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Kimberly Katz

Kimberly Katz

Friday, 19 December 2014 18:00

Cirque Dreams Holidaze at Chicago Theater

Holidaze really is like nothing you’ve seen before, especially during the traditional Holiday season offerings like The Nutcracker. The international cast members from many countries including Italy, Mongolia, Asia, Ukraine, and Ethiopia were extremely gifted in each of their unique disciplines. The magnificent Chicago Theater was a perfect venue for such a show.

The sister contortionists, aerialists, silks artists, chair stackers, and clowns all did so many different things all at the same time onstage and in the air that  it was difficult to really take it all in! 

One dancer did a balancing and juggling routine while lying on a slanted bench where at one point she literally was doing a different and independent action with each of her four limbs, Her right foot was twirling hula hoops, while her right foot balanced a rolling boll, her right hand was juggling and her left hand doing some other equally amazing task. This and all the acts really make you realize what an awesome creation the human body is and what seemingly miraculous feats it is capable of with the right talent and cultivation.

The costumes were for the most part spectacular but occasionally I thought they went a little too comical (reindeer unitards and old Mrs. Santa Claus) instead of balletic and took some of the dignity away from what were amazingly graceful and dignified performances.

Also the hypnotic, repetitive music soundtrack needs an updating as it gave everything kind of a 1990’s Euro-House Music feel that was dazzling at first but became a little overwhelming and confusing by the end of the first act.

One other note I have for the producers of this particular cast is the presence of a very young, tiny aerialist/ballet dancer who appeared to be about 6-7 years old. She was a brilliant ballerina who could very easily be playing the lead in The Nutcracker, but in this show she was trussed up in a very strange halter type contraption and pushed around the stage by a man on stilts. I felt very uncomfortable watching someone so young performing this way and doing contortionism at all when her body is so flexible because it is still forming.

To make sure I was not overreacting, I leaned over to a friend and asked what he thought and his first response was, “Creepy! Like watching child abuse!”  I agree, this act needs to be placed on the ground like the other young 9-year old dancer in the show and re-costumed as children should never be costumed in something that even resembles a restraint of any kind.

Other than that this was a refreshing and spectacular night of amazement, suspense and bursting at the seams with psychedelic Christmas colors and lighting effects that I will never forget. 

Oriental Theatre - From the opening of the show when Chicago actor Ed Kross comes out and explains in a perfect 50’s TV announcer voice that we are all at a live taping of the Lucy Show back in 1952, I was captivated.

Two real episodes of the show were purchased for this production, “The Benefit” and “Lucy has her eyes examined.”  I thought both episodes were perfectly chosen not just for their comedic effect but because they showed clearly how far ahead of her time Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz were by creating the three camera filming process and Lucy being the first female studio owner, way, way ahead of their time!  I adored the bright, honest yet sardonic tone of the antics of the ensemble who lovingly recreated the between scene period TV commercials for classic products Brylcreem and Alka Seltzer.  Rick Sparks staging is spot on and is very fun and exciting to watch as the entire cast and crew move seamlessly from introducing the show to setting off the applause sign for us , the live studio audience. It really felt like we were transported back in time to 1950s Los Angeles and were waiting breathlessly to see these two huge iconic stars in the flesh for the first time.

Lori Hammel as Ethel and Kevin Remington as Fred Mertz were very funny, very well cast and true to their characters. It is interesting to note that the real Vivian Vance playing Ethel originally objected to the 20 year plus age difference between her and her TV husband Fred! I always wondered why her husband was so much older and less attractive than the handsome couple they were best friends with but that was pretty typical for the time period.

Thea Brooks did a fantastic job playing the most difficult role in this show. Brooks really captured the absolutely brilliant physical comedy and genuine dancers grace with which Lucille Ball (originally a Broadway quality dancer) was able to bestow upon female comedy timing in a world which had yet to enter fully in the women’s movement at all.

