Theatre

Shattered Globe Theatre is pleased to launch its 2017-18 Season with the Chicago premiere of Pulitzer Prize nominee James Still’s fevered, emotional epic THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK, a theatrical rendering of Abraham Lincoln's struggle as a man of conscience to lead a divided country, directed by SGT Ensemble Member Louis Contey*. THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK will play September 7 – October 21, 2017 at SGT’s resident home Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at www.shatteredglobe.org, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office. 
 
THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK will feature Lawrence Grimm and SGT Ensemble member Linda Reiter* as Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, respectively. The cast also includes SGT Ensemble Members Kelsey Melvin*, Drew Schad*, Brad Woodard* and SGT Artistic Associate Darren Jones+, with Don Bender, Zach Bloomfield, Jennifer Cheung, Kate Harris, Tim Kough, Tim Newell, Leo Sharkey and Gus Zaruba.
 
Presented for the first time in the “Land of Lincoln,” THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK is James Still’s personal interpretation on the months leading up to Abraham Lincoln’s signing of The Emancipation Proclamation. This theatrical epic explores Lincoln’s humanity, conscience and leadership through the troubled times of 1862 – as dreams of his famous adversaries and unnamed soldiers walk through his waking life. Sprinkled with text pulled from Lincoln’s prolific letters and speeches, this play explores the heart of the man who led America in a war that we're still fighting today.
 
“The Heavens are Hung in Black portrays a transformational moment in Abraham Lincoln’s life and worldview,” comments Director Louis Contey. “In 1862, after nearly a year of bloody civil war, Lincoln must find a way of elevating the purpose of the conflict and save the Union. It is said that the office of President changes the individual who occupies it. With his conscience gnawing at him Lincoln begins to evolve as he considers the virtues and controversy of emancipation. The play, for me, embodies the essence of moral leadership and the idea of doing the right thing for the right reason, or as Lincoln himself states, listening ‘to the better angels of our nature’.”
 
THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK was commissioned by and premiered at Ford’s Theatre in 2009, where Lincoln was famously shot.
 
The production team includes Angie Miller (scenic design), Hailey Rakowiecki (costume design), Madison Briede (assistant costume design), Michael Stanfill (lighting and projection design), Chris Kriz+ (sound design), Vivian Knouse* (props design), Judy Anderson* (executive production manager), Jason Shivers (stage manager) and Ayanna Wimberly (assistant stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK
Playwright: James Still
Director: Louis Contey*
Cast: Don Bender (William Seward, Jefferson Davis, Edwin Booth, Ensemble), Zach Bloomfield (John Brown, Billy Brown, Canterbury, Ensemble), Jennifer Cheung (Young Woman, Ensemble), Lawrence Grimm (Abraham Lincoln), Kate Harris (Mrs. Winston, Westmoreland, Ensemble), Darren Jones+ (Dred Scott, Theophilus Hammond, Uncle Tom, Ensemble), Tim Kough (Ward Hill Lamon, Bates, Ensemble), Kelsey Melvin* (Thomas Haley), Tim Newell (Walt Whitman), Linda Reiter* (Mary Todd Lincoln), Drew Schad* (John Hay), Leo Sharkey (Tad Lincoln), Brad Woodard* (Edwin Stanton, Stephen Douglas, Ensemble) and Gus Zaruba (Willie Lincoln, Newsboy).
 
Location: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago
Dates: Previews: Thursday, September 7 at 8 pm, Friday, September 8 at 8 pm and Saturday, September 9 at 8 pm
Regular Run: Thursday, September 14 – Saturday, October 21, 2017 
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will be no performance on Saturday, October 7 at 8 pm and an added matinee on Saturday, October 21 at 3 pm.
Touch Tour/Audio Description Performance: Friday, October 6 – 6:30 pm touch tour, 8 pm performance with audio description. $20 tickets available with code “ACCESS.”
Global Perspectives: SGT will be hosting post-show discussions immediately following 3 pm performances on Sundays, September 17 -October 15.
Tickets: Previews: $20 general admission, $10 students, $10 industry tickets with code “FRIEND”. Regular Run: $35 general admission. Discounts: $15 students, $28 seniors, $20 under 30. $15 industry tickets on Thursdays with code “INDUSTRY.” Tickets are currently available at www.theaterwit.org, in person at the Theater Wit Box Office or by calling (773) 975-8150. Group discounts are currently available by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling (773) 770-0333. 
 
