Entries in Cabot Theatre (3)


Charming Comic Satisfaction at MCT’s Jeeves In Bloom

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre welcomes spring to the Cabot Stage at the Broadway Theatre Center with their current production of the wild and witty Jeeves In Bloom. Margaret Raether’s delightful adaptation of P.G. Wodehouse’s stories winks at British society with marvelous charm. Stories where the boyishly brash Bertie Wooster survives only by advice given through his impeccable butler Jeeves. MCT reprises these beloved characters from their 2010 production Jeeves Intervenes by taking them to the English countryside.

In Jeeves In Bloom, a lush English rose garden blooms on stage under Scenic Designer Steve Barnes’ talented vision, complete with a fountain, which provides an enchanting setting for any romantic action. The scenery alone breathes warmth into Milwaukee's cold spring and instantly invites the audience to be comfortable for this lighthearted theatrical comedy.

Matt Daniels returns as the astute sophisticated Jeeves, a picture of elegant worldliness. Set up as a foil for Chase Stoeger’s Bertie Wooster, the pair forms a skilled comedic team, Stoeger gives Bertie an added dose of youthful good looks and gestures. Add in the veteran Norman Moses as an egotistical French chef Anatole who doubles as Bertie’s Uncle Thomas, and one has an accomplished trio made for all Raether's action on stage. Debuting Matt Koester enters as Gussie, the scientific nerd knowing everything about lizards named newts, to accompany his school chum Bertie to his Aunt Dahlia’s country house.

Gussie sets much of the plot revolving around his inability to woo Madeline Basset, the object of his affection who was already visiting Bertie’s Aunt Dahlia and Uncle Tom. When Aunt Dahlia calls Bertie for assistance, Bertie insists Gussie travel with him to court Madeline. Strong woman characters define these performances, the expressive Marcella Kearns humorously cynical as Aunt Dahlia, a publisher of a women’s magazine that “has been turning the corner for two years, “ and desperately needs more funds from her husband to pay the printer for the next issue.

Karen Estrada completely inhabits her scenes as the lovesick Madeline, a lovley complement to the newt man, Gussie. Whether Estrada’s quoting poetry she’s written, feigning Juliet’s despair from Shakespeare’s great tragedy or dropping fantasy lines with aplomb, such as, “Every time a fairy sheds a tear, another star is born in the sky,” as the whimsical Madeline she wins the audience’s heart.

Director Tami Workentin knows Jeeves and company intimately, she fine tuned the last production two year ago, and adds a restrained touch to let the British shenanigans on stage unfold effortlessly instead of overplaying these comic moments. Which really only endears the characters to the audience and their misadventures, all great fun for a evening at MCT. 

Who in the audience could resist adoring the commanding Jeeves as he confidently dispenses his particular brand of common sense to the British upper crust they so desperately need? Come to enjoy and laugh, appreciate the comic antics, rose garden greenery and a marvelously accomplished cast that complements this feel good performance. Chamber Theatre and Jeeves would say, “He (or the company) aim to give satisfaction.”

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre presents Jeeves in Bloom at the Cabot Theatre in the Broadway Theatre Center through April 28, with special programs and talkbacks planned throughout the performance. Season subscriptions are also available for 2013-2014 with the theme: "Our Neighbors and Friends: Behind Closed Doors." For information and tickets, please call: 414.291.7800 or click the link the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre to the left.    by P.S. Dunigan





A splendid cast currently occupies the Cabot Theatre for Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s 2012-2013 season opening selection One Thousand Clowns. Written by the award winning Herb Gardner, the play inaugurates the company’s “Exploring Jewish Voices” series in collaboration with the Jewish Museum Milwaukee and the Jewish Community Center.

Set in the year 1962, Gardner’s play speaks from the heart of New York Jewish culture that celebrates delicatessens and pastrami sandwiches. However, Gardner’s very sophisticated humor reaches far beyond merely a passion for pastrami, whether one loves delicatessen’s or not. A culinary preference the main character Murray Burns uses to asses an individual’s personal worth.

Jonathan West debuts as a MCT director in a primarily delicatessen loving cast that deliciously keeps the comic timing on a fast course. Murray Burns, the delightfully irreverent Tom Klubertanz, embraces the philosophy of an imaginative man, more intent on experiencing life than working in life. He reluctantly becomes the unintended guardian of his 12-year-old nephew Nick Burns. A character professionally played by Thomas Kindler from First Stage Children’s Theater Academy in this far beyond his years accomplished role as Nick.

Nick landed on Murray's doorstep when he was only six because Murray's sister dropped him there "temporarily" after her several divorces, although she never married Nick’s father. While spending the next six years with his uncle, the grown boy genius attracts the attention of the New York City Bureau of Child Welfare through his exclusive school where Murray's unorthodox parenting skills come into question which sets the scenes for the play's action. Many scenes then set in Murray’s one room apartment with a rumpled, rummage sale décor that includes a female statuette with a blinking light chest, courtesy of Scenic Designer Brandon Kirkham.

Acting for the NYC Bureau of Child Welfare, Matt Daniels as Albert Amundson and Beth Mulkerron as Dr. Sandra Markowitz present the intellectual, rational side of life, which prefers studying hard to success. They inquisitively interview Murray and Nick to the suitability of Murray’s home life while they curiously examine their own motivations and romantic inclinations that climax at the welfare interview. The play somehow slyly ponders what parenting style could better motivate a child during these formative years? 

