The Paramount Theatre could play it safe and only stage musicals that leave crowds smiling and humming the songs from the production.
But the Paramount chose not to go that route when it launched its Broadway series in 2011. Time and time again, the theater has shown that it not only wants to entertain audiences, it also wants them to think as well.
That most certainly is the case with its latest production, "Cabaret," which runs through March 18. "Cabaret" is set in 1930s Berlin as the Nazis begin their rise to power. What starts out as a night of decadent fun at the Kit Kat Club quickly becomes a commentary on what can happen when you ignore the dangers around you.
Making her Paramount directing debut is Katie Spelman, who already has proven her chops through being nominated for a Jeff award for choreography in the Paramount's production of "Oklahoma!" Through her direction, Spelman immerses the audience in a world that at first seems enchanting until the storm clouds start rolling in.
Strong performances abound throughout the production, including Joseph Anthony Byrd's devilishly humorous take on the Emcee. And it is a feather in the Paramount's hat that the theater is able to attract cast members of such high caliber. Byrd recently was in the Broadway production of "Kinky Boots" as well as national productions of "The Lion King" and "Mamma Mia!"
With 12 Jeff awards already under her belt, Hollis Resnik delivered yet another stellar performance as Fräulein Schneider. She fully embodied the character and her scenes with love interest Herr Schultz were touching.
Kelly Felthous also turns in an enchanting performance as Sally Bowles, who was nominated for a Jeff award for playing Roxie Hart in Drury Lane's production of "Chicago." We watch with interest as the blinders she has put on to shield herself from the reality outside the Kit Kat Club slowly come off.
Eric Schelkopf writes about the arts and entertainment scene in Chicago at http://thetotalscene.blogspot.com. He also is an employee of Shaw Media.