Theatre

Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to announce its 2018 season, kicking off this spring with a revival of its 2013 hit L’IMITATION OF LIFE, a dead on parody of the 1959 film Imitation of Life about race, mothers and daughters – and looking fabulous! Adapted by Ricky Graham and Running with Scissors and directed by ensemble member Stevie Love, ensemble member Ed Jones and Robert Williams reprise their roles as Lana Turner and Annie Johnson.
 
This summer, Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia return for THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 2. Following last year’s sold-out, seven-month run, Handbag’s parody of the beloved TV sitcom is back with all new adventures written by Artistic Director David Cerda and directed by Becca Holloway. THE GOLDEN GIRLS will feature Chazie Bly, David Cerda, Adrian Hadlock, Ed Jones, Michael S. Miller and Grant Drager.
 
This fall, Handbag’s 16th season continues with Charles Ludlam’s comedic throwback to the age of film noir: THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE, directed by Shade Murray. The cast includes ensemble members David Cerda, Sydney Genco, Ed Jones and David Lipschutz 
 
For Halloween, Handbag conjures up a special treat: THE GOLDEN GIRLS: Bea Afraid! Our heroines return for seven spooky performances guaranteed to scare you out of your housecoat. 
 
The season will conclude with a soon-to-be-announced holiday production! 
 
Handbag’s 2018 Season will be staged at Mary’s Attic (5400 N. Clark St., Chicago) and Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago). Season subscriptions and single tickets will be available shortly at www.handbagproductions.org.
 
Hell in a Handbag Productions’ 2018 Season includes:
 
March 31 – May 6, 2018
L’IMITATION OF LIFE
By Ricky Graham and Running with Scissors
Directed by Stevie Love
Featuring ensemble member Ed Jones (Lana Turner) with Robert Williams (Annie Johnson). Additional casting to be announced.
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
In this hilarious parody of the1959 film Imitation of Life, Lana Turner is determined white widow and single mother with aspirations of becoming a Broadway sensation. When Lana meets Annie Johnson, a struggling single African-American mother, the two team up and take on the world as Lana does “whatever it takes” to make it in show business – while Annie takes care of the homestead and raises both daughters.
 
The two women face insurmountable challenges led by their daughters. There's the blonde, perky and “so white it's frightening" Suzie, daughter of Lana Turner, and the raven-haired rebellious light-skinned beauty, Sara Jane, daughter of Annie. Sara Jane learns the hard truth about acceptance and the color of your skin- especially when she tries to “pass” as white. 
 
June 19 – September 7, 2018
THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 2
By David Cerda
Directed by Becca Holloway
Featuring ensemble members Chazie Bly (Ensemble), David Cerda (Dorothy), Adrian Hadlock (Sophia), Ed Jones (Rose), Michael S. Miller (Ensemble) and Grant Drager (Blanche).
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago
 
When Handbag opened THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES in June 2017, it was supposed to be short summer treat for Handbag audiences but quickly turned into a sold-out, seven month run! Now, these lovely women from the classic TV sitcom return with new stories of friendship, love and cheesecake – all with the Handbag twist audiences have come to love!
 
September 20 – October 28, 2018
THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE
By Charles Ludlam
Directed by Shade Murray
Featuring ensemble members David Cerda (Mother Nurdiger), Sydney Genco (Roxanna), Ed Jones (Chester Nurdiger) and David Lipschutz (Zachary Slade). Additional casting to be announced.
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE is Charles Ludlam’s last play and a perfect vehicle for Hell in a Handbag! Chester Nurdiger is a mild-mannered fellow who lives in the back of the pet shop he runs with his sultry wife Roxanna and his overly protective mother. Roxanna is bored to death, but when a handsome drifter walks into their lives, things get interesting… perhaps even deadly?! Part Double Indemnity, part The Postman Always Rings Twice, THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE is throwback to the classic age of film noir by the master and founder of the Ridiculous Theater movement. 
 