* Denotes SGT Ensemble Member
+ Denotes SGT Artistic Associate

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Greenhouse Theater Center and Poor Box Theater, in association with D.C’s award winning Taffety Punk Theatre Company, is pleased to present THE AMERICAN MERCY TOUR: MERCY KILLERS and SIDE EFFECTS, two one-act plays steeped in America’s controversial relationship with healthcare. Written and performed by Michael Milligan and directed by Tom Oppenheim, these moving and unapologetic pieces will be presented as a single theatrical event, immersing the audience in the stories of patients and physicians, coming out of the waiting room and into the fray. 
 
MERCY KILLERS and SIDE EFFECTS will play September 7 – October 8, 2017 at The Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Studio), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Tickets (pay-what-you-want) are currently available at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. 
 
In MERCY KILLERS, Joe, a blue-collar red state auto mechanic faced with his wife’s failing health, must grapple with the stark divide between his values and his reality. Pushed to the breaking point by debt, disease and a busted system, Joe must decide what compromises he will make to keep his wife alive. MERCY KILLERS is all at once a tender love story and an unblinking look at those the system leaves behind.
 
Flipping to the other side of the stethoscope, SIDE EFFECTS follows William, a family practice physician on the brink of burnout. Caught between his ambition to become the healer his father once exemplified and the corporatization of his chosen profession, William must reconcile the art and business of medicine, or be forced to lose his practice. In this Chicago premiere, we see the human side of those who heal us, throwing light onto the turmoil that remain out of sight from the examination table.

“Michael Milligan is one of those rare theatre artists who can combine his craft, intellect and activism in a perfect storm of unapologetically political performance,” comments Greenhouse Theater Center Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. “These pieces and the issues they explore are increasingly important in our political moment, but what truly sets them apart is their unwillingness to simplify. Milligan’s pieces are bi-partisan and in their splendid, terrifying honesty put faces to the statistics and figures we so easily grow numb to.”

History of “The American Mercy Tour”

“I wrote Mercy Killers in response to a number of personal encounters with the healthcare system,” comments Michael Milligan. “A good friend of mine showed up at the Folger Theatre stage door after a show, carrying a small duffle bag, in which he had all of his belongings. He’d been living on the streets for a couple years. I invited him back to my place, where I discovered he also had a number of medical problems, a slipped disk in his neck from a fall and a golf ball size lump on his arm. I took it on myself to try to get him in to see someone. The difficulty of that blew my mind. It was overwhelming. If I lived in any number of other nations, I could have made an appointment and walked my friend to a doctor’s office, and the first question would not have been ‘what insurance do you have.’” 

“The situation for many healthcare workers is also desperate.” Milligan says, “there’s even diagnostic terminology now for it, it’s called ‘moral distress.’ It’s crippling doctors and nurses; many of them are burning out and leaving the profession. The medical literature says that ‘moral distress occurs when one knows the ethically correct action to take but feels powerless to take that action.’ The healthcare system becomes more bureaucratized and corporatized every year, medical decisions are increasingly influenced by claims analysts, hospital administrators, and entitlement bureaucrats, Side Effects is a meditation on the conflicts of interest that arise as a result.” 

The impulse to create Side Effects was similarly visceral. When Milligan was on the road performing Mercy Killers, he started interviewing doctors and nurses in each community. Side Effects has already been well received by the medical community, including a special presentation by the Mayo Clinic. 

