OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Spotlight shifts quickly for this 'Cabaret' casting

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-02-10T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Spotlight shifts quickly for this 'Cabaret' castingBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

This season's "winter of discontent" has most admitting to bone-chilling, prolonged cabin fever.

A trek to someplace warm, carefree and inviting, "where anything goes," sounds like a perfect prescription remedy to mid-winter monotony.

This is why a production of "Cabaret" feels so right, when the white outside is refusing to fade.

A new production of "Cabaret" kicked off Marriott Theatre's 2014 season with a run that continues until March 16 in Lincolnshire, Ill., at the hotel and golf resort property. (Doesn't the thought of green golfing fairways sound inviting right about now?)

"Cabaret" is Kander and Ebb's legendary musical about English cabaret performer Sally Bowles and true account of American writer Clifford Bradshaw, as the two are immersed in the decadence of 1929 Berlin just as the Europe is starting to unravel with Nazi influences. This production is directed by David H. Bell with choreography by Matt Raftery and Musical Direction by Ryan T. Nelson.

But this "Cabaret" has major casting concern for the role of performer Bowles, the ball of fire female forever captured in film audiences hearts when Liza Minnelli played her for Bob Fosse's 1972 film adaption, which won eight Oscars, including the best actress statuette for Minnelli.

For this latest stage turn at Marriott Theatre, it is Megan Sikora, who unfortunately, never "seals the deal" as this larger-than-life carefree spirit who comes gift-wrapped in that famed fur coat, as a mix of vulnerability and vixen. After all, the big song numbers by Sally are the frosting on the cake intended to put the audiences (both real and portrayed in the show's scenes in the nightclub) under her spell. Sikora's voice, whether speaking lines or belting a number, penetrate as harsh and shrill to the ear, creating a persona that isn't expected or embraced (at least not to my liking).

But there are some highlight performances that make this a turn-around stage ticket, in addition to the classic score including "Maybe This Time," "Money," and title tune, "Cabaret." Based on Christopher Isherwood's novel "The Berlin Stories" and John Van Druten's play "I Am a Camera," actor Patrick Sarb is phenomenal as writer Clifford Bradshaw, the man whose heart and ideals are torn by love in every form. Actress Annabel Armour as Fraulein Schneider and Craig Spidle as her intended, Herr Schultz, offer heart-melting moments while Christine Sherrill as Fraulein Kost and Jameson Cooper as Ernst Ludwig are at their icy best playing cold souls. Stephen Schellhardt is fit and fresh as the Emcee, who can make magic with the lift of a curtain. Just as magical is the multi-level set design by Tom Ryan and sinfully sensational costume design by Nancy Missimi.

"Cabaret" is suggested for audiences age 16 years and older, due to mature subject matter. Tickets are $40 to $48, with dinner packages available. FYI: (847) 634-0200 or MarriottTheatre.com.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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