Theater Review: Cabaret plays at Keith Country Day School

April 28, 2010

By Edith McCauley
Theater Critic

More and more students are given the opportunity to hone their talents while still in school. This is especially true when their teachers and mentors have a lifetime of experience.

Jim Radloff, as head of the Theater Department at Keith Country Day School, shares his own talents with his students. Every aspect of Keith’s production of Cabaret displays his dedication, from the colorful, glossy program with a cover featuring Paul Steffan as the outrageous Emcee to the photos of Ashley White (Sally Bowles gazing with adoration at Ben Ross (Clifford Bradshaw) and Sarah Idenberry (Fraulein Schneider) with her future husband, Tim Gustafson (Herr Schultz). We are introduced to an evening of exceptional theater.

The story, set in 1931 Berlin while Hitler is rising to power, incorporates music, drama, the decimation of the Jewish population, and the mixed messages that so often influence everyday lives.

Radloff has directed and choreographed Cabaret so many times it has become part of his psyche. While still at the Clock Tower Dinner Theatre, he also played many of the roles. His last, as Herr Schultz with Marge Henning as Fraulein Schneider, remains one of my favorites.

Paul Steffan represents the next generation of stars and continues to share with us his exceptional talents. Starring as the Emcee of the Kit Kat Club, he opens the show with a welcome incorporating dance, song, and our vision of a complicated lifestyle that later becomes life-threatening. Acting also as musical director, he is an amazing young man with a future in the arts. Having seen him from the time he played at New American Theater, I have become one of his greatest fans.

Radloff’s sets and the colorful costumes created by Jan Bacino make this one of the best shows I’ve seen at Keith. The support of friends and families assures sold-out houses. Bacino’s costumes for the Kit Kat Klub Kittens are so appropriate for the young ladies. An adult production would reveal much more, but the impression of naughtiness is there without embarrassment to the dancers.

The cooperation of local theater companies, Rockford College Theater Department, Artists’ Ensemble, and Mike Webb make available costumes and set pieces that would be far beyond the school’s budget.

A small theater and a complicated set is a real challenge to the actors and designers, but it worked well. The orchestra combines Keith students, college students and local musicians. The score is intricate, and as they work together, there will be improvement.

The support of friends and families assures sell-out houses. Cabaret runs April 30 and May 1 at the Gaylord Commons Theater, 1 Jacoby Place, Rockford. For further information, call Keith Country Day School at (815) 399-8823.

The Butler Family at the Ethnic Heritage Museum

Opening last week at the Ethnic Heritage Museum and featuring local star E. Faye Butler and curated by David Ruffin, is a fascinating history of three strong women, Faye’s grandmother, Elizabeth, celebrating her 100th birthday May 15; Faye’s mother, Liz, a lifelong supporter of her daughter’s work; and the music of E. Faye. (The E is for “Elizabeth.”) We are so proud of her many accomplishments and wish her well.

From the April 28-May 4, 2010 issue

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