Saturday November 18th 2017

“Cabaret”

Highly Recommended ***** There are plays that I have seen so many times, I have lost count. One of these is “Cabaret”, with a book by Joe Masteroff and music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. This musical is based on the original play by John Van Drutten which was based on the stories written by Christopher Isherwood. The time is 1929/1930 and the place is Berlin, Germany. As history shows us, these were times of fun and frivolity in Germany, as well as political uncertainty. These were the days of Hitler and his party growing in strength and while the play does bring us the events of this time, it is not to glorify, but to keep it in our minds. We must “never forget” and this play allows this to become a reality for the audience.

This particular production, now on the stage at Theatre At The Center in Munster, Indiana ( just a short trip from Chicago) is one of the best productions I have seen. I think I have seen 20 productions over the years, and while I was unsure of what they might put on their stage in Munster, Artistic Director/ director/choreographer Linda Fortunato made magic on the stage. First of all, she put together a cast that cannot be beaten. Patrick Tierney plays Cliff, the American writer that comes to Berlin to write the “great American novel”. On the train to Berlin, he meets Ernst (Christopher Davis) who introduces him to Berlin, from the gutters to the top.

When he gets to Berlin, he finds lodging in the Inn owned and operated by Fraulein Schneider (the always reliable Iris Lieberman) . He then goes to the famous Kit Kat Klub where he meets the singer/performer Sallie Bowles ( amazingly handled by Danni Smith, who may have made her own competition in the Jeff Awards running with her recent solid performance at Marriott in “Mamma Mia”) who moves into his room and his life with great ease, changing it drastically. We all know that in the movie Liza Minnelli played this role, and while Ms Smith looks nothing like her, when it comes to making music, she truly knocks out “Maybe This Time” and “Cabaret”- wow!

The Emcee, also well- remembered from the movie as played by Joel Gray, is handled by Sean Fortunato, to perfection. Over my years of reviewing plays, I have watched this actor handle musicals, drama, comedies and yes, even Shakespeare. He is a talent that Chicago should be proud to call  their own. I know I am! His wife, Linda, certainly knew what she was doing in casting him in this important role. Watching him on the stage is worth the drive to Indiana. And Ms Fortunato uses him to his greatest advantage. Many of the scene transitions are done by the Emcee allowing us to move swiftly from scene to scene, keeping the interest at its peak.

Another note- the ensemble is terrific.Casiene Raether, Gary Smiley, Julie Baird, Tony Carter, Ann Delaney, Adam Fane ( who truly shows off his vocal range in “Tomorrow Belongs To Me”),Courtney Mack, Mallory Maedke, Jhardon Dishon Milton and  Collin Sanderson. They shine very brightly and are an important part of the smoothness of this production. The orchestra, conducted by William Underwood makes the music as powerful as the story- from “Willkommen” to “Maybe This Time” to “The Money Song” and the beautiful “Married”. The set by Jack Magaw is simple, yet perfection, as each of the set pieces moves on and off swiftly during the transitions. Brenda Winstead’s costumes are dazzling and functional. Rounding out the technical parts of the show are Guy Rhodes’ lighting, Barry G. Funderburg’s sound and Brittney O’Keefe’s props. A flawless production from start to finish!

“Cabaret” will continue at Theatre At The Center, located at  1040 Ridge Road (Route 6) in Munster through June 4th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays  2:00 p.m.

Thursdays  2:00 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  7:30 p.m. 3 p.m. thru 5/20 and on June 3rd

Sundays  2:30 p.m.

Thursday 5/25  7:30 p.m.

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes

Tickets range from $40-$44 ( a great value for theater of this quality)

to order yours call 219-836-3255 or 1-800-511-1552 or visit http://www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com

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