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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