Theatre

If you like Vegas like I like Vegas, you will love Marriott Theatre’s energetic and top notch, romantic musical comedy production of "Honeymoon in Vegas"!

Jack Singer (Michael Mahler) is in love with his girlfriend of five years Betsy Nolan (played with terrific spunk and formidable singing chops by Samantha Pauly), but was traumatized by the deathbed wish his mother imposed on him never to marry, because no one can love him like she did.  Bea (Marya Grandy) plays his mother with great physical comedy skills and her hospital deathbed scene where she strikes down a passing nurse in order to show jack what she can do to his future brides to be, gets some of the biggest laughs in the show. 

Jack and Betsy get through this flashback scene and resulting panic attack while shopping at Tiffany's for her ring and head straight to Vegas to tie the knot - before he loses his nerve for the umpteenth time. 

Upon arriving in Vegas, Betsy is instantly spotted by Tommy Korman, a rich, handsome but slightly shady businessman played to perfection by Chicago born actor Sean Allan Krill. Betsy reminds Korman of his past wife and then he goes all out to steal her from tentative Singer. His pursuit really begins when he invites Singer to a “low stakes” poker game, letting him win a few hands – a total set up. Singer has a hand next to impossible to beat and the pot becomes so large there is no way he can pay up if he loses. That’s when the fun really begins. Sean Allen Krill was the standby in this role for Tony Danza on Broadway. Krill was just fantastic and I'm not the only critic in Chicago to say Sean Allen Krill should be a huge Broadway star right now. Krill is so smooth in the role of Tommy Korman, so fluid and graceful in his immediate desire for, and courtship of, Betsy that women and men throughout the theater were so wowed by Krill's amazing singing voice and comedic acting chops that they actually wished Betsy would stay with him in Hawaii and not marry the non-committal, bumbling, but kind, Jack Singer. 

Another character actress deserving of special notice is Christine Bunuan, as the funny and fabulous Hawaiian tour guide who helps Jack find Betsy and Korman (yes, the story moves to Hawaii), but not without first trying desperately to make “Friki-Friki with Jack before delivering him to his destination. 

While talented Alex Goodrich is very funny to watch in multiple roles, Steven Strafford also shows off his comedic talent as Korman's sidekick, Johnny Sandwich.  

Several of the leading creators of its 2015 Broadway production were brought in by the Marriott Theater including director Gary Griffin, choreographer Denis Jones, and costume designer Brian Hemesath. The effect of all these highly skilled players coming together is a full-service production that grabs you right from the start with well-paced scenes and challenging, yet humorous, dance numbers that dazzle the audience with beautiful, leggy showgirls - Vegas style. 

I highly recommend this adorably sexy and funny, Elvis-filled production for young and old alike. This production is so well-played and fun to watch that you will feel you have had a honeymoon in Vegas - with a stop-over in beautiful Hawaii to boot!  

Honeymoon in Vegas is being performed at Marriott Theatre through October 15th. For more show information visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Monday, 04 September 2017 21:02

The Queen of Soul Returns to Ravinia

After cancelling her performance earlier this season due to health concerns, the Queen of Soul, the great Aretha Franklin, tabbed as the greatest vocalist of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine, made her triumphant return to Ravinia. Dressed in a sparkling silver dress and donning a wig giving the seventy-five-year-old living legend long straight hair, the superstar made an immediate impact as she walked onto the stage after the band’s opening medley.

The soulful 1986 hit “I knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” was the first song the of many that Franklin delved into, her voice perhaps not as powerful as it once was, but every bit as finessed, unique and velvety. Franklin’s set was wide-ranging and included classics “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman” along with Stevie Wonder written “Until You Come Back to Me” and B.B. King’s “Don’t Play that Song (You Lied)”.

Accompanied by a twenty-five-piece-plus gifted ensemble that included everything from a horn section to dancers, Franklin’s sound was big, filling the outdoor venue with the sweet sound of nostalgia. The excitement never let up, Franklin often getting well-deserved standing ovations. After all, she is one of the most influential artists of our time.

About halfway into the concert, the fabulous singer went into a powerful medley that began with Adelle’s “Rolling in the Deep” merging into The Supremes’ “Ain’t no Mountain High Enough”. A highlight moment without question. At one point the crowd was moved when the band played a soulful jam while Aretha fervently sang over the music telling her story of a serious illness that had miraculously vanished, thanking a team of skilled physicians and above all, God. Afterward, she immediately introduced longtime friend Reverend Jesse Jackson, who was seated in the first few rows.

