In Concert

It was an interesting pairing of solo singer/guitar players last night at City Winery. I often check out artists I review that I don’t know before I go and see them. Often, I end up finding they can be quite different than the usual Youtube videos you see. This can be good or bad. A couple reasons for this. There is the energy of the room that cannot be captured on video or sometimes you end up checking out the videos that do not exemplify the band as much. In this case, both artists were better in person than video.

 

First up was Edward David Anderson. I would call him a bit of a story teller type of writer and singer. Most of his songs had entertaining introductions and good story lines. I found it interesting that he sat down and played bass drum while he sang and played guitar - a one-man band. His left foot seemed to be getting something like a tambourine sound. I could not see how he did that, exactly. After opening with a nylon string guitar that looked like it had survived a war, he switched over to banjo for a few songs. After that, he played slide on one of those cigar box guitars. He killed it on the cigar box playing a great version of Bill Preston’s “Go ‘Round In Circles”. I really liked that. 

 

Edward was a very funny guy between songs as well. His own songs were great. I really liked one called “That’s My Dog”. He was not too serious and very down to Earth. I thought his music was very accessible, and the crowd was in agreement. He got a great response. He even did some Dylan-esque harp work and, believe it or not, some kazoo while plying guitar and bass drum.

 

After a short intermission, Seth Walker took the stage. He was sporting and old Gibson hollow body guitar at first. He plugged into a little tube amplifier. He was a little more Blues based, but not a bunch of twelve bar repetition. He had some really good songs, too. He was a switch from Anderson but it was a smooth transition, either one could have been headliner. 

 

He switched to a steel string acoustic after a few songs, joking it was a borrowed guitar. His version of “Blue Eyes Crying in The Rain” was just amazing. Willie Nelson would surely approve. He switched back to the old Gibson for the rest of his set. He also seemed to put a little humor in his delivery. This tends to work rather well in a club this size. The crowd was very relaxed. There was a lot of clapping on two and four during Walker’s set.

 

Anderson came up and joined Walker for the last couple songs. “Ophelia” was a knockout song I first heard The Band do years ago. It had that kind of Levon Helm vibe. 

 

It was yet another great show at City Winery, which is a real nice place to see a show. The wine is excellent and so is the food. They also have a top-notch staff. The crowd was a nice mix too. I would highly recommend both the venue and the two artists highly. It was a great way to spend a Thursday evening.

 

Published in In Concert

It’s so easy to make comparisons with artists these days. He/she sounds like so and so, etc. My expectation before seeing Becca Stevens was to find a folk singer along the lines of the clichéd variety. I was surprised at what I found. I guess Stevens does somewhat fit into the folk category only because the industry likes to file music into genres. However, the folkie title is a bit too generic for her music.

 

Stevens is the singer/songwriter type for sure. That being said, I would consider her music to be more along the lines of eclectic pop sprinkled with some folk and almost Medieval overtones. During her recent performance in support of her latest release Regina at City Winery, I sat back, unsure of what to expect live. As l listened to Stevens’ set, I heard some very catchy melodies including those in “Queen Mab” off her latest album. Steven’s voice I might compare with someone like a Joni Mitchell, at least in terms of range, though her songs were quite different than Joni’s. I really liked the band she had, as well. Three musicians backed her up - drums, keys and bass. Stevens also played guitar – and well.

 

Steven’s ability to play guitar with such heart and technical prowess was jaw-dropping at times. I couldn’t help but notice several interesting chord voiceings and it sounded to me like she might have ventured in to some open tunings. Stevens did not perform any guitar solos. She is not that kind of player, and her music did not lack anything because of that.

 

Liam Robinson was the man on keys. He also contributed backing vocals. He played a grand piano, electric keys and accordion depending on the song. Robinson adds a very melodic element to the fold. The accordion was a nice touch and Steven’s performance had me wondering if it was not also used as a midi controller due to some of the timbres I heard.

 

Jordan Perlson played drums. A very solid pocket guy, he did not over or underplay either. He was part of what I would consider a very solid rhythm section. I consider dynamics a huge part of performing and he led the musicians in that direction very well. He knew just when to pull back when the time called. The balance of sounds has a lot to do with the man behind the kit. A live band can’t really be any better than their drummer, and in this case, they have a solid one in Perlson. 

