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Kimberly Katz

Kimberly Katz

 “An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin”

 

You may ask, what is so entertaining about two singer/actors, simply dressed all in black with nothing on stage except a pianist, bass player and thirty or so antique stage lanterns? Plenty, when the two accomplished singer/actors are Toni Award winners Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin.

 

In today’s’ world of reality TV stars and American Idol making the study of the craft of theater acting seemingly obsolete, I am sometimes embarrassed to admit that I have a degree in Theatre Arts and Theatre History. However Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin demonstrated in one fantastically inspiring evening of theatre song and dance at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in downtown Chicago, that when you have talent of their caliber and are as wonderfully skilled in movement, comedy and drama as they are, all you need onstage are the stars themselves.

 

Mandy Patinkin absolutely wowed me with his stunning rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific. At the end, Mandy hit a glorious falsetto on the last lines “Once you have found her, never let her go” that sounded just like the voice of a 1930’s radio show star. It has got to be the most delicious sound and interpretation of a classic song I have heard come out of a singer’s mouth this entire year. Mandy is also widely known to be one of the best interpreters alive today of Sondheim’s classic music.

 

Likewise, the adorable Patti Lupone, who still has an opera quality singing voice, showed her delightful mastery of comedy in “Not Getting Married Today” from the musical “Company”. Her heart wrenching and soul-stirring rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy one of her recent triumphs on Broadway also blew me away.

 

Together these two have such a great chemistry onstage- it sizzles and crackles like electricity- making the audience wonder what is going to happen next between these two and what could possibly keep them from falling into each others arms and making love right there on the stage!

 

I also loved the hysterically funny stage dance performed to Murray Grand’s “April in Fairbanks’, while seated in spinning office chairs, which was so cleverly choreographed by Anne Reinking.

 

Grace, humor, stunning voices, sex appeal, great songs and high romance, “An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin” is an evening of high styled and masterfully delivered entertainment, not to be missed.

 

altWatching Brian Dennehy, still as handsome, graceful and light on his feet at 71 as at 51, I have to ask myself in disbelief, has it really been twenty years since I last saw him perform on the Goodman stage in “The Iceman Cometh”?  It seems just like yesterday. The great thing about an actor’s actor like Dennehy, is the way he can utilize all the knowledge he has acquired during his long and illustrious career and still bring a freshness, a youthfulness, an energy and presence that is uniquely his own to every role. 

The Hemmens in Elgin, IL

 

I recently ventured out to the Hemmens Theater in Elgin, a simple 45-minute drive from downtown Chicago to see one of my favorite rock performers, Rick Springfield, in action and was very pleased with the venue. First of all, the abundance of free and handicapped parking makes for easy entry and an economical night, now that ticket prices for concerts continue to soar.

 

The venue itself was well equipped with several bars to serve the crowd and drinks are allowed into the theatre. Also, there were lots of bathrooms for the ladies, which for some reason is still a problem in many area theatres at intermission time. 

 

The most important part of any concert venue is of course the sound and sightlines. I was a little further back - about halfway back towards the center of the house but the sound was still absolutely pristine. Although they could use one more aisle down the center to allow guest to move out of their rows to rest area more quickly, the seats themselves were roomy enough to allow you to enjoy the show and dance around a little without bumping elbows with fellow patrons.

 

Now that I know where the Hemmens is and how to get there quickly, I will definitely add it to my professional watch list for artists I cover in the future and you should too!

 

For more information on upcoming shows and directions check out the Hemmens.org website and get ready to rock!

The Addams Family (photo by Joan Marcus)

Chicago Ford Center/Oriental Theatre

I really enjoyed this production starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth from start to finish.  The play opens with a wonderful group number celebrating daughter Wednesday’s transition from child to woman, in which her pigtails are ceremoniously removed and she is welcomed into the long history of the family tree. Her mother, Morticia, sensuously played by Bebe Neuwirth, reminds her of their hopelessly romantic family creed, which is what Wednesday must find in a mate, “Passionate and true, forever- even after death!”

 

The whole show centers on wonderful feminist themes of sexual and romantic awakening and reawakening for the various characters, especially the women. Mrs. Alice Beineke played by  Carolee Carmello, mother of Wednesday's (Krysta Rodriguez) new and scarily “normal” beau, has an absolutely show stopping number during “Double Jeopardy” wherein she realizes the love has gone completely out of her marriage. It is mournfully and masterfully sung and the audience responded in kind with long thunderous applause.

 

Some of the new musicals don’t have any songs that really stand alone and stick in your mind but the song” Let’s Not Talk About Anything but Love” which expresses Gomez’ eternal fixation on romance has a wonderful feel and lyrics reminiscent of classic Cole Porter.

 

There lots of genuine laughs courtesy of the accomplished Nathan Lane, and Grandmama played by Jackie Hoffman who consistently does excellent, very funny character work. She has a great line where she admits she smokes marijuana in the attic, but claims it’s medicinal - she has gingivitis!  Jackie says about the role, “I’m from an Orthodox Jewish home in Queens, and my first contact with the Addams Family was from paging through The New Yorker and finding those cartoons. They were just so weird and dark and smart and very funny. I think of Grandmama as having a thick European accent, maybe a bit senile, and always mixing some sort of potion. My costume? I’m kind of like some ancient hippie from Woodstock who wears a crazy poncho and cool granny glasses. And I can tell you, I use everything I ever learned from working at Second City in this part.”

