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Writers Theatre, under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma, concludes its 2016/17 season with the musical Parade, with book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, co-conceived by Harold Prince.  The Writers Theatre production of Parade is directed by Gary Griffin and features musical direction by Michael Mahler and choreography by Ericka Mac.  Parade runs May 24 – July 2, 2017 in the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. 

 

This stirring, Tony Award-winning musical explores the endurance of love and hope against seemingly insurmountable odds, telling the true story of Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jewish man falsely accused of murder in 1913 Atlanta. Innovative and daring, and filled with soaring music, Parade is a moving love story, a riveting murder mystery, a gripping courtroom drama and a powerful exploration of innocence and naïveté coming face-to-face with ignorance and prejudice.

 

Acclaimed director Gary Griffin, who directed the original Broadway production of Jason Robert Brown’s Honeymoon in Vegas and the world premiere of his The Trumpet of the Swan at the Kennedy Center, stages an intimate revival of this celebrated musical. With a book by playwright Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and a score by Brown (The Last Five Years, The Bridges of Madison County) that combines folk, rock, R&B and gospel, Parade ends WT’s 25th Anniversary Season with spectacular impact.

 

“I had the pleasure of being directed by Gary in a Writers Theatre production of Joe Orton's Loot. He is one of my favorite directors and one of my closest friends, and it is a privilege to be in collaboration with him again,” said Artistic Director Michael Halberstam.  “I have enjoyed many, many years of conversation with him over copious glasses of wine discussing masterwork musicals and how best to make them work. I cannot express how happy I am then to be working on supporting Gary’s vision for Parade, a musical that has suddenly become disturbingly relevant given the deeply unsettling swell of anti-semitism.  The Anti-Defamation League recently announced that cases of anti-semitism have spiked 86% in the first quarter of this year, proving the old adage that ‘the more things change the more they stay the same.’

 

“Gary has assembled a first-rate cast with breathtaking vocal prowess and a first-rate design team to create the world in which they bring Mr. Brown and Mr. Uhry’s bravura masterwork to life.  Parade is a fully cohesive musical voyage into the triumph of love and the dangers of what can happen when the fires of hatred are irresponsibly stoked within an unhappy and angry populace. Musically, it defies simple definition while maintaining accessibility and a deep emotional core. It is a fitting way to close the season and it passes a symbolic baton to Trevor, a brand new musical which opens next season and strikes open a whole new adventure of its own.”

 

The cast of Parade includes: Larry Adams (Old Soldier/Judge Roan/Ensemble), Patrick Andrews (Leo Frank), Brianna Borger (Lucille Frank), Jonathan Butler-Duplessis (Jim Conley), McKinley Carter (Mrs. Phagan/Sally Slaton), Devin DeSantis (Britt Craig/Young Soldier/Ensemble), Kevin Gudahl (Hugh Dorsey/Ensemble), Derek Hasenstab (Governor John Slaton/Ensemble), Nicole Michelle Haskins (Minola "Minnie" McKnight/Angela), Caroline Heffernan (Mary Phagan/Essie/Ensemble), Zoe Nadal (Monteen/Ensemble),Jake Nicholson (Frankie Epps/Ensemble), Jeff Parker (Tom Watson/Ensemble), Leryn Turlington (Iola Stover/Ensemble), andJonah D. Winston (Newt Lee/Riley).

 

The creative team includes: Matt Deitchman (Associate Music Director & Piano/Conductor), Scott Davis (Scenic Designer), Mara Blumenfeld(Costume Designer), Christine Binder (Lighting Designer), Ray Nardelli (Sound Designer) and Scott Dickens (Properties Master). Bobby Kennedy is the Dramaturg, David Castellanos is the Production Stage Manager and Nick Moran is the CFM Contractor.

 

Single tickets for Parade, priced $35 - $80, are available online at www.writerstheatre.org, by phone at 847-242-6000, or in person at the box office at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe.

 

PARADE On-stage Seating

For adventurous theatregoers who want to be part of the action, Writers Theatre is offering a limited number of special on-stage seats for every performance of Parade!

 

These special on-stage seats, reachable via curved staircases, will be on a raised platform at the back of the stage so that the audience will fully surround the action on stage. This exclusive vantage point provides audience members an immersive experience of Parade, as the area will be located near the orchestra and will also be used by actors during the performance…

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Tribute shows are generally as good as the performers that star. I probably just stated the most obvious fact on the planet. Yet it’s so very true. No matter how good the song selection, the costumes, the set, it is the vocal performance that we bring home with us. In “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” a different taste of Sinatra is delivered; rather than presenting an Ol’ Blue Eyes impersonator, we are invited to a 1960’s club setting where four actors casually reminisce with the audience over more than fifty Sinatra favorites. 

The musical revue, rich in its depicted era, stars George Keating, Christine Mild, Eric A. Lewis and McKinley Carter, each taking turns riffing through classics like “Makin’ Whoopee”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “The Best is Yet to Come”, “Young at Heart”, and “It was a Very Good Year” – the songs are countless. The four have made their mark in the Chicago theatre scene, Lewis a Jeff Award Winner for his work in Porchlight Music Theatre’s “Dreamgirls”, Mild, who not only starred in Theater at the Center’s “Pump Boys and Dinettes” but who has recently released her debut solo album “Love Is Everything”, Carter, who has done work in prestigious venues such as Writers Theatre and Drury Lane Oakbrook, and Keating, who not only has been featured in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” at Paramount Theater, but is the co-founder of the very popular Chicago and Off-Broadway hit “Schoolhouse Rock Live”. 

