In Concert

Kimberly Katz

Kimberly Katz

Sunday, 26 April 2015 00:00

Exclusive with Matt Dillon at C2E2

Buzz News Chicago's Kimberly Katz speaks with Wayward Pines star Matt Dillon at C2E2 on the new Fox series directed by M. Night Shayamalan.


Buzz News' Kimberly Katz talks with M. Night Shayamalan at C2E2 in Chicago on his new Fox series Wayward Pines starring Matt Dillon

I truly adore anything with Cole Porter’s amazing music performed as well as the cast at The Marriott Theatre. Porter’s songs “I Get a Kick Out of You”, “You’re the Top”, “Easy to Love” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” are lovingly performed and choreographed to perfection.

“Anything Goes” is the still fresh and funny tale of a group of passengers setting sail for romance and adventure on a spectacular ocean liner from New York to London. When some of the passengers complain to the Captain there are not enough celebrities on board, the Captain realizes that even criminal celebrities are exciting enough to qualify and invites the two “infamous crooks” on board to dine at his table to appease the rest of the guests hunger for drama and notoriety.

Stephanie Binetti (who plays the siren Reno Sweeney) is absolutely sensational in this role. I loved that she was more glamorous than strident, less Ethel Merman and more Liza Minelli, as it were.

Jameson Cooper as Billy Crocker started out a little bit lukewarm in my eyes but after he warmed up and performed his beautiful, heartfelt rendition of “So Easy to Love”, he really won me over. One could certainly see how Cooper as Billy Crocker can so easily charm Hope Harcourt, played by the lovely Summer Naomi Smart, with his genuinely romantic and earthy interpretation of these classic lyrics.

I never get tired of the dynamic and original staging in the round at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. This makes the big dance numbers (which there are plenty of) especially rich. Having the large cast move up and down the aisles throughout the show makes every single seat in this intimate playhouse a great seat!

Moonface Martin is played with amazing comic timing by Ross Lehman.  At the same time, Moonface’s blonde bombshell moll, Erma, played by Alexandra E. Palkovic, adds just the right of amount of real old time sex appeal to this show.

I highly recommend this fun, soaring production of one of Broadways’ most beloved shows for the entire family, especially for young people who have never been exposed to the wonder and magic of well done theater in the round!

“Anything Goes” is being performed at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through May 31st. For tickets and/or more show information, visit

From the moment actor Anthony Crivello as Jazz great, Louis Prima, is wheeled onto the stage on a hospital bed speaking to us from a coma, and snaps his fingers to begin the story of his life, the audience is absolutely enthralled by his manic yet superbly commanding presence until the last moment of the show 90 minutes later.

“Live at the Sahara” looks like another hit for very talented producer, Hershey Felder. Academy Award Winning director and writer Taylor Hackford and writers Jake Broder, and Vanessa Stewart have written a fast moving, compelling 90 minute version of Prima’s life beginning when his big band goes out of style and Prima reinvents his act by taking on a seventeen-year-old songbird he renames Keely Smith.

Vanessa Claire Stewart not only helped write this dynamite and very entertaining and touching true love story, she also stars beautifully and believably as the modernly talented Keely Smith.

The show is packed with Prima and Keely hit songs from their once very successful Vegas cabaret act performed with his over the top enthusiasm and her cool cat like deadpan nonchalance like, “What is This Thing Called Love”, “I Can’t Believe Your In Love With Me”, “Hey Boy, Hey Girl”, “Night Train”, “Ai,Ai,Ai” and of course their most famous “That Ol’ Black Magic”.

Prima helped Keely become a star then deeply resented and even hated her for it.  Keely gave him two daughters and helped him completely revive his sagging career with her wonderful voice and youthful, ahead of her time hipster energy, but in the final analysis Prima cheated on her and drove her into the arms of friend and producer Frank Sinatra (played with swagger by Paul Perroni). Erin Mathews was a delight in her many ensemble roles as Keely’s mom and later as the many women who came between Keely and Prima.