Franklin rolled on with a beautiful array of material, wrapping up her set with “Freeway of Love”, which segued into a ten-minute high-spirited gospel revival, praising Jesus as the King of Kings, practically every audience member on their feet clapping along, many hands in the air, as the stage became a platform for an impromptu and very enthusiastic Baptist church service.

After a brief absence from the stage, Aretha Franklin return to perform possibly her largest hit, “Respect” - just the right number to end a tremendous set of music on a picture-perfect night. At seventy-five-years-young, the Queen of Soul is still making fans sing and dance as much as she ever has.


Published in In Concert

The other night I went to Ravinia Festival. I am not afraid to admit that, after all my concert going years, it was my time going to the Ravinia venue located in Highland Park, Illinois. But there must be first time for everything and a double bill with Lifehouse and Switchfoot, two of my fave bands in the past, made it all the more enticing. Simply put, if you have never gone to Ravinia before, you need to go. It is just beautiful. Well-manicured lawns surrounding the pavilion area make an inviting temporary home for its large number of picnickers. And a friendly staff member is always nearby, ready to help, adding to the venue’s pleasant ambiance. The atmosphere is quick to relax its attendees from the moment they arrive. Picnickers can bring their own food and drink though there are a handful of food choices available on the Ravinia grounds making it easy to fill a hearty appetite before or during a concert. In short, I quickly discovered Ravinia is the perfect place to have a great family or date night. Its enchantment is only heightened by beautiful trees strategically placed throughout the grounds. Though easily accessible by car, a Metra stop is just right outside the gates, offering an even easier option of transportation for many and an easy escape route after the concert. But not to worry. Even for those that choose to drive, it's still easy to leave in a timely manner.

The night’s opening Act was Brynn Elliott, a senior college student from Boston. Ms. Elliott is a very energetic young lady whose soulful and jazzy voice is full of life. The young music artist sang eight catchy songs that got the attention of those sifting into the pavilion and having many thinking, “Have I heard that voice before?” Brynn interacted with the growing crowd well, many jumping around and dancing with her to her faster paced songs. As her set came to an end, Brynn couldn’t be more grateful to Lifehouse and Switchfoot for inviting her to open for them.

Switchfoot then hit the stage to a loud roar of cheers. The pavilion quickly filled, while no doubt a few slices of pizza were quickly scarfed down upon the band’s opening notes. Switchfoot appropriately opened their set with “Hello Hurricane” in the wake of the Harvey devastation, a stark reminder of those in need. Frontman Jon Foreman came out strong, his vocals rich, his energy at a high level matching his talent. Foreman commanded the stage, leading a band that also appeared to be in peak form. The years have been good to Switchfoot, an added maturity gracing each number played, each note struck, each address to the crowd made.  

Throughout the evening, the band, still fresh off their 2016 release Where the Light Shines Through, performed a variety of material sure to please Switchfoot fans from all eras, touching on albums from earlier in their career to current. As the set played on, Foreman walked around the pavilion, shaking hands and hugging people in the crowd, as he so often loves to get close and personal, a quality his fans don't mind one bit. He even shared a handful of interesting stories as to how and why some songs were written and the meaning behind them. Guitarist Drew Shirley was ripping through leads while Chad Butler kept a steady rhythm on drums along with bassist Tim Foreman, Jon’s brother. Jerome Fontamillas chimed in with guitar and keys to help create the band’s signature wall of sound that has so well defined the California quintet.

After seeing Switchfoot’s live show, it’s easy to believe the accomplished studio artists are happiest on stage where they can spend quality time with the fans who have supported them for so many years.

Lifehouse took the stage next. This surprised me, thinking Switchfoot would headline, but thus the double bill. Lead vocalist and guitarist Jason Wade reminded the crowd that, despite hailing from Los Angeles, they haven't toured the United States in seven years. Women in their late twenties and thirties began to flood into the pavilion, some screaming, as the band found its rhythm on stage. The band was not rusty, displaying a strong stage presence, their fans excited to see them after such a long drought.

Opening with the song “Hurricane” (obviously a theme here), the first of their fifteen-song night swiftly got their fans excited for what would be a truly rockin’ performance. The band played a good amount of material from their first two albums, songs from seventeen or so years ago, that made everyone feel a bit nostalgic, reminding us of an exciting time when a band is in its breakout stage. Fans sang along at the top of their lungs with the band’s heartfelt songs of heartache and hope. Seen around the stage were a handful of women crying and signing along with tears of emotion streaming down their faces, making the moment all the more unforgettable and powerful.

