Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Milwaukee Rep, “Cabaret”

We managed to catch the Milwaukee Rep’s production of “Cabaret” Oct. 20, in the last week of its run, and were very pleased with it. This was an unusual production for the Rep, since they don’t usually do musicals, but they went all out with the biggest stage band I’ve ever seen in a “Cabaret” production and enlisting Milwaukee Ballet artistic director Michael Pink to do the choreography.

Lee Ernst was seemingly tireless as the Master of Ceremonies, who is a lurking presence throughout most of the show. For a man best known as an actor, Ernst handled the singing and dancing required of the M.C. with fine style. One thing I was a bit disappointed in was the costume given to Ernst, which started off quite bizarre from the beginning featuring vinyl boots, corset, and short-sleeved tailcoat with opera gloves. I’m used to the M.C.’s outfit getting more decadent as time goes on along with the KItKat Klub numbers, and kind of missed that effect. However, Ernst himself was excellent in all the many songs and dances the M.C. has.

Unfortunately, that was one area where Kelley Faulkner as Sally Bowles disappointed. She acted well in the critical role, creating a persona quite distinct from the iconic Liza Minnelli characterization, which worked well. Her singing voice is fine, and up to the challenge. However, she did not have the moves or physical presence to put across being a popular nightclub performer. Some of this may have been directorial decision, but neither Georgie nor I found it credible that, no matter how broken up Sally might have been at the end, she could not have stood at the microphone and sung “Cabaret” without, as the current saying goes, “busting some moves.” Nevertheless, she stood there like a post while singing. One wonders what she was doing while all the others were doing dance rehearsals.

Even Jonathan Gillard Daly managed a very creditable bit of soft-shoe, appropriate to his role as Herr Schultz, the Jewish greengrocer.

In fact, if there were a flaw at all with Michael Pink’s choreography, it would be that it was almost too perfect. Looking at the intricate dancing on “The Money Song,” I had to wonder how a rather shabby nightclub would manage to have such good dance routines.

All of the cast was very strong. Geoffrey Hemingway was excellent in the viewpoint role of Clifford Bradshaw, a role that is kind of overshadowed since he doesn’t sing or dance, but he was very expressive and believable in reacting to the fantastic shadow world of Weimar Berlin. Linda Stephens was a standout in the role of landlady Fraulein Schneider, and got a deserved ovation for her angst-ridden rendition of “What Would You Do?” Angela Iannone added to her string of excellent and varied characterizations as the spiteful prostitute, Fraulein Kost. Daly was charming and touching as the aging lonely gentleman. The "Cabaret Girls," "Boys" and the band were all splendid.

It seemed to me this production had a bit more edge than most I’ve seen, ending with a chilling tableau. All in all, an excellent show and we were very pleased with it.

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Tags: milwaukee rep, musicals, theatre
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