 

My favorite part of her band was bass player Chris Tordini. He also sang along with Stevens and even pitched in with some short lead vocal lines of his own. His style was very diverse. Pick and finger styles were used along with some almost classical guitar style right hand work. Tordini complimented the dynamic drums and never overpowered the vocals.

 

The City Winery has a great system. I am not sure if the person running the board was the house guy or not. The mix was flawless, very unlike a lot of the clubs I hear in Chicago were all you hear is the bass and drums. I don’t care to much for that. I like hearing the vocals myself. I was not disappointed.

 

Becca seemed to have quite a following at City Winery, as many people were singing along with her songs. I may need to dive into some more listening from her catalog. I also thought it was very cool that she did some work with a band I highly respect, Snarky Puppy. Talented people do seem to attract one another’s attention so I shouldn’t be all that surprised. The surprise to me was that Stevens was billed as some type of roots musician. I didn’t hear that at all. I found the songs to never really sound dated. I think that title should be dismissed. I don’t like categories anyway. That always narrows the focus of the artist and the mind of the listener. Music should expand your mind, and Becca Stevens is a fine example of that notion.

 

For more info on Becca Stevens visit http://www.beccastevens.com/.

 

To check out the upcoming schedule at City Winery, visit http://www.citywinery.com/chicago/

 

Published in In Concert
Wednesday, 12 April 2017 19:27

The? Unicorn Hour? Come and Get Your Joy!

Leah Urzendowski and Anthony Courser have created a show that is part comedy, part play therapy that is truly a joy to behold. Don't skip the opening steps. When you enter the lobby, you will be asked to write down one of your fears and place it in an envelope. Then you will be asked to think of something that brings you Joy and bring that thought with you as you enter "The Joy Womb". The Neo Futurium has been cleverly lined with mismatched sheets, colored lights beneath to create a lovely, cozy joy womb effect. 

 

The? Unicorn? Hour? begins with an awesome light show in the "womb" accompanied by terrific music and sound effects to which Leah and Anthony (who are a couple in real life) enter wearing dark capes and much smoke, which is soon thrown off to show that they are actually dressed in beautifully crafted, silvery unitards as Unicorns of Joy! 

 

"The mighty rumpus that defeats the evil!" They cry out then ask if we are feeling scared, defeated etc. by what's going on in the world, inviting the audience to join them in their journey to transform fear into real joy. 

 

Both actors are fantastic physical comedians (having been creators together on the popular play "Burning Bluebeard", the unique show in which actors from the deathly 1903 Iroquois Theater fire where over 600 audience members were killed), and try to get through the show without killing their audience this time, as well. But Leah Urzendowski is a real dancer in every sense of the word, expressive, muscular, sensitive and flexible. Her dancing as the Unicorn takes the show into another realm of professionalism and put of pure clowning. 

 

There is a special guest from another show, I won't reveal because there will be a new special guest each week but this Eeyore-like character enters to the music "Lonely Boy" and the audience sees clearly that joy is a choice, as the pair tries to get him to cheer up using a bubble machine. He keeps insisting over and over, "Those bubbles are just gonna pop. There goes another one and another one, they are all popping!" 

 

There is a "swear square" where tensions are released by letting out swear words, but when Courser gets too carried away after starting off with innocent words like “dang” and “darn it” and the swearing turns mean and scary i.e. "I've got a bag of dicks and I'm going to stir it in a pot to make myself a dickwich to…," she eventually stops him. It's a tiny little feminist statement that many miss because in today's anything goes type of political correctness sometimes things just go too far in that dark "pornographic" way and women and children end up feeling threatened instead of empowered to express their own anger however gentle it may be. 

 

There is a fabulous physical bit where Courser pantomimes a journey to the top of a mountain that includes horseback riding, to flying, to parachuting to snow climbing among other fun-tastic feats. But as they both reach the top, the audience is suddenly enveloped in darkness and fear again. 

 

This is where the cast members come around and start asking us to name our fears and if we’d like to give them to the players to take away from us. Some of the fears in our audience were loneliness, fear of being alone in the dark, a pet or loved one dying, failure, never being more than I am now and drowning in cold water. But by the end of the show we are all asked to shout out our joys - the sound of a dog drinking water, a fresh piece of buttered toast, easy money, cuddling in bed all day, etc. and the room is restored to feelings of Joyous Surrender to the music and dancing these two have created. 

