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Chill and charm get equal time in ‘Cabaret’

Sally Bowles is a piece of work. The star of Kander and Ebb’s musical Tony Award-winning “Cabaret,” this English showgirl drifts semi-consciously through the start of the Third Reich in 1929 Berlin. Amoral is the kindest way to characterize her.

The 1966 Broadway musical is based on Christopher Isherwood’s novellas,“The Berlin Stories” and John Van Druten’s play “I Am a Camera.” In the production now running at the Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, Bowles is played by Megan Sikora as the quintessential good-time girl. She is high strung, adorable and full of energy. She throws herself upon the mercy of Cliff Bradshaw, a mild-mannered American, played by Patrick Sarb, who comes to Berlin to write a novel and finds himself unwittingly aiding an avalanche of unimaginable evil.Hailed as the “Toast of Mayfair,” Bowles has apparently used her charms on the club manager to get top billing at the Kit Kat Klub, and she has soon seduced Cliff.

Of course their romance is doomed.

Sikora makes her entrance with a snappy “Don’t Tell Mama,” and her “Maybe This Time” throbs with a longing for love. But it is her final song when she reprises the emcee’s “Cabaret” that mines the desperation of the decadent Weimar Republic and tears at your heart.

Dance numbers, choreographed by the multiple Jeff-nominated Matt Raftery, are sexy, befitting a seedy nightclub, but also actually befit the family standards at Marriott.

However it was secondary romantic couple who won cheers and applause and hearts opening night. Frau Schneider and Herr Schultz, are played delightfully by Annabel Armour and Craig Spidle. She is the elderly keeper of a boarding house where Cliff and Sally live; he is a Jewish fruit vendor. Just friends first, they become engaged in an endearing sequence. But as the Nazis rise in power, she breaks the engagement, even as he is reassures her that the movement will fade away. We know differently.

Stephen Schellhardt, the eerie emcee who peppers his portrayal with a dash of comedy, invites us to leave our troubles outside the Kit Kat Klub. But make no mistake. Enter the world of Marriott’s “Cabaret,” and you will experience a production trembling with portents of the catastrophe advancing like a polar vortex.

When we hear “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” the play’s Nazi anthem and a song nearly as lovely as “Edelweiss” in “The Sound of Music,” we shiver. We know who’s making that claim, and what they intend.

It will chill you, so adroitly does director David H. Bell evoke the period, not least because you, like the mannequins who peer down from their balcony into this cabaret, find yourself frozen in place, watching the horrors take shape.