Great Lakes Theater 50th Anniversary
Great Lakes Theater opened its fall repertory season with Cabaret and The Taming of the Shrew. This is the company's 50th anniversary season and the production staff has pulled out all the stops to make this a memorable season.
Cabaret and The Taming of the Shrew offer variety and solid productions, yet both have the same casts.
Cabaret was written by Joe Masteroff (book), John Kander (music), Fred Ebb (lyrics), and based on the stories of Christopher Isherwood.
Victoria Bussert (director) helps create a smooth, moving production. She seems to move an emphasis to Fraulein Schneider's (Laura Perrotta) fear of the Nazi uprising. In the song "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," one by one the characters move forward to join the Nazis. Schneider and Herr Schultz stand back in terror at what is happening. In the final scene most of the characters march forward in prisoner costumes. They face the audience, turn and walk up stage. They raise their hands and the last chords of the show, sounding like rifles, take the stage to complete darkness.
The cast is excellent. Sally Bowles (Jodi Dominick) is charming and wild. Dominick makes her character oblivious to what is happening politically in Germany. She only is interested in booze, the Kit Kat Club and Clifford Bradshaw (Neil Brookshire).
The Master of Ceremonies (Eduardo Placer) does seem in control of what is happening on stage. Placer sings and dances well. I've seen him in several other productions and I'm constantly surprised at what an excellent actor Placer is.
Jeff Herrmann (scenic designer) places the small orchestra on a platform above the playing area. The orchestra members occasionally seem to be looking down on the world below them to watch the changes in Germany and in the lives of the characters.
Cabaret is a spectacular production. However, at the heart of this production is a first-rate script that still moves us. When the play first opened on Broadway, the audience was not far removed in time from World War II and the Nazi atrocities. Now, we're a generation removed, yet the story still has the power to move audience members to tears.
Some may have cried at the final scene of Cabaret, but they laughed until they cried at the production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Tracy Young (director) has created a physical, over-the-top, take-no-prisoners production. This Katherine (Sara M. Bruner) can take care of herself. She's strong of body and mind. She possesses an independence that should be admired by women and men. She meets Petruchio (Jim Lichtscheidl) and her life is topsy-turvy. He's handsome, strong of body and mind, and plans to make her his wife.
The scene that causes many directors, actors and audiences problems comes at the end of the play when Katherine pledges her love and life to Petruchio and promises to use her life to give him ease. Young and Bruner have elected to play this scene straight. Katherine doesn't wink at the audience or show crossed fingers. She makes a commitment to her husband and he, in turn, makes a commitment to her. Both win. The audience seemed completely caught up in this romantic moment.
This production is moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s. The glitzy movie-land background makes the love story of Katherine and Petruchio seems a great anachronism. But, by blocking out of mind the set and the almost-contemporary costumes, the audience can get to the love story that is at the heart of Shakespeare's play.
Cabaret and The Taming of the Shrew will play in repertory through the end of October 2011. The Great Lakes Theater's annual holiday present is A Christmas Carol, which will run December 2–23, 2011. The spring season will include The Mousetrap(March 9–25, 2012) and Romeo and Juliet (April 13-28, 2012).
For ticket information, telephone 216-241-6000 or visit www.greatlakestheater.org/.
The Taming of the Shrew
- David Ritchey