The  wonderful, best friends forever interaction between Lucy and Ethel reminded us that Lucy was also ahead of her time not only by marrying interracially, but Lucille Ball  was also the first champion of long lasting, devoted, female friendship, now referred to as “chicks before dicks!” at a time when both issues were severely frowned upon and questioned by society.

Euriamis Losada as Ricky blew audiences away with his eerily accurate portrayal of Ricky Ricardo’s movements and voice! Every single line of comedy and each line of his musical numbers were so like the original I occasionally squinted my eyes and felt I could see Lucy and Desi standing on the stage.  These two performances were so difficult and required much attention to detail by Brooks and Losada, yet they pulled it off without bordering on caricature or parody regarding these two beloved superstars. Thea Brooks and Euriamis Losada displayed real STAR turns in this production and I can’t wait to see their future incarnations on Broadway in other productions.

I only have two notes for this delightful and thoroughly enjoyable production. It would have been nice if instead of the “game show break” utilizing an audience member and plant in the audience which separated the two episodes, Sparks had just allowed us, the studio audience, to take a ten minute intermission. Also, I would have loved to see a single behind the scenes scene between Lucy and Ricky AS Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, to peer into that break from the fantasy of the show to the reality of their rocky but ground breaking marriage. It would have been very special to witness indeed and have allowed Losada and Brooks to peel back and show yet another layer of these two magnificently complicated performers in their own time period.

I highly recommend seeing I Love Lucy Live on Stage at the Oriental Theatre with your whole family to bring back the love and simplicity and also the hysterical hypocrisy of the time period that many of us grew up watching and loving. 

Every time I think the talented cast of players and directors performing at Marriott Theatre’s intimate theatre in the round have done the very best they can, they top themselves again.

This production of the deliciously classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about a spunky, intelligent teacher who is recruited from England to teach the children of an arrogant but struggling King of Siam directed with precision and compassion by Nick Bowles was hands down the finest, most soaring yet intimate production of “The King and I” that I have seen in years.

Heidi Kettenring as the show’s star in Anna has more than a fine singing voice for the piece. Kettenring infuses the character with humor, strength, compassion and a feminist fury which reaches its peak of expression in the hilarious and still modern song, “Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?”

“All 
to remind you of your royalty,
I find a most disgusting exhibition.
I wouldn't ask a Siamese cat
to demonstrate his loyalty
by taking this ridiculous position
how would you like it if you were a man
playing the part of a toad.
Crawling around on your elbows and knees.
Eating the dust of the road!...”

king-and-iNew York actor Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte, does a wonderful, sexy and layered performance as the King, never falling into predictable caricature.  Guillarte is a little bit younger than the King is normally played and it makes perfect sense that his character is both falling in love with the educated and mature teacher Anna and also confused by his growing sense of bewilderment at her grasp of political situations that improve the destiny of his own family and finally, his entire Kingdom.

The romantic and sexual chemistry between Kettenring and Guillarte is absolutely dynamite and had the entire audience breathlessly watching each explosive scene between this talented pair.

There is a very funny, yet revealing scene where the King is insisting that Anna’s head never be higher than his own. The King asks Anna to take dictation for an important letter to a visiting dignitary and sits down on the floor. When Anna finally sits down on the floor, the King moves to recline on one elbow and so forth till they are both completely reclining on the floor. Although, it is really a nonsensical demonstration of his manly power, Kettenring and Guillarte manage to make it a funny and sexy “shades of gray” type dance between two people who are each unaware they are falling in love with the other.

I am happy to see that almost all of the roles for the children and wives and concubines of Siam were filled by actors with a variety of different ethnicities. The children in this production are completely delightful to watch from beginning to end. Matthew Uzarraga, who plays the boy who would be King, does a fantastic job bringing his little tyrannical boy to life and when at the end of the show he pronounces that “excessive bowing to the King like a toad” is now forbidden, you really believe this child has learned something major from his now beloved teacher and friend Anna.

Kristen Choi as Lady Thiang knocks it out of the park with her stunning rendition of “Something Wonderful” and Joseph Anthony Foranda is a wise, organic presence. Shirtless like the King, he pulls off the role with quiet sensuality and power as the aging prime minister to the King Kralahome.


