Upcoming Dance

Possibly one of the best productions of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” that has graced the Chicago area is currently playing through June 5th at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Powerful, rich in musical and vocal performance and brilliantly choreographed, we are treated to a Tony caliber cast, as this production of “Evita” stirs the souls of audience members throughout in its intimate theatre-in-the-round setting. Superbly directed and choreographed by Jeff Award nominee Alex Sanchez, this electrifying production of “Evita” captivates from its opening ensemble number “Requiem” and continues to do so through the end of its second act. 

“Evita” is the story of Eva Peron who became Argentina’s First Lady in 1946 and remained so until her death in 1952. Married to Argentinian President Juan Peron, Eva was the country’s ambassador and became a true inspiration for its people. Hers is truly a story of rags to riches coming from one of the poorest areas of Junin before fleeing with a musician to Buenos Aires years later where her good looks contributed to her becoming a successful actress. In 1944 Eva Duarte met Colonel Juan Peron at a fundraising benefit for a major San Juan earthquake that claimed over 10,000 lives. From there the pair became of historical fame as together, they brought together “a new Argentina” much to the skepticism of Che, the iconic revolutionary. As the two ruled Argentina, Che is suspect that nothing has really changed for the better as promised by the power couple except for the wealth of the newly married Peron’s. 

Hannah Corneau is nothing less than triumphant as “Eva Peron”. Corneau delivers a spectacular performance that is sure to be remembered long after. Strong, passionate and eloquent, Corneau is seemingly meant to play the role of Eva. And for any production of “Evita” to succeed, there needs to be a convincing “Che”. Austin Lesch is just that and even exceeds expectations thanks to his hypnotic charisma and gifted voice. Local favorite and seasoned veteran Larry Adams also turns in a sincere performance as “Juan Peron”, Eva’s love interest and future president of Argentina. The set is impressive with rising platforms emerging from the stage when needed and props lowered from above, creating an imaginative setting of 1940s Buenos Aires while the dancing and music enthralling and the story engaging – all the components of a musical masterpiece.

While the leading actors are comprehensively engaging throughout, the ensemble is exceptional in their own right. This tightly knit collaborative is sprinkled with actors who have successfully taken on leading roles themselves at Marriott Theatre such as Brian Bohr and Jameson Cooper (this being his twentieth Marriott production).  At the same time Eliza Palasz as Peron’s mistress and David Schlumpf (Magaldi) round out the cast with solid performances in their highly relevant supporting roles.  

This tour de force production comes highly recommended. There is a reason that Andrew Lloyd Webber is the wealthiest musician in the world and “Evita” is one of his greatest works. And Marriott Theatre does this production to perfection. Produced and directed with a vision that would be sure to please Webber himself, this is a must-see show. 

“Evita” is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. For more information and/or tickets visit www.marriotttheatre.com. 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

Marriott Theatre’s current production is chancy business. For a venue that theatre lovers have come to depend on for family entertainment over the years – wholesome G through PG rated shows such as “Mary Poppins”, “The King and I”, “9 to 5” and “Elf”, just to name a few, Executive Producer Terry James has decided to raunchy things up a bit by bringing in a much more adult-themed production in “Spring Awakening”. Not in Marriott’s subscription package, “Spring Awakening” is running for just over two weeks, and we have to wonder how receptive its normal crowd of theatre goers will be. Filled with f-bombs, simulated sex scenes and dark story lines, “Spring Awakening” will certainly take some of Marriott’s regular audience members by surprise if they attend without researching the play first. 

A rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Slater, the story takes place in Germany sometime during the late nineteenth century where a classroom of children are the focus as they learn about their own sexuality and question what they have been taught by authority figures, whether it be teachers or their own parents. Under rigid instruction from their teachers, the children often stand clad in school uniforms surrounded in a light fog in front of a large blackboard, giving one the feeling that stage band could break in to “Another Brick in the Wall” at any moment. Unfortunately, this show is not nearly as musically memorable as it strains to make any impact in that department, falling far short of shows one might suggest it is akin to as “Rent” or “American Idiot”.

Despite its less-than-charged or lack of unforgettable musical numbers barring a crowd pleasing, gut-punching “Totally Fucked”, the show is not without fine acting efforts and talented vocal performances, particularly by its two leads, Patrick Rooney and Eliza Palasz. Palasz quickly shows her aptitude as a singer in the show’s opening number “Mama Who Bore Me” and impresses along with Rooney in their first-act duet “The Word of Your Body”. There are also many well-choreographed and finely executed dance pieces by the ensemble throughout the show, which IS something that can be counted on in a Marriott Theatre production. Also featured in the show are Marriott favorites Brian Bohr, Nate Lewellyn and Kevin Gudahl, all of who performed wonderfully along with local talents Callie Johnson and Hollis Resnik. There is certainly no shortage of ability in this production. 

Based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play of the same name, this somewhat slow-moving production centers on confused youth, the questioning of what we are told as kids, the lack of what we are told and the great distance that can often be present between a parent and their child. It is about growing pains, being misunderstood and dealing with the choices we have made – or having parents deal with their children’s choices as depicted so grimly in the show’s center act when Wendla (Palasz) gets pregnant, partly in thanks to the poor information given to her by her mother on how children are conceived. But the musical also delves into the joys of trying things for the first time, like creating new relationships or having sex.  

Though certainly not the central point of this production, it was enjoyable to see the performing band as they surrounded each end of the stage as opposed to enjoying their musicianship while out of sight from the audience. 