Gardner then adds Murray’s brother Arnold to the mix, the affable Patrick Lawlor, who contrasts the eccentric and exuberant Murray playing a sibling proud that he works diligently to support his own home. When Murray desperately needs a job to appease the Bureau of Child Welfare at a court hearing, Albert reinstates Murray’s old job of writing for Leo "Chuckles the Chipmunk" Herman, an actor on a children's show that advertises for potato chips bearing the animal’s name. Stephan Roselin deftly steps into the slightly derelict Herman's shoes.

Within the span of two acts over two plus hours, Gardner delivers a rare rebel for the 1960’s: A single man substituting for a parent played by a creative character like Murray. Someone infinitely worried as much about conforming and losing his own identity in the world as he is about losing the nephew he loves. A wacky but warmhearted father/son relationship often ignored in the 60's as it might be in 2012. This poignant play also depicts brothers, who although polar opposites in personality, deeply care for each other. A chance encounter with demonstrations of unlikely and intimate male bonding portrayed on stage without sentimentality or violence only realistic sincerity and struggle. 

This outstanding six-member cast feeds the evening with uncanny humor, a not to be missed summer treat that offers a buffet of talent. Including a touching ukulele duet of  “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby” and a surprise finale that Milwaukee audiences will treasure. This August, be a lover of delicatessens and laughter that feasts on life affirming affection at Chamber Theatre’s entertaining One Thousand Clowns.   

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre presents One Thousand Clowns in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center through August 26, with several special programs planned in collaboration with the Jewish Museum Milwaukee and the Jewish Community Center. For further information and tickets call: 414.291.7800 or click the link to the left.                                                                                                     by Peggy Sue Dunigan






Often admired as the “Playwright of the Midwest,” William Inge gleaned inspiration from the people he met in America’s heartland. His hometown of Independence, Kansas provided an emotional and intellectual muse, these roots apparent in his very successful 1955 play Bus Stop on stage in the Cabot Theatre courtesy of Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. 

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre presents a grand setting for Inge’s play in their collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside (UWP) Theatre. UWP Faculty Scenic Designer Keith Harris sets up a sumptuous rural Kansas 50’s diner. Richly designed in reds and greens, a checkerboard floor and graced with a large silver place setting, the diner gleams with lights across the tops of its walls.  

A redbrick backdrop faced with snow-covered windowsills envisions the apartment above the diner, where the owner Grace (a luminous Jacque Troy) lives sans her husband in absentia. A high school student Elma (UWP student Brenna Kempf) works with Grace part-time after studying Shakespeare and betrays her amusing wide-eyed naiveté.

When a cross-country bus becomes stranded at the diner for an all-nighter due to snowy weather, several eccentric passengers arrive for comfort away from a personal and outdoor chlil. Amid the diner’s claustrophobic surroundings,  their personalities prove a combustible mix while laying bare their lonely souls over coffee. Dr. Gerald Lyman (UWP Theatre Artistic Director Jamie Cheatham) unleashes his loathing for his failures, a professor escaping the tedium of teaching inept students while embracing liquor. 

The Montana cowboy Bo Decker (UWP student Ethan Hall) erupts with manhandling passion for the pretty, 19 year old Cherie. Although Bo was orphaned at ten and raised by the wonderfully sensitive Virgil (Patrick Lawlor) who soothes all these tired souls amiably picking on his guitar, Bo found the light of love in the young Cherie. Cherie (UWP student Anne Walaszek) left home at 14 and mistakenly thought singing as a Chanteuse in night clubs could relieve the emptiness in her heart. She consented on a whim to marry the overly confident Bo to escape her own unhappy fate. 

Add in the bus driver Carl (Doug Jarecki), a man willing to pluck the loneliness from his long night drives with Grace on his weekly travels. Or when the Sheriff Will Masters (Dan Katula), a man with morals and regrets, keeps and makes his peace within the diner’s cozy world. One night at Grace’s diner delivers them all from a solitary ache in their lives that rises to the surface with unfulfilled desires over hot drinks, doughnuts, and raw hamburgers.   

Their pent up emotions transform each character’s admitted inadequacies into bragging brawls, recitations of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet and a late night romantic rendezvous. Throughout the extended diner service, Troy imparts a worldly edge to a Grace faced with the candid, overeager advance of Jarecki’s Carl, and then switches to the wise mother with Elma. These two Parkside female leads also attract the audience’s attention. One understands Kempf’s portrayal of Elma’s innocent attraction to the doting Dr. Lyman. 

Walaszek’s Cherie (the antithesis of the iconic Marilyn Monroe who played the role in the much remembered 1956 film) adds dimension to the character with her need for “respect.” In the diner’s one night only performance of that “That Old Black Magic,” Walaszek allures the audience with her intentional off-key performance of the popular song. 

Inge’s diner beguiles the audience under UWP Parkside Faculty Lisa Kornetsky's direction, which moves towards a quicker pace in the second act. While only several characters eventually appease their loneliness, each one awakes with a small epiphany and resilience to get back on the bus. Or unfortunately move outside back into the cold. Willingly go along for the retro bus ride at MCT’s gorgeous production of Bus Stop.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre presents Bus Stop through April 29. Subscriptions for 2012-2013 season are also available. For information or tickets please call: 414.291.7800 or click the link to the left. by Peggy Sue Dunigan