October 6, 2018 – November 3, 2018
The GOLDEN GIRLS: Bea Afraid – The Halloween Edition
By David Cerda
Directed by Becca Holloway
Featuring ensemble members Chazie Bly (Ensemble), David Cerda (Dorothy), Adrian Hadlock (Sophia), Ed Jones (Rose), Michael S. Miller (Ensemble) and Grant Drager (Blanche).
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
It’s not Halloween without a Handbag show, so Artistic Director David Cerda is conjuring up a special edition of its hit TV sitcom parody. Better get your tickets early – Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia are only back for seven wig-raising performances. Bea afraid, Bea very afraid!
 
About Hell in a Handbag Productions
 
Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Artists from the bands Postmodern Jukebox, tUnE-yArDs and Diane Coffee join Broadway and West End talent for Lyric Opera’s North American premiere of Timothy Sheader’s explosive Olivier Award-winning production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, presented from April 27 to May 20, 2018 at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago (press opening April 28).
 
The Lyric cast includes: Broadway artist Heath Saunders (Jesus); three-time GRAMMY Award-nominated soul singer Ryan Shaw (Judas); tUnE-yArDs tour vocalist Jo Lampert (Mary Magdalene); Broadway and Postmodern Jukebox crooners Michael Cunio (Pilate) and Mykal Kilgore (Simon Zealotes); Diane Coffee frontman Shaun Fleming (Herod); Chicago-based Broadway artist Joseph Anthony Byrd (Annas); West End favorite Cavin Cornwall (Caiaphas); and Chicago-based artist Andrew Mueller (Peter).
 
To guarantee a front row rock concert experience, Lyric will offer orchestra pit seating—the closest possible position to the stage—for the first time in the company's Broadway musical history. This new, up-front seating goes on sale today for students through Lyric’s NEXT discount ticket program, and will be made available to the general public at a later date.
 
Single tickets for Jesus Christ Superstar start at $44 and are on sale now at jcsuperstar.org, in person at the Lyric Opera House box office, or by calling 312-827-5600.
 
Three-time Olivier Award winner Timothy Sheader directs the North American premiere of his acclaimed 2016 production from Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre. Sheader will be joined in Chicago by the original creative team, including music director Tom Deering, Olivier Award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie, Tony Award-nominated set & costume designer Tom Scutt, and Olivier Award-nominated lighting designer Lee Curran. The Chicago production will feature members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
 
Jesus Christ Superstar is an iconic rock opera that reinvented musical theater for the modern age. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, this global blockbuster tells the story of the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ, from the perspective of Judas Iscariot. As Christ’s followers grow more fervent, Judas must make his fateful choice between faith and betrayal. Filled with an exciting mix of musical styles that draw upon 1970s rock, gospel, folk and funk themes, this contemporary imagining of the biblical tale features high-energy dance and powerful storytelling.

To learn more about Lyric’s current season, go to lyricopera.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

First Floor Theater is pleased to continue their sixth season with the Chicago premiere of Nathan Alan Davis’s poetic and poignant drama, DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA, directed by Chika Ike. DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA will play March 4 – 31, 2018 at The Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently on sale at firstfloortheater.com. The press opening is Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 pm.
 
The cast includes First Floor company member Shariba Rivers, with Brianna Buckley, Jerome Beck, Kayla Raelle Holder, Brian Nelson Jr., Destiny Strothers and Jalen Gilbert as Dontrell.
 
Eighteen-year-old Dontrell Jones the Third decides it is his duty and destiny to venture into the Atlantic Ocean in search of an ancestor lost during the Middle Passage, but his family isn’t ready to abandon its prized son to the waters of a mysterious and haunting past.

Blending poetry, humor, wordplay and ritual, DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA is a modern-day hero’s quest exploring the lengths and depths we must go to redeem history’s wrongs. The play has been called “a mesmerizing blend of magical realism and poetic social comment” by The Los Angeles Times and “the most important play on DC stages” by The DC Theatre Scene.
The production team for DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA includes Eleanor Kahn (scenic design), Uriel Gomez (costume design), Rachel Levy (lighting design), Sarah D. Espinoza (sound design), Samantha Myers (props design), Breon Arzell (choreography), Bobby Huggins (technical director), Cole von Glahn (production manager) and Kayla Menz (stage manager).

