Porchlight Music Theatre Presents CABARET Review — The Glamorous and The Gritty

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1952 glows above a dim and shadowy stage. A figure enters from the back of the house and walks down the center aisle. He pauses at the lip of the stage before slowly walking around its rounded edges. He absorbs his surroundings and pulls out a camera. The flash bulb goes off as he peers into a corner. A shadow moves upstage. Our man continues poking around this empty club and takes another picture. A dusty sheet is pulled from the bottom of the stage to reveal a record player. The shadow appears, and the emcee reveals himself.

He begins Wilkommen stunted and choppy as if shaking the rust off his limbs. Suddenly, the proverbial veil is lifted, and the stage is bathed in the warm glowy light of the Kit Kat Club, and we’re transported back to 1929, the world of Cabaret.

Life is a Cabaret at Porchlight Music Theatre

 The girls are beautiful! 

The boys are beautiful! 

Even the orchestra is beautiful!

The ensemble joins the emcee onstage dressed in their finest cabaret costumes (designed by Bill Morey). The girls are scantily clad and alluring in various colors of velvet, sequins, and satin. The boys also dress to impress, bearing their chests in open vests and tight pants. We see all of this through fresh-off-the-train Cliff’s eyes (played by Gilbert Domally) as he takes his seat and embraces his first exciting night in Berlin. 

The head chanteuse at the Kit Kat Club, Miss Sally Bowles, played by Erica Stephan, enters wearing a sparkling evening gown. She changes for her opening number, Don’t Tell Mama, which brings the audience’s energy up. We feel like we’re in the club’s front row during this vibrant New Year’s Eve party.

The Gin Is Flowing at This Party

The parties, the drinking, the love — it’s all fun and games as we follow Sally and Cliff through their carefree relationship. We also get to fall in love with a more seasoned couple, Herr Schultz and Fräulein Schneider, played by Mark David Kaplan and Mary Robin Roth, respectively.They tease and flirt with each other like a couple of young teenagers experiencing their first love. 

Impending Doom

When a huge Nazi flag is unveiled onstage, the tone of the room shifts. Soon, harsh lighting on the faces of the cabaret performers tell us that we are no longer in the gleeful place where Life is a cabaret. In this writer’s opinion, Porchlight’s production of Cabaret is masterfully well-paced so that we can feel the slow descent into fascism.  The costumes, the lighting, the direction, and the musicality all work in harmony together to capture the iconic moments of this classic musical.  It’s a journey of raucous partying and cabaret mirth to a slow descent into the horrors of fascism.  

Fans of musicals should consider Porchlight’s Cabaret a top pick.

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Pronoun Key: + (he/him/his); * (she/her/hers); ^ (they, them, theirs). = (any with respect)

CAST:

Neala Barron* (Fraulein "Fritzie" Kost)
Frankie Leo Bennett+ (standby The Emcee and Max)
Jordan Beyeler* (swing). Morgan DiFonzo* (Texas/ensemble)
Julia Fleckenstein* (Helga/ensemble)
Tim Foszcz+ (Herman/ensemble)
Haley Gustafson*/^ (Frenchie/ensemble)
Josiah Haugen+ (Ernst Ludwig)
Natalie Henry* (Rosie/ensemble)
Samuel B. Jackson+ (Clifford Bradshaw)
Mark David Kaplan+ (Herr Schultz)
Shane Roberie+ (Max/ensemble)
Mary Robin Roth* (Fraulein Schneider)
Lance Spencer+ (Victor/ensemble)
Erica Stephan* (Sally Bowles)
TJ Tapp* (Lulu/ensemble)
Cam Turner+ (swing/Dance Captain)
Josh Walker+ (The Emcee)
Shaun White+ (Bobby/ensemble)
Evan Wilhelm+ (Hans/ensemble)

CREATIVE TEAM:

Michael Weber+ (director)
Brenda Didier* (associate director/choreographer)
Linda Madonia* (music director)
Angela Weber Miller* (scenic design)
Bill Morey+ (costume design)
Patrick Chan+ (lighting design)
Matthew R. Chase+ (sound design)
Johnnie Schleyer+ (scenic supervisor)
Rachel West* (lighting supervisor)
Madeline M. Scott* (production stage manager)
Kathy Logelin* (dialect coach)
Sheryl Williams* (intimacy Choreographer)
Nate Cohen+ (dramaturg/cultural consultant)
Frankie Leo Bennett+ (producing artistic associate)

WHEN:

January 14 - March 5, 2023

Saturday, Jan. 14 at 3:30 p.m. (Preview)
Sunday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. (Preview)
Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. (Preview)
Thursday, Jan. 19 at 1:30 p.m. (Preview)
Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m. (Press Opening)

Performance Schedule:
Friday, Jan. 20 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 21 at 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, Jan 22 at 2 p.m.
Thursday, Jan 26 at 1:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. (Post-Show Talk Back)
Saturday, Jan. 28 at 3:30 p.m. (Open Caption Performance)
Saturday, Jan. 28 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 29 at 2 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 2 at 1:30 p.m. (Post-Show Talk Back)
Friday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. (Open Caption Performance)
Sunday, Feb. 5 at 2 p.m.

Friday, Feb 10 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb 11 at 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, Feb 12 at 2 p.m.
Sunday, Feb 12 at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 16 at 1:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 18 at 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 18 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 19 at 2 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 25 at 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m.
Thursday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 3 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 at 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 5 at 2 p.m.

WHERE:

Ruth Page Center for the Arts
1016 N. Dearborn Street
Chicago

TICKETS:

$25+

For more information and tickets visit the Porchlight Music Theatre website.

Photos: Liz Lauren

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago.

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Alexis Bugajski

About the Author: Alexis Bugajski

Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.

Editor's Note:  Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski

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