 

Their dance numbers really are both comical and extraordinarily demanding and professional, with the two winding about each other like seahorses made to fit as one beautiful, silvery creature with Leah's legs wrapped around Courser’s waist or even his neck as she peers out between his knees to whisper "JOY!" 

 

I have to say this is the MOST fun and joy I have had in recent years at any comedy in Chicago and promising an audience as stressed out as Chicago audience members are now by the political disasters and death unfolding around us every day, delivering a dose of real JOY in the theater world, is a REAL achievement! 

 

I highly recommend this hilarious, thought-provoking and most of all FUN, delightful, refreshing, exciting, comforting and colorful piece of work to anyone who is seeking to remember how to have a little joy in their lives right NOW. 

 

The? Unicorn? Hour? Runs just over an hour and is currently being performed at the Neo Futurium in Andersonville through May 13th (hopefully an extension will take place). For tickets and more show information visit www.neofuturist.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Not cool enough to join “Tinder Select”? Gorilla Tango Originals has got you covered with its late-night offering that gets hot and heavy about the good, the bad, and the down-right dirty sides of dating apps: “Love Me Tinder: Swipe Right.”

“Love Me Tinder: Swipe Right,” by J. Joseph Cox and directed by Taylor Pasche, performs Wednesdays at 8:00pm in April and 9:30pm in May, April 5-May 24, 2017 at Gorilla Tango Theatre (1919 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago IL 60647). Tickets are $20. Please visit www.gorillatango.com or call 773-598-4549 for tickets and more information. 

Scruff, Grindr, Tinder, OkCupid... one goal: find a connection, whether that be through a good f&*k or a sweet date.  “Love Me Tinder: Swipe Right” follows a group of well-seasoned dating app-ers educating a newbie on the finer points of app-based dating. Raunchy hook-ups? Fee-for-service sexual favors? Flirting on CB radio? Check, check, and check. Who needs “love at first sight?” Just be wary of kitten-of-the-month calendars. This series of salaciously hilarious vignettes, based on real life stories, explores the good, the bad, and the creepy in what has become dating life’s new normal. Definitely for mature audiences!

Playwright J. Joseph Cox has had work produced across the U.S. as well as in the U.K. and Canada. He is a member of the Dramatist Guild of America and has been named a Finalist for both the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference as well as the Princess Grace Playwriting Fellowship. In speaking about the origin of the show, Cox says, “All of the stories are based on real life situations gathered from friends, acquaintances, and co-workers, as well as a few gems from Reddit subgroups. Truth is stranger than fiction, especially in the world of app-based dating. We’re all creeps - embrace it.”

Director Taylor Pasche continues, “The show is bawdy, candid, and up-close-and-personal about sex. You’ll laugh at the absurdity. You’ll laugh at the relatability. You'll leave contemplating what it means to have a relationship face-to-face versus screen-to-screen.”

Gorilla Tango Theatre (GTT) exists to provide entertainment people actually want to see. GTT believes that every theatre person is a business person; it seeks to educate, foster, and provide resources to theatre practitioners so that each theatre production is treated as an entrepreneurial venture. GTT is conveniently located at the intersection of Western and Milwaukee in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood and is easily accessible by public transportation (just steps away from the Western Blue Line stop and the #49 Western, #73 Armitage and #56 Milwaukee buses). Street parking is also readily available. GTT offers a variety of affordable beer and wine for purchase. Consult the website for show rating information, tickets, and details.

www.gorillatango.com | 1919 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60647 | 773-598-4549

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Shattered Globe Theatre welcomes back one of Chicago’s own, Sarah Ruhl.  “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday” is a new play making its Midwestern debut at Theater Wit. Ms. Ruhl is one of the country’s foremost playwrights right now. She has another new play, “How to Transcend a Happy Marriage,” currently running at the Lincoln Center in New York. Her work is often produced in Chicago usually directed by her friend Jessica Thebus. This is an especially personal production for Ruhl as it stars her own mother (Kathleen Ruhl) in the title role. 

