Top: Rudy Hogenmiller as the Emcee and the Kit Kat Klub dancers.

by David Cohen


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 the 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 ignite the stage with electrifying, brilliant and most dazzling performance as he captures the audience hearts with his commanding stage present 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 portrait 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 Fruelian 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 a great collection of satirical, parody and ironic numbers, including the enticing opening number “Wilkommen,“ Don’t Tell Mama” and the funny “Two Ladies.”  The ensemble’s work is first-class act as they helping in  creating an underlying powerful mood of German nationalism, decadence and the foreshadows of the horrors to come.

The title song Cabaret was beautifully sang 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

For tickets and more information visit http://light-opera-works.net/Cabaret.html
 
 
by David Cohen

What could be a better way to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Flashdance the movie that became a pop culture phenomenon and brought hip-hop into the main stream by making it into a musical? Unlike the 1983 movie the stage adaptation of Flashdance The Musical is way better than the original Paramount Pictures film.

Turning Flashdance into a electrifying and dynamic production, Flashdance The Musical is a big time winner. From acting and singing, to costume design (Paul Tazewell), stage design (Klara Zieglerova), lighting (Howell Binkley to superior directing and outstanding choreography by Sergio Trujillo, Flashdance is an explosion of continuous magnetic energy rarely seen on stage. 

Flashdance tells the story of a steel-town girl Alex Owens (Jillian Mueller) who is up for the fight of her life. Although her day job as a welder and her night job as an exotic dancer keep her pretty busy, this fiery go-getter has higher aspirations of getting into a premiere ballet school. Helping her reach her goal are Hannah (Jo Ann Cunningham), a retired dancer who acts as a benefactor and mentor, her closest friend Gloria (Kelly Felthous), and her fellow dancers Kiki (DeQuina Moore) and Tess (Katie Webber). And let’s not forget her boss-turned-boyfriend, Nick Hurley (Matthew Hydzik).

Just like in the movie the characters remain the same, with the exception of Nick. The younger new version of the  steel mill boss who goes after his employee Alex is the essence of what the film needed. With great stage present, commanding voice and magnetic personality, Hydzik does a fantastic job as the younger, all American boy, which makes him more approachable and more sympathetic. 

Alex’s story and character gets a face-lift. Unlike Jennifer Beals a soft-spoken giggly schoolgirl, Mueller infuses her character with confidence and ambition. This curly-haired firecracker has a bit of boyish edge which works well with her character. It is very rare to find an actor who has the ability to dance and sing, but Mueller has both. Even though Mueller is a good dancer she still throws out some surprises through different dance styles, and she manage to get some applauds for her singing, but her winning moment is when she does the famous water scene which you must see.

The musical features original hit songs from the movie including “What a Feeling,” “Maniac,” “Manhunt, “Gloria” and others. Robbie Roth and Robert Cary added 16 original new numbers, including a knockout love ballad “Here and Now.” Hydzik’s can make your heart melt, and it is the core of the musical, while Mueller’s dancing is the essence of the show. Together they complete each other by being strong, gutsy and bold, as they deliver the essence of singing and dancing. 

Director and choreographer Sergio Trujillo does an extraordinary job. He maintains the spirit and moves of the 80’s, while adding some moves of todays style, making the show current and more dynamic. 

Flashdane The Musical is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through August 18.