PRODUCTION DETAILS:

Title: DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA
Playwright: Nathan Alan Davis
Director: Chika Ike
Cast: First Floor company member Shariba Rivers, with Brianna Buckley, Jerome Beck, Kayla Raelle Holder, Brian Nelson Jr., Destiny Strothers and Jalen Gilbert as Dontrell.
 
Location: The Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Sunday, March 4 at 3 pm and Tuesday, March 6 at 7:30 pm
Press Performance: Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 pm
Regular Run: Thursday, March 8 – Saturday, March 31, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm.
Tickets: Previews: Pay What You Can. Regular Run: $10-$20. Tickets are on sale now at firstfloortheater.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Sideshow Theatre Company is pleased to launch its eleventh season with the Chicago premiere of Mia Chung’s absurdly inventive smash-hit YOU FOR ME FOR YOU, directed by ensemble member Elly Green*, playing March 4 – April 8, 2018 at Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Casting will be announced shortly. Tickets are currently available at www.victorygardens.org, by calling (773) 871-3000 or in person at the Victory Gardens Box Office. The press opening is Thursday, March 8 at 8 pm.
 
YOU FOR ME FOR YOU features Sideshow ensemble member Katy Carolina Collins* with Patrick Agada, Gordon Chow, Helen Joo Lee, John Lu and Jin Park.
 
Two North Korean sisters plan an elaborate escape from the “Best Nation in the World,” only to be separated at the border. Now in two strange and separate worlds filled with outrageous characters, they must navigate barriers of language and bureaucracy, reckon with the ways that culture and country can shape us, and discover that survival requires sacrifice. Playwright Mia Chung weaves myth and striking imagery into a deeply affecting and surprisingly funny adventure, portraying the endless lengths to which two sisters will go to find one another again.
 
Artistic Director Jonathan L. Green comments, “Mia's play is one we've been chasing for a few years. You for Me for You is fast-moving, funny and daring; in the hands of Sideshow's Elly Green, it's going to be a tour de force.”
 
The production team for YOU FOR ME FOR YOU includes: William Boles* (scenic design), Izumi Inaba (costume design), Cat Wilson (lighting design), Christopher M. LaPorte* (sound design), Jessica Mondres (properties design), Ben Chang (dramaturg), Chad Hain (technical director), Ellen Willett* (production manager) and Jean E. Compton (stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: YOU FOR ME FOR YOU
Playwright: Mia Chung
Director: ensemble member Elly Green*
Cast (in alphabetical order): Patrick Agada (Man from the South), Gordon Chow (Doctor, Well, Rice Musician), Katy Carolina Collins* (Liz), Helen Joo Lee (Minhee), John Lu (Smuggler, Frog, Yongsup) and Jin Park (Junhee)
 
Location: Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Sunday, March 4 at 2:30 pm and Wednesday, March 7 at 8 pm
Press Performance: Thursday, March 8 at 8 pm
Regular run: Friday, March 9 – Sunday, April 8, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm
Tickets: Previews: Pay-what-you-can (online or at the door). Regular run: $20 – $30.  Students/seniors/industry: $15 for all performances (excluding opening). Tickets go on sale Monday, January 22, 2018 at www.victorygardens.org, by calling (773) 871-3000 or in person at the Victory Gardens Box Office.
 
*Denotes Sideshow Company Member.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The Gift Theatre is pleased to launch its 17th season with the world premiere of Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour’s haunting and often-humorous drama HANG MAN, directed by Jess McLeod, playing March 2 – April 29, 2018 at 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Single tickets and season subscriptions are currently available by calling the Gift’s box office at 773-283-7071 or visiting thegifttheatre.org. The press opening is Thursday, March 8 at 7:30 pm.

HANG MAN will feature ensemble members Paul D’Addario, Gregory Fenner and Martel Manning with Andy Fleischer, Jennifer Glasse, Mariah Sydnei Gordon andMariah Sydnei Gordon.
 