And now for the downer… Despite their powerful catalog of material and showmanship, the band truly lacked when it came to audience interaction. This was a bit disappointing. Song after song was played with little or no introductions in between and Wade did very little at all to connect with the crowd. It was almost as if they just wanted the night to end.

Switchfoot stole the night away and the reason is simple. They relate with the crowd and the crowd with them. They connect. It’s clear Foreman and company are having fun and hold a great appreciation for their fans. That’s what it’s all about, right? The venue was perfect, the staff amazing and, thanks to a fine sound system, the music performed sounded as if we were in a studio outside of the loud cheers. In all, it was a fine night of music and beautiful memories were created.

Switchfoot Setlist:

Hello Hurricane
Stars
Bull in a China Shop
Love Alone Is Worth the Fight
Your Love Is a Song
I Won't Let You Go
If the House Burns Down Tonight
Live It Well
The Sound (John M. Perkins' Blues)
Where I Belong
Meant to Live
Float
Only Hope
Dare You to Move

Lifehouse Setlist:

Hurricane
Halfway Gone
Sick Cycle Carousel
Nerve Damage
It Is What It Is
Pride (In the Name of Love)
Flight
Broken
Everything
Whatever It Takes
First Time
Spin
You and Me
Hanging by a Moment

 

 

Published in In Concert

The “Girls” are headed to Boystown! After an eleven-week sell-out run, including two extensions at Mary's Attic in Andersonville, Hell in a Handbag Production' campy world premiere THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES is transferring to Lakeview's Stage 773 for an additional six-weeks. The new condensed late-night edition will feature the best of the original run – plus new material. Written by David Cerda and directed by Shade Murray, the campy parody of one of TV's most beloved sitcoms will play Saturdays at 10:30 pm from October 7 – November 11, 2017, following performances of Handbag's upcoming world premiere of BEWILDERED, a musical parody of the classic TV sitcom Bewitched. Tickets for both productions are are currently available at www.stage773.com, www.handbagproductions.org, in person the Stage 773 box office (1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago) or by calling (773) 327-5252.  
 
Enjoy lost, never-before-seen episodes of The Golden Girls featuring Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, Sophia and all of the siblings, daughters, sons, characters and rare diseases that were mentioned once, but never again. The production also features The Golden Girls trivia and games to help fully embrace the Miami experience. 
 
The late-night edition will feature original cast members David Cerda as the forthright Dorothy, Ed Jones as the sweet airheaded Rose, AJ Wright as the lusty Blanche and Adrian Hadlock as the sharp tongued Sophia with Chazie Bly and Robert Williams. Plus, watch for special guest stars! 
 
In keeping with the Handbag tradition, THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES is an original parody of the beloved show. Our Golden Girls find themselves in situations never before seen on television – that’s why they’re lost episodes! See Dorothy battle nature as they serve as Den Mothers to a group of Sunshine Cadets. Watch them band together as Rose struggles with a debilitating malady that threatens to tear them apart. Plus, the Stage 773 version will feature a new episode featuring Blanche and a very hot and steamy encounter with a much younger man!
 
The production team for THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES includes: Roger Wykes (set design), Myron Elliot (costume design), Cat Wilson (lighting design), Sydney Genco (make-up design), Mealah Heidenreich and Rachel Summerfield (props design).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES
Playwright: David Cerda
Director: Shade Murray
Cast: David Cerda (Dorothy), Adrian Hadlock (Sophia), Ed Jones (Dorothy) and AJ Wright (Blanche) with Chazie Bly and Robert Williams.
 
Location: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
Dates: Saturday, October 7 – Saturday, October 11, 2017 
Curtain times: Saturdays at 10:30 pm Oct. 6 thru Nov. 11
Tickets: $22. Group rates $17 for 10 or more. Tickets are currently available at www.stage773.com or www.handbagproductions.org, in person at the Stage 773 box office or by calling (773) 327-5252.
 
The original run of THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPIDODES continues through September 16, 2017 at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. in Chicago. Tickets are www.handbagproductions.org or by calling (800) 838-3006.