I loved the seven-piece band that played the entire show onstage and became part of the play many times. The staging and costumes were true to period but I got the feeling this is just a build up for what should be a very nice, large Broadway show in the future. I wanted to see more of the duo in their complete stage act, about ten minutes more and more of the supporting characters.  Also, I felt the show and script were so interesting, detailed and well written that there could have been a nice twenty-minute intermission without disturbing the flow at all. It actually makes Crivello’s performance even more impressive that he maintained his energy at such a high level almost nonstop.

Anthony Crivellos’ performance really has Tony Award written all over it (he previously won a Tony Award for best featured actor as Valentin in Kiss of the Spider Woman). Crivello is so full of Prima’s hard to copy musical manic energy and rhythms it was mind blowing to watch. In the final scene where Prima has lost Keely, and his second family of daughters and suffered a heart attack leaving him comatose for three years before his death, Crivello sings another version of “Just a Gigolo” with a heart breaking and teeth grinding pathos that just shakes the audience to its core, making you realize his own tragic fatal flaw was written by him in this song years earlier.

“Just a gigolo, everywhere I go
People know the part I'm playing
Paid for every dance
Selling each romance
Every night some heart betraying
There will come a day
Youth will pass away
Then what will they say about me
When the end comes I know
They'll say just a gigolo
As life goes on without me”

Throughout Prima’s life, his friends and the women who loved him tried to convince him to settle down into the gift of family life but his ego and desire to be the sole STAR, even at the expense of his own wife’s devoted love and friendship, ruin every opportunity for healthy continuity.

Prima tried and failed to be a Svengali to one more young songstress after driving Keely way for good but never realized that Keely was his once in a lifetime, irreplaceable, creative soul mate.

I highly recommend seeing “Louis and Keely, Live at the Sahara”, it is a solidly written, dynamically played production that is filled with great classic music and a true life story of genius and showbiz both victorious and tragic.

“Louis and Keely, Live at the Sahara is playing at Royal George Theatre on an open ended run. For tickets and show info visit  

Title and Deed is a one man show, a 65 minute monologue delivered on a bare stage with a few subtle lighting changes and the gentle rolling of the lead actor’s wheelchair to signal movement throughout the play.  Will Eno’s writing is often compared to Beckett but I found Eno’s work to be much more sensitive, compassionate and outright funny than Beckett’s plays. 

Chicago actor, Michael Patrick Thornton, (one of the founders of The Gift Theatre Co.) is brilliantly cast in the role of the “Traveler” from another world who is traveling feeling estranged from his own homeland, hoping that “the change of locale that comes with international air travel will somehow change him”.

Thornton is confined to a wheelchair - although the play does not call for the use of a wheelchair, and once seeing the play with him at the helm, one cannot imagine the play succeeding as well in its message without the lead character being disabled. Thornton has a remarkable sense of humor and a sad voice, rough with heartfelt regret, which lobs Eno’s long poetic sentences at the audience with a casual yet thoughtful pinpoint accuracy that evoked laughter and sometimes tears in a way that a lesser actor could not achieve. I was totally surprised to find out that the play was not written to be played by an actor in a wheelchair because much of the understanding we feel towards the Traveler comes naturally from seeing a young-ish man confined to a wheelchair - not from seeing a poor wanderer describing his mother’s death and his alienation from the world now that he has no real connection to his home and it’s joyful traditions.

 We all know instantly when we see the young man rolling up the small hill to the stage that because he is in a wheelchair he has suffered permanent and irreversible losses regarding his own lifestyle.  It almost doesn’t make sense to me to see this play cast with an actor without the wheelchair because so much of the truth about the character is implied and is true about the alienation from daily life, the shrinking of your whole world and fortune, which occurs when you are permanently disabled.

I absolutely adored Eno’s sparing, yet lyrical use of words.  What rolls off Thornton’s tongue like ear candy, comes off as true poetry, prose poetry, and paints vibrant, multidimensional scenes in your mind without the use of any set pieces, a painted backdrop or even additional characters.