The community of a backwoods Southern town grapples with the murder of a black man who is found hanging in a tree. As events unfold, the hanging mystifies the people of the community, forcing them to confront their complicity in this man’s horrific demise. Osei-Kuffour’s darkly comical, heartbreaking play, which recently made the prestigious 2017 Kilroy’s List, uses absurdity to explore racism, sexuality and the parts of American history we would all like to forget.
 
Comments Artistic Director Michael Patrick Thornton, "The Gift is honored to produce the world premiere of HANG MAN. Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour's voice is singular, bold, incisive and humorous. The moment we finished her play, we were shook, terrified, and knew we had to embrace it. HANG MAN demands to be experienced right now; experiencing it in the intimacy of The Gift will simply be unforgettable." 
 
The production team for HANG MAN includes: Arnel Sancianco (scenic design), Alarie Hammock (costume design), Mike Durst (lighting design), Stephen Ptacek (sound design), John Nichols III (props design), Rachel Flesher (violence/intimacy design) and Cori James (stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
Title: HANG MAN
Playwright: Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour
Directed by: Jess McLeod
Cast (in alphabetical order): Paul D’Addario (Archie), Gregory Fenner (Darnell), Andy Fleischer (Wipp), Jennifer Glasse (Sage), Mariah Sydnei Gordon (G), Martel Manning (Jahaad) and Angela Morris (Margarie).
 
Location: The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Friday, March 2 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, March 3 at 7:30 pm, Sunday, March 4 at 2:30 pm and Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 pm
Press openings: Thursday, March 8 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Friday, March 9 – Sunday, April 29, 2018
Curtain Times: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 3:30 pm & 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm. Please note: there will not be a 3:30 pm performance on Saturday, March 10.
Tickets: $30 – $40. Single and season subscriptions are currently available by calling the Gift’s box office at 773-283-7071 or visiting thegifttheatre.org

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Broken Nose Theatre is pleased to launch its 2018 Season with the world premiere of resident playwright Michael Allen Harris’ kitchen sink comedy KINGDOM, directed by Kanome Jones. The new play about an all-LGBTQ African American family in Orlando will play March 2 – 31, 2018 at BNT’s new resident home, The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Tickets for KINGDOM go on sale Monday, January 29, 2018 at brokennosetheatre.com. Tickets for all Broken Nose Theatre productions are available on a “pay-what-you-can” basis, allowing patrons to set their own price and ensuring theatre remains economically accessible for all audiences. The press opening is Monday, March 5 at 7:30 pm.
 
KINGDOM features BNT company member Johnard Washington* and artistic associates Watson Swift+ and RjW Mays+ with Byron Coolie and Christopher K. McMorris.
 
When the state of Florida legalizes same sex marriage, Arthur and Henry (his partner of fifty years) come to terms with their differing opinions on the necessity of becoming husbands, even as their son Alexander finds himself wading through some rough new waters of his own. KINGDOM is the story of an entirely-LGBTQ African American family that lives in the near-literal shadow of Orlando’s magical kingdom, as they struggle to create a life together that captures a little bit of that same magic.
 
“We’ve been in love with this script for two years, and could not think of a better way to kick off our sixth season than a homegrown world premiere by one of our resident playwrights,” says BNT Founding Artistic Director Benjamin Brownson*. “Michael’s voice is Tenessee Williams meets August Wilson with a dash of Dan Savage for good measure. He has written a new kind of family dramedy that is lyrical, queer, fresh, timely, resonant and hilarious. We can’t wait to share it with Chicago.”
 
KINGDOM was developed in conjunction with The Paper Trail, BNT’s new play development program.
 
The production team for KINGDOM includes: Caswell James (scenic design, technical director), Marci Rodriguez (costume design), Michael Joseph (lighting design), Grover Hollway (sound design) Devon Green+ (props design), Rylee Freeman (hair and make-up design), Chloe Baldwin (fight director), Elizabeth Gomez (master electrician), Rose Hamill* (production manager), and Echaka Agba* (assistant director).
 