 

No, this is not another warmed over incantation of the JM Barrie fairy tale. While somewhat influenced by the source material, “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday” is a very realistic story of five siblings grappling with the death of their father. What begins in a depressing hospital room, moves to a whiskey-soaked conversation between siblings that eventually turns into a make-believe version of Peter Pan. 

 

At its core, this is a play about love. There are plenty of plays about dysfunctional families, and this isn’t one of them. What it boils down to are five adult children trying to pinpoint a time when they felt their father’s love. These siblings have differing political beliefs and Ruhl’s apt commentary about our current climate is especially sharp, without being polarizing. There’s a great deal of truth in the courtesy her characters show for one another’s opinions. She also spends a great deal of the play dissecting the role of Catholicism and whether or not there is an afterlife. Despite the volley of bittersweet and at times painful memories of their childhood, these characters love each other and that is felt in the dialogue and performances. 

 

Kathleen Ruhl is adorable as the oldest sister and former Peter Pan star, Ann. Perhaps it’s her relation to the playwright, or her commitment to character, but Kathleen Ruhl makes the audience question how much of this work is fiction and how much is fact? Eileen Niccolai, a Shattered Globe ensemble member, provides a lot of the humor, but also some of the more heartfelt moments as youngest sister Wendy. All the siblings are named for Peter Pan characters, which underscores Sarah Ruhl’s point that with their parents gone, they are orphans now and need to grow up. 

 

Like any Sarah Ruhl work, there is a great deal of whimsy. With each new work, Ruhl continues to keep one foot on the ground and one in the clouds. “For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday” is both prolific in its subject matter and also aesthetically striking it its presentation. The reality of the situation and the poignancy of the lines allows the audience to trust their narrator and fly when the time comes. 

 

Shattered Globe’s “For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday is being performed at Theater Wit at 1229 W Belmont (773.975.8150) through May 20th. 

 

 

 

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Thursday, 06 April 2017 18:41

The Magical Splendor of Cavalia’s Odysseo

One might be unsure of what to expect from a show featuring 65 horses and 48 artists, but the mystical grandeur of Odysseo by Cavalia leaves one feeling awe and in disbelief of the athletic feats and performance they have just witnessed. Set to live musical performances of a band and live singers, Odysseo takes the audience on a journey through different lands, cultures, seasons, and across land, water and air to display the astonishing talents of the horses, riders and acrobats. Hailed as “The Best Show Ever”, Cavalia is a performance like no other seen in the past. 

 

Sitting under a Big Top as large as a football field, everyone is anxious to see the first horses enter the scene, and once that happens the crowd is giddy with delight as they gallop across the stage. It is wonderful to be in the presence of such beautiful horses and one can’t help but feel lucky enough to be near them and imagine brushing their beautiful manes. An incredible amount of talent is demonstrated through each routine. The horses also display their personalities through their interactions together, sometimes even picking on each other in the middle of the act as if to say, “Hey! That’s where I’m supposed to stand!” 

 

Some of the most daring parts of the show establish the bond between the artists and horses. This bond is very apparent throughout each act as they work together to perform many stunts and dances in unison. Riders often appear hanging from the side, underneath, or standing on top of a galloping horse. The timing alone is so crucial for the stunts and the trust between the horse and performer is palpable. 

 

The acrobatic feats of the performers is one, no, two steps beyond what one might have seen from other troupes. Angel-like Aerialists are kept grounded via their flowing aerial silks to horses and riders below who are guiding them in a circle while they float, spin and wrap themselves in a dance that could only be done in the air. Phenomenal acrobats flip across the stage, across each other, and often on top of each other forming human steeples and pyramids that look like one person is entirely supporting at the bottom of the steeple. Performers wearing spring-legs are human kangaroos often jumping as high and as far as the horses. The strength and agility of the performers during the act "Carosello" is breathtaking, the piece completely unique to Cavalia. Incorporating a spinning carousel suspended from the top of the set, acrobats are dancing together on the moving poles demonstrating immense strength and teamwork that is disguised with graceful, flowing moves, sometimes looking effortless.

