Josh B. Bryan’s special blend of old-timey radio variety returns to the Astor Hotel bar this month as Cabaret Milwaukee presents another staging of The Jealous Revolver. Bryan, Amanda J. Hull and Jackie Benka have put together a classy, little crime drama peppered with bits of history and acts of variety in an old-style live radio format.
Michael Keiley hosts the show as dapper emcee Richard Howling. The variety mixes a little singing with a little drama and a little dance. This month’s offering includes jazzy vocals by Cameron Webb, who opens the program with a powerful Billie Holiday tune. Dance comes later-on in the form of Danielle Joy Webber performing some impressively intricate tap. Once again...it’s not that often that genuine tap gets featured on the local theatre stage. Seeing a lone woman perform the lost art onstage has an irresistible novelty about it that can make tap dance almost seem like something new.
Cabaret Milwaukee puts together a dual-tiered retro vibe for its shows. The Jealous Revolver is a 1930s gangster crime serial that’s being performed live on the Howling Radio hour...a fictitious radio program set during World War II. This time around the drama outside the drama has a very passionate and compassionate Samantha Paige Deibler as USO Founder Mary Ingraham squaring-off against Deborah Oetinger as a proponent for the newly-founded Women’s Army Corp. Women looking to define themselves in a new era take two different positions on the emerging feminism. The show features an all-new trio of Howling Singers. Lindsey Willicombe, Vanessa Schroeder-Weber and Marina Dove perform classic and classic-sounding jingles for Pabst and Cabaret Milwaukee sponsor Twisted Path Distillery.
The story itself features a stylishly imposing Kerric Stephens as crime boss Vic Marconi who finds himself in a bit of a predicament with loose cannon named Tony (a very charming Dennis Lewis.) Dealing with him could prove to be difficult as his closest confidant is Tony’s older sister Stella (played with intensity by Dora Diamond, who also appeared in the same role of the original staging of The Jealous Revolver a few years back.) Aiding Vic in eliminating the problem is a crooner named Joey who is clearly in over his head. He’s looking to make a bit more money for himself and his girlfriend Vivica (who also works Vic’s club.) As Joey and Vivica, Adam Qutaishat and Michelle White provide a conflicted romantic counterpoint to the far more explosive conflict between Vic, Tony and Stella.
It all plays out in an intimate, little bar in the historic Astor Hotel. It’s a classy evening out on the east side accompanied by Joe Makovec on keyboard and Allen Russel on violin. The old-timey, early 20th century atmosphere is something that Cabaret Milwaukee has had plenty of experience putting together over the years. It’s a complicated variety show that glides across the bar with smooth style. All of the elements of variety are juggled quite well.
Cabaret Milwaukee’s The Jealous Revolver Episode One runs through Sep. 14 at the Hotel Astor on 924 E. Juneau Ave. For more information, visit Cabaret Milwaukee online.