"Michael Milligan has captured the sum total of pressures that confront today's physicians in Side Effects. A realistic, engaging and very dramatic portrayal of the life of an average doctor trying to meet the demands of a busy practice as he nearly succumbs to a breakdown and considers leaving the profession he loves so much. Anyone involved in medicine, from the caregivers to the patients we serve, would benefit from seeing this performance." –Robert E McAfee MD, Former President, American Medical Association.

PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Titles: MERCY KILLERS and SIDE EFFECTS
Written and performed by: Michael Milligan
Director: Tom Oppenheim 
 
Location The Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Studio) 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Dates: Previews: Thursday, September 7 at 8 pm
Press Performance: Friday, September 8 at 8 pm
Regular run:  Saturday, September 9 – Sunday, October 8, 2017
Curtain times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. 
Tickets: Pay-what-you-want. Tickets are currently available at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. 

 
   

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Anyone can be a star – for a price! The annual CASTING PARTY is a unique opportunity for amateur theatre lovers to experience the thrill of being on stage in a professionally produced Chicago stage production – no experience or training required! The Casting Auction, in association with Kokandy Productions, will be auctioning off more than 30 roles for this season’s musical production, The ADDAMS FAMILY, on Friday, November 3, 2017 at Michelle’s Ballroom, 2800 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. 
 
The evening of theatrical fun features all-you-can-eat buffet, an open bar, live entertainment from Kokandy Productions’ performers and a front-row seat to the most interesting auditions you’ve ever seen! Doors open at 6:30 pm and the Live Auction begins at 7:30 pm. Advance tickets for the CASTING PARTY, priced at $55, are currently available at castingauction.com ($75 at the door). 
 
The Live & Silent Auctions
After food, drinks and mingling, a professional auctioneer starts the bidding for leading and major supporting roles in THE ADDAMS FAMILY. Throughout the evening, friends, family and supporters bid to win the role for who they want to play the part, and anyone can walk away with a role — no experience necessary! Supporting and ensemble roles are bid on in a silent auction throughout the night, and attendees may purchase a chorus or walk-on role at any time (or simply enjoy the party). 
 
The Production
Once casting is complete, there are no worries for the winners — The Casting Auction provides professional directors, choreographers, and musicians to help guide them through rehearsals to star in their role! THE ADDAMS FAMILY will enjoy four public performances in April of 2018 at a popular Chicago theatre venue (to be announced). 
 
The weird and wonderful family comes to devilishly delightful life in THE ADDAMS FAMILY, the magnificently macabre musical comedy created by Jersey Boys authors Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice and Drama Desk Award winner Andrew Lippa (The Wild Party).
 
THE ADDAMS FAMILY features an original story, and it’s every father’s nightmare. Wednesday Addams, the ultimate princess of darkness, has grown up and fallen in love with a sweet, smart young man from a respectable family. A man her parents have never met. And if that weren’t upsetting enough, she confides in her father and begs him not to tell her mother. Now, Gomez Addams must do something he’s never done before — keep a secret from his beloved wife, Morticia. Everything will change for the whole family on the fateful night they host a dinner for Wednesday’s “normal” boyfriend and his parents.
 
A portion of proceeds from the CASTING PARTY and public performances of THE ADDAMS FAMILY will benefit Kokandy Productions, supporting not-for-profit theatre programming in Chicago.
 
The Partner Theater: Kokandy Productions
 
Kokandy Productions seeks to leverage the heightened reality of musical theater to tell complex and challenging stories with a focus on contributing to the development of Chicago-based musical theater works while raising the profile of Chicago’s storefront musical theater community. In its relatively brief history, Kokandy has received high critical acclaim and has been nominated for 36 Joseph Jefferson Awards, winning one for Sweet Smell of Success in 2014 and two for Heathers in 2016. 
 