“Spring Awakening” is being performed at Marriott Theatre through January 31st. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.MarriottTheatre.com.           

 

Published in Theatre Reviews
Friday, 06 February 2015 00:00

La Cage aux Folles Fabulously Fantastic!

Get ready for men dressed lavishly in drag, big laughs and plenty of high-flying dance action. Kicking off their 40th season in fabulous fashion, Marriott Theatre presents the smash hit musical La Cage aux Folles, a comedy that can be as touching as it is glamorous.

In this musical that debuted on Broadway in 1983, longtime life partners Georges and Albin run the glitzy St. Tropez nightclub where dazzling all male revues are regularly performed. Georges is the club’s master of ceremonies while his “wife” Albin is the star performer “Zaza”. But when Georges’ son Jean-Michel surprisingly announces that he plans to marry the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician bent on shutting down the so-called “filth” in his district, their lives take a hectic turn – and the chaos begins. In Jean-Michel’s efforts to impress his fiancé’s visiting parents, he requests for Albin to make himself scarce and proceeds to “un-gay” his father’s home in order to also appear conservative. Naturally, this is upsetting and hurtful to Albin though a reluctant Georges insists it is just for one night and that it will be something they can laugh over for years to come. However, once Jean-Michel’s fiancé arrives with her parents nothing goes as planned and the pandemonium really begins.     

Throughout this very funny theatre-in-the-round production we encounter numerous song and dance numbers superbly choreographed by Melissa Zaremba, most notably its big opener “We Are What We Are” where the audience gets blitzed with drag dancers pulling off a series of colorful costume changes. We meet a variety of characters including a take charge whip-wielding diva and can only be impressed with the St. Tropez dancers’ precision and flexibility. However, while we enjoy stunning costumes, overdone makeup and overly exaggerated female characteristics, at times we wonder if women are celebrated or parodied.

David Hess as Georges and Gene Weygandt as Albin truly light up the stage. The chemistry between the two is dynamic and projects a real sense of love and admiration for one another. Their closeness can easily be envied by so many, displaying a sincerity that is truthfully touching, uplifting and lasting. Hess and Weygandt stalwartly captain the helm of this humorous but moving story that tells us to never be ashamed of who we are.     

Brian Bohr puts out an adequate performance as Jean-Michel but the show’s real support comes from Joseph Anthony Byrd who is charming as Jacob, the couple’s butler who wants to be recognized as the maid and also desires a spot in La Cage. Always a pleasure to see Larry Adams perform, the Chicago acting veteran is entertaining as ever in this time a limited role as waiter M. Renaud.

La Cage aux Folles is a well-directed show that is as fun yet tender and should not be missed. La Cage is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through March 22nd. For tickets and/or more information visit www.MarriottTheatre.com.  

Published in Theatre Reviews

I was eager to see the show but felt really bad as I settled into my seat for the opening night of GODSPELL at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Pain was shooting through my legs, and my mind was overwhelmed after yet another day of wrangling with difficult business decisions. But by the time I left the theatre I genuinely felt uplifted and renewed by the youthful and fresh energy and the heartfelt message of hope in Jesus that poured out of this production.

The cast could have, and maybe should have, been cast older; except for two token adults most of the cast seemed straight out of high school or college. Their voices were fantastic in the way singers on American Idol are, but as soon as they formed the Tower of Babel as 9 to 5 city workers dressed in black and grey, I thought what do these kids know about how hard the workplace is?  Later during the heavier scenes regarding Jesus’ scourging and crucifixion I thought, what do these kids know about loss? Though one thing this young cast did have was talent – and plenty of it.

Brian Bohr played the role of Jesus.  I was at first shocked and taken aback by a Jesus who resembled a 22 year old, baby-faced, California surfer kid wearing a sky blue preppy polo shirt. But Bohr’s rich, smooth voice and determined lightheartedness eventually won me over. Although I was surprised by Bohr's youthful appearance and super clean cut costume and looks, I grew to enjoy his interpretation of the role because it reflected on just how very strong and happy Jesus must have been during his early ministry before he was attacked and weighed down with betrayal.

Samantha Pauly had the most dynamic voice of the women and did a great job with the humor and tone of “Turn Back O Man”. At the same time, Devin DeSantis who had more of the hippy, wildman look I would have expected from Jesus, also had a great rich voice and made a very sympathetic Judas. The numbers were exciting and colorful, especially “O Bless the Lord My Soul” where golden hula hoops were incorporated into the dance choreography and “Light of the World” that really had the audience toe tapping and nodding their heads to the beat.  

As always I thoroughly enjoyed the use of the intimate space at The Marriott Theatre and all of the colorful ways the entire theatre was decorated with multicolored plastic drinking cups sticking out of fence walls like a rainbow. I noticed that most of the audience seemed to feel the same way, as more people were laughing and chatting after the show rather than stretching and yawning on a weeknight and rushing to get home.

Overall this is a great production that is perfectly suited for everyone. Even the crucifixion scene was exceptionally light and non-violent as Jesus is tied up and crucified with blue and white silks suspended from the ceiling.  I especially recommend this as a children’s theatre production for parents who want to take their children to an adult theatre piece with a great message about Jesus and the Gospel of John and Luke that will be very clean and cheerful all the way through.

GODSPELL is playing at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire though August 10th. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.marriotttheatre.com

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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