Eno describes life as basically a “series of funerals” and perfectly describes the universality of how human life begins, “We all come from blood and saltwater and a screaming mother begging us to leave." I actually nodded in agreement and sensed a strong group nod from the entire audience - or as the traveler called us “a clump” of humans gathered to hear him speak - when he said we all know that feeling that life begins triumphantly, but as we lose more and more of the people who constitute our memories of what “home” is, we experience"the human cannonball feeling at the beginning; the sickening thump at the end."

Before the play, I had recently flown to attend the funeral of a very close immediate family member and was not in the mood for something that addressed the issue of death in any way - but I was won over and in the end transformed by the self denigrating humor, common sense and hopeful poetic beauty of this piece.

There was a tremendously universal line in the script, just a heartbreaking and truthful line when the traveler describes the last moment of his mother’s life in the hospital room, “her voice made this sound, this horrible raspy sound and … she just wasn’t my mother anymore.”

I literally walked in to this production feeling shaken with grief, trembling inside, feeling all alone while trying to make sense of my sudden and recent loss but  left feeling that everyone in the mostly middle aged or older audience and indeed everyone in the world must be suffering from many of the same deeply depressing feelings and thoughts.

I highly recommend seeing this extraordinarily written and performed production especially when you are feeling that “life is a series of funerals until the last funeral which is your own” because Eno has created a powerful and profoundly funny monologue about self acceptance, life and compassion which has a very healing effect.

Title and Deed is being performed at Lookingglass Theatre through May 3rd. For tickets and/or more show information visit

Wednesday, 04 March 2015 00:00

Review: The Royal Society of Antarctica

The Royal Society of Antarctica is a very unique story that comes equipped with a powerful cast and a rich blend of humor, drama and intrigue that constantly move the play forward without the interest lulls you would think would be found in a three act show with a two hour and fifty-five minute run time. Playwright Mat Smart’s world premiere takes place at the intimate Gift Theatre in Jefferson Park where its forty-something cramped seats (unless you are sitting in the first row) actually adds to the overall intimate experience. The set, though simple, creates a potent illusion of a base site interior used as cover for its workers at the bottom of the world where temperatures are always below freezing and winds can pick up to 100-plus degrees in the right circumstances. We feel cozy and warm in our seats and protected from the cold as the characters feel the same when they enter set from the outside dangerous wintry conditions.  

In The Royal Society of the Antarctica, twenty-something Dee returns to her birthplace at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica to seek answers to her mother’s suspicious disappearance that took place when she was a child. Surrounding Dee’s investigation, many characters are also focused upon with their own back stories. The team is comprised of janitors, utility technicians, scientists and food workers.  Workers are at the station for several month engagements at a time.  As one worker puts it – the first year you are there for the adventure, the second, you are there to see their friends again, the third, it’s probably for the money and if you come back for a fourth year it’s because you no longer fit in with normal society. We see the latter in the social awkwardness displayed by some of the characters. We also find some are there to run from their past.

Considered something of an untouchable holy ground due to its purity and the global agreement not to tarnish its earth by chemicals or otherwise, there is a certain magic present that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Strict rules are in place to safeguard the sanctity of the land. The sun and snow are so bright it can create a blinding effect and if a blizzard occurs, one could get permanently lost just walking twenty feet due to its zero visibility. Temperatures are so low limited skin exposure is dangerous. A hole in the ozone sits directly above them making it unsafe to remove their sunglasses for even just a minute. Daytime lasts for months followed by endless night time.  

There is a collection of strong acting performances that help in bringing this story to life headed by Paul D’Addario as “UT Tom” and Aila Peck as “Dee”. Jay Worthington is a blast to watch as “UT Tim”, the animated utility tech and team lead, while John Kelly Connolly is flawless as “Ace”, a man who has visited each continent, had sex on each continent and strives to be the first to have sex on each continent with someone native to that continent. Kyle Zornes also gets a lot of laughs with his deadpan delivery as “Jake”, the love-stricken science researcher who just can’t seem to get it right.