The four actors work well together as snippets of Sinatra songs are often worked into light exchanges between the characters. They gracefully glide around the stage and upon the stairways often pairing elegantly for dance routines. Often, the characters might be seen having a drink at the bar or nonchalantly interacting at a table, setting a relaxed night-out-on-the-town mood. Throughout the show, Sinatra factoids and quotes are tossed about during song breaks, allowing at times for the audience to participate. The club centers around a bar, where a live band simplified to piano (William Underwood), bass (Jake Saleh) and drums (Nick Anderson) plays directly behind it. Despite the small size of the outfit, the sound is big and the musicians ever-impressive, each getting to show their skills off a bit while briefly featured individually in the second act. 

While perhaps wishing for a little more "oomph" overall in the individual vocal performances (mainly on the lower notes) ala Sinatra, each of the performers have their shining moments and are able to deliver the songs with their intended pizzazz and vigor. But the magic in this show is when the four would sing together, whether it be a duet or a four-part harmony. It is with these synchronized vocal efforts one easily loses themselves in the beauty of Sinatra’s work. 

Brenda Didier both directs and choreographs this fascinating piece with a stylish aplomb that captures the charm of the period so very well. Lewis particularly stands out during his renditions of “My Kind of Town” and “I’m Gonna Live ‘Til I Die”, while Keating finishes strong with a fervent version of “That’s Life”. The production flows at a nice pace and is a pleasing homage to Sinatra, though we are often teased with a song segment left wanting to hear the piece in its entirety. This is countered by the fact that we are given such a vast collection of the music Sinatra made famous. The show ties together well eventually leading us to an expressive interpretation of perhaps Sinatra’s most timeless classic, “My Way”, commendably performed by the entire cast. 

“My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” is a time capsule that will certainly touch the hearts of “Chairman of the Board” fans, but is equipped with enough nostalgia, panache and musical talent to please even the most curious. This polished production is being performed at Theater at the Center in Munster, IN through March 19th. Click here for tickets and/or more show information.   

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Sunday, 19 June 2016 16:32

Deathtrap: A Steady Diet of Curveballs

When it comes to an engaging mystery thriller, the need for finely-written, well-executed twists, turns and the unexpected are imperative. Afterall, a good suspense story on stage that has the ability to genuinely captivate its audience members can be one of the most enjoyable theatrical experiences we can have. In Drury Lane’s current production Deathtrap, we get just that. Deathtrap, written by Ira Levin in 1978 and later becoming a film starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, is a whodunnit that pulls you in keeps you guessing so that just when you think you’ve figured it out, another curveball is thrown.

 

Upon entering the theatre, we are met with the interior of a Victorian house with a rustic interior. Swords, poster tins of plays and antiques such as Houdini’s handcuffs and collectible pistols decorate the walls and shelves. When looking closely, it appears the way the rafters are cut suggest we could be looking into a massive trap. 

 

It all starts when a theatre professor, a former flourishing playwright, Sidney Bruhl, takes notice of a play written by one of his students, Cliff Anderson. It’s brilliant - a sure fire hit. It’s been a looooong time since Bruhl has had a successful play and there is no reason to think he is on the brink of anything else that could make waves in the theatre world. When Bruhl promptly invites Anderson - along with his single transcript - to his country home where he lives alone with his wife, Myra, the suspense begins and only thickens as we wonder if Sydney is capable of murdering for a hit show. The well-written dialogue keeps one on edge, moving back and forth from friendly banter to that of a suspicious nature. Adding to the intrigue are Myra’s suspicions and the interactions of Helga, the Bruhl’s neighbor who possesses psychic abilities. 

 

Daniel Cantor as Sydney Bruhl and Aaron Latterall as Cliff Anderson are brilliant together as they lock horns in their highly engaging cat and mouse exchanges, each performing magnificently while McKinley Carter as Myra offers strong support and is able to cement the growing tension to enhance the audience’s intrigue even further. Though plenty of witty dialogue between players to incite a good share of laughs, Cindy Gold as Helga den Dorp is absolutely hysterical as the psychic neighbor, causing quite a stir with her “visions” that often includes exaggerated body language and heavy moaning. 

 

We are constantly asked the question on what we would actually do to gain success, no matter what has shown up in our past nature or not, should the opportune moment take place. Should the temptation be great enough, should we know we would get away with, let’s say a crime of significance, we generally rely on the thing deep inside ourselves that would not allow us to go to such extreme measures - to take such action - most people anyway. But what happens when one’s morale compass fails us them - is absent? What is one’s breaking point?

 

Deathtrap is a nearly perfect psychological thriller. Add that to the fact that this particular production boasts exceptional acting performances, a detailed set that draws one in before the show even begins and a healthy diet of humor, and it would be impossible not to recommend this fantastic play.

 

Wonderfully directed by William Osetek Deathtrap is being performed at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook through August 14th. For tickets and/or show information, visit www.drurylanetheatre.com. 

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