Dance

I have to admit Aladdin is one of my all-time favorite Disney films so I was very optimistic upon entering Cadillac Palace to see the stage version. Turned into a live musical in 2011, Disney’s Aladdin has landed in Chicago for a five-month run with over three million people having already experienced the production worldwide. My hopes were high. I wanted so much to enjoy it. I entered the musical knowing the characters and creative team had a lot to deliver in order to please me - and deliver they did! Bringing to life the classic tale of Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, Genie and the villainous Jafar, I am happy to say the stage adaptation of the popular musical is a full-on magical adventure that exceeds expectations.

 

Adam Jacobs in the lead role of Aladdin has a wonderful voice, excellent dance skills and a charming, bright white smile that reaches all the way to the audience members in the back balcony much to their delight. Jacobs has some real star quality developing, which is a pleasure to see. Adam Jacobs as the poor thief trying to win Princess Jasmine’s heart with three wishes from a genie, really resembles a young Matt Dillon for those who remember the handsome, spirited hustler in the popular film "The Flamingo Kid."

 

Perfectly paired with Jacobs, Isabelle McCalla plays Princess Jasmine with a sassy, feminist air that was both endearing and inspiring to young girls without seeming cloying or coy. McCalla also has a lovely, yet strong stage presence and a wonderful singing voice. Yet the key to a successful production of Aladdin depends on the strength of the wish-giving imp and in this case Anthony Murphy nails the role of Genie. Murphy is deliciously saucy and upbeat in his interpretation of Genie and has great physical comedy timing and brings with him some impressive dance instincts. 

 

The fabulous tunes of Aladdin penned by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice are brought to life by this talented ensemble directed by Devanand Janki with an abundance of energy and infectious joy! 

 

The magic flying carpet scene is every bit as enchanting as in the film when Aladdin posing as a prince offers to free Jasmine from her castle tower where she has been isolated from seeing the daily life of the real world. Aladdin finally shows her “A Whole NEW World" with a stunning backdrop of night stars, which create an effective and truly romantic flying carpet special effect that makes both adult couples and children alike say, “Wow, that's beautiful!" 

 

I loved the way the book has been altered to include the idea that an arranged marriage is politically incorrect even if it is an arranged marriage to a prince. This is a very serious problem in other countries and I was very pleased that the writers made it clear to the young women watching the show that in the end even Jasmines' father, The King, was forced to change the law in order to make sure his daughter was married to someone she loved, regardless of his social standing - that it was her choice, not his. 

 

Brian Sidney Bembridge (sets), Jesse Klug (lighting) and Debbie Baer (costumes) each deserve their own round of applause for their amazing accomplishment in creating the truly golden treasure room and flying carpet effects along with the colorful, rich designs that captured and dazzled the eye in every scene.

 

I highly recommend this show for adults who’d like to go on a romantic date as it dreamy and fun while reminding us of the innocence of love. Aladdin is, of course, also a great production for young ones to see because, unlike in some children's theater, the characters are fully rounded and the entire spirited cast really delivers on their opening number, “Arabian Nights”, successfully projecting the feelings associated with the magic and destiny of Love that is caused by such wonder and delight! 

 

Disney’s Aladdin is running at Cadillac Palace through September 10th. For tickets and show information visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Inspired by the Newsboy Strike of 1899, “Newsies” uses the power of dance and song to tell the story of a group of teenagers and children who stand up to the powerful men running the newspapers of New York City, defending the rights of children workers everywhere. Jack Kelly is the leader of the “Newsies” gang, but dreams of a life out west far away from the mean streets of New York where he can focus on his true passion, art. When Pulitzer raises the price of newspapers, Jack rallies the rest of the “Newsies” across the city and fights back. With the help of an up and coming reporter, with an interesting heritage, the “Newsies” become front page news and fight for justice growing new friendships, strengthening old ones and also sparking a romance along the way.