Nancy Missimi went all out with the costumes in this piece and I most enjoyed her costumes on the wives, children and concubines of the King. Their dance numbers were wonderfully choreographed by Tommy Rapley and together with Ms. Missimi’s costumes and Tom Ryan's royally glowing set design, the dance numbers reminded me of barefoot dancing flowers, like multicolored orchids and floating water lilies come to life onstage.

I get totally spoiled when seeing a well performed Rodgers and Hammerstein musical because the lyrics for every song are so unique and memorable. “We Kiss in a Shadow” was beautifully sung by Megan Masako Haley as the King’s unwilling young captive, Tuptim, who is in love with another.


“To kiss in the sunlight
and say to the sky:
"Behold and believe what you see!
Behold how my lover loves me!"

And Devin Law as Lun Tha , Tuptim’s secret lover, also performed the classic “I Have Dreamed” to perfection.

“I have dreamed that your arms are lovely
I have dreamed what a joy you'll be
I have dreamed every word you whisper

When you're close, close to me
how you look in the glow of evening
I have dreamed and enjoyed the view

In these dreams, I've loved you so
That by now I think, I know
what it's like to be loved by you
I will love being loved by you”

I can’t speak highly enough about how all of the elements in this production came together to create such an educational, yet romantic,  touching and funny evening of pure  theatrical delight, including the  fantastic, organic choreography by Tommy Rapley and Ryan T. Nelson’s exquisitely detailed musical direction.

Take your children and your grandparents, or even your first date to ‘The King and I” at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire with confidence that you will all equally enjoy a magical night of classic entertainment performed at peak quality for modern times.

For more show information, visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

I absolutely adored Theatre at the Center’s production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown based on the Pedro Almodvar film of the same name from beginning to end.  Set in the 1980's in a part of uptouching and hilarious upper crust Madrid, "Verge" tells the hilarious and touching story of three women who are literally brought to the edge of sanity by their lovers. 

Cory Goodrich is dynamite in the lead role of commercial actress and singer Pepa who receives a phone message from her cheating lover Ivan that he is breaking up with her just as she discovers that she is pregnant with his child.  At the same time, Summer Naomi Smart is super sexy and funny as Pepa's nervous best friend and unwitting fashion model, Candela, whose boyfriend turns out to be an actual terrorist.

And Hollis Resnik as Ivan's ex-wife, who has actually been committed to an asylum because of Ivan's constant playing around with her mind and heart, is sheer delight in her portrayal of a woman who is still in love with her ex, partly because he keeps stringing her along. 

It’s just a complete and sensational cast assembled for this production.

To continue in praising this cast, Larry Adams is hysterical as Ivan, the wealthy Lothario who tells his son it is not important what you say to women but how you say it and then proceeds to sing "Blah, blah blah" to one woman after another in such a sexy seductive tone that they all drop at his feet.  Ivan also reveals that his secret to keeping women in love with him , even his ex-wife of twenty years who had been driven to madness by his loving is that he loves each woman at a distance "Forever and ever and will not let them out of his thoughts... forever." 

Sadly, the lead of this production, actor, Bernie Yvon, was killed in a car accident about two weeks before the show opened on his way to rehearsal. The performances in this run are dedicated to Bernie, who will certainly be missed in the Chicago theatre community. George Andrew Wolff, who plays the taxi driver and narrator did a great job in Bernie’s stead and had one of the best and funniest Spanish accents in the whole show. 

The set, period costumes and actual taxi driven around during the show were all beautiful, colorful and very interactive for the audience. There are all kinds of fabulous dance numbers and the songs are catchy and cleverly funny, especially “The Microphone” performed wonderfully by Larry Adams and “Model Behavior” where Naomi Smart really gets to show her comedic ability as an actress. There is even a handsome Spanish biker that cruises the stage on his motorcycle. 