As Smart puts it, “I went to the bottom of the world to find this play—working as a janitor for three months at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. It’s perfect that it will premiere in my hometown at The Gift.”

All in all, The Royal Society of Antarctica is an entertaining experience with a distinctiveness to be remembered, opening up a new world that for most would likely go undiscovered.

The Royal Society of Antarctica is playing at The Gift Theatre through April 26th. Visit for show information or call 773-283-7071    


*Photo - Jay Worthington (left) as UT TIm and Aila Peck as Dee                 


Marie Antoinette by David Adjmi opens with a spectacular video presentation of the massive gardens and castle of Versailles along with a full on catwalk style fashion show by the queen, her girlfriends and the rest of the royal cast. I loved the staging of this show by a six person design team including Clint Ramos (scenic design), Dede Ayite (costume design), Dave Bova (hair and wig design), Japhy Weideman (lighting design), Lindsay Jones (sound and composition) and Jeff Sugg (projection design). The mirrored stage, combined with giant Vegas style flowers above it and the ever changing video projections worked together wonderfully to give us a glimpse of the largesse and majesty of that time period. Truly, the fashion of the time was something that separated the rich from the poor but also enslaved those able to afford it because it was impossible to dress and style yourself without a huge staff.

Alana Arenas is stunning as Marie Antoinette and does a great job portraying the doomed queen with both biting sarcasm and the occasional childlike grasp of the violent events unfolding all around her and because of her but not within her control at all. She, like the rest of royalty, is completely out of touch with the real world. We really see this as they try to pass as farmers during their escape after revolutionaries have taken over yet they are completely incapable of holding a normal conversation with approaching peasants (worse yet, they actually try to flee in the royal carriage thinking no one will notice them!). It is also very interesting to see the many parallels from Marie Antoinette that exist today, such as the inappropriate distribution of wealth, power in the hands of people that should not have it and the lack of power in those that should.

I like that Adjmi mentions twice in the play that Marie was only 14 years old when she was married to the imbecile King Louis the Louis XVI (Tim Hopper) – because most people assume she was an adult when she entered the realm of marriage and politics which was not true. You can really see in his text how similar the situation is for celebrities and their children today that their every move is first exalted and then diminished and eventually degraded as the social and political climes about them change. It is also pointed out how gross the invasion of privacy is when a human being feels they cannot even leave the confines of their home or do anything normal in public at all without it being analyzed and ridiculed by thousands of strangers whose opinions should not matter at all.

In a way we all have a little Marie Antoinette in us, that confused and excited teenager who is thrust into adult circumstances and is forced to “conform and perform” or sink under the weight of disappointment of family and society around us if we do not produce the hoped for successes in finances and family life, i.e. having children.

I highly recommend this elegant, eye popping and thoroughly modern interpretation of the life of a woman who was born and bred not to have her own life but the life prescribed for her by her parents and their political advisors.

Tickets and information:

When: Now through May 10, 2015

Where: Steppenwolf Upstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St.


I really enjoyed this funny little musical comedy about the ups and downs of mastering your first date with someone special. Aaron and Casey have been set up in a blind date by mutual friends. Aaron is a slightly nerdy Jewish boy in a steady finance job while Casey is an artsy, independent girl who has previously had a penchant for stoic bad boys that she never had to commit to.

I found myself really rooting for both characters to overcome their personal demons. Aaron’s demon from the past is a cheating yet outwardly devoted blonde ex- fiancé’ who actually left him at the altar. Casey struggles to overcome the dark, cynical humor and pickiness that forces her to alienate truly nice guys and write them off as “just friend” material before anything deeper can materialize between them.

The show opens with some great, funny but true observations about how many people lie on their online dating profiles and just how much “Googling” a person tells you about a person before you even meet them.  The internet, an unforgiving and never forgetting entity, all its own has truly changed the way we date and view each other and probably not for the better. Now we can just collect a bunch of facts and rarely give the other person a chance to relate to us in person for a few hours and see how the unrelated facts of their past add up.