* Denotes BNT company member
+ Denotes BNT artistic associate
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: KINGDOM
Playwright: resident playwright Michael Allen Harris
Director: Kanome Jones
Cast (in alphabetical order): Byron Coolie (Malik), RjW Mays+ (Phaedra), Christopher K. McMorris (Arthur), Watson Swift+ (Henry) and Johnard Washington* (Alexander).
 
Location: The Den Theatre (Upstairs Main Stage), 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Friday, March 2 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, March 3 at 7:30 pm
Opening: Sunday, March 4 at 3 pm
Press Opening: Monday, March 5 at 7:30 pm
Regular Run: Thursday, March 8 – Saturday, March 31, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm
Industry Night: Monday, March 12 at 7:30 pm
Understudy Night: Wednesday, March 21 at 7:30 pm
Tickets: Pay-what-you-can. Tickets go on sale Monday, January 29, 2018 at brokennosetheatre.com

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The Greenhouse Theater Center is pleased to announce the line-up for its 2018 SOLO PERFORMANCE LAB, featuring four world premiere solo works presented in two free programs: February 17 and March 3, 2018 in the Greenhouse Theatre Center’s Downstairs Mainstage, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Each presentation is followed by a short talkback with the artists. Reservations (free) can be made in advance at www.greenhousetheater.org.  
 
Curated by GTC Literary Manager Nick Thornton and GTC Artistic Associate Kate Cuellar, the SOLO PERFORMANCE LAB underscores the Greenhouse’s institutional commitment to creating solo works by offering local artists the space and support to develop new solo performance. This year, artists were encouraged to submit 30-minute plays proposals that focused on an unexamined facet of a historical event or illuminated the life of a little-known historical figure. SOLO PERFORMANCE LAB participants will receive institutional resources including space, dramaturgical support and production resources to develop these four innovative new solo performances.
 
“We could not be more thrilled with the artists that have been selected this year’s Solo Performance Lab,” comments Greenhouse Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. “By putting the varied identities and perspectives of these ensembles into conversation we hope to celebrate and underscore the necessity of telling our singular stories to reveal broader truths about the human condition.”
 
Program 1: Saturday, February 17 at 2:30 pm:
 
THE STRANGE PALE APE WITH THE PONYTAIL
Written and performed by Aurora Real de Asua
Directed by Mara Stern
 
How was it that one untrained secretary was able to communicate with a species overlooked by an entire scientific community? Much has been said about the brilliance behind Jane Goodall's work, but this new play seeks to illuminate an often overlooked factor of this extraordinary woman: her outrageously courageous compassion. Using a mixture of clowning, puppetry and animal work, THE STRANGE PALE APE WITH THE PONYTAIL takes you through the jungle and back to unearth the heart behind one of the 20th century's most influential scientists.
 
GRANDMA SCIENCE
Written and performed by Aidaa Peerzada
Directed by Am’Ber Montgomery
 
GRANDMA SCIENCE explores the life of the first African American medical illustrator Nadia Willette Page through the eyes of her granddaughter. The piece reflects on the psychological and familial impact of rising above prejudice through poetry and interview testimony.
 
Program 2: Saturday, March 3 at 2:30 pm:
 
MISS MAJOR CUSHMAN
Written by Erin Austin
Directed by Egla Kishta
Performed by Sarah Schol
 
She’s a wife, mother, actress and a failed union spy. Tonight, Pauline Cushman takes to the stage and tells her story. But how much of it is true is anyone’s guess.
 
SQUEAKY!
Written by Nora Leahy
Directed by Gus Menary
Performed by Angela Horn
 
Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme is notorious for her involvement with the Manson Family and her assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford, but before all of that she was a child performer who toured the country, performed at the White House, and appeared on The Lawrence Welk Show. In SQUEAKY!, we join Lynnette in her jail cell as she performs a variety show of her very own. A solo performance that is equal parts heartbreak, terror and glitter. 
 