Although the 1980's cocktail which helped fuel and then alternately slow down the characters frenetic actions through life was a milkshake made of "gazpacho and Valium", you will not need a Valium to relax and laugh at this wonderful woman driven comedy. I highly recommend seeing this rarely produced hit while it is here! 

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is playing at Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana (30 minutes from downtown Chicago) through October 12th. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.theatreatthecenter.com.  

These nervous women deserve respect!

Friday, 19 September 2014 19:00

Stories In Motion - Dramatic Theatre of Ballet

"Stories in Motion” is a beautifully selected trio of individual story ballets performed at the Auditorium Theatre on Congress.The first "Prodigal Son" with choreography by George Balanchine tells the well-known biblical tale of the rebellious and curious son who leaves his home only to be beaten down by life and love in the city. Although Balanchine is one of my very favorite choreographers I found the movements in this piece to be somewhat slapstick and jarring. However, Christine Rocas as the Siren who lures The Son, Alberto Valazquez was a petite delight, moving sinuously and majestically through the piece. And the final moment when the Prodigal son returns broken and crawling to his father masterfully played by Ashley Wheater, and crawls/climbs up his father’s legs and into his arms to be carried offstage is a satisfying heart wrenching finale. 

“Lilac Garden" is completely and refreshingly different and is set in the Edwardian period where two lovers are forced to have their last dance before retiring into the loveless marriages arranged for them by society. The characters, simply called Caroline, Her Lover and The Man She Must Marry are all subtly, beautifully and delicately danced by Victoria Jaiani, Dylan Guitierrez and Miguel Blanco.

Raku, which means “pleasure” in Japanese, is the stunner of the evening. Based on the tragic tale of a Princess who is stalked by an evil Monk who rapes her, kills her lover and sets fire to the temple she lives in, is a devastating ballet full of acrobatics and sword play that really moves the audience with well-played melodrama. 

Victoria Jaiani as the Princess has a real tour de force performance here and does something I have never seen before in a classical ballet program. After the horrifying rape scene, after her servants/ guards have been beaten and dispersed and her temple is burning to the ground, the Japanese Princess takes down her long flowing hair. 

The Princess has had everything taken from her, her lover, her guards, her virginity, and her home are all destroyed by the evil Monk. Finally, Jaiani’s tightly wrapped bun of hair is pulled out to reveal her waist length, shining black hair.

As Jaiani crawled, shaking with rage and despair across the stage, half on pointe and half on her knees, she pulled her long, beautiful black hair out and away from her face with her hands like a lions mane and scooped up the ashes of her burning temple to pour them over her head and face in a final dramatic gesture of complete destruction and loss of sanity. 

I highly recommend seeing an ever dynamic and always richly staged Joffrey Ballet production. Swan Lake begins October 15th

*photo - Lilac Garden: #362 (Victoria Jaiani) 

Sunday, 14 September 2014 19:00

Lookingglass' Death Tax Raises Good Questions

Death Tax by playwright Lucas Hnath is about a wealthy 70-something woman who believes that her daughter is paying off her nurse to kill her before the New Year's death tax kicks in thereby reducing her inheritance significantly. When the play opens, Maxine, played ferociously if not sympathetically by Tony Award winner, Deanna Dunnagan states a truism that I found touching, about the fact that people who have money late in life are "preserved" while those that do not have money are not "preserved."

Dunnagan is absolutely riveting, and beautiful to look at. Even her hand gestures resemble those of a ballerina, very sparing and graceful.

I had hoped that the play would demonstrate more of the very real danger to senior citizens who find themselves deteriorating physically and mentally due to subpar care because of their financial situations, as this happens every day in this country and indeed many elder citizen's deaths are hastened for financial reasons. Unfortunately, Maxine's delusions and combative personality which are common in patients with dementia are treated as the main problem instead of the system of health care in this country that often pits patients and family against the nursing home or hospital in a race to save money or make money off the dying person.

There are several great, rapid fire speeches in the play for all four actors, and Louise Lamson as her hapless estranged daughter, and J. Nicole Brooks, as the nurse Maxine attempts to bribe into her loyalty do a great job delivering them in a way that makes the audience constantly ask themselves, "What would I do in that situation?'”