 

Published in Upcoming Shows

Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to continue its 15th Anniversary Season with the world premiere of BEWILDERED, a musical parody of the classic TV sitcom Bewitched, told from the perspective of Gladys Kravitz, Samantha Stephens’ iconic nosy neighbor. Featuring a book by Ron Weaver, music and lyrics by Aaron Benham and Ron Weaver and direction and choreography by Brigitte Ditmars, BEWILDERED will play September 27 – November 11, 2017 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at www.handbagproductions.org and stage773.com, by calling (773) 327-5252 or in person at the Stage 773 box office. 
 
A parody and reimagining of the beloved ‘60s/‘70s television sitcom Bewitched, this spellbinding throwback is told from the point of view of Gladys Kravitz, the poor, misunderstood neighbor who keeps seeing crazy things at the home of Samantha Stephens, a beautiful witch, and her ‘ordinary family.’ Gladys’ husband Abner has had enough and is about to take drastic measures. Can Gladys prove her visions are real without destroying the Stephens family – or is she doomed to a life of pills and institutions? Gladys finally gets her due in this fun and magical musical parody.
 
BEWILDERED features ensemble members David Cerda as Endora, Caitlin Jackson as Gladys Kravitz, Ed Jones as Uncle Arthur, Michael S. Miller as Mr. Tumer and AJ Wright as Darrin G. The production also features Steve Kimbrough as Larry Tate, Matt Miles as Abner, Elizabeth Morgan as Samantha, Scott Sawa as Darrin S. and Robert Williams as Tabitha/Louise. Rounding out the cast are Kira Gaudynski, Jennifer Ledesma, Travis Monroe Neese and Sarah Taylor as Magic Stage Hands.
 
The production team for BEWILDERED includes: Roger Wykes (scenic design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), Cat Wilson (lighting design), Sydney Genco (make-up design), Mealah Heidenreich (props design) Becca Holloway (assistant director) and Keith Ryan (wig design). 
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: BEWILDERED
Book: Ron Weaver
Music and Lyrics: Aaron Benham and Ron Weaver
Director/Choreographer: Brigitte Ditmars
Cast: David Cerda (Endora), Kira Gaudynski (Magic Stage Hand), Caitlin Jackson (Gladys), Ed Jones (Uncle Arthur), Steve Kimbrough (Larry Tate), Jennifer Ledesma (Magic Stage Hand), Matt Miles (Abner), Michael S. Miller (Mr. Tumer), Elizabeth Morgan (Samantha), Travis Monroe Neese (Magic Stage Hand), Scott Sawa (Darrin S.), Sarah Taylor (Magic Stage Hand), Robert Williams (Tabitha/Louise) and AJ Wright (Darrin G.).
 
Location: Stage 773 (Box Theater), 1225 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Wednesday, September 27 at 7:30 pm, Thursday, September 28 at 7:30 pm, Friday, September 29 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, September 30 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Thursday, October 5 – Saturday, November 11, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Sunday, October 15 due to Handbag’s Annual Benefit.
Special Halloween Show: Tuesday, October 31 at 7:30 pm
Tickets: Previews $22 in advance ($25 at door). Regular run $34 in advance ($39 at door). Tickets are currently available at www.handbagproductions.org and stage773.com, by calling 773-327-5252, or in person at the Stage 773 box office. 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Other Theatre, in association with Chicago Dramatists’ Grafting Project, is pleased to launch its 4th season with the world premiere of Martín Zimmerman’s comedic graphic novel for the stage THE MAKING OF A MODERN FOLK HERO, directed by Kelly Howe, playing September 29 – October 29, 2017 at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave. in Chicago. Casting will be announced shortly. Single tickets and season subscriptions are currently available at theothertheatrecompany.com
 
THE MAKING OF A MODERN FOLK HERO will feature Aida Delaz, Adelina Feldman-Schultz, Robert N. Isaac, Christopher Meister, Becca Sheehan and Hannah Toriumi. 
 
A congressman entices an old friend (and washed-up actor) to portray a superhero in a publicity stunt designed to stop the unjust bulldozing of a public housing complex. They leave the crowd enthralled, but what happens when the character the politician created goes rogue? This graphic novel for the stage employs a seamless blend of live actors and shadow puppets to interrogate the hopes, fears and social forces that push people to yearn for and believe in the possibility of superheroes.
 