There were several really hysterical numbers by supporting cast members who interject with their really timely advice - warnings that she is not Jewish and the occasional “bailout call” from Casey’s best gay friend or BGFF, Reggie.

Although the show and plot is aimed at twenty and early thirty-somethings, I still identified with much of it and actually learned a thing or two. For example, when Aaron’s best friend (an edgy womanizer) tries to tell him over and over not to even bring up the subject of his ex-girlfriend, I really got how tempting it is to talk about your past relationships but that it must never, never be done! As Casey’s face falls when he begins to talk about the blonde blue-eyed stunner who left him, it just ruins the moment and you see how much of a major issue and chip on his shoulder (against all women in general) and that Aaron’s seemingly innocent baggage still weighs heavy for him. There was a very funny moment when Aaron finds out the raven-haired Casey is not Jewish and again his whole world seems to come to a stop because he knows in his heart he will probably marry a Jewish woman, yet here is a very, very attractive non-Jew who could be quite good for him and would be a great complement to his own neurotic, negative critical impulses.

Charlie Lubeck and Dana Parker in the two lead roles do very nicely to illustrate their characters neuroses. Parker has a nice singing voice and you really believe she is as fiery and artistic as she appears.  The entire ensemble does a great job with each of their numbers. Cassie Slater is very funny as Dana’s married with children older sister living in the suburbs, unhappy as hell yet wanting her little sis to experience the safety of marital bliss. Adam Fane as Dana’s best gay friend absolutely steals the show with his rap and dance numbers trying to save Dana from this fateful first date.  Shea Coffman and Anne Litchfield as Aaron’s male macho best friend and dreamy ex-fiancé’ have great comic chops as they morph in and out of the scenes playing different supporting characters that round out the show nicely.

I loved the intimate and colorful set created by Thad Hallstein and lighting design by Brandon Lewis, which made the audience feel we were really saddling up to the bar with these two kids on their first date. The staging included an adorable live four piece band of young players that was visible just off stage left in soft red and green lights of a Friday night bar in Chicago or any town.

“First Date” is a fun, funny and ultimately informative production that I think will become a first date favorite for many, many couples, young and old. “First Date” is being performed at the quaint and cozy Royal George Cabaret Theatre. For tickets and/or more information, visit  

Well, you just can’t go wrong with Neil Simon, one of the greatest Jewish playwrights of all time and a solid grouping of well trained Chicago character actors like the cast assembled at First Folio Theatre in Oakbrook. “Laughter” is based on Sid Caesar’s beloved “Your Show of Shows” where Simon was a junior writer during the period in which McCarthyism and commercial sponsorship really began to apply their stranglehold on American TV and American writers in general.

Rene Ruelas, as the lead Max Prince, does a fantastic job portraying the manic and wildly erratic neurotically Jewish comedian with an undercurrent of boiling rage at the rope of McCarthyism closing round his show’s neck. The studio is threatening to turn it from a 90 minute show full of erudite and intellectual comedic references into a 60 minute vehicle to sell toothpaste or soap. Every once in a while Simon mentions in this piece the blacklisting and communist witch hunt that ruined so many innocent American writers lives during that period which gives the play more gravitas and makes the stakes higher for all the characters.

Kevin McKillip's hypochondriac Ira really does remind me of Kramer’s energy in Seinfeld and his way-way out physical comedy antics really pay off with some big laughs from beginning to end. When Ira and Prince argue violently over an eminent firing of one of the staff members to appease the studio and rather end up literally forcing each other to say “I Love You”, I really felt the depth of affection between these two and the writers group as a whole. When it appears that they all must fight just to stay on the air at all one of the writers says we must because, "Maybe we'll never have this much fun again in our entire lives.” Hayley Rice's, “Carol” is dynamite as the sole female writer in this group who keeps pace with “the boys” and then some.