Allison Hendrix – Producing Artistic Director
John D. Glover – Artistic Producer
Scot T. Kokandy – Executive Producer
 
The Casting Auction
 
The Casting Auction is a not-for-profit organization that produces professional theatrical productions starring amateur theater lovers, and uses the profits from the production to benefit deserving theaters. Each year, the company chooses one local theater to partner with to create the experience known as the THE CASTING AUCTION. Over the past six years, The Casting Auction has raised over $300,000 for Chicago theatrical programming.
 
Kate Garassino O’Driscoll - Co-Artistic Director
Eric Martin - Co-Artistic Director
Heather Larkin - Company Manager

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Steppenwolf Theatre Company announced today additional casting for the highly anticipated world premiere of The Minutes by ensemble member, Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Tracy Letts, directed by Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro. Ensemble members Kevin Anderson (Mr. Breeding), James Vincent Meredith (Mr. Blake), Sally Murphy (Ms. Matz) and William Petersen (Mayor Superba) join previously announced ensemble members Francis Guinan (Mr. Oldfield) and Ian Barford (Mr. Carp) in the cast of this new political comedy. Also featured in the cast are Brittany Burch as Ms. Johnson, Cliff Chamberlain as Mr. Peel and Penny Slusher as Ms. Innes. Previously announced ensemble member Tim Hopper is no longer in the cast due to a scheduling conflict. Remaining roles to be announced at a later date.

Previews for The Minutes begin November 9; opening is November 19 and the show runs through December 31, 2017 in Steppenwolf’s Downstairs Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted St. Single tickets to The Minutes go on sale Friday, September 15, 2017 at 11am. Classic and Flex Memberships are currently available for the 2017/18 Season. To purchase a Membership and secure a seat now, contact Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org/memberships.

Tracy Letts, the writer of Linda Vista and August: Osage County, debuts a scathing new comedy about small-town politics and real-world power that exposes the ugliness behind some of our most closely-held American narratives while asking each of us what we would do to keep from becoming history’s losers.

The Minutes marks the fifth collaboration between Anna D. Shapiro and Tracy Letts and the seventh play by Letts to premiere at Steppenwolf.

Tracy Letts is a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright, actor and Steppenwolf ensemble member. He is the author of the plays Linda Vista, Mary Page Marlowe, The Scavenger’s Daughter, Superior Donuts, August: Osage County (Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award), Man from Nebraska (Pulitzer Prize finalist), Bug and Killer Joe. Also an actor, he received the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actor in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. TV and film credits include Lady Bird, The Lovers, Christine, Elvis and Nixon, The Big Short, HBO’s “Divorce" and two seasons as Andrew Lockhart on Showtime’s “Homeland.”

Anna D. Shapiro is a Tony award-winning director and Artistic Director of Steppenwolf. She has directed several notable productions at Steppenwolf, including Visiting Edna, Mary Page Marlowe, August: Osage County (2008 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards), Man from Nebraska and The Motherf**ker with the Hat (also on Broadway, 2011 Tony nomination for Best Director). Broadway credits include Larry David’s Fish in the Dark, Of Mice and Men and the revival of Steppenwolf’s This Is Our Youth.

About the Cast & Creative Team

Ensemble member Kevin Anderson last performed at Steppenwolf in Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit in 2010; Ian Barford most recently starred in Steppenwolf’s world premiere of Linda Vista and Visiting Edna in the 2016/17 season, and he originated the role of Little Charles in August: Osage County; ensemble member Francis Guinan has appeared in more than 30 Steppenwolf shows, is currently in Taylor Mac’s Hir and next season’s The Rembrandt; ensemble member James Vincent Meredith most recently performed in 2015’s Between Riverside and Crazy and in a highly lauded production of Othello at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater; ensemble member Sally Murphy was most recently seen in Visiting Edna and Linda Vista and was nominated in 2015 for the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance in Three Penny Opera; and ensemble member William Petersen was last seen onstage in both Steppenwolf’s and The Geffen Playhouse’s productions of Slow Girl (2013) and is well known for his Emmy Award-winning performance as Gil Grissom in the CBS drama series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, for which he won a Screen Actors Guild Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Brittany Burch is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf and an ensemble member of the Gift Theatre. This will be Cliff Chamberlain’s 10th production at Steppenwolf, where he was most recently seen in The Herd; and Penny Slusher is well known for her Chicago and regional theatre credits and was in Steppenwolf’s Australian production of August: Osage County.

