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Bold, bawdy new ‘Cabaret’ hottest thing in the Loop

Lindsay Leopold, Michael Peters and Jessie Fisher, from left, in The Hypocrites’ “Cabaret.” (Photo by John W. Sisson Jr.)

Lindsay Leopold, Michael Peters and Jessie Fisher, from left, in The Hypocrites’ “Cabaret.” (Photo by John W. Sisson Jr.)

The staid, gray Loop is certainly busting out this spring. Saturday night, the streets were filled with people, and the theaters were packing them in. (Too bad there’s not much for these folks to do downtown when the shows let out. Why can’t Chicago support a late-night scene?)

While the delightful but pricey “Billy Elliot” has settled into the Oriental Theatre for a good long run (so you’ve time to save up for tickets), there are only a few weeks to take in the hottest show in the Loop this season: The Hypocrites’ dark and raunchy new take on the Fred Ebb-John Kander classic, “Cabaret,” playing at the intimate Storefront Theater for just $25 a ticket.

Don’t look for soulful Liza Minelli vocals or androgynous Joel Grey subtlety — this forceful and frankly lewd adult production puts it all out there, more debauched than even pre-World War II Berlin could possibly have been.

Director Matt Hawkins takes some cues from the 1998 Broadway “Cabaret” revival but adds some fresh and highly inventive touches of his own. His rearrangements are sometimes startling to those familiar with the musical story of American would-be novelist Clifford Bradshaw’s affair with English showgirl Sally Bowles during the rise of the Third Reich, but always effective. I like the three-act format.

Alison Siple’s extraordinary costumes would almost be worth the price of admission even if the actors just stood still. Instead, the cast swarms over a round thrust stage and a catwalk above and behind, and pushes forward into the audience for an -in-your-face, ogle-worthy show, with a full-figured ensemble of exceptional talent. Even the band is in lingerie.

But the six-piece orchestra led by Music Director Mike Pryzgoda is more than ornamental — they really deliver the sound. Pryzgoda’s arrangements sometimes struck me as overly slow — particularly some acoustic interludes — but that only enhanced the downbeat tone of this production, as do Lindsay Leopold’s rough-edged vocals and intense performance as Sally.

Michael Peters delivers a sensitive and appealing performance as Cliff, with a fine tenor voice to boot, and Jessie Fisher’s Emcee enthralls, in all the senses of that word. Jim Heatherly’s cherubic Herr Schulz is another highlight, bright amid the darkness, so to speak, solidly backed by Kate Harris’s Fraulein Schnieder. Kyle Erkonen, exquisite in a nonspeaking and unconventional role, adds powerfully to the sinisterly decadent effect of the production.

A quartet of real cabaret tables surrounds the stage; arrive early if you want a shot at one — it’s general admission.

The Hypocrites’
‘Cabaret’

Theater: Storefront Theater in the Loop.

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, through May 23.

Tickets: $25, $15 students and seniors.

Dining: There’s nothing like a cabaret in this section of the Loop, so I’m going to suggest you take the simplest option and honor the “toast of Mayfair” with a pint and pub grub at the handy Elephant & Castle.

Deals: Goldstar has some half-price tickets this weekend. With validation at the box office, parking is $10 at the Wabash-Randolph Self-Park, 20 E. Randolph St.