Comments Artistic Director Carin Silkaitis, “Martín’s play touches on some important ideas – particularly what happens when our politicians are too entrenched in the political ecosystem to be able to enact real change, even if their intentions are in the right place? I am so interested in the fact that the congressman must hire an actor to save this housing complex. He knows the right choice is siding with the disenfranchised, the poverty-stricken, but he is too embedded in the political mess to be able to vocally side with the very people he represents. After conversations with the playwright (and because of Donald Trump's campaign strategy) I am also struck by the way this play grapples with the idea of a person – one who has deep and intense psychological needs for admiration and adoration – hijacking a political movement.”
 
THE MAKING OF A MODERN FOLK HERO was developed in part through readings and workshops at Chicago Dramatists.
 
The production team for THE MAKING OF A MODERN FOLK HERO includes: Milo Bue (scenic design), Olivia Crary (costume design), Will Coeur (lighting design), Colin Trevor (sound design), Nick Thornton (puppet design & puppet choreography) and Kasey Trouba (stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: THE MAKING OF A MODERN FOLK HERO
Playwright: Martín Zimmerman
Director: Kelly Howe
Cast: Aida Delaz (Vanessa), Adelina Feldman-Schultz (Puppeteer), Robert N. Isaac (David), Christopher Meister (Renzo), Becca Sheehan (Puppeteer) and Hannah Toriumi (Woman).
 
Location: Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Friday, September 29 at 8 pm, Saturday, September 30 at 8 pm and Sunday, October 1 at 3 pm
Regular run: Friday, October 6 – Sunday, October 29, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm Please note: there will be added performances on Wednesday, October 18 at 8 pm and Wednesday, October 25 at 8 pm.
Tickets: Previews: $20 with code “PREVIEW.” Regular run: $25. Students $15 with code “STUDENT.” Industry $15 with code “INDUSTRY.” Single tickets and season subscriptions are currently available at theothertheatrecompany.com.

Chicago Dramatists Benefit Performances: The performances on Saturday, September 30 at 8 pm and Thursday, October 12 at 8 pm will benefit Chicago Dramatists. Tickets for these performances are available only through chicagodramatists.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Just in time to get you in the Halloween spirit, Akvavit Theatre is pleased to present GHOSTS & zombies, by Henrik Ibsen and Gustav Tegby, in a new American translation by Chad Eric Bergman*, directed by Co-Artistic Director Breahan Pautsch*. This dark and hilarious contemporary Swedish twist on Ibsen’s Norwegian classic Ghosts, will play September 28 - October 29, 2017 at the new Strawdog Theatre Company, 1802 W. Berenice in Chicago. Tickets go on sale Friday, September 1, 2017 at chicagonordic.org
 
GHOSTS & zombies will feature Marsha Harman as Mrs. Helene Alving, Victor Bayona as Chamberlain Alving, Jeremy Trager as Pastor Manders, Joshua K. Harris as Carpenter Engstrand, Micah Kronlokken* as Osvald and Almanya Narula as Regine with and ensemble including Jessica Kearney, Dylan M. Lainez, Madelyn Loehr*, Christiane Schaldemose, Erik Schiller and Tyler Skafgaard.
 
GHOSTS & zombies puts a blood-curdling spin on Ibsen's classic drama, Ghosts. As in the original, Mrs. Alving is preparing to open an orphanage in her husband's memory, while welcoming her son home from a long absence. However, things soon take a turn for the weird and scary as their country estate becomes overrun by the un-dead. Haunted by the ghosts of her past, Mrs. Alving now finds herself confronted by zombies that she is forced to stand and fight. GHOSTS & zombies shows us that we can try to bury the parts of our life we would rather forget, but we cannot control whether they walk again – slowly, hungrily – in our direction.
 
The production team for GHOSTS & zombies includes: Chad Eric Bergman* (set design), Rachel Sypniewski (costume design), David Goodman-Edberg (lighting design), Nigel Harsch* (sound designer), Leticha Guillaud (properties design), Kirstin Franklin* (casting director), Bethany Weise (asst. costume designer), R&D Choreography (violence design), Christiane Schaldemose (music direction), Chris Waldron (asst. director), Amy Hopkins (production manager), Harrison Ornelas (technical director), Hannah Harper-Smith (stage manager) and Katy Grabarski (asst. stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: GHOSTS & zombies 
Written by: Henrik Ibsen & Gustav Tenby
Translated by: Chad Eric Bergman
Directed by: Co-Artistic Director Breahan Pautsch*
Cast: Victor Bayona (Chamberlain Alving), Marsha Harman (Mrs. Helene Alving), Joshua K. Harris (Carpenter Engstrand), Jessica Kearney (Youth Ensemble, Zombie Mob), Micah Kronlokken* (Osvald), Dylan M. Lainez, (Youth Ensemble, Zombie Mob), Madelyn Loehr* (Youth Ensemble, Zombie Mob), Almanya Narula (Regine), Christiane Schaldemose (Youth Ensemble, Zombie Mob), Erik Schiller (Youth Ensemble, Zombie Mob), Tyler Skafgaard (Youth Ensemble, Zombie Mob) and Jeremy Trager (Pastor Manders).
 
