more effective. Rudy Hogenmiller’s return to the stage needs to be celebrated. Don’t miss this special show.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Around the Town Chicago

August 11, 2013

By Alan Bresloff

What good is sitting alone in your room? That is one of the phrases in the title song from Kander and Ebb’s classic “Cabaret” now on the stage in Evanston as part of the 2013 season for Light Opera Works. Most all of us, due to the economy, find ourselves sitting at home instead of getting out to enjoy the things around us, and seeing this production is worth getting out for. The subject matter of “Cabaret” with a book by Joe Masteroff, based on “I Am A Camera (John Van Druten/play and Christopher Isherwood/stories is not one that appeals to all -- it is Berlin, prior to Hitler gaining his full political stature. The world was in economic crisis and Berlin was THE party city. The Kit Kat Klub was a place where everyone could be someone else and love connections were easy to make. The times were decadent and the people were hoping for a better future (real or not). This being said, our story revolves around a young American, Cliff (deftly handled by David Schlumpf) a writer who comes to Berlin seeking inspiration to write a book and the people he meets along the way -- Sally Bowles (an incredible performance by Jenny Lamb, who does not try to imitate Liza Minnelli), developing her own interpretation, a singer from London who is caught up in the decadence of the surroundings she lives in.

There is another love story in this production -- that of the German owner of a boarding house (where Cliff finds himself residing) Fraulein Schneider (powerfully played by Barbara Clear) a German through and through and one of her boarders, Herr Schultz (Jim Heatherly gives a solid performance in this difficult role) also a German, but a Jew! As the story progresses, and the Nazi movement gains strength, we see the people of Germany caught between a “rock and a hard place”-- they want better lives and more money! They want to be prideful and hold their heads up high! They are caught because they feel the politics that will take place when Hitler takes over is positive, not understanding what the price they will pay will be, or for that matter, what the plans are that will supposedly give them the pride they are seeking!

This production, the original, under the careful direction and choreography of one of Chicago’s finest, Stacey Flaster is sparkling and eye opening. The dance numbers are different, unique and spectacular and her transitions from Klub to boarding house are as smooth as silk with great use of the actors of the ensemble and the lighting (Andrew H. Meyers). The set (Angela Weber Miller) is novel in its ability to change from place to place quickly and the costuming (Jesus Perez) are extraordinary, knowing that Light Opera Works has a more limited budget than most theaters. I found this production one of the finest and I have seen almost every version on many different stages. Those who know the show are aware that it is the Emcee who is in fact the star and over the last several months we were aware that Artistic Director Rudy Hogenmiller, who we normally see onstage as our opening night “greeter,” is living his lifelong dream of playing this role. Let me say this about Hogenmiller, he does not just play the role, he lives the role -- his dancing is great, his voice superb and the twinkle in his eye, pure perfection! There is no one around town who could top him in this performance.

This is a show worth seeing during the short run (thru August 25th) with a rock solid ensemble: Matthias Austin, Shaun Nathan Baer, John Cardone, Melissa Crabtree, Kaitlyn Dessoffy, Zachary Drane, Patrice Egleston, Lauren Emery, Jim Heatherly, Kyle Michael Kuhlman, Mark LeBeau, Kelly Maryanski, Robert Quintanilla, Janell A. Rinne, Lauren Serra, Daniel Spagnuolo (quite the gorilla),Yael Wartens, Carrie Weis, Travis Austin Wright and Greg Zawada. There is also a stage band of ladies: Linda Madonia (piano), Gail Crosson (sax), Audrey Morrison (trombone) and Debbie Katz Knowles (percussion). Great job ladies. This is in addition to the full orchestra (a trademark of Light Opera Works) under the direction of Roger L. Bingaman.

Songs such as “Willkommen”, “Don’t Tell Mama”, “Two Ladies”, ”Married”, “Sitting Pretty”, ”If You Could See Her” and, of course, the title song “Cabaret” will bring back memories, but be prepared for a better storytelling experience and Flaster’s fancy dancing -- this is a special production of a classic musical.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

New City

August 12, 2013

Dennis Polkow

RECOMMENDED

Before Rudy Hogenmiller became the artistic director of Light Opera Works in 2005, he had been a song-and-dance man on stage for more than thirty years. One of the shows that Hogenmiller danced in as a young man was “Cabaret,” and he admits that as an ensemble member, the Emcee role was one that he coveted.

