Marriott Theatre's Cabaret is as much fun as you can have while coming face-to-face with monstrous historical evil.
In this case, the Nazi rise to power in early 1930s Germany, as observed by a young American writer.
Smartly directed by David H. Bell, this production delivers on the show's central mission: it makes the evil personal by pulling the audience into the decadent environment that nourished it.
And that's accomplished in large part through a not-to-be missed performance by Stephen Schellhardt in the central role of the Kit Kat Club emcee.
No matter who else you've seen in this iconic gig, while you're in this audience, Schellhardt—dangerous and irresistible—owns it.
Another thing that works: Marriott's in-the-round configuration. Usually a major obstacle to overcome, it lends itself neatly to a show (mostly) set in a nightclub and more dependent than most on intimacy.
Megan Sikora, a commanding performer with a brassy Ethel Merman voice has Cabaret's other iconic role, as the nightclub diva, Sally Bowles. She's a more mature, less vulnerable Bowles than might be optimal, but you won't be able to take your eyes off her, thanks to her admirable dance chops and Nancy Missimi's pitch-perfect, sexy costumes.
Annabel Armour and Craig Spidle are winning as the writer's elderly landlady and her Jewish fiance, characters that in lesser hands can teeter into into stereotype. Patrick Sarb seems like a natural as the writer, and there are fine supporting performances by Christine Sherrill and Jameson Cooper as Nazi enthusiasts. The entire singing, dancing ensemble, wrangled by choreographer Matt Raftery, is terrific.
Cabaret continues at the Marriott Theatre , 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire, through March 16. Call 847-634-0200.