Location: Strawdog Theatre Company,1802 W. Berenice, Chicago
Dates: Preview: Thursday, September 28 at 8 pm
Regular run: Saturday, September 30 – Sunday, October 29, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 4 pm. 
Tickets: Previews: $10. Regular Run: $25. Students/seniors/industry $15. Tickets go on sale Friday, September 1, 2017 available at chicagonordic.org.
 
*Denotes Akvavit Theatre company members.
 
Akvavit Theatre is also pleased to announce the addition of new company member Madelyn Loehr and associate company member Maggie Fullilove-Nugent.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Strawdog theatre begins its 2017-2018, 30th Anniversary Season with a Chicago Premiere of Barbecue by Robert O’Hara. Barbecue is performed at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre as a LookOut Visiting Company.

In Strawdog’s Barbecue, a spirited trailer trash family is having a summer barbecue with an ulterior motive in mind: they want one of theirs, Barbara, to get help for her drug and alcohol problems. The most reasonable of them came up with the perfect rehab solution and wants other siblings to chime in. Squabbling around, as they normally do, smoking, drinking and calling each other names, the siblings can’t quite agree on most things except that their sister is an embarrassment to the whole family and definitely needs an intervention. They try to be considerate too, especially since the rehab might give Barbara “freezer burn”.

Without giving away too much, let’s just say that midway through the first Act there’s an intriguing race switch. The switching back and forth between the two races adds a fascinating dimension to the story and infuses the play with another cultural language; and plus, it’s cool to watch.

When Barbara finally shows up at the barbecue, everyone’s ready, albeit with a taser to subdue her if necessary. Taking turns, they present their arguments (mostly made up stories) to their bound and gagged sister, while making interesting bets for the outcome.

Robert O’Hara has such a great way with words; his characters are hilarious and wacky, they’re a fun bunch that’s keeping it real and holds nothing back. Director Damon Kiely chose a marvelously talented cast for the play that includes Strawdog Ensemble Members John Henry Roberts and Kamille Dawkins with guest artists Kristin Collins, Celeste Cooper, Anita Deely, Barbara Figgins, Deanna Reed Foster, Abby Pierce, Terence Simms and Ginneh Thomas. Minimalist set (set designer Joanna Iwanicka, props designer Leah Hummel) is to the point and doesn’t detract from the action on stage.

Act One ends with an unexpected twist. After the intermission, there’re more twists, the order of things gets changed, and the characters are propelled to fame and fortune. Enter Hollywood, wised up Barbara, a black movie star, and the race switch now makes sense. Second act’s takeaway message: “Everything is bullshit”. After all, life is all but a stage.

Barbecue is highly recommended and is being performed through September 30th. For more show information visit www.strawdog.org.

Published in Theatre in Review

Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, presents the Chicago Premiere of The Legend of Georgia McBride, written by Matthew Lopez, directed by Lauren Shouse. The Legend of Georgia McBride runs September 14-October 22 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie. 

A down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator has an overdrawn checking account and a baby on the way. When a drag show takes over the entertainment at the Florida Panhandle bar where he performs, he’ll also be out of a job…unless he’s willing to step into some high heels. This heartwarming, music-filled comedy celebrates the unexpected path to finding your true voice.
 
“When Lauren Shouse brought The Legend of Georgia McBride to my attention, I could immediately see that it was fun, uplifting, musical, and written by one of our favorite authors, Matthew Lopez, who also wrote The Whipping Man,” comments BJ Jones. “It's a piece about outsiders who gradually bring us into their family—a family who celebrates our identities, our freedom, our uniqueness and our commonality. And this central notion is the vital message we need to hear right now in an atmosphere of dissonance, intolerance and hate.”
 