Hnath is a popular young writer at the moment with two plays in production at once, but in this play he misses the mark when he chooses to make Maxine the villain of the piece. However, there is not enough warmth either in the characters or the staging that cause you to really care much what happens to each character. Instead we are asked to believe that a nurse and her supervisor would easily accept large bribes from an obviously paranoid and overmedicated patient without thinking they would be caught. 

Overall this was still a compelling, quickly moving piece of theatre that raises many important questions about how aging Americans are placed at the mercy of their relatives and caregivers at the very time they need support the most.

Death Tax is playing at Lookingglass Theatre through October 12th. You can find out more about tickets and other dhow information at www.lookingglasstheatre.org.  

Saturday, 23 August 2014 19:00

A Great Way to Spend a Night "On the Town"

"On the Town" with music by Leonard Bernstein; book and lyrics by Tony-winning writing partners Betty Comden and Adolph Green is about to be staged on Broadway but the Marriott Lincolnshire has beat Broadway to the punch with this thoroughly entertaining and beautifully staged rendition which has never before been staged in Chicago.

Three young sailors arrive in New York City with just one night, 24 hours to have fun and find love hopefully in the arms of one young lady named "Miss Turnstiles" for the month of June. "On the Town" really captures the frantic energy of youth and love, when every hour of your life, indeed every minute counts desperately to you as life calls you to return to work, or other duties forcing you to leave your hopes and dreams behind. 

The two young leads, Max Clayton & Alison Jantzie are both very, very talented young dancers and singers.  Alison Jantzie is lovely and is absolutely delightful in her role as "Miss Turnstiles" a struggling actress who is bullied into burlesque dancing as a way to stay afloat in the big city.

Marya Grandy and Johanna McKenzie Miller were perfectly cast as the other two female leads. Grandy and Miller are both mature actresses with great voices and superb comic timing which held the whole show together and gave it real belly laughs and heart as well.

Alex Sanchez’s choreography and director David H. Bell use the intimate space at Marriott Theatre to their full advantage filling the stage with 22 dancers and some of the most exciting and even classically erotic ballet and modern dance numbers I have seen in a long time. 

Nancy Missimi’s period costumes are so much fun to watch on the dancers. I absolutely love this period of fashion especially for the women Thomas M. Ryan’s brightly light New York City  set caught my eye even before I entered the theatre and utilizes a turntable effect to show cabs driving through the city and other action in a fun and exciting way visually.

I highly recommend seeing "On the Town" while it is here in Chicago. "On the Town” is a funny, and romantic way to end the summer and remind yourself that life goes by fast, you have to get out "On the Town" once in a while to really celebrate it!

“On the Town” is playing at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through October 12th. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

We look forward to the TBS Just for Laughs Festival every year to get a week long dose of great comedy from dynamite Chicago locals and some of the best headliners in the business.

So when it was cancelled this year, we figured it might be nice to catch the one group of TBS comics on tour from the critically bashed TV show Sullivan and Son, where the whole gang was performing at Improv in Schaumburg. Atwww.BuzzNews.netwe are always hoping to show our support and possibly feature individual comics who might be talented but underutilized on their current project. 

Unfortunately, it was a huge waste of a night.  The entire set was nearly identical to last year’s Park West set at The TBS Festival. Right down to the closing "skit" where a female audience member gets a lap dance from the comics and some hapless audience members. Come on guys, how many huge and potentially comedic topical events have occurred in the last year? Yet, not one of you had written anything new, not one.

The normally smooth, funny and pleasant Steve Byrne had some awful aggressive rant in his material about his wife. Roy Woody Jr. went on and on about getting a "blowjob from a woman in a Walgreens' parking lot" until even his fellow cast members onstage were telling him to move on. Ahmed Ahmed gave his little bit of covert sexism to the night by apparently stealing one of John Leguizamo's funny transvestite voices AGAIN to portray women in his life who refuse to pick up the check.

