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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014

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Jeremy C. Welter plays the Emcee in Off The Wall's production of "Cabaret."
Jeremy C. Welter plays the Emcee in Off The Wall's production of "Cabaret."

Off the Wall delivers a dark and stormy version of "Cabaret"

Distraction is the name of the game in the well-worn musical "Cabaret" as we meander through the pleasures of the flesh in order to not notice the horror that the Weimar Republic is about to unleash on the rest of the world.

In Berlin, as the movement fueled by Adolph Hitler gains momentum, the seedy Kit Kat Klub stands as a wayside for tortured souls who want nothing more than to have a good time, even temporarily.

The Dale Gutzman version of "Cabaret," which opened Wednesday night and runs through Sept. 28, is a dark retelling of a story that mixed sex, violence, longing and fear into two and half hours of mesmerizing theater. The menace of the play at Off the Wall Theatre is as intimate as any I have seen before. Gutzman crowds a cast of almost 30 characters into a space seemingly no bigger than a boarding house room.

It may not really have been two and a half hours because the initial 90-minute first act is a setup for the powerful, moving and sorrowful second act. And Gutzman, theatrical maestro that he is, holds the reins tight until he unleashes the hounds on a rapt full house in attendance.

The story of "Cabaret" is well known: An American writer named Clifford Bradshaw (Claudio Parrone Jr.) comes to Berlin, hoping to find inspiration to write his novel. On his first night – New Year’s Eve – he visits the Kit Kat Klub and meets the sultry Sally Bowles (Laura Monagle), a British chanteuse who packs them in but who is about to be fired, just because it’s time for a change.

Their halting love affair is on a parallel line with the affair of Fraulein Schneider (Marilyn White), who runs a boarding house, and Herr Schultz (Lawrence J. Luksavage), a Jewish fruit merchant. The two elders fall in love peacefully and without histrionics until pressure from the Nazis force the fraulein to reconsider.

The early going is filled with sex, teasing, tension and ambivalent sexuality. The music is filled with earthy meaning. When White and Luksavage sing the song…

Are NFL teams hiding bad behavior from players?
Are NFL teams hiding bad behavior from players? (Photo:

Are NFL teams hiding bad behavior by other players?

The flow of National Football League players being suspended for domestic assault incidents is in danger of turning into a tsunami of bad news for the teams.

And as one team after another has to deal with losing a prominent player, it raises a question: how many teams have players on their team who are in this kind of trouble and that the teams are hiding with fingers crossed that they don’t lose a player to some kind of suspension?

The pressure to win in the NFL is, with just a 16-game season, incredible. Teams have to put up with injuries that can be seriously harmful to any roster or game plan.

Losing another player -- be it because domestic abuse charges, or drug charges or some other kind of miscreant behavior -- is a frightening prospect team.

I’m not saying it’s happening, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find a team or two hiding a troubling incident with the hope of keeping the player playing and the certain firestorm of media at bay.

Theatre Unchained presents "The Addams Family" musical, through Sept. 28.
Theatre Unchained presents "The Addams Family" musical, through Sept. 28.

Theatre Unchained's "Addams Family" musical is frighteningly funny

Sometimes stepping off the beaten path or outside of the mainstream can be fraught with peril, but on occasion, it can turn into a wonderful surprise, and you pat yourself on the back for taking the big step.

Such was my reaction after stepping into Theatre Unchained's deliciously tiny space in order to see the production of "The Addams Family" musical, which runs through Sept. 28. This was a play I had seen before, and despite the 700-performance run on Broadway, I wasn’t totally in love with it.

Maybe it was because I was never really a regular watcher and fan of the Addams Family television show. I also recall the previous performance I had seen to be an effort to make the audience feel creepy and full of wonder about how eerie and disturbed this family was.

Much to their credit, the performance Saturday night, under the direction of John Baiocchi, left the creepiness outside and settled on making the audience laugh. And it was a smashingly successful effort.

Oh, there were things to pick at, of course. This was a cast of 16 actors, none of whom I have ever seen on stage, and I’ve seen a lot of Milwaukee theater. There was a live orchestra of seven musicians under the music direction of AJ Stibbe that was on occasion a little too loud, drowning out some of the lyrics. And there was not much of the slick polish you see around town in the bigger, mainstream theaters.

But those are all minor points that should not detract from a cast and orchestra that knew where the laughs were and mugged and timed all of them just right for maximum effect on a full house.

For those who don’t know, the Addams family is made up of Gomez (Timothy J. Barnes), his wife Morticia (a delectably sexy Kassandra Novell), his brother Fester (Marty Graffenius), their daughter Wednesday (Jamie Nyland), their son Pugsley (Jessica Hoof) and the grandmother (Danielle Gamsky). Lurch (a delightfully droll Matthew Northey) is the houseman.

The story is plain and simple.

The crazy girl W…

Kringle is easily one of Wisconsin's finest - or at least tastiest - exports.
Kringle is easily one of Wisconsin's finest - or at least tastiest - exports.

13 best things "Made in Wisconsin"

We may not have movie stars like California, oranges like Florida or corn like Iowa, but Wisconsin has a long list of excellent stuff we've given to the rest of the world. Here are the top 13 things that carry the "Made in Wisconsin" tag.

1. Cheese – Any list for our state has to start with cheese. Over 600 cheesemakers produce over 2.8 billion pounds of cheese each year. That’s a quarter of all the production in the country. Plus, we win most of the prizes in every cheese contest held around the world. And Wisconsin is the only place in the country where limburger cheese is made. It’s not for everyone, but put a thin slice on top of Usinger’s liver sausage and add a slice of raw onion between two pieces of caraway rye and you have one heck of a sandwich. It’s best eaten leaning over your kitchen sink.

2. Kringle – It comes from Denmark, but the American monopoly is in Racine, a center of Danish culture. Thirty-two layers of flaky dough are shaped into an oval and then filled with fruit, nut or other flavors. It makes a fantastic gift and is guaranteed to get a "holy cow" response when you send one to somebody in, say, Arizona. Side note: The Nordic Distillery in Middleton makes a kringle liqueur, created out of Wisconsin cream, rum, sugar and kringle flavoring. I had a shot in Cross Plains recently. Amazing!

3. Yachts – Don’t laugh. Rich people from around the world, from sheiks to barons of industry, know that we build wonderfully luxurious yachts. Palmer Johnson, Carver, Burger and KCS International build the watercraft from stem to stern, complete with hand-crafted fine wood details throughout the state rooms and cabins. Some of these are a sight to behold. I’ve never been on a yacht, but it looks like a lot of fun.

4. Cranberries – How in the world could we ever have Thanksgiving without cranberries? We are the largest cranberry producer by far, harvesting almost five billion bushels. That is enough for approximately 62.5 million turke…