The Minutes production team includes David Zinn (scenic design), Ana Kuzmanic (costume design), Brian MacDevitt (lighting design) and Andre Pluess (sound design and original music). Additional credits include Christine D. Freeburg (stage manager), Elise Hausken (assistant stage manager), JC Clementz (casting director) and Aaron Carter (artistic producer).
Single tickets will go on sale Friday, September 15, 2017 at 11am through Audience Services at 312-335-1650 or steppenwolf.org.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Shattered Globe Theatre is pleased to announce its 2017-18 Season, featuring three Chicago premiere productions! The season kicks off this fall with Pulitzer Prize nominee James Still’s fevered, emotional epic THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK, a theatrical rendering of Abraham Lincoln's struggle as a man of conscience to lead a divided country. Directed by SGT Ensemble Member Louis Contey*, the Chicago premiere will feature Lawrence Grimm as Abraham Lincoln and SGT Ensemble Member Linda Reiter* as Mary Todd Lincoln.
 
Shattered Globe’s season continues this winter with Rachel Bonds’ new play FIVE MILE LAKE directed by Cody Estle. In this Chicago premiere, five friends approaching their 30s try to seize the moment and take a step toward adulthood.
 
The season concludes next spring with the Chicago premiere of Will Snider’s HOW TO USE A KNIFE, directed by SGT Producing Artistic Director Sandy Shinner*. In this fast-paced, gritty drama, a once-renowned chef strikes up an unlikely friendship with a reticent immigrant dishwasher while trying to manage his unruly and hilarious kitchen staff. 
 
Comments Sandy Shinner, "Shattered Globe is excited to present three Chicago premieres with all three playwrights – Rachel Bonds, Will Snider and James Still – involved in the productions. This is a first for SGT! The central characters in their plays are all caught in a particularly critical moment in time – political, personal or professional: Abraham Lincoln still mourning his young son, a small town woman with larger dreams, and a chef climbing back from addiction are all ready to make a change. Their worlds are about to undergo seismic shifts. Will the past hold them back?"
 
The full 2017-18 Season will be presented at Shattered Globe’s resident home, Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets for THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK go on sale Saturday, August 1, 2017 at www.shatteredglobe.org, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office. Discounted group sales for all three productions are currently available at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling (773) 770-0333.
 
Shattered Globe Theatre’s 2017-18 Season includes:

September 7 – October 21, 2017
THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK
By James Still
Directed SGT Ensemble Member Louis Contey*
Featuring feature SGT Ensemble Members Kelsey Melvin*, Linda Reiter*, Drew Schad*, Brad Woodard* and SGT Artistic Associate Darren Jones+, with Don Bender, Zach Bloomfield, Jennifer Cheung, Lawrence Grimm, Kate Harris, Tim Kough and Tim Newell. Additional casting to be announced.
Press opening: Sunday, September 10, 2017 at 3 pm
 
Presented for the first time in the “Land of Lincoln,” THE HEAVENS ARE HUNG IN BLACK is James Still’s personal interpretation on the months leading up to Abraham Lincoln’s signing of The Emancipation Proclamation. This theatrical epic explores Lincoln’s humanity, conscience and leadership through the troubled times of 1862 – as dreams of his famous adversaries and unnamed soldiers walk through his waking life. Sprinkled with text pulled from Lincoln’s prolific letters and speeches, this play explores the heart of the man who led America in a war that we're still fighting today.
 
