Upcoming Dance

Friday, 19 February 2016 13:01

Sister Act is Outta Site!

What happens when a 1970s dance diva goes into hiding as a nun in a neighborhood parish, you might ask? Well, let’s just say she definitely makes an impact. After Delores witnesses a murder by her boyfriend (a gangster who is married), the sassy disco queen is thrust into a witness protection program by the Philadelphia Police Department where she assumes the identity of a nun, much to the dismay of Mother Superior. Two completely different worlds collide, as the strict and disapproving Mother Superior is forced to work side by side with Delores, who is more about living on the wild side and prefers beer and cheesesteak sandwiches over the church served mutton. Though completely at opposite spectrums from each other the two eventually teach each other valuable life lessons, which plays out nicely in this humorous and charming script.  

When we first hear the weak, out of key singing by the nuns, it doesn’t take us long to figure out that Delores, a seasoned vocalist, will serve a useful purpose in her new surroundings. We just don’t’ realize how amusing the journey will be.   

Based on the Whoopi Goldberg hit film, Sister Act is a ton of fun. Not only does the production nail the 1970s, parodying the era to perfection with spot on costume design and stereotypical character traits, but it is plenty funny and has a slew of enjoyable song and dance numbers such as “Take Me to Heaven”, “It’s Good To Be A Nun” and “Sister Act”.

Pairing perfectly are Hollis as Mother Superior and Broadway veteran Stephanie Umoh as Delores. Umoh is absolutely adorable in the role while Resnik displays an acting presence that of the talented veteran she is. It is not Resnik’s first run at the role as she had played Mother Superior is national touring productions in the past. Umoh and Resnik’s chemistry make this production work ever so smoothly as they play off each other flawlessly. And though both Resnik and Umoh each provide show-carrying caliber performances, they get a lot of help from a wildly hilarious and talented ensemble.    

Every time gangster Curtis Jackson and his band of cronies come onto the stage you can expect a few good laughs. Mark Hood as lead thug, TJ, often steals the show with his far out boogie-like moves and 1970s jive talking while Todd A. Horman as Joey also makes several splashes as the wannabe hard ass sidekick. The gang hits the audience full throttle and are highlighted in their very funny number “Lady in the Long Black Dress”, a smooth ode to the ladies where they each think they are God’s gift to women.   

Mary Robin Roth, Marya Grandy and Lillian Castillo add a lot of oomph and personality to the flock of nuns while Johnathan Butler-Duplessis shines and Eddy otherwise known as “Sweaty Eddy”, the Philadelphia cop whose rich vocals really come to life in “I Could Be That Guy”.  

Don Stephenson’s directorial debut at The Marriott Theatre is “right on” while Melissa Zaremba works her magic on the show’s choreography, making this a well-rounded production that has a bit of everything one would look for in a musical comedy. 

Thoroughly entertaining, Sister Act is playing at Marriott Theatre through April 3rd.  For tickets and/or more show information 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

I absolutely adored Theatre at the Center’s production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown based on the Pedro Almodvar film of the same name from beginning to end.  Set in the 1980's in a part of uptouching and hilarious upper crust Madrid, "Verge" tells the hilarious and touching story of three women who are literally brought to the edge of sanity by their lovers. 

Cory Goodrich is dynamite in the lead role of commercial actress and singer Pepa who receives a phone message from her cheating lover Ivan that he is breaking up with her just as she discovers that she is pregnant with his child.  At the same time, Summer Naomi Smart is super sexy and funny as Pepa's nervous best friend and unwitting fashion model, Candela, whose boyfriend turns out to be an actual terrorist.

And Hollis Resnik as Ivan's ex-wife, who has actually been committed to an asylum because of Ivan's constant playing around with her mind and heart, is sheer delight in her portrayal of a woman who is still in love with her ex, partly because he keeps stringing her along. 

It’s just a complete and sensational cast assembled for this production.

To continue in praising this cast, Larry Adams is hysterical as Ivan, the wealthy Lothario who tells his son it is not important what you say to women but how you say it and then proceeds to sing "Blah, blah blah" to one woman after another in such a sexy seductive tone that they all drop at his feet.  Ivan also reveals that his secret to keeping women in love with him , even his ex-wife of twenty years who had been driven to madness by his loving is that he loves each woman at a distance "Forever and ever and will not let them out of his thoughts... forever." 

Sadly, the lead of this production, actor, Bernie Yvon, was killed in a car accident about two weeks before the show opened on his way to rehearsal. The performances in this run are dedicated to Bernie, who will certainly be missed in the Chicago theatre community. George Andrew Wolff, who plays the taxi driver and narrator did a great job in Bernie’s stead and had one of the best and funniest Spanish accents in the whole show. 

The set, period costumes and actual taxi driven around during the show were all beautiful, colorful and very interactive for the audience. There are all kinds of fabulous dance numbers and the songs are catchy and cleverly funny, especially “The Microphone” performed wonderfully by Larry Adams and “Model Behavior” where Naomi Smart really gets to show her comedic ability as an actress. There is even a handsome Spanish biker that cruises the stage on his motorcycle. 

Although the 1980's cocktail which helped fuel and then alternately slow down the characters frenetic actions through life was a milkshake made of "gazpacho and Valium", you will not need a Valium to relax and laugh at this wonderful woman driven comedy. I highly recommend seeing this rarely produced hit while it is here! 

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is playing at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana (30 minutes from downtown Chicago) through October 12th. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.theatreatthecenter.com.  

These nervous women deserve respect!

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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