Owen Benjamin, whom I can only describe as the "Master of Mediocrity" was so completely forgettable and bland that I couldn't roll my eyes hard enough to express the "blech" feeling his tired routine was causing. Benjamin proudly calls his vanilla brand of comedy "broad". Bill Cosby was broad, the late great Robin Williams was "broad", and unfortunately Owen Benjamin's comedy is just plain "shallow".

I feel sorry for the actually talented women on the TV show, including wonderful, adorable Christine Ebersole, Vivian Bang and tartly funny Jodi Long. 

If you are one of the few beer guzzling, simple minded fans of this show, which tries but fails miserably to recapture ANY of the warmth and edginess of 'Cheers" and "All in the Family",  I still recommend that you not take the time or spend the money to see these guys live.

I was eager to see the show but felt really bad as I settled into my seat for the opening night of GODSPELL at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Pain was shooting through my legs, and my mind was overwhelmed after yet another day of wrangling with difficult business decisions. But by the time I left the theatre I genuinely felt uplifted and renewed by the youthful and fresh energy and the heartfelt message of hope in Jesus that poured out of this production.

The cast could have, and maybe should have, been cast older; except for two token adults most of the cast seemed straight out of high school or college. Their voices were fantastic in the way singers on American Idol are, but as soon as they formed the Tower of Babel as 9 to 5 city workers dressed in black and grey, I thought what do these kids know about how hard the workplace is?  Later during the heavier scenes regarding Jesus’ scourging and crucifixion I thought, what do these kids know about loss? Though one thing this young cast did have was talent – and plenty of it.

Brian Bohr played the role of Jesus.  I was at first shocked and taken aback by a Jesus who resembled a 22 year old, baby-faced, California surfer kid wearing a sky blue preppy polo shirt. But Bohr’s rich, smooth voice and determined lightheartedness eventually won me over. Although I was surprised by Bohr's youthful appearance and super clean cut costume and looks, I grew to enjoy his interpretation of the role because it reflected on just how very strong and happy Jesus must have been during his early ministry before he was attacked and weighed down with betrayal.

Samantha Pauly had the most dynamic voice of the women and did a great job with the humor and tone of “Turn Back O Man”. At the same time, Devin DeSantis who had more of the hippy, wildman look I would have expected from Jesus, also had a great rich voice and made a very sympathetic Judas. The numbers were exciting and colorful, especially “O Bless the Lord My Soul” where golden hula hoops were incorporated into the dance choreography and “Light of the World” that really had the audience toe tapping and nodding their heads to the beat.  

As always I thoroughly enjoyed the use of the intimate space at The Marriott Theatre and all of the colorful ways the entire theatre was decorated with multicolored plastic drinking cups sticking out of fence walls like a rainbow. I noticed that most of the audience seemed to feel the same way, as more people were laughing and chatting after the show rather than stretching and yawning on a weeknight and rushing to get home.

Overall this is a great production that is perfectly suited for everyone. Even the crucifixion scene was exceptionally light and non-violent as Jesus is tied up and crucified with blue and white silks suspended from the ceiling.  I especially recommend this as a children’s theatre production for parents who want to take their children to an adult theatre piece with a great message about Jesus and the Gospel of John and Luke that will be very clean and cheerful all the way through.

GODSPELL is playing at The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire though August 10th. For tickets and/or more information, visit www.marriotttheatre.com

If you have any fondness for tales of the golden era of Hollywood, and in particular the work of  the beloved movie star comedian, Jack Lemmon, you will thoroughly enjoy this moving and entertaining one man show starring Jack’s son, Chris Lemmon.

Writer and director, Hershey Felder had a similar solid hit  last year with "The Pianist of Willesden Lane” in which a daughter tells the story of her mother surviving the Holocaust.  Jack Lemmon Returns script was originally based on a memoir by Chris Lemmon titled, A Twist of Lemmon. Felder took the book, added some wonderful music and had Chris do the entire piece, not as himself- but as Jack, which makes this piece especially unique and enjoyable. All of the monologues flow beautifully into each other along with the music and never before seen photographs projected above the stage to create a touching, and funny progression that is very polished and theatrically satisfying.