 

From the opening number, through to the end of the show, “Newsies” is non-stop dancing and singing sensation. With a large ensemble cast and powerful choreography by Christopher Gattelli it creates a high energy atmosphere that sticks with you long after the curtain falls and the show is over. The dancing is continually moving across, up and over the entire stage, with dancers jumping, turning, flipping and of course tapping. Music, by Alan Menken, and lyrics, by Jack Feldman, capture the emotions and tensions of the “Newsies” echoing to the last row of the balcony, giving the audience chills. To top it all off, the set design, by Tobin Ost, is simple, but creatively flexible. Comprised of a few metal structures that stand 3 stories tall and can be moved and rotated, it created scenes that filled the stage and took the choreography to a whole new level. 

 

While this show is predominantly an ensemble show, there were some strong main character performances starting with Joey Barreiro as Jack Kelly. He captured the smooth charm of the character and followed it up with a strong singing voice and amazing dancing. Stephen Michael Langton as Davey is the perfect complement to Jack. And because no show is complete without a good love story, Morgan Keene as Katherine has great chemistry with Jack and brings some great girl power to a cast that is predominantly male. Steve Blanchard, as Joseph Pulitzer, plays a great bad guy, one you love to hate.

 

Overall, “Newsies” delivers a thrilling and adrenaline charged performance from the opening minute to the closing note. It never relies on sparkling costumes, fancy lighting but lets the singing and dancing speak for itself. And speak it does! The audience will fall in love with the characters, be wowed by the dramatic flips and perfectly precise choreography, and share in the emotional battle of the “Newsies”.

 

“Newsies” is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theater in Chicago, but be sure to get your tickets soon because it is only here for a limited time!

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

Chicago is alive with the sound of music, thanks to the return of Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic musical now playing at Cadillac Palace that comes with a delightfully vibrant cast and an orchestra that is able to capture the uttermost essence of the original score. Directed by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien, The Sound of Music is in town for just a limited engagement so if you’d like to take in one of the most enduring musicals of all time, you had better act quickly.

Most know the story that takes place in World War II Austria where a “rebellious” nun-to-be, Maria, is sent by the Abbey to the home of the widowed Captain von Trapp, a wealthy and successful Naval officer, to act as the governess for his seven children. She enters a strict household where there is no longer a place for music but rather is closer to the environment found on one of the Captain’s sea vessels. This is a tightly run ship, where orders are barked and children answer to whistle tones. No one dares oppose the way the Captain runs his household, that is, of course, until Maria enters the picture. As the story progresses, Maria kind-heartedness slowly breaks through to the Captain and a whirlwind of love story takes place as the two realize they have eyes for each other.    

With the Third Reich threatening to take over Austria and enlist the Captain’s services, the story takes another turn when the head of the Von Trapp household refuses to support the Nazi ideal. The Sound of Music is a classic love story adventure that has won the hearts of millions not just by its compelling story but by its sensational soundtrack. 

Usually, it is the role of Maria that runs away with the story and is relished and admired so much by its audience. However, in this case, Ben Davis as Captain Georg von Trapp is so dynamic, both vocally and in his acting performance, that so say he stole the show would be a heavy understatement. Displaying a vocal range from a seasoned baritone to a gifted soprano, while so well capturing the essence of a hardened man softened then transfixed by the love, forgiveness and admiration of a young woman, Davis makes one wonder if it is possible to play the role of Captain von Trapp any better. 

But you do need a strong Maria or the play cannot work - period. Kerstin Anderson as Maria is strong indeed. Probably taking the role a bit on the nerdy side in a bit of a twist, Anderson still has the warmth and charm, and is frankly…likeable. Able to harness the much-needed free-spirited persona into her character with seemingly natural ease, she certainly flows gracefully in her role, and she, like Davis, can also belt. 

The supporting roles are also well cast from the Melody Betts as the Mother Abbess to Merwin Foard as the wheeling and dealing Max Detweiler. Talented too are the child actors who make up The Family von Trapp, particularly Paige Sylvester who plays Liesl and also Dan Tracy as Rolf Gruber, her love interest. Sylvester and Tracy especially light up the stage during their inspiring number “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”. 

