Light Opera Works’ second show of the season is Cabaret, a story of love, sex, and Nazi Germany. Starring Rudy Hogenmiller, the company’s artistic director, as the Emcee and featuring such Broadway staples as “Willkommen,” “Don’t Tell Mama,” and ”Cabaret,” this production of the original 1966 script is a treat for new and old fans of the show alike.
Cabaret, which has seen several Broadway revivals and a film adaptation since its premiere, tells the story of Kit Kat Club dancer Sally Bowles (Jenny Lamb), a capricious young Brit living a life of sin in Berlin just before the brink of World War II. She meets aspiring American novelist Cliff Bradshaw (David Schlumpf) and the two carry out a whirlwind romance in spite of the growing turmoil in Berlin. When Sally gets pregnant, Cliff is overjoyed, and the two make plans to marry and to raise a family together.
Meanwhile, Cliff’s elderly landlady, Fräulein Schneider (Barbara Clear) has a romance of her own, getting engaged to Jewish fruit seller Herr Schultz (Jim Heatherly), who brings her a pineapple in a charming scene that had the audience grinning. Indeed, Clear and Heatherly were two of the most enjoyable actors to watch (Heatherly’s performance of “Meeskite” was a highlight of the show for me), which made their eventual breakup towards the end of Act II all the more heartbreaking.
Throughout the show, the Emcee (Rudy Hogenmiller), watches everything and comments in his own way through musical numbers. Hogenmiller, whose appearance onstage in Cabaret is his first since 2005, nevertheless shined in his role, bringing the Emcee’s quirky yet vaguely menacing character to life in a fresh and interesting way. Hogenmiller has equal parts singing and dancing talent, and numbers like “Wilkommen,” “Two Ladies,” and “If You Could See Her” are all the more memorable because of his performances.
In Act II, Sally and Cliff’s romance goes sour as Cliff refuses to let Sally go back to working at the Kit Kat Klub yet cannot find a job for himself other than smuggling in French goods for the Nazi party, which he refuses to do on principle. Cliff tries to force Sally to go back to America with him to start a life together, but Sally, stuck in her ways and insisting that the political climate has nothing to do with her, returns to the Kit Kat Klub, where she sings the show-stopping title song, “Cabaret.” In the final scenes Sally reveals that she has had an abortion, and Cliff, furious, leaves her to return to America. The fates of the characters are left unresolved in the haunting Finale Ultimo.
Light Opera Works delivers a fun, enjoyable performance of this musical theatre staple. Whether it’s your first or thirty-first time seeing Cabaret, this production will not leave you disappointed.
Dates: Wednesday, August 14 at 2pm; Friday, August 16 at 8pm; Saturday, August 17 at 8pm; Sunday, August 18 at 2pm; Wednesday, August 21 at 2pm; Saturday, August 24 at 8pm; and Sunday, August 25 at 2pm.
Location: Cahn Auditorium. 600 W Emerson Street, Evanston, IL.
Tickets: $32-$92. Ages 21 and younger half-price. Call (847)-920-5360 or go to www.LightOperaWorks.com