The set by Guillaume Lord is magnificent and plays like a main character throughout the show. The depth that is created through use of video screens, lighting, and a stage that slopes down from the height of three stories, creates a vast landscape that is used to tell stories with a cinema-like quality. Horses and riders arrive from distant mountains and are most stunning in the act "Travellers". Water is brought to the set through creating rain and a pond that helps highlight the very talented prancing horse, accentuating the performance of acrobats and the stunts riders perform on the galloping horses. The large screens display video creating a layered backdrop and the use of lighting helps to fashion different textures on the ground that takes us to many different landscapes, producing a mystical world where horses, riders and acrobats live in harmony while creating art. 

 

Under the Artistic Direction of Normand Latourelle and the Direction of Wayne Fowkes, Odysseo by Cavalia will transform your expectations of shows of similar caliber. It is an inimitable experience that gives the audience the opportunity to enjoy a spectacular performance like no other that demonstrates agility and grace through cooperation and trust. It is a must see along with anything that Cavalia creates in the future. 

The horses in Cavalia are used from all parts of the world including Spain, France, Germany, Australia, The United States and Canada with breeds ranging from Arabian, Appaloosa, Lustitano and Holsteiner to name a few. Well cared for, a 20-person team comprised of trainers, veterinarians, groomers and health technicians travel with the show. To stay in tip-top shape, the horses go through a daily stretching and gymnastic routine daily. And no need to worry as the horses are well fed, receiving eight healthy meals per day with special treats (carrots and apples) given to each on Sunday evenings. In fact, each horse has a diet based on its individual needs. 

 

The human performers are also well-traveled, coming from Italy, Brazil, the United States, Russia, France, Guinea, Poland, Canada and Ukraine as nine languages are spoken at Odysseo.

 

Visually stimulating, adventurous, spectacular and one of the most original shows to come through Chicago in years, Cavalia is a family-friendly show that people will be talking about for some time. 

 

Odysseo by Cavalia will be performing under the Big Top located in the South Lot of Soldier Field through April 23rd (now extended to April 30th). Tickets are available at www.cavalia.com or calling 866.999.8111. Special pricing and packages are available or groups. 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

It's not often you'll hear cool and the play 'Picnic' in the same sentence, but director Will Davis' new version at American Theater Company is just that. This is William Inge's 1953 Pulitzer Prize winner as you've never seen it before. For many, 'Picnic' triggers high school boredom flashbacks. When traditionally produced, this play can tend to be a little dry. Not the case here, with unique staging and deconstructed notions of gender, Davis brings Inge's work into our century. 

 

William Inge was himself gay in a time period in which it was not acceptable. The theme of secret desire in 'Picnic' parallel Inge's own struggle with being other in a more straight-laced world. Though the Midwest has certainly changed since the 1950's, much of its close-mindedness still exists and that's what remains relevant about Inge's play. 

 

This is Will Davis' first full season as artistic director of American Theater Company and this production is bound to get noticed. This version of 'Picnic' begins as almost performance art; a woman takes a seat at a piano and the cast enters in the shadows. In look and feel, this production couldn't be more different from the traditional staging. While jarring at first, the cast immediately finds its footing and makes Inge's dialogue come to life. Artful and visually stunning effects are peppered throughout, which make for a memorable experience. 

 

Performances are impressive here. Davis' gender-blind casting forces you to focus not on what a performer looks like but rather how their performance makes you feel. In the role of transient stud Hal, is Molly Brennan. While it's apparent she is female, through costuming and attitude, Brennan delivers Hal with such sincerity, it brings to mind Mary Martin's Peter Pan. Malic White is striking in the role of Madge. White's petite and soft spoken Madge turns preconceived notions about feminine beauty on its head. Spinster school teacher Rosemary is played hilariously by Michael Turrentine whose physicality couldn’t be more spot on. 

 

Classic plays should be analyzed in every time for their relevance. These plays can only stay part of the cannon if they connect to a modern audience. It's important for theater companies to take risks and make bold choices to usher these works into a new millennium. Will Davis' 'Picnic' hints at a fearless future for American Theater Company. 

 

Through April 23 at American Theater Company. 1909 W Byron St. 773-409-4125

 

Published in Theatre in Review

As the logistical and technical teams work on completing the Odysseo Village at Soldier Field South Lot for the highly-anticipated Midwest debut of Odysseo by Cavalia on April 1, its 65 magnificent horses have arrived in Chicago and are enjoying a relaxing 14-day stay at a nearby farm.