January 11 – February 24, 2018
FIVE MILE LAKE
By Rachel Bonds
Directed by Cody Estle
Press opening: Sunday, January 14 2018 at 3 pm
 
In a style reminiscent of Chekhov, five friends approaching thirty try to navigate the emotional undercurrents of unrequited love, loss and possibility. The unexpected return of a sibling sets in motion an inadvertent winter reunion in their small Pennsylvania town. This is the kind of claustrophobic town that kids grow up to leave, but not everyone feels the same way. These old high school friends each aspire to make the right choice, and come face-to-face with the choices they have already made.
 
April 26 – June 9, 2018
HOW TO USE A KNIFE
By Will Snider
Directed by SGT Producing Artistic Director Sandy Shinner*
Press opening: Sunday, April 29 at 3 pm

In the chaotic kitchen of a Wall Street restaurant, Chef George is trying to stay sober and keep the trash talking cross-cultural kitchen staff churning out orders on time. While managing two Guatemalan line cooks, a pot smoking white busboy and dealing with a jerk of a boss, George strikes up a surprising friendship with a reserved Ugandan dishwasher. Raw, fast paced and suspenseful, HOW TO USE A KNIFE boils over when personal and moral issues from their pasts are exposed. This high energy drama is fresh off a rolling world premiere shared by four theaters in the National New Play Network.  

* Denotes SGT Ensemble Member
+ Denotes SGT Artistic Associate

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Strawdog Theatre Company and Artistic Directors Michael Dailey, Heath Hays and Anderson Lawfer are proud to announce the first production in their 2017 – 2018 season, Barbecue by Robert O’Hara, August 17 – September 30, with direction by Damon Kiely at Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s 1700 Theatre, 1700 N. Halsted Street as a LookOut Visiting Company.  Opening night performance is Monday Aug. 28 at 8 p.m. Previews are Thursday, Aug. 17 and Aug. 24, Friday, Aug. 18 and Aug. 25, Saturday, Aug. 19 and Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, August 27 at 3:30 p.m. Regular run performances are Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3:30 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. Preview tickets are $35, regular run tickets are $45. Strawdog subscribers enjoy 25% off all ticket prices. This production is also available to Steppenwolf’s Red and Black Card holders. Group, senior, student, industry, and rush discounts are also available. To purchase subscriptions to Strawdog’s 2017-18 Season, visit www.strawdog.org. To purchase single tickets to Barbecue, please visit https://www.steppenwolf.org/tickets--events/seasons/2017-18/barbecue/?id=24118 or call 312-335-1650.
 
A modern American family uses a summer barbecue as a pretext to ambush sister Barbara with an intervention.  If you think “all families are crazy” is just a cliché, you’ve not spent time under the influence of the O'Mallerys.  An afternoon in the park with these raucous siblings and you'll be challenging your own assumptions about family, race, and reality. The Chicago premiere of Barbecue by Obie and Helen Hayes Award winner Robert O’Hara will have you laughing out loud and questioning how it’s true that in America, you sometimes taze the ones you love.

Since its world premiere, Barbecue has received critically acclaim. The Los Angeles Times said, “Ferociously funny! Barbecue raucously sends up the sociological pantomime — life as an award-seeking existential burlesque,” and “Wickedly delightful!” by TheaterMania.com. Variety’s review included, “Barbecue, shrewdly turns the formula for the American domestic comedy on its head.”
The Barbecue cast 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.
 
The Barbecue design team includes Strawdog Ensemble Members Costume Designer Aly Greaves Amidei and Sound Designer Heath Hayes with guest artists: Director Damon Kiely, Assistant Director Michael Burke, Set Designer Joanna Iwanicka, Lighting Designer Jared Gooding, Props Designer Leah Hummel and Dramaturg Taylor Barfield. 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Delbert McClinton may not be a household name, but he should be. A singer-songwriter, harmonica player, pianist and guitarist, we are talking about a gifted musician who has been active in the music scene since 1962 and is showing no signs of slowing down some fifty-five years later. It is even rumored McClinton taught John Lennon how to play harmonica. The Texas native is a multi-Grammy Award winning singer, earning one for his 2006 release Cost of Living, an album where each track is infused with McClinton’s unique vision and is as impressive as the next. In a career that has been nothing short of remarkable, McClinton has recorded with several big-named artists including Bonnie Raitt and Tanya Tucker with whom he landed his highest-charting single “Tell Me About It” in 1992.

