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Rudy Hogenmiller steps into Emcee role for ‘Cabaret’

Rudy Hogenmiller is Emcee Light OperWorks’ “Cabaret.” | Phoby Rich Foreman

Rudy Hogenmiller is the Emcee in Light Opera Works’ “Cabaret.” | Photo by Rich Foreman

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‘Cabaret,’ Jan. 15-March 16, Marriott Lincolnshire, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire. $40-$55 (dinner theater packages available). (847) 634-0200;

Updated: January 10, 2014 10:49AM

After holding auditions, Rudy Hogenmiller, artistic director of Light Opera Works, decided that the person who best fit his vision of the Emcee in “Cabaret” was him.

This marks Hogenmiller’s Light Opera Works performing debut, and the first time he has appeared onstage in about eight years.

“It wasn’t what I had planned,” Hogenmiller admitted. “We had our general auditions and I saw most people in their 20s and I didn’t think the part should be that young. Then, I kind of got the bug in my ear.” It was a part he had envisioned playing someday.

Once Hogenmiller cast himself in the lead, he relinquished the directing and choreographing duties to Stacey Flaster.

“He directed me years ago in ‘A Chorus Line,’ ” Flaster reported. “And then, when I started choreographing and directing, our relationship shifted and we became really good friends.” (Flaster previously directed “Carousel” and “The Secret Garden” at Light Opera Works.)

Flaster did extensive research on the setting of “Cabaret,” 1930s Berlin, and particularly the role of the Emcee because the character did not exist in Christopher Isherwood’s novel on which Kander and Ebb’s Tony Award-winning musical is based. The novel focuses on the character of cabaret performer Sally Bowles and a writer named Cliff, who is based on Isherwood.

“The Emcee is definitely the star of the show,” Flaster said. “I realized the Emcee was the ringmaster of the cabaret world in the club and he’s also the ringmaster of the whole play. He reveals the layers of the other aspects of the show to the audience without commenting.”

Hogenmiller described his character as working in “this little tacky club in Berlin in the early ’30s. You don’t really know who he is. He’s real. He doesn’t have magical powers or anything like that.

“He has different functions in the show,” Hogenmiller added. “Sometimes he’s strictly a performer. Other times, he is a narrator. He always has the sardonic point of view. I think he’s trying to make the audience see things from another point of view or at least make them think about it from another point of view.” Sometimes he’s issuing a warning.

“If you read about the emcees of the time, they were older gentlemen who were seasoned veterans of the theater,” Flaster reported. “I think Rudy is the right age for the role.”

Flaster credits Hogenmiller with helping set this production apart from others. “His dancing is so wonderful,” she said. “And he’s such a personality that he’s bringing himself to the role.”

The musical takes place when the Nazis are just building strength. Flaster said that the power of the piece is related to the fact that, “You feel the tension of the characters and what’s going on in the world. And you know what’s coming.”

Hogenmiller noted that, in addition to war, prejudice continues. “The show can still teach people a few things,” he said.

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