Strong ‘Cabaret’ at Timber Lake.
By Sue Langenberg

A roaring season at Timber Lake Playhouse continues as fifth show, “Cabaret” opened last night to a nearly full house. The momentum of this summer continues as each show seems better than the last.
There really are cabarets on stage and off, though we usually refer to them as nightspots or other clubs of entertainment, sometimes on the edge that cater to all the vices, especially this show’s Kit Kat Klub. “Cabaret” is an electric collaboration of John Kander and Fred Ebb that began a long journey on Broadway in 1966, followed by several revivals during which Joe Masteroff’s book was revised based on play, “I Am a Camera,” by John van Druten after “The Berlin Stories” by Christopher Isherwood. With so much input underneath, it is clear that the dawn of dark times provided inklings of passion by many.
Historically, this musical digs into one of the most threatening psyches of our historical memory as Berlin decays into its own extremes at the dawn of World War II. It proves with a long account of other gloomy eras of radical behaviors that the arts are often the last bastion of hope. Examples of such tremendous musical inspiration that rise from hopelessness happen in “Fiddler on the Roof” about religious prejudice and violent gang activity in “West Side Story, among others.
Lili-Anne Brown was special guest director for the show with much theatre savvy to offer. She returns to TLP after directing credits that include “Sweet Charity,” and performed and assisted in “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Ragtime.” She is passing through the area to do her Off-Broadway debut in “A Twist of Water” in the fall.
Artistic director Jim Beaudry says about Brown that she has a gift for storytelling that evenly balances the reality of evil in a musical venue in a moving — yet not fluffy — stream of fantasy — yet real. Especially difficult, Beaudry says, is directing a cast to respond to innocence without knowledge of impending doom that the audience so well knows. Brown herself comments that the show isn’t about showcasing the “sleaze” factor, but rather bringing hope through decadence.
While it may seem that the Master of Ceremonies was literally the master of ceremonies, the character serves as rather a metaphoric commentary, sort of like the Ancient Greek Chorus clucking chicken house style of fate in the making, Joe Capstick fit the bill exactly with his ghastliness of presence and shockingly realistic lewdness. You couldn’t help but jive your shoulders from the very moment he opened the show.
It takes a toughness, yet sweetness quality for the character Sally Bowles to further the metaphoric indications of this historical backdrop. Alexandra E. Palkovic sang her toughness in the show’s signature “Cabaret” song and her sensitiveness in “Maybe This Time.” Dryden Meints as American Clifford Bradshaw was a perfect match to Palkovic with his warmth of acting and singing, especially in “Perfectly Marvelous.”
Returning TLP singer/actress Judy Knudtson as Fraulein Schneider delivered a most lovely and reliable performance in a very difficult role. If there are tricky intervals and notes to find, she does it with east and beauty. Her duet work with vocally strong Rus Rainear as Herr Schultz was a solid piece of the story.
A marvelously tawdry Analisha Santini as Fraulein Kost and Andrew Way as Ernst Ludwig were key to reaching into the soul of the story, especially the song “Tomorrow Belongs To Me,” that always proves so compelling in a chilling way — whether with music or a cappella – that we hardly know how to react. Music directed by Cindy Blanc was ominously hovering over the stage.
Choreographer Andrew Parker Greenwood put the sleaze into motion, especially in bawdy and hysterical “Two Ladies” featuring notable dancer Zak Jacobs and Erica Stephan with the Master of Ceremonies.
Must-see “Cabaret” continues Friday, August 3 and runs through Sunday, August 12 including four matinees at Timber Lake Playhouse. Tuesday through Saturday evening shows at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, two Sundays and Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. (No evenings August 5 and 12). The Mt. Carroll boonies are a hop, skip and a jump to 8215 Black Oak Road. Call the box office at (815) 244-2035 or for tickets, group rates and more information.