Following sold-out performances in Vancouver, BC, the four-legged stars flew into Chicago O’Hare International airport aboard a charted 747 aircraft equipped with air stalls. They were then transported to a lavish and spacious farm in Bristol, Wisconsin, in specially equipped trailers alongside Odysseo’s equine specialists. The Odysseo herd, consisting of nine breeds including Appaloosa, Arabian, Quarter Horse, Holsteiner, Lusitano, Paint Horse, Percheron Hanoverian Cross, Selle Français and Spanish Purebred (P.R.E.), is under the care of a 20-person team.

At their Wisconsin retreat, expansive paddocks welcome the four-legged stars of Odysseo where they are able to play, bathe in the sun or roll in the snow. This interlude between shows is part of Cavalia’s horse care and training philosophy, which is based on understanding the needs, preferences, and emotions of the animals, and on mutual respect, kindness, patience, and trust.

The world’s largest touring show, Odysseo is a show unlike any other on the planet, an immersive theatrical experience in which horses are front and center. Imagined by Normand Latourelle - creator of Cavalia and renowned for combining different forms of artistic expression and reinventing the scenic space - Odysseo is a veritable revolution in live performance that makes hearts race. Audiences of all ages will be transported on an epic journey to some of nature’s greatest wonders by this breathtaking production that features the 65 horses plus 48 talented riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians. 

TICKETS – Adult tickets are priced from $34.50 to $144.50 (no service charge). Special pricing and packages also available for groups, children (2-12), juniors (13-17) and seniors (65+). For an extra special outing, the Rendez-Vous VIP package offers the best seats in the house, full meal buffet dining before the show, open bar, desserts during intermission and an exclusive visit to the stables after the show. This unique VIP experience takes place in a tent alongside the White Big Top. The Rendez-Vous VIP package prices range from $144.50 to $269.50 (no service charge).

                    Odysseo will be performed at Soldier Field's South Lot April 1-April 23     Photo by Jak Wonderly  

ABOUT CAVALIA INC. - Cavalia Inc. is an entertainment company that specializes in the creation, production and touring of innovative shows. Founded by Normand Latourelle, the company reimagines the equestrian and theatrical arts. With its headquarters in Montreal, Cavalia Inc. is an integral part of Canada’s cultural heritage, and the largest Canadian-owned cultural enterprise. Its expertise in high technology, multimedia and special effects creates magical, unique, never-before-seen experiences. Its first show, Cavalia, has been seen by more than 4 million people across North America, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Asia since its 2003 debut. Odysseo, the company’s second show, has toured to rave reviews and public acclaim since its 2011 premiere. Follow Cavalia’s latest developments at www.twitter.com/cavalia or www.facebook.com/cavalia. #OdysseoCHI

 

FOR CALENDARS

 

WHAT:            Odysseo by Cavalia

WHEN:            Shows begin April 1

                       Official Opening Night Premiere – Tuesday, April 4

                       Matinee and evening performances scheduled through April 23

WHERE:          Under the White Big Top at Soldier Field South Lot

                       South Lot, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago

                       **Entrance at parking gates on East 18th Drive**

TICKETS:         Available at www.cavalia.comand by calling 1-866-999-8111

                       Adult tickets are priced from $34.50 to $269.50 (no service charge)

                       Special pricing & packages available for groups, children (2-12), juniors (13-17) and seniors (65+).

INFO:               www.cavalia.com

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Producer Jeffrey Seller is thrilled to announce Tony Award® nominee DANIEL BREAKER will join the Chicago company of HAMILTON as Aaron Burr.  He will begin performances on Tuesday, April 11 at The PrivateBank Theatre in Chicago.

 

Mr. Breaker received a Tony Award® nomination for his role as “Youth” in Passing Strange and was most recently seen on Broadway as “Mafala Hatimbi” in The Book of Mormon. 

 

Mr. Breaker will join ARI AFSAR as Eliza Hamilton; MIGUEL CERVANTES as Alexander Hamilton; ALEXANDER GEMIGNANI as King George III, JONATHAN KIRKLAND as George Washington, CHRIS DE’SEAN LEE as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson; JOSEPH MORALES as Mr. Cervantes’ alternate; KAREN OLIVO as Angelica Schuyler, JOSÉ RAMOS as John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton; WALLACE SMITH as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison, and SAMANTHA MARIE WARE as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds.