Making his Light Opera Works performing debut by taking on the role decades later, Hogenmiller wisely decided to leave aside his usual directorial and choreography duties to someone else and brought in his friend and colleague Stacey Flaster, who directed the company’s memorable 2010 “Carousel.”

Leaving aside that Hogenmiller is more of a dancer than a singer and is severely stretching a trend that began with Joel Grey reprising the role he had originated as a young man as a much older performer in a revival, Hogenmiller certainly places his own unique stamp on the role. This is a humorless, diabolical emcee who reflects, rather than deflects, the decrepitude surrounding the pre-Nazi 1930 Berlin cabaret that is the show’s setting.

It is not a performance that will be to everyone’s taste, but if you can’t fulfill an old pipe dream in a company where you are the artistic director, where else? The crowd used to seeing Hogenmiller boost subscriptions before shows was certainly enthusiastically supportive of his performance from the opening moments to his final curtain call.

It was Hogenmiller’s desire that this be the original 1966 version of the show, which means that songs written for the 1972 film version are not heard. Movie numbers written for Liza Minnelli such as “Mein Herr” and “Maybe This Time” have become common in later stage versions despite the fact that they make the character of Sally Bowles larger than life. Refreshingly, Jenny Lamb plays Sally as an ordinary girl with lots of dreams who wears her heart on her sleeve. In its original form, the show makes clear that none of Sally’s dreams are even in the ballpark of reality, and that ideal is welcomely restored here. Sally’s original—and these days, rarely performed—opener “Don’t Tell Mama” is heard, which restores the show’s climactic title number to Sally’s biggest moment.

Also restored is the emphasis on the show being a true ensemble piece, Sally’s love interest Cliff (David Sclumpf) being a leading man with a bona fide tenor voice and the two of them expressing their feelings musically. The elderly couple (Barbara Clear and Jim Heatherly) have their own songs, and they are done up charmingly.

Nonetheless, the principal appeal of this production is the luxurious opportunity to hear the original score with its original orchestrations, something that doesn’t even happen on Broadway these days. That means not only a full pit orchestra, but a four-piece onstage all-female cabaret band as well. Even the little touches of accordion and banjo are included.

It also means that the chorus is made up of trained voices, allowing for the show’s folk song “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” to be heard as intended, a beautiful folk-song vocal arrangement, making its haunting use in the finale of the piece all the more disturbing and effective.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

TheatreWorld Internet Magazine

August 12, 2013

By Ruth Smerling

Come taste the wine, come hear the band, see the Light Opera Works Cabaret

“I can’t believe they only do this for two weeks. I mean all the costumes and the sets. This is too great of a production to only run for such a short time. It’s criminal.” That was the consensus of the audience at Light Opera Works Cabaret on Saturday night. People are as impressed and thrilled with this production as when they were when first saw it on Broadway many years ago. Artistic Director, renowned actor, director and choreographer Rudy Hogenmiller makes his Light Opera Works stage debut as the sneering, diabolical, heavily made up Emcee, and the show is directed and choreographed by Stacey Flaster and conducted by the Light Opera Works music director, Roger L. Bingaman.

This is a historic production for Hogenmiller, with nearly 40 years of experience as an actor, dancer and choreographer; Cabaret marks his first performance since becoming Light Opera Works Artistic director in 2005. This is also his first time performing with Light Opera Works and he’s playing the role he’s wanted to play for much of his career. He has the vibrance of a new performer landing the role of lifetime, and the skill that makes the Emcee that haunting, creepy liaison between the horror and dangers of the fall of Germany and the people who feel helpless to do anything about it and want to believe “it’s not that bad.” He may have to make room on the shelf for a seventh Jeff Award, along with the other myriad accolades this performance is sure to garner.

The title Cabaret refers to the Kit Kat Klub, the seedy nightspot where people “leave their troubles outside,” because in the Cabaret “life is beautiful.” The Emcee (Hogenmiller) invites everyone in with the lively “Willkommen,” where in three languages he welcomes everyone and briefly explains what a night we’re in for. People can spend an evening at the Kit Kat Klub being entertained by show girls like Fraulein Sally Bowles (Jenny Lamb) and stifle the fears of their doomed society for just a little bit longer. As the story moves out of the Kit Kat Klub, the Emcee looms off to the side, inviting everyone into the Cabaret just like the human cattle herded off trains into concentration camps. Even though it sounds gloomy, it’s a very palatable story set to music.