The cast of The Legend of Georgia McBride includes Sean Blake (Miss Tracy Mills), Keith Kupferer (Eddie), Jeff Kurysz (Rexy/Jason), Nate Santana (Casey) and Leslie Ann Sheppard (Jo). 
 
The creative team includes Chris Carter (Choreography), Richard and Jacqueline Penrod (Scenic Design), Rachel Laritz (Costume Design), JR Lederle (Lighting Design), Kevin O’Donnell (Sound Design). The production stage manager is Rita Vreeland.
 
Northlight’s production of The Legend of Georgia McBride is supported in part by Bob and Lisa Silverman.
 

The Box Office is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie.  Box Office hours are Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm, and Saturdays 12:00pm-5:00pm. On performance days, the box office hours are extended through showtime. The Box Office is closed on Sundays, except on performance days when it is open two hours prior to showtime.
 
Curtain times are: Tuesdays: 7:30pm (September 19 and October 17 only); Wednesdays: 1:00pm (except October 11) and 7:30pm; Thursdays: 7:30pm; Fridays: 8:00pm; Saturdays: 2:30pm (except September 16) and 8:00pm; and Sundays: 2:30pm and 7:00pm (September 17 and October 8 only).
 
 
Northlight is continuing its popular special event series in conjunction with each production.  All events are free. 
 
Backstage with BJ: The Legend of Georgia McBride
September 8 at 12:00pm 
at Northlight Theatre
9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, IL
Backstage with BJ is a mid-day discussion with Artistic Director BJ Jones, featuring special guest artists, actors, directors and designers, offering behind-the-scenes insight into each production while it is still in rehearsal.  Backstage with BJ for The Legend of Georgia McBride will be held on September 8 at 12:00pm and will last approximately one hour. Event is free but reservations are required. Visit https://northlight.org/events/backstage-with-bj/ to reserve your spot.
 
Inside Look: The Legend of Georgia McBride
October 5 at 2:00-3:00pm
at Evanston Public Library
1703 Orrington Avenue, Evanston, IL
Explore the context of the play, The Legend of Georgia McBride, through a discussion and a Q&A session with panelists related to the production.
 
Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community. 
 
Now entering its 43rd season, the organization has mounted over 200 productions, including nearly 40 world premieres. Northlight has earned 202 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 34 Awards. As one of the area’s premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality. 
 

Fact Sheet / The Legend of Georgia McBride
 
Title:                      The Legend of Georgia McBride
Written by:              Matthew Lopez
Directed by:            Lauren Shouse
Featuring:               Sean Blake (Miss Tracy Mills), Keith Kupferer (Eddie), Jeff Kurysz(Rexy/Jason), Nate Santana (Casey) and Leslie Ann Sheppard (Jo). 
 
 
Creative Team:         Chris Carter (Choreography), Richard and Jacqueline Penrod (Scenic Design), Rachel Laritz (Costume Design), JR Lederle (Lighting Design), Kevin O’Donnell (Sound Design). The production stage manager is Rita Vreeland.
 
Dates:                     

Previews: September 14 – 21, 2017
                                          

Regular Run: September 23- October 22
 

Schedule:                

Tuesdays: 7:30pm (September 19 and October 17 only)

Wednesdays: 1:00pm (except October 11) and 7:30pm                   

Thursdays: 7:30pm
                                      

Fridays: 8:00pm
                                      

Saturdays: 2:30pm (except September 16) and 8:00pm

Sundays: 2:30pm and 7:00pm (September 17 and October 8 only).

 
Location:                Northlight Theatre is located at the North Shore
                             Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd,
                             Skokie
 
Tickets:                  Previews: $30-$57
                             Regular run: $30-$81
                             Student tickets are $15, any performance (subject to availability)
 
Box Office:              The Box Office is located at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie.
                              847.673.6300; northlight.org
 
Notes of Interest:
 
⦁ This production of The Legend of Georgia McBride marks the second collaboration with playwright Matthew Lopez and Northlight Theatre. His first play, The Whipping Man, was produced by Northlight in their 2012-2013 season.
 
The Legend of Georgia McBride received its world premiere at Denver Center Theatre, with subsequent productions at the MCC Lucille Lortel Theatre and the Geffen Theater in LA.
 
⦁ About his diverse body of work, playwright Matthew Lopez comments, “They’re all about home, creating home and family — either blood family or manufactured family. 'Georgia McBride’ is about a group of people who don’t really fit in anywhere else. I call them my misfit toys, and they build a home together at the bar.
 