With such amazing songs as “Do-Re-Mi”, “Climb Every Mountain”, “The Sound of Music” and “Edelweiss”, we are literally treated to one great after another. The Sound of Music is without question both vocally and visually entertaining. The set beautifully depicts the von Trapp mansion, helping to bring this wonderful story to life.

To put it simply, you won’t want to miss this one. 

The Sound of Music is being performed at Cadillac Palace through just June 19th. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com. 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews
Friday, 31 July 2015 00:00

No Doubt; Pippin is Thrilling Chicago

Over 40 years ago, Pippin made its debut on Broadway and now it is back and in Chicago for the next few weeks. Pippin is the story of a young prince on his somewhat Faustian journey to find purpose in life, as told through the mysterious performance troupe lead by the Lead Player as our narrator.  In this touring revival, the performance troupe is set in a circus which brings the magic of the big top to the show.  

Overall, I found the show truly a spectacular, spectacular with the chaotic excitement on stage befitting a Baz Luhrmann film (of which I am also a fan!).  The combination of acrobatics by Gypsy Snider, Fosse style choreography by Chet Walker and stunning costumes designed by Dominque Lemieux all in the circus tent set by Scott Pask creates a production that will be sure to wow everyone in the audience.

The original production was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse and it was wonderful to still see his stylistic influences throughout this show. Appreciating the difficulty of Fosse choreography, I was impressed with the dancing in the show. It was taken to a whole new level with the choreographic updates and addition of high flying and jaw dropping acrobatics and stunts which you have to see to believe.

This show breaks down the 4th wall with the actors addressing the audience directly, and calling out the fact that they are in a show. Sasha Allen in the role of the Lead Player was fantastic and her powerful singing gave me chills more than once during the show.  In the role of Pippin, Sam Lips was a star. He was a strong lead with a fantastic voice and personality that drew the audience in. My favorite actor of the show was hands down Adrienne Barbeau as Berthe, Pippin sassy grandmother.  In the song “No Time as All” she will thrill and truly shock and surprise you – a surprise which I will not ruin for those who are heading out to see the show!

The show is funny and thrilling with plenty of good one-liners and jokes that get the audience laughing and (warning parents!) some scenes that get a pretty racy! At the same time, it has a much deeper and darker plot that speaks more to real life than your typical happy go lucky musical.  In an all around well-executed show, the performance troupe takes us on a journey of seeking greatness and meaning in a world where there is no clear path. Through a series of compromises shrouded in doubt and confused all the more by the influence of the Leading Player we watch Pippin settle for ordinary over extraordinary in the end, seemingly happy with his ultimate decision.

I can highly recommend this show as a great breakaway from your traditional Broadway production that will thrill you, give you the chills, and also make you stop and reflect on the challenges of real life.  It is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theater through August 9th.  Get your tickets before the final curtain falls and the lights are all turned off on Pippin in Chicago!

Published in Theatre Reviews
Thursday, 04 June 2015 00:00

"Once" Is Not Your Average Musical

ONCE has found its way back on the stage with an electric performance at the Cadillac Palace. With eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and winner of the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, ONCE brought wit, attitude, and energy to Chicago.

ONCE tells the tale of life and love and the power of music. When a heartbroken, Irish musician meets a spunky, Czech immigrant, his world gets flipped around. The “Guy”, Stuart Ward, tells himself he is no Bono, and that pursuing a music career is pointless. The “Girl”, Dani de Waal, tells him that his talent will send him far and wide. Both connect through their love of music, which develops into a deep friendship. They write songs together, she instills confidence in him, and he falls head over heels for her. Quickly, their situation becomes complicated, and their modern romance is cut short when reality steps in.

ONCE is unlike your average musical. The instruments were on stage, rather than being in the pit. An ensemble cast of actors and musicians seamlessly transitioned into each scene. Their timing and demeanor impeccable. The set barely changed, only when a Hoover or piano rolled out on stage. Each actor remained on the wings of the stage (instead of going backstage), instruments in hand, as if they were football players waiting on the sidelines at their big game.

