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Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009

Go ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre

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­Milwaukee Chamber Theatre opens its season with Around the World in 80 Days, American playwright Mark Brown's comic adaptation of the classic 1873 adventure novel. Brown's script and Milwaukee Chamber's production value humor and fun over the book's serious sense of adventure.

Matt Daniels cuts a stylish form in the role of Phileas Fogg, a British gentleman who makes a bet that he can travel across the world in precisely 80 days. Joining him in his journey is French valet Passepartout, a former circus acrobat played by Chris Klopatek. Among many notable performances, Klopatek stands out as Passepartout. His performance amplifies the character's stout, athletic build and stays true to French author Jules Verne's use of Passepartout as the humble hero behind the hero. Klopatek produces an over-the-top French accent that is completely in line with the comic exaggeration of the play without sacrificing the character's noble sense of humanity. Klopatek and Daniels are joined by the talents of Robert Spencer, Marti Gobel and Norman Moses in a variety of different roles.

Keith Pitts' set makes remarkable use of nearly every inch of the Broadway Theatre Center's Cabot Theatre. A visual concept of the globe is subtly present in countless arcs and circles in the set, and a steampunk aesthetic asserts itself through a series of clever contraptions designed to bring the adventure to the stage, including a bicycle-powered wind machine and other scenic props handled by stagehands in period goggles and leather aprons.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre's production of Around the World in 80 Days runs through Aug. 30 at the Broadway Theatre Center.