I am often asked how theater companies such a Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook and even Chicago Shakespeare find the young talent that graces their stages. It is not just these outstanding theater companies, but also the many small store-front theaters that fill our city, always on the search, both Equity and non-Equity. Today, I went to a high school production of “Cabaret” Kander and Ebbs look at Berlin in the days before Hitler took over. Just hearing that a high school in the Northern suburbs, Adlai E. Stevenson high school, is something that I thought would never be done. But the world has changed and in our desire to have our youth be better informed about what took place during those caustic days, I applaud the school for making it available to their students to be in and to watch.
The book by Joe Masteroff tells the story of a young writer who land in Berlin during the transition period and his experience during the changes taking place as this American is there to write the “great American Novel”, or so he thinks. Directed by Cynthia L. Lynch on the huge stage at Stevenson with a masterful set (Stephen P. Carmody) that brings us to the infamous Kit Kat Klub as well as the home that Clifford Bradshaw ( deftly handled by Alex Knevevic) takes a room at and the train compartment for the trips made back and forth. The choreographer Patricia Doyle, adds some spice to her routines and gives us a bit more energy than some of the recent productions handled by adults. Understand, some of the names you see in the story will become familiar to Chicago theater-goers, others may become audience members, but one can see that being exposed to live theater has been a very positive note for them.
I would also like to say that there are student directors who worked with Ms Lynch. They were Josie Hannon-Geller, Michelle Katz, Angela Kotsonis, Katia Podtynov and Dana Sussman. If this were an ongoing production that was to be rated, I would give it **** Highly Recommended
Most people are aware of the politics that go with high school productions. Freshmen and sophomore , for the most part are ensemble and juniors and seniors get the larger roles. Just like those who work in regional theaters, each actor pays their dues. In this production, which sparkled from start to finish, our Emcee/Master of Ceremonies ( the incredible Andy Cohen, who uses his body and face better than most) holds our attention in every numbers he does, even one in drag and our leading lady, Sally Bowles, Remember this name, Allison Phillips will come across as someone who has been doing musical for years, and yet she will graduate this June) Ms Phillips holds the audience spellbound during her act two rendition of the title song “Cabaret” and every member of this audience fell in love with her.
The two older characters in the story, Frau Schneider, who owns the rooming house (perfectly played by Sammie Landau) and her beau, fruit merchant Herr Schultz (the able bodied Matanel Roitman, who appeared to be an older man and never broke his character) gave a special meaning to the love story between these two lonely people who have their love thwarted because Herr Schultz, although a German in every way, is also a Jew. This was the time where many lives were destroyed.
The energetic cast, probably larger than truly needed, is extraordinary and while they only do one week-end with their fall musical, I alert you to keep an eye on Stevenson High School for other productions. These productions give the students who love music and theater to be exposed to the values that come from putting on a play ( people of my generation may recall Mickey Rooney saying to his friends, “hey kids, Let’s put on a play”). From the crew to the costumes (Aliceson Hackett-Rubel) to the lighting (Matt Winstead) and the musical direction (Richard Green) it would be difficult to call this anything but a super production that for all of those who were in it and those who witnessed the performances of will include in their memory bank for years to come. Stay tuned to this school for future shows ( and remember these names). AES high school has been presenting musical for fifty years, stay tuned at www..d125.org/foundation