The Guy and the Girl (Ward and Waal) battled against each other with playful banter and sang inspiring duets together. Both of their voices blended into harmonious perfection, add the piano, and it was just beautiful. The 2007 Academy Award for Best Original song for “Falling Slowly” (starring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová) was from the hit soundtrack. Whether it was sung as a duet, or with all cast members, it filled the entire theatre with energy. The “Falling Slowly” opening line “I don’t know you, but I want to” sums up the Guy and the Girl’s strong feelings for each other, and by the end of the story, both know each other too well.

The Cadillac Palace stage transformed into an Irish pub, complete with the mismatched wooden chairs, a bar, and rusty mirrors which covered the walls of the pub. As a surprising bonus, the audience is invited on stage to interact with the actors and musicians, and to grab a drink at the pub, before settling into their seats.

ONCE is filled to the brim with humor and raw emotion. It’ll have you laughing one minute, only to bring you to tears the next. For people who haven’t researched the ending, it is somewhat left for interpretation. Although, it is not a typical romantic ending, it is realistic. ONCE is sweet, raw, and powerful. Recommended for romantics, realists, musicians, comedians, or all of the above.

Individual tickets for ONCE at the Cadillac Palace Theatre range from $30- $95. Group sales: (312) 977-1710. The Broadway In Chicago Ticket Lane at (800) 775-2000. For more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

Published in Theatre Reviews

“Jersey Boys”, currently playing at Cadillac Palace, is the story of the Four Seasons and their journey from Newark, New Jersey to becoming a multi-million record selling group. I went to the opening night expecting an entertaining performance, but really, unsure of what lied ahead. I imagined the audience to be a little older, and it was, but there were a surprising number of young attendees as well. It even looked like it was close to a full house. Before seeing the performance I didn’t know much about the story of the Four Seasons, but I did know their hit song “Sherry”.

All I can say is, “Oh, what a show!” “Jersey Boys” is a thoroughly entertaining show right from the get go. The opening consists of a French band’s cover performed in 2000 of Four Seasons’ “Oh, What a Night”. The song set the tone for how their music transcended to younger generations well after the band broke up.

The first character you meet as the band’s history unfolds is Tommy DeVito, played by Matthew Dailey, who was the leader of the iconic group. You can’t help but to be drawn to this character; he is very powerful and commands the stage - and has a pretty good Jersey accent. Hayden Milanes who plays Frankie Valli, has a beautiful voice and does a fantastic job recreating the legendary voice we have become so familiar with over the years. And here’s a Four Seasons factoid - Joe Pesci, yes that Joe, was the one who introduced Frankie Valli to the group.

In addition to the amazing actors’ voices, one of the best scenes in the play is when the band performs on television. The group is shown filming for a show while simultaneously playing a live feed from an overhead screen on stage. Older images flash onto the backdrop and the design team does a great job of reducing the quality of film to mimic that of the sixties.

The show doesn’t have any set props on stage. The actors pull up a table or chairs every now and then for many scenes but is very limited. Instead, the show relies on graphics displayed on a large screen to set the stage. And although some of them work well, I found myself to be distracted by some of the art. Some of the images just don’t fit the sixties which threw off my attention.

What really captures the essence of the band is their songwriter Bob Gaudio who is played by Drew Seeley. Gaudio is a gifted musician and wrote many of the band’s hits including but not limited to “(Who Wears) Short Shorts”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like a Man”, and my favorite “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”. It is rare to find many artists today who write their own music making it refreshing to be reminded of the raw overall talent of this great band.

“Jersey Boys” covers gambling, infidelity, children, excess of money, and death. Director Des McAnuff is able to capture many of the things that I appreciate in a musical without getting too heavy. After a slew of brilliant performances and one favorite played after another, the show ends with everyone, including the audience, singing along to the Four Seasons’ anthem “Oh, What a Night”. I, for one, left “Jersey Boys” walking like a man and in a really good mood.