As the Emcee taps his cane on the staircase, Clifford Bradshaw (David Schlumpf), is on a train to Berlin. He’s an American who wants to teach English, is destined to visit the Kit Kat Klub while in Berlin. He’s befriended by the not so innocent Ernst Ludwig, who invites him for an evening he’ll never forget. On Ludwig’s urging, he moves into the rooming house of Frau Schneider (Barbara Clear), who has troubles of her own. She was once wealthy and had servants to pamper her. Now she has nothing left but the rooming house and she has to do all the work herself. Some of her tenants are not so savory, like Fraulein Kost (Patrice Egleston). When sailors leave her home she swears they are all her brothers or uncles and just visiting for an hour or two.

Soon Ludwig and Bradshaw visit the Kit Kat Klub where, as guaranteed, he has a great time. He meets the exciting and brazen showgirl Sally Bowles, an Englishwoman who appears confident and worldly, but is actually as desperate as everyone else in Berlin. When she finds herself without a place to live, she persuades Bradshaw to take her in.

In the meantime, Frau Schneider is having a hard time making a commitment to her Jewish Beau, Herr Schultz, the owner of a fruit stand. As the Nazis rise to power, more and more restrictions are placed on the Jews, they are targets for vandalism, persecution and anyone caught fraternizing with them are vulnerable as well. She must make a difficult decision despite what she feels. And for Sally and Cliff, the show must go on.

Cabaret’s profound and candid message is conveyed brilliantly through the work of scenic designer Angela Weber Miller and costume designer Jesus Perez who recreate the sparseness of a crumbling society and the unreality of the nightclub, symbolic of the two sides of the unstable world of people trying to maintain something to balance on. Director Stacey Flaster has scheduled the spectacular musical numbers with memorable poses afterward that work like posters in an art exhibit.

Cabaret is a great musical with a frightening message. This is one of the most polished productions Light Opera Works has ever mounted and tickets are selling out fast. The show closes on August 25. To purchase tickets and get information, phone 847-920-5360 or visit www.LightOperaWorks.com. Beg for standing room if you have to! This show will be talked about for a long time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Pink

August 12, 2013

By David Cohen

‘Cabaret’ still electrifying and brilliant as ever

What could be a better way to be introduced to a theater ensemble that delivers one of the best shows of the year so far? Cabaret presented by Light Opera Works at Cahn Auditorium in Evanston is a powerful production. 

Not able to find the right actor, artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller was inspired to return to the stage for the first time since 2005, as the Emcee at the decadent Kit Kat Klub in Berlin. Hogenmiller ignites the stage with an electrifying, brilliant and dazzling performance as he captures the audience’s hearts with his commanding stage presence in a role he was born to play. He delivers the essence of an era long gone and he gives us the best execution of the Emcee role I have ever seen on stage before. He deserves a Tony for playing this role.

The Tony Award winning musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb, is a chilling production utilizing the original 1966 Broadway version, with 25-piece orchestra, including four-girl “Kit Kat Klub” band live and on stage.

Based on Christopher Isherwood’s novel “Goodbye to Berlin” and on John Van Druten’s 1951 play “I Am a Camera,” Cabaret portrays the decadent life in Berlin, Germany in the early 1930’s. This is a love story of an English nightclub singer, Sally Bowles (Jenny Lamb) with an American writer Clifford Bradshaw (David Schlumpf), and a landlady Fraulein Schneider (Barbara Clear) who falls in love with a Jewish shopkeeper Herr Schultz (Jim Heatherly). Each one is struggling with their own personal fulfillment as their future become uncertain with the rise of the Nazis, as Germany descends into madness.

The ensemble is brilliantly staged in a great collection of satirical, parody and ironic numbers, including the enticing opening number “Willkommen,“ “Don’t Tell Mama” and the funny “Two Ladies.” The ensemble’s work is a first-class act as they help create an underlying powerful mood of German nationalism, decadence and the foreshadows of the horrors to come.

The title song “Cabaret” was beautifully sung by Jenny Lamb, but I must admit I missed the big hit from the movie “Money Makes the World Go Around.”

Directed by Stacey Flaster and conducted by Roger Bingaman, Cabaret will be running until August 25, 2013

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Chicago Theatre Review

August 13, 2013

By Lazlo Collins

Come Hear The Music Play!

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 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- 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 Sally’s songs to a life. Her counterpoint 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 who 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 storefront was broken. The costuming, by Jesus Perez, was excellent with flair and sparkles where needed.

This “Cabaret” was a great evening of solid entertainment.