The SOLO PERFORMANCE LAB is part of the Greenhouse's playwright-focused, professional development programming, which also includes The Trellis Residency Initiative, a professional development program for Chicago-area playwrights under 30, and the MC-10 Playwrights Ensemble, a collection of ten of the country’s most sought-after established and mid-career Chicago playwrights and theater-makers now in residence at the Greenhouse.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Sunday, 04 February 2018 19:31

Marriott's "Ragtime" Well Worth the Wait

Marriott Theatre’s Ragtime might just be one of the best adaptations to make its way through the Greater Chicago Area - ever. E.L. Dotorow wrote the novel in 1975, which has stormed theatre stages since 1996, snagging thirteen Tony Awards in 1996.

With lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty and a book by Terrence McNally, the highly-acclaimed musical follows three very dissimilar families beginning in 1906 New York. One family is a white, advantaged and wealthy, one consists of an immigrant Jewish father and his young daughter while the other is a young African-American couple following the birth of their new child. Throughout the story, the families become intertwined with each other as the story paints a vivid picture of privilege versus the struggles of those less fortunate. Ragtime is a moving story of hard times, prejudices and the will to survive by those who have been dealt a much tougher hand in life and also the understanding – and lack of understanding – that is had by those more prosperous. It is also the ultimate story of determination.

Beautifully directed by Nick Bowling, the story includes several colorful characters that really make a strong impact such as Tateh, the Jewish immigrant from Latvia, played impeccably with much intensity by Benjamin Magnusun. Tateh, a portrait artist, is inspired to succeed in America after watching the great Harry Houdini (Alexander Aguilar), another immigrant, make his rise to fame. Marriott Theatre veteran and actor/singer extraordinaire Nathanial Stampley once again rises to the challenge this time as Colehouse Walker Jr. the show’s champion and pioneer of “ragtime” piano-driven music. Katherine Thomas compliments Stampley well as Walker’s fiancé, Sarah, her role as powerful as any in the story that holds such a political relevance in today’s current state.

Ragtime was a long time coming for Marriott and this staging is well-worth the wait. Bowling decides to change the play’s ending, a decision for audience members to take home and ponder.

Chicago favorites Larry Adams and James Earl Jones II this time find themselves leading a highly gifted ensemble, adding even more punch to this influential musical. Brilliant performances run rampant in this production with riveting work from Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as Booker T. Washington and Kirsten Hodgens, known only as “Sarah’s Friend” in the program. Hodgens has show-stopping vocals that are certainly highlighted in this production.

With a running time of two hours and forty minutes, the production’s high engagement level from beginning to end without lull is testament to its quality. For those who have seen the musical before, just seeing it from another perspective, that of its in-the-round staging, is entertaining in itself. With spot on costume and set design, moving musical numbers and tremendous acting and vocal efforts, Marriott’s Ragtime should be in line for a Jeff Award nomination.

Highly recommended - a perfect piece of musical theatre.

Ragtime is being performed at Marriott Theatre through March 18th. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Friday, 09 February 2018 17:51

Review: Joffrey Ballet's "Modern Masters"

As the era of streaming entertainment and sweatpants-clad binge watching continues, you have to applaud those who attend the performing arts. It’s certainly not an easier medium to consume, but some would argue it’s much more rewarding. Unfortunately, ballet and opera are struggling to attract a millennial audience. 

The Joffrey Ballet, however, opened its Modern Masters to no lack of enthusiasm. The massive Auditorium Theater was packed with audiences of all ages. Modern Masters is a four-piece show featuring the works of four different choreographers including the popular George Balanchine. Modern Masters is presented as part of the Ashley Anniversary, celebrating Ashley Wheater’s 10th season as artistic director of the Joffrey. 

They begin with Balanchine’s ‘Four Temperaments’, a visual take on the ancient belief that the body is influenced by four humors. This piece is the most traditional and lengthy of the four. The costumes and staging are sparse. Music by Paul Hindemith is soft but stirring. 