I highly recommend attending “Jersey Boys” at the Cadillac Palace before it leaves on May 24th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com

Published in Theatre Reviews

The four performances that comprise “New Works” are also presented in a new venue for the Joffrey Ballet, The Cadillac Palace Theatre. Fitting, for the spring program which highlights four contemporary choreographers and leaves theater goers energized and refreshed. Joffrey’s usual home, the Auditorium Theatre, was being used for the NFL Draft, causing the temporary venue change.

Justin Peck, hailing from the New York City Ballet, holds up to his reputation with “In Creases” as the opening performance. The stage, outfitted with just two pianos, creates the perfect blank pallet to showcase the dancers. Outfitted in light grey, this piece takes all distraction away from the viewer, leaving you to appreciate the dancers ability, athleticism, and passion. The live pianos only amplify the risk of performing such a vulnerable piece. With nothing on stage to distract the viewer, any small mistake would be easily noticed, though the Joffrey ensemble danced this perfectly.

“Liturgy” is a brilliant pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon, with the dancers exuding chemistry and pure passion. It is one of those pieces where you can feel the dancers’ love for what they do. Jeraldine Mendoza and Fabrice Calmels, while physically almost complete opposite, Calmels being an easy head and shoulders taller than Mendoza, the two are perfectly in sync and graceful throughout the entire performance. At parts, it is almost as though the two are connected by strings they are so perfectly timed with one another. The excitement and power coming from the stage is infectious and makes the viewers heart race.  

The story of an anguished poet in “Evenfall” is a romantic progression of a relationship, from the first days through to the later years. The stage is outfitted with four mirrors through which the poet views the couple. The poet seems to be contemplating the relationship, and struggling to do so, as though he is reflecting on what once was and possibly what could be. Once again, Fabrice Calmels is commanding as one half of the older couple, amazing the viewers with his ability to be so fluid and soft. The piece is emotionally charged and gives the dancers a chance to showcase not only their technical ability, but their acting chops as well.

The final performance, “Incantations” by Val Caniparoli, was originally created for the Joffrey in 2012 and is nothing short of thrilling. The high paced and demanding choreography cannot be ignored. The dancers outfitted in tan costumes with flashes of red are mesmerizing as they own the stage. The focus of the performance is on constant and different pirouettes and turns leaving the viewer in awe. Joanna Wozniak and Dylan Gutierrez make a dynamic pair that is thrilling and powerful in every turn.

Joffrey’s “New Works” is just as hopeful and fresh as one would expect. The Cadillac Palace Theater provides a beautiful historic backdrop to the contemporary choreography of these four performances. The Joffrey Ballet once again put together an amazing performance and a great way to kick off the spring season.  

For tickets and/or more show information, visit http://www.joffrey.org/newworks

Published in Dance in Review
Monday, 03 November 2014 18:00

Dancing Pros Live Lights Up Chicago

Instead of spending the night in watching “Dancing with the Stars”, “So You Think You Can Dance”, or even “American Idol”, there is a stage where you can experience the costumes, the beauty, and the grace of live ballroom dancing and competition with the control of the vote in your hands at the Cadillac Palace Theater and “Dancing Pros Live.”

The backdrop of the intimate and classical theater was an ideal location for guests to feel part of the all ages appropriate show.  For those who are familiar with our ever growing passion for reality television and fantastic performances, this was an interactive experience not to be missed.  Hosted by Alan Thicke (whom we all know and love from ‘Growing Pains’) and Joanna Pacitti (an “American Idol” Alum, who treats the audience to a few songs, also joined on the stage by Angel Taylor from “The Voice”) the show follows a format we have all come to know and love; 5 couples are competing for the title of “Dance Pros” through 2 rounds of ballroom dance (Interpretive and Technical,) the winner is then determined and awarded the title based on the collected and tallied audience vote. 

Although some of the names of the performers may be familiar to our dancing fans, like Judges Edyta Sliwinska from DWTS and choreographer Oscar Orosco (You Got Served,) dancer Chelsie Hightower from DWTS, as well as top 6 finalist Ryan Dilello from SYTYCD;  The other featured performers are not to forgotten, as all are finalists and title holders themselves within the ballroom dance world (television and competive); Regina Maziarz a US 10 Dance Champion, Paul Barris winner of Latin American DWTS, Antonina Skobina the 2012 US National Champion are just to name a few.