One specific thing I was eagerly awaiting though which never materialized was a real dance number for Bebe Neuwirth, who played Morticia with beauty and sexy charm. I realize most musicals now are choreographed with the future touring company and long run in mind wherein the major dance moves are reserved for the chorus of dancers only in order to save wear and tear on the leads, but Bebe, also one of my favorite Jewish actresses, is well known as an accomplished dancer and still has the legs to prove it. When she finally rips the constrictive Morticia dress and Nathan exclaims in surprise, “You have legs!” I got ready for her showstopper, but alas it was just more of the very safe, simple easy dance moves watered down for her and Nathan and the chorus to sort of walk through.

 

The mostly older crowd of critics and fans at the Chicago World Premiere dug The Addams Family too, as was evidenced by their enthusiastic clapping along with the Addams family theme, na na na na- clap clap, at the end of the show. It made us all feel like a kid again, kids who came from our own crazy but loveable Addams families and lived to tell the tale!

 

Friday, 10 July 2009 19:08

"Up" at Steppenwolf

Up at Steppenwolf with Ian BarfordDo you have a dream? The kind of dream that makes your whole family both respect your audacity and think you are crazy at the same time? The kind of dream that may take decades to fulfill, while quite possibly bankrupting your life savings?

 

Friday, 09 January 2009 18:06

"The Seafarer" finds his Peaceful Harbor

altIf you have ever seen an All-Star basketball game with the “best of the best” passing, shooting and dribbling with uncanny ease - you know what it is like seeing the cast of Steppenwolf Theatre’s The Seafarer in action. 

 

 

Megan Long as EstherMeet me in St. Louis, now running at The Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place through December 21st, is an absolutely delightful production of one of my favorite shows.Imagine you are a young girl, newly in love and in love with one of the greatest and most advanced cities in the world.

Sunday, 26 October 2008 19:05

"Thunder from Down Under" at Excalibur

Thunder Down UnderSexy, Sassy and Classy! 

Family comedian, Louie Anderson, and the all male revue “Thunder from Down Under” share the same stage space at the Excalibur Hotel.

Saturday, 06 October 2012 19:00

Cirque Du Soleil's "O" at the Bellagio

 

"A Beautiful Dream Comes to Life"

 It is truly the closest thing to dreaming while being awake. There are very few shows that have so much going on, so many enthralling acts one after another, that you find yourself wondering when you can see the show again before it's even over and "O" by Cirque Du Soleil at the Bellagio Hotel is certainly one of them.

It's hard to even begin to describe the artistry of this masterful combination of ballet, gymnastics, diving and synchronized swimming. I think my jaw dropped about ten minutes into the show and after that I just kept shaking my head in stupefied awe as I tried to follow and digest every one of the nuances of the individual dancer/swimmer/acrobats as they swam, crawled, and flew in and out of the huge pool and filled every foot of space around it with one visually stunning image after another.

The costumes and makeup reminiscent of the 15th to 20th centuries with an emphasis on the Romantic period, defy description as each character stands out uniquely in vivid colors and lavish, flowing designs full of natural movement that glorify the human body on these dancers already remarkable physiques.

The pool, the cranes and giant swinging barge, trapeze and other floating phenomenon compose the structure of this technically compelling and mind boggling masterpiece. It is interesting to know that when they first developed this show they found major difficulties keeping the Las Vegas audience cool and the soaking wet performers warm. The solution was to create two completely separate temperate worlds wherein the pool area and the air above it stays warm enough for all those amazing dives into the 1.5 million gallon pool, and lightning fast costume changes while the auditorium remains a comfortably cool dry 72 degrees.

Inspired by "the concept of infinity and the elegance of water's pure form", there is no real plotline or dialogue in this show, but none is necessary where heady romanticism, and haunting Fellini-esque scenarios evoke such moving and exciting emotions in the audience of tourists from around the globe. The cast is made up of 85 superbly skilled, Olympic quality performers from more than twenty different countries and gives you an incredibly warm feeling of universal oneness. It really reminds one of a veritable UN of the international theatre community. As I looked around at the faces of the enraptured audience and realized that they had all come together and were enjoying this wonderful piece without words in similar ways regardless of their country or language of origin, it gave me a wonderful feeling of pure theatre acting as a catalyst for world peace.

When citizens are exposed to high culture whether it's on the traditional Broadway stage in New York or right there in good old Sin City, they are transformed into peaceable creatures for the night, clapping, laughing and dreaming the same dream. In this case it's a dream of both unlimited possibilities and impossibly spectacular and graceful feats of daring and skill. It's a dream I plan to share with that beautiful cast and equally beautiful audience again on my next trip to Vegas. I highly recommend "O" as one of the must see shows for anyone looking to buy a single ticket that will absolutely deliver on it's high quality promises of delight and wonder.

Monday, 10 March 2008 01:00

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