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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stackner Cabaret’s Enjoyable ‘Route 66’

Theater Review

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The Milwaukee Rep’s Stackner Cabaret concludes its season with Route 66, Roger Bean’s musical tribute to the open road. The musical starts with the all-male, four-member cast singing at a service station in Chicago and follows them along the legendary stretch of concrete all the way to California. Like any road trip, there are moments that blur together. But overall this is a very enjoyable ride.

With no real plot beyond the road trip, it would be all too easy for the four guys to appear like one, big, homogenous mass by the final curtain. Thankfully, the men are distinct enough to keep the songs interesting even in those rare moments when the tunes aren’t as compelling.

Zachary Dylan Robbins is the big guy with the beard who lends a great deal of personality to the trucker somewhere around St. Louis as the guys sing “Six Days on the Road.” Danny Calvert has the perfect emotional poise for an intimate, straight-ahead style of musical revue. On the way from Tulsa to Amarillo, he sings solo on a really sweet and simple rendition of “Oklahoma Hills.” And it’s just not a Rep cabaret musical without cross-dressing. Adam Estes has the distinction of making his most memorable appearance of the show in Texas as the title character in “Truck Stop Cutie.” Accompanied by the rest of the guys on spoons, he does a highly energetic tap in full costume as a classic diner waitress. The most charismatic of the four ends up being Justin Robertson, a stocky guy of versatile talent. For a brief moment somewhere around Barstow, the music fades out and everyone’s singing along as he performs “King of the Road.”

The Rep’s Stackner Cabaret presents Route 66 through May 9.

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