Before each competitive dance by the 5 competitive couples, the audience experiences 3-4 different tableaus of each dance style featured (cha-cha, samba, foxtrot…) and then watch each couple perform 2 routines.  Based off of short interviews given of each couple, come together as long as 8 years and others as short as 24 hours, these dancers compete to win the audience’s vote.

For those who love dance, reality television, those who are interested in finding out a little bit more, or even if you just love voting for your favorite performers from home, Dancing Pros Live is an event and experience that every couple can enjoy or even the whole family can get into.

Published in Theatre Reviews

Throughout the last century, The Phantom of the Opera has taken on many forms. Originally written by Gaston Leroux and published in early 20th century France the Phantom soon found its’ way onto the silver screen right here in the U S of A with Rupert Julian’s silent film depiction. Currently however, The Phantom of the Opera is most well known for the incredibly moving musical adaptation composed primarily by Andrew Lloyd Webber and making its’ debut in 1986 London. The musical received two Laurence Olivier Awards for Best New Musical and Michael Crawford (the Phantom himself) Best Actor, paving the way for a 1988 debut on Broadway where it became an immediate classic and eventually the longest running show in Broadway history. After receiving two Tony Awards for Best Musical and Crawford again achieving Best Actor in a Musical, the Phantom of the Opera would be transcribed into thirteen different languages to be seen by over 130 million people in theaters all over the world.

Now, considering the rich history and evolution in production throughout the many tours The Phantom has undergone, I can’t help but feel my reviewing this most recent version of Lloyd Webber’s adaptation to be somewhat arbitrary. You see, until I experienced this new production by Cameron Mackintosh, my knowledge of the Phantom outside of the Las Vegas version at Venetian was limited solely to Joel Schumacher’s 2004 film depiction and because this film was written and produced by Webber himself it, of course, is a masterpiece. That being said, having only had the pleasure of witnessing only the Vegas-ized production of this beloved theatrical classic, I offer you a fresh perspective on this spectacular new production by Cameron Mackintosh.

Nostalgia filled the air that night at the Cadillac Palace Theatre as the auctioneer presented old relics of an opera house long past. Spirits rose as the enchanting melody emanated from that silly little music box where that bellhop monkey we’ve all grown to adore played the cymbal. Hearing those notes served as a firm reminder of all the gripping music that so effectually captivates the heart and delivers that sense of stirring emotion that comes with much anticipation. But as we all know, the show doesn’t truly begin until the auctioneer presents “lot 666”… as the trademark chandelier is lowered, uncovered and illuminated.

The magnificent display proves a worthy reflection of the production to follow as the stage is, to say the least, impressive. A set such as this, nearly thirty years in the making and after grossing somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 billion dollars worldwide, certainly shows its extraordinary progress in quality and an unmistakable attention to detail is visible throughout the set. The integration of tracks and mobile parts made for an engaging display. The set itself however, as impressive as it was, merely emphasized the wardrobe which brought life to each character in an undeniably authentic fashion that the audience into the romance and magic of it all. The Phantom of the Opera was brought to life in a truly striking new light and I couldn’t imagine a better venue to bare witness to such a spectacle. The Cadillac Palace offers a wide range of seating options all of which provide an excellent view of the stage and the décor, in one word, grandeur.

I soon took note that some characters added a sense of lightheartedness to this new production that caught me by surprise. Carlotta Giudicelli (performed by Trista Moldovan) and Ubaldo Piangi (Phumzile Sojola) for instance, immediately jumped out to me and the audience both, carrying an untraditionally high-spirited weightlessness that is otherwise uncharacteristic to their personalities. Even amid the wake of the ominous Phantom, Carlotta and Ubaldo’s playful touch manage to lift the audience to a blithesome state of ignorance receiving laughter and applause in nearly every appearance from Scene 1 “The Dress Rehearsal of Hannibal” to Scene 7 “Don Juan Triumphant” in the second act. There is never a dull moment while either shines on the stage.