Angela Weber Miller's set design really hearkens back to the period and felt very real in part because this theater was built in the historic Mayslake Peabody Mansion. Thanks to realistic stage props, a well-schemed interior and fitting costume design, we really get the feeling of what it must have felt like to be in a writer’s room in New York during the 1950s.   

There’s something so fresh and current about every play Neil Simon wrote including this one which is not as often performed as some of his bigger Broadway hits. This cast of seasoned character actors brings the Max Prince Show and all of the excitement and frustration of making a living writing comedy circa 1950s come to life in a wonderful way. “Laughter” makes you feel as if you have stepped back in time to rally them and to also remember their courage while up against NBC’s over-wielding of power and the rise of commie-hunting McCarthyism.

Laughter on the 23rd Floor is a delight with plenty of quick one-liners that pace this funny Neil Simon piece. For tickets and/or more information, visit

I decided to review this wonderful new play by Aaron Holland partly because I loved the title and in spite of the mention in the PR materials saying that Holland’s inspiration were in part from Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

I’m so glad I did because this play about one young “everyman” or “everywoman” as the case may be,  Amari Bolkonski, (played wonderfully by Armand Fields) has so much to say to all of us about the necessity of self love and friendship in overcoming life’s sometimes crippling blows to our sense of identity.

In Bailiwick Chicago’s Princess Mary Demands Your Attention, Amari is suffering from agoraphobia and OCD in part because his mother, Countess Bolkonski, (Pam Mack) openly disparages her youngest son by comparing him unfavorably to his distant older brother who is in her eyes, “the real man” in the family.

Luckily Amari runs into a few young gay club kids who become his “new family” and his closest friends and confidantes as he struggles to get out from under his mother’s controlling, domineering, apron and on with his own life.

Nathaniel (TJ Crawford), Bastian (Omer Abbas Salem) and Christian (David Kaplinsky) do a fantastic job of bringing these funny and sympathetic characters to life. Their scenes together are really fun to watch and seem to come from a very real, natural place.

Pam Mack does a wonderful job with the role of Countess and redeems her character’s seemingly abusive treatment of her youngest son in a truly heart wrenching scene telling Amari that she is truly sorry and that he must start to love himself as he is, after she has suffered a debilitating stroke.

The character of Stacy (Rus Rainear) is Amari’s fairy godfather of sorts, a flamer who has watched over Amari since his father’s death as a child and given him a place to work in his food stop since Amari is afraid to leave his house and deal with people in general. Rus Rainear is adorable in this role and gets many laughs with just a “look” or gesture.  Stacy’s undying support along with Amari’s loyal buddies who help him dress up and get him out of his basement  Amari realizes over time and with the hallucinated appearance of his own personal “Queen Mary”  inspire him to break out and realize that his hiding and self pity are ruining his life.

I thought director Lili-Anne Brown did a fabulous job integrating music from the period and strobe lights and smoke and into the piece in a way that maximized the laughs, glamour and fantasy world of Amari and his friends while keeping Amari’s transformation grounded in a very touching way that anyone gay or straight, male or female, can identify with.

In the lobby before the show the audience was encouraged to write on an index card the thing they feel is holding them back in life.  Also there was  a “wig room” with costumes and accessories for audience members to try on “Princess Mary’s glam clothes and wigs and take a “selfie”, which really appealed to me because it made me think about applying the play’s ideas to my own life before I even entered the theater.

I highly recommend this funny yet poignant piece by Holland not because it is perfect and needs no further editing but because in its current incarnation it is so joyous and uplifting one cannot help but feel moved and entertained by it. 

Princess Mary Demands Your Attention is being performed at Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater through February 21st. For tickets and/or more information call 773-871-3000 or visit


*Photo - (left to right) TJ Crawford, Omer Abbas Salem, Armand Fields and David Kaplinskyin Bailiwick Chicago’s world premiere of PRINCESS MARY DEMANDS YOUR ATTENTION by Aaron Holland, directed by Artistic Director Lili-Anne Brown.  Photo by Michael Brosilow.

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