There is no hash slinging ala “Mommie Dearest”, but Chris acknowledges Jack’s two decade long struggle with alcohol addiction. A telling moment about Jack’s narcissism is when “Jack” describes the thrill of winning his first Oscar for Mister Roberts and realizing after a few hours of celebration that he had literally left his wife behind, sitting all alone in the auditorium, which signaled the end of his marriage to Chris’s mother and actress, Cynthia Stone.

Lemmon has wonderful stage presence, as himself and as his dad, Jack. I was unaware that both he and his father were such gifted pianists. Jack introduced Chris to music, who later earned a degree in classical piano and composition. Chris recalls how after his parents divorced, while he was only two, Jack would make time to visit him almost everyday at his beach side home to play piano together. Chris says that although his new stepmother did not really welcome his presence, Jack was still  “a little bit in love with his mother” and he remained his father’s beloved “hotshot” son without interruption.

The one piece of video in the show was of French Actor/Director and Mime Jean-Louis Barrault's performance in the silent film Children of Paradise, which Jack Lemmon studied intensively. It shows how ahead of his time Jean-Louis Barrault’s expressive hand gestures were - like a series of poetically powerful  hand mudras, which were able to make people laugh and cry at the same time.

Lemmon Returns

Chris does an amazing job of recreating young Jack’s many complicated trademark mannerisms, comical stuttering and gracefully manic hand gestures. He also does some fantastic impersonations of the friends in Jack’s start studded life like James Cagney, Billy Wilder, Jerry Lewis, Gregory Peck and even Marilyn Monroe.

Chris Lemmon grew up near Marilyn Monroe and relates a great story of how he snuck into her yard once while she was surrounded by secret servicemen during a tryst with JFK.  The armed men tried to remove him but Marilyn stopped them and said “No! That’s Jack Lemmon’s son! “

The ninety minutes flowed so quickly and intensely that I wanted it to go on longer and pack in even more star recollections. Chris said afterwards that he and Felder had a rough time cutting the piece down to this exact running time especially when it came to cutting a section about Jack’s great friendship with actress Shirley Maclaine. He further explained that an intermission or even three extra minutes could stop the pace of this one man show in its tracks.

There is a real market for this special piece. After the show I felt like I had experienced a visit with real Hollywood royalty in both Jack and Chris and wanted to see Jack Lemmon’s movies again, and read Chris Lemmon’s biography with this new perspective.

At 59 Chris Lemmon is the perfect age to play his father as a young man and into old age when Jack died of cancer at the age of 76.

 Chris’s stage version of his beloved father is more than an impersonation. Because of Chris’s skill and because Chris Lemmon is “blood”, his remarkable performance borders on actually “channeling” his late father’s huge spirit.  It is truly exciting and haunting to watch. At times I felt I was actually witnessing Jack Lemmon joyfully “stepping into” his son’s face and body.  After congratulating Chris and meeting his lovely wife and daughters at the end of the night, we hugged goodbye and I told him how much I loved his dad. I could have sworn I saw Jack Lemmon himself with his broad smile winking at me over Chris’s shoulder.

Hershey Felder said after the show that they brought “ Jack Lemmon Returns” to Chicago first because of all the cities in the U.S., Chicago is the only city that truly welcomes new theatre and longs for it’s success, instead of sitting arms crossed in judgment.

Do not miss your chance to see this remarkable and beautifully written and directed piece of theatre while it is running here at The Royal George Theatre, which is being performed through June 8th. Visit http://www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com/ for more info.

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Foxfinder is vaguely relevant

03 October 2017 in Theatre in Review

The most depressing thing about the Foxfinder’s premise of “near future” is that it looks remarkably like somewhat distant past,…

Suzanne Puckett; Poetry at its finest

03 October 2017 in BCS Spotlight

You tore him down! Discredited his name ~ Made him lie, cry and beg ~ Hold his head in shame …

 

 

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