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Cabaret Milwaukee’s ‘Jealous Revolver’ a killer-diller

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Cabaret MKEBest Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery hosted Cabaret Milwaukee’s inaugural performance last week. This new theater company paid homage to the radio plays of yesteryear with their Valentine-themed drama “The Jealous Revolver,” a tale of prohibition era love and intrigue.

“The Jealous Revolver” is a tale of mob boss Vic and his stoic assistant Stella, who run a bar in an fictional part of Milwaukee. Vic is interested in Vivica, one of the waitresses, but she only has eyes for Joey. Joey is a singer in the bar but aspires to join Vic’s “family” in an attempt to make some money and start a better life with Vivica. When Joey is asked to kill Stella’s younger brother for getting into a fight with a rival mob member, everything goes south. Meanwhile, Vic’s old flame causes problems when she returns from The Northern Colony, Wisconsin’s infamous eugenics establishment. Vivica learns that Vic himself sent this woman away, and she worries rejecting him will earn her the same fate. Secrets unravel and the booze flows as the audience watches love overcome all obstacles.

“The Jealous Revolver” was just one of the many gems of the fictional WMKE’s “The Howling Radio Hour,”  hosted by nutty, smooth- talking Richard Howling. The audience was immersed in the year 1942, with breaking news updates about the Kennedy family and socialist local politics. Miss Millie’s Victory Kitchen provided the audience with a baudy take on the domestic arts. Old-time jingles for present-day sponsors were performed by a comedic singing trio. This show was a perfect blend of intellectual entertainment and local history with a sprinkling of adult humor. Between the station announcements, the audience also enjoyed performances by a gypsy guitarist, a tap dancer, a comedian and a singer, all accompanied by the jazz trio The Flying Deutschman.

While some actors were a bit more polished than others, everyone in the cast was having so much fun that the audience couldn’t help but enjoy themselves too. The period accuracy of the costumes was a bit lacking, but this was a million-dollar-performance on what I assume was not a million dollar budget. Some actors also doubled as bar tenders, which further immersed the audience into the world of the show.

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This was truly a Milwaukee performance, from the content to the venue, which made it twice as entertaining as seeing a big budget Broadway show at the Marcus Center. Many of the cast members were familiar faces in the Milwaukee theater community.  I eagerly await the future of Cabaret Milwaukee. Plus, the playbill said this was the first installment of “The Jealous Revolver,” so I sincerely hope there is more to come soon. 

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