 

The Chicago company also includes SAM ABERMAN, JOSÈ AMOR, AMBER ARDOLINO, REMMIE BOURGEOIS, CHLOË CAMPBELL, YOSSI CHAIKIN, CARL CLEMONS-HOPKINS, JOHN MICHAEL FIUMARA, JEAN GODSEND FLORADIN, AARON GORDON, JIN HA, HOLLY JAMES, MALIK SHABAZZ KITCHEN, COLBY LEWIS, DASHÌ MITCHELL, JUSTICE MOORE, SAMANTHA POLLINO, CANDACE QUARRELS, GABRIELLA SORRENTINO, ROBERT WALTERS and AUBIN WISE.

  

Daniel Breaker’s Broadway credits include The Book of Mormon, The Performers, Shrek: The Musical (Drama Desk Nomination), Passing Strange (Tony Award nomination, Drama Desk Nomination, Theatre World Award, Audelco Award)Cymbeline and Well.  His Off-Broadway credits include Loves Labour’s Lost, (Shakespeare in the Park) By The Way, Meet Vera Stark (Second Stage), Passing Strange (The Public Theater), Fabulation (Playwrights Horizons) and Pericles (Red Bull, Culture Project).   London credits include How to Act Around Cops (SoHo Theatre).  Film & TV credits include “Sisters” (with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler), “Limitless” (with Bradley Cooper & Robert De Niro), “He’s Way More Famous Than You,” “Redhook Summer” (dir. Spike Lee), “Passing Strange” (Spike Lee), “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Mozart in the Jungle,” “Unforgettable” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

 

HAMILTON is the story of America's Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington's right-hand man during the Revolutionary War and was the new nation’s first Treasury Secretary.  Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B, and Broadway, HAMILTON is the story of America then, as told by America now.  

With book, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire, HAMILTON is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.  

 

HAMILTON’s creative team previously collaborated on the 2008 Tony Award ® Winning Best Musical IN THE HEIGHTS.

 

HAMILTON features scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Howell Binkley, sound design by Nevin Steinberg, hair and wig design by Charles G. LaPointe, and casting by Telsey + Company, Bethany Knox, CSA.

 

The musical is produced by Jeffrey Seller, Sander Jacobs, Jill Furman and The Public Theater.

 

The HAMILTON Original Broadway Cast Recording – recipient of the 2016 Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album and a regular on numerous Billboard top 10 lists – is available everywhere nationwide.

 

HAMILTON: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter’s book about the making of the musical, is on sale and has been a selection on The New York Times Best Seller List.

 

For more show information visit www.HamiltonOnBroadway.com, www.Facebook.com/HamiltonMusical, www.Instagram.com/HamiltonMusical and www.Twitter.com/HamiltonMusical.

 

ABOUT BROADWAY IN CHICAGO

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Published in Buzz Extra

I thoroughly enjoyed the world premiere of Jesus the Jew: As Told by His Brother James. The play is the seventeenth work produced by Forum Productions. The one-man show by playwright William Spatz is very well-written and in my opinion contains some of the answers of the most important issues facing our society today with regards to antisemitism and the violence propagated against Christians and or Jewish Christians in this country and others around the world. 

 

Actor, Steven Strafford plays a modern-day professor of religious history who has just found out his brother John has been tortured and killed in an attack in Syria. He then travels back and forth in time to portray James, the brother of Jesus, one of the mainstays of his research. Strafford's performance is compelling and rich. 

 

Jeremy, as James thanks the audience for coming whether they are Jews, Christians or Jewish Christians. This designation is very important especially in the political climate currently where all three groups are regularly singled out in some countries and sentenced to death by beheading if they do not renounce their Christian and/or Jewish ties. 

 

This play is of particular interest to me because I am a Jewish Christian or Messianic Jew. That is a person who is Jewish by birth who continues to believe that Jesus was Jewish and was the Messiah sent to save the Jewish people and later the non-Jews from the belief that we are just helpless animal-like human beings in bodies which have no actual active spiritual life that continues after death of the human body. We also believe that God is a loving forgiving being that abhors killing of humans and animals, indeed cruelty to women and all living things. 