After a brief intermission, they return with Myles Thatcher’s ‘Body of Your Dreams’. The energy picks up here. With colorful 80s-flavored workout inspired costumes, 'Body of Your Dreams' is a cheeky take on fitness. It's a little ironic for a stage full of perfectly sculpted dancers to slightly criticize the "perfect body" obsession. The steps are fun, and the music is catchy. 

Next is the world premiere of Nicolas Blanc's multi-part piece 'Beyond the Shore'. This one is more similar in style to Balanchine's. The staging is as sparse, but the choreography is visually stunning. Music by Mason Bates is intricate with a cinematic scope. Think John Williams. 

The final piece is the Chicago premiere of 'Glass Pieces' by legendary choreographer Jerome Robbins. This is the piece to come for. Ballet fans of Chicago have been waiting for this one. It's well worth the hype. The set and costumes are striking. Philip Glass' music really shines in this meticulously choreographed number. The dance begins chaotic and busy but comes full circle to inspire the movement of a busy city. Bright and thrilling, 'Glass Pieces' is the strongest of the four. 

Modern Masters is a perfect evening for those looking to touch their toe into the waters of modern dance. Tread without fear of boredom for this highly engrossing show. Joffrey has a great way of being accessible to all audiences despite familiarity with the art of dance. 

Through February 18th at Joffrey Ballet. 50 E Congress Parkway. 312-386-8905

 

Published in Dance in Review
Monday, 05 February 2018 12:09

Review: I Puritani at Lyric Opera of Chicago

There are fewer things in theatre more exciting the curtain going up on the first act of an opera. Often there’s no ceremony or pre-recorded note from management. The lights dim and the overture begins. How enchanting to take your first look at the sumptuous sets and costumes Lyric Opera has created for this production. Pilgrim-chic you might call it. Tradition and form make opera a unique theatrical experience. On a snowy Sunday afternoon, the curtain came up on Bellini’s ‘I Puritani’, signaling to its audience, get comfortable.

Eric Einhorn’s production of Bellini’s drama runs just under four hours with two intermissions. The first act is the longest at eighty minutes. ‘I Puritani’ concerns a Puritan hamlet in which a young princess Elvira (Albina Shagimuratova) chooses another suitor, Arturo, over the pre-arranged marriage to Riccardo (Anthony Clark Evans). Just before the wedding, Arturo obliges himself to save condemned Queen Enrichetta (Lauren Decker). While he’s smuggling her out of the country, word returns to Elvira that her fiancé has run off with another woman. She is devastated and the army pursues him.

Yeah, that’s the plot. Nearly four hours to convey that relatively simple story along with Bellini’s beautiful score. This is why opera is special, because for four hours, we really don’t care what the plot is. For centuries opera was performed without the super script translations, leaving the audience to presume based on summaries in their playbills. Projected translations are used sparingly in this production of ‘I Puritani’ – maybe because the plot is so uncomplicated, they’re not necessary. In any case, they’re certainly not missed and would likely be distracting. What should be paid attention to are these beautiful singers and the gorgeous orchestra.

A significant difference between musical theatre and opera is that the leads are not expected to be great actors. Voice is most important in these roles, especially in Bellini’s works. He believed that a beautiful voice is what stirs audience emotions. He’s not wrong. Though, Russian soprano Albina Shagimuratova is a good actress. She’s not heard until the second scene, but her performance is easily the most accessible aspect of this production. Her heartbreak is palpable in voice and gesture regardless of language. Act II is worth the entire afternoon.

As always, the costumes and sets are overwhelmingly beautiful. Haunting imagery is captured by the large cast numbers and soaring melodies. ‘I Puritani’ may lose the attention of its audience during the lengthy solos, but will quickly recapture focus when the whole ensemble fills the stage. Just as exciting as the curtain going up, is the curtain coming down. Opera enthusiasts scream “brava” and beg for more curtain calls, a truly opera-specific tradition. In opera, the energy of the experience sustains the art itself.

Through February 28 at Lyric Opera of Chicago. 20 N Wacker Drive. 312-827-5600

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Page 1 of 26

 

 

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