⦁ Director Lauren Shouse is ​the Artistic Associate and Literary Manager at Northlight Theatre. Her local directing credits include Betrayal at Raven and work at Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Rivendell Theatre, Sideshow Theatre, Route 66, Chicago Dramatists, and Stage Left Theatre. Prior to moving to Evanston, Lauren was Artistic Associate at Nashville Rep.
 
 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

These days – these days of fractured politics and fraudulent politicians and fake news, and all of the fear they’ve collectively caused our country – perhaps we could all use a little comfort food, be it literal or figurative. And for a couple hours on Sunday night at Ravinia, that’s what John Mellencamp and Carlene Carter dished out – American music that was comforting while still completely captivating.

American music, of course, is Ms. Carter’s birthright. By nature and by nurture, the daughter of June Carter and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash was meant to grace the stage, and oh boy, did she ever. The strains of her guitar and twang of her voice filling the night air, Carter welcomed the crowd as they filed to their seats. Regaling us with stories of a life lived among musical royalty (one yarn involved a late-1960's Kris Kristofferson in leather pants and a helicopter), Carlene gifted us with her own God-given talent. Setting down her guitar to sit down at the piano, she shared the personal loss of her mother and stepdaddy with the hymnal “Lonesome Valley.” Leading us north shore folks in an acapella “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” she winkingly assured us that our rendition was alright, even though we’re no Carter Family.

This professionalism continued as members of the headlining band took the stage, decked out in black suits and armed with hollow-body guitars, a violin, faux-distressed drumkit, and even an accordion. The music of a newer number, “Lawless Times” from 2014’s Plain Spoken, began. And then that familiar face and comforting form of John Mellencamp strolled out, Telecaster guitar strapped over black duds that would’ve made the afore-mentioned Mr. Cash proud, as confident and cocksure as he was decades ago.

The opener was a newer song, but the weathered voice, the still-handsome face, and the populist politics – sentiments both working-class and progressive? How vintage! How quaint! – were anything but. This was the guy – the legend, the hall-of-famer, the working man’s musician – the crowd had come to see. And their hero delivered.

After another more recent number, Mellencamp dove into his back catalogue with renditions of “Minutes to Memories” and “Small Town” off the once-ubiquitous Scarecrow, the crowd eager to leap to its feet and sing along.

After introducing himself and his band, Mellencamp traveled back in time even further with a modern blues take – just vocals, slide guitar, and upright bass – on Robert Johnson’s haunting “Stones in My Passway.”

Again returning to his own work, Mellencamp sang “Pop Singer,” which could just as easily critique today’s fleeting and narcissistic culture as the one nearly three decades ago, as could 1987’s “Check It Out.” The only updates these songs got were thanks to the mature and polished backing band Mellencamp brought and the weathered rasp that age has brought him.

The next song didn’t need the stellar backing musicians or their bevy of instruments to make it powerful. Clutching his acoustic guitar, today’s John Mellencamp told the tale of how a 24-year-old version of himself penned “Jack and Diane” while torn between dreams of songwriting stardom and the more worldly concerns 20-somethings have always had. And strumming said guitar, he allowed the crowd of equally aged folks to take the lead, literally, singing the lead vocal we all know…or at least thought we did. When the crowd skipped the second verse, instead plowing into that beloved chorus, Mellencamp corrected us before continuing. But that chorus of voices made “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone” float through the summer air, sounding every bit the hymn or old standard it has become.

Carlene Carter then returned for a couple of tunes, including “My Soul’s Got Wings,” whose lyrics were once written by Woody Guthrie, only to be given the Mermaid Avenue treatment (given music and a proper recording) by Mellencamp on this year’s Sad Clowns & Hillbillies. A lovely overture by the band’s violinist and accordion player was played before the crowd again got the classics, in the form of “Rain on the Scarecrow” and “Crumblin’ Down.” When each of these was played, the audience leapt to its feet, especially going footloose for “Authority Song,” whose authoritative target most of them have become all these years later.

But that was not the point of the show. Who we were – and how that’s not so different than who we are now – was what mattered. And as we embraced John Mellencamp’s songs, singing with him, all together for one glorious night, he provided the comfort and familiarity that was underscored by the main set’s closer, “Pink Houses”: “Ain’t that America, somethin’ to see…”

For one night, we forgot about the world outside. It sure was somethin’ to see.

 

Published in In Concert
Page 2 of 18

 

 

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