 

I was given a very complete three-year education in Jewish history and religious practices before completing my bat mitzvah and the only mention of Jesus, if any that I recall, was that Jesus was to be looked at as a Rabbi gone mad - a religious traitor to the Jewish people whose new ideas threatened to destroy Judaism rather than elevate it to new levels of generosity and higher spiritual intelligence. I have often wondered how the separation of Jesus' Jewish birth and the statement he made regarding incarnating in a human body specifically for the Jewish people turned into an entirely new religion called Christianity – a religion that proceeded to make a scapegoat of the Jews when Roman occupation and laws actually caused the killing of Jesus. I've also wondered how Christians and especially Catholics who - on the one hand - give great honor to Mary, Jesus' mother, seem to have completely forgotten the fact that Mary the Mother of God was a JEWISH woman named Miriam. And how can modern Christians continue to refer with reverence to the Gospels written by Jesus' disciples as inspired by God without recalling that ALL the disciples of Jesus were JEWISH?

 

James’ finally answers this question in the last hours of his life in the play when he is about to be put to death (after 30 years of leading Jewish Christians) for not renouncing his brother's and his own Jewish faith. 

 

The apostle Paul is well known among feminists for his damning letters stating that women should have no place in the new Church and should be subject to all the discrimination that Jesus himself stressed many times should end by interacting with women, healing them and insisting that they receive the same education his male apostles were receiving. During this council, the apostle Paul effectively overthrew James’ leadership by declaring a new law that if a Jewish person believed in Jesus they must stop all Jewish religious practices and laws or be sentenced to death.

 

Jeremy as James also made it clear that Mary was from a wealthy family and financially supported Jesus and, by extension, financially supported many of the apostles that followed Jesus. Mary Magdalene was NOT by any stretch of the sexist imagination a "prostitute" as many since have claimed. 

 

James states that Jesus and Mary were indeed married per the Jewish tradition and although it was not brought up in this play, their marriage gives some credence to the theory that Mary Magdalene, Jesus' legal wife, gave birth to a daughter after his death, directly continuing the spiritually royal bloodline of Jesus himself. It’s been said that she and her daughter were escorted to safety by her father and sailed to France to raise her daughter.

 

There is some humor in the play when James says, “Lots of Jewish mothers think their sons can walk on water, but in this case…”

 

The production team includes: Milo Blue (scenic design), Hailey Rakowiecki (costume design), David Trudeau (lighting design), Alex Kleiner (sound design), Ron Rude (production manager) and Sarah Knoke (stage manager). This team does a great job decorating the set with objects of art from both modern and ancient times. The interesting props keep one’s eyes busy looking at the beautiful colorful aspects of that historic period while keeping the audience firmly in the present with offstage interruptions by reporters seeking interviews with him and friends or family who are trying to help Jeremy stay calm and sane in the face of the news that his brother has been tortured first then killed. 

 

Jesus The Jew delivers the most important message of our time, that the division of Jews from Christians and the division of Jesus from his own Jewish followers and people came from a political move - a political document written to serve the Romans and the ambitions of one aggressive sect of new Christians/Jews led by the apostle Paul. 

 

My only complaint about the well-written and well-documented play is that it does not delve deep enough into the horrors and centuries of suffering that this rift initiated by the apostle Paul caused. Actually using the word “horror” is inadequate to describe the current situation for both Christians and Jewish Christians - the Holocaust or recent be-headings of Christians and Jewish Christians around the world and the suffering of women subject to the new rules of Bible thumping-Jew hating Christians who have been forced to follow their husband’s commands even under extreme abuse. 

 

James even acknowledges that as he gives his last sermon before he is put to death that there may not be any Jewish Christians left to hear his final pleas for a meaningful, literal and political reunion of the Jewish and Christian people. That strongly resonated with me because I am the ONLY Jewish Christian that I have ever met (other than my mother who had a similar late life realization) who sees Jesus as a Jewish Rabbi and miracle maker of the highest order, the human incarnation of God on earth.

 

I highly recommend this compelling, well-paced and delicately handled theater piece for anyone who is interested in a more realistic view of daily life during Jesus' time, or is seeking similar comfort that Jewish Christians still actually exist. 

 

Jesus the Jew: As Told by his Brother James is being performed at Greenhouse Theater Center through March 26th. For more information on this show, click here.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
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