Cabaret | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Cabaret 

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Here's hoping the immensely talented cast of this touring production shine as brightly in Chicago as they did when I saw them in Cleveland a few weeks back. British director Sam Mendes, who nabbed an Oscar for last year's probing but overrated American Beauty, also deservedly garnered four Tony awards for this excellent revival, whose Broadway version is still going strong. Based on John van Druten's 1951 play I Am a Camera (itself an adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories) and engagingly complemented by Joe Masteroff's book and John Kander and Fred Ebb's music, this is one sexually charged glimpse into the hedonistic days just before the Nazis trounced their way through Berlin. Leggy Northwestern grad and 1998 Miss America Kate Shindle is radiant as a rail-thin Sally Bowles, especially when bathed in unforgiving light during the devastatingly maudlin torch song "Cabaret." Those looking for Liza in Shindle's perfect, understated performance will go home disappointed, but anyone frustrated by Teri Hatcher's approach in the last touring production should give this staging a look. The musical's man of the hour, the scene-stealing Emcee, is played with strutting confidence by the outstanding Jon Peterson. This ambisexual cocktease uses his Robert Smith bangs, elastic limbs, and abs of steel to turn a churlish master of ceremonial kink and doom into a gothic go-go boy. Indeed, this Cabaret turns up the homo quotient a few raunchy notches from previous degayed versions, which edged out Isherwood's queer sensibility (Bob Fosse's 1972 film was so queasy about male homosexuality it bordered on the homophobic). The loss of cabaret-style seating, used to stylish ends in the original New York and London productions, is lamentable but not insurmountable, especially when the rousing Kit Kat Band and the delightful Kit Kat Girls expertly set so melancholy a mood. Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, 312-902-1400. Opens Wednesday, December 13, 7:30 PM. Through December 17: Thursday, 2 and 7:30 PM; Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 2 and 8 PM; Sunday, 2 and 7:30 PM. $27-$70.

--Erik Piepenburg

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Joan Marcus.

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