Nevertheless, their characters serve merely as a distraction only building suspense while The Phantom (exceptionally performed by Derrick Davis) lies wait beneath the stage. Finally making his first appearance in Scene 3 “Corps de Ballet Dressing Room” while singing the masterfully conducted “Angel of Music” his voice struck me as even more than expected from the man chosen to portray The Phantom. It is only in the scenes following that The Phantom must prove his love to Christine (beautifully performed by Katie Travis) and Davis’ portrayal to the audience, for it is in these moments that one falls in love with The Phantom of the Opera. Davis taking on the roll of The Phantom and doing so as well as he has is truly an admirable accomplishment, a milestone to be proud of for the rest of ones’ life. My hat goes off to you sir, for as you led Christine deeper into the labyrinth and ever closer to The Phantoms’ lair I was no longer watching the portrayal of Derrick Davis, but The Phantom himself had entered my mind. Davis and Travis' are brilliantly paired, their chemistry a strong building block for this fervent, heartfelt and beautiful production.  

We’re all aware of The Phantom’s infamous nature behind the mask, while precarious and fraught with danger at the turn of a hat, still somehow affording a mysterious and even seductive quality that continues to draw you in. However, once unmasked, I find that Davis’ portrayal elevates to even a higher realm, capturing the hurt and passion one would so desperately feel as a disfigured “phantom” who longs to be loved so badly. 

From ballet dancer to center stage, Miss Christine Daaé carried the innocence of an angel. Travis’ portrayal of Christine is outstanding. Her voice did more than match that of The Phantom’s, and carried an unwavering familiarity that held true to the classic. Song and word alone could never do her justice and the nature of her performance can only be experienced firsthand. For it is only our beloved Christine, that can bring The Phantom to his knees and the crowd to their feet. 

 

The Phantom of the Opera is playing at Cadillac Palace through January 8th. For tickets and more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

We Will Rock You is currently being performed in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace for a limited engagement from October 22nd through the 27th. And though the songs are probably enough to keep you entertained for the most part, this production just goes to show that a musical doesn’t always need a well-crafted story anymore as long as there is a demand for the music.

In this musical with music by Queen, we are taken to the future to iPlanet where individuality has been stripped and free thinking has become criminal. The story’s hero, “Galileo”, has become a threat to the oppressive government as he receives bits and pieces of rock and roll in his dreams. He soon finds a like-minded girl, “Saramouche” and there adventure to save iPlanet begins. During their mission they come across a band of rebels who live in hiding and worship rock and roll relics and fragments. It’s not long before the iPlanet government led by “Killer Queen” discovers the band of insurgents and the fate of the world falls into “Galileo’s” hands. That about sums it up.   

While the music of Queen is pleasing to the ears and occasionally used with originality in big Vegas-like numbers, we are also subjected to a bevy of contrived one-liners and preposterous situations that fail as campy humor and were instead more along the lines of absurd. Though he carries a legitimate Broadway voice with him, Brian Justin Crum lacks the charisma and rock and roll essence to play such a role as “Galileo”, making it tough to want to cheer for the hero.   

But there is some good in the show, too. Ruby Lewis (“Saramouche”) delivers an astounding vocal performance, as does Jacqueline B. Arnold as the no-nonsense and sassy “Killer Queen”. There are plenty of eye-catching dance numbers that are both sexy and fun, and the band is occasionally visible, which adds a concert-like feel to the show. And let’s not forget that We Will Rock You is one Queen song after another with great selections such as “Somebody to Love”, “Under Pressure” and “We Will Rock You” before an entire cast finale of “Bohemian Rhapsody”.    

In a nutshell, the show is entertaining enough with its dance numbers and the music of queen and though most of the laughs are predictable, there are still a few good hoots that will catch you by surprise. Disappointing is the lack of story writer Ben Elton could manage with all that great music at his disposal.

For more information on We Will Rock You, visit www.BroadwayinChicago.org.   

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

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