McClinton’s music is exceptional in the fact that it bridges the gaps between Blues, Rock and Country. At nearly seventy-seven-years-old, he still plays his music with the energy of a much younger man and entertains with the best of them. Inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Hall of Fame in March 2011, I highly recommend music fans who have not yet seen this talented artist to do so – and you can next week. Currently on tour for his latest effort Prick of the Litter, Delbert McClinton will be performing at City Winery Chicago on Wednesday August 9th. The wine and music will be flowing that night for sure.

Published in In Concert

Porchlight Music Theatre and Artistic Director Michael Weber are proud to announce the first mainstage production it its 2017 – 2018 season Billy Elliot the Musical, music by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall, with direction and choreography by Porchilght Artistic Associate Brenda Didier, with Associate Choreographer Craig V. Miller and music direction by Porchlight Artistic Associate Linda Madonia at Porchlght’s new home, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Street. Previews are Friday, Oct. 6 and Oct. 13 at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 7 and Oct. 14 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m., Monday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. Opening night is Sunday, Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. The regular run performance schedule is Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. (October 22, October 29 and November 5) and at 2 p.m. (November 12 and 19) with an open captioned performance, Saturday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m. and a weekday matinee Thursday, Nov. 16 at 1:30 p.m. Please note: there is no 7:30 p.m. performance Thursday, Nov. 16. Tickets are $33 - $60 and available at PorchlightMusicTheatre.org or by calling the Porchlight Music Theatre  box office, 773.777.9884.

Billy Elliot the Musical is based on the 2000 film “Billy Elliot” and features music by Elton John with book and lyrics by the film’s screenplay writer Lee Hall. Winner of both the Tony Award and Olivier Award for Best Musical, Billy Elliot the Musical is an inspirational story set in an English mining town during the miners’ strike of 1984-85. Billy Elliot takes a journey from the boxing ring to a ballet class to make his dreams come true while challenging the long held beliefs of his hometown. Along the way, he discovers a passion for dance that unites his family, inspires his community and changes his life forever. 

The cast of Billy Elliot the Musical will be the largest in Porchlight’s history and includes Jacob Kaiser and Lincoln Seymour sharing the title role of “Billy Elliot;” Shanésia Davis*, “Mrs. Wilkinson;” Sean Fortunato*, “Dad;” Iris Lieberman*, “Grandma;” Adam Fane, “Tony Elliot;” Peyton Owen, “Michael Caffrey;” Nicole Cready, “Mum;” ”Princess Isis Z. Lang, “Debbie Wilkinson;” with Jordan DeBose, “George/Ensemble;” Gabriel Robert, “Small Boy;” John Gurdian, “Big Davey/Ensemble;” Michelle McKenzie-Voigt, “Lesley/Ensemble;” Jeff Bouthiette, “Scab/Posh Dad/Ensemble;” Tommy Novak, “Mr. Braithwaite/Ensemble;” Ivan Bruns-Trukhin,“Older Billy/Ensemble;” Bernell Lassai III, “Pit Supervisor/Ensemble;” Logan Baffico, “Posh Boy;” Alejandro Medina, “Tall Boy;” Jessica Vann, “Clipboard Woman/Ensemble;” Graham Hawley, “Accordion Player/Grandma Dancer/Ensemble;” Jacob Voigt, “Ensemble;” Roy Brown, “Ensemble;” Jenny McPherson, “Ensemble/Grandma Dancer;” Kayla Boye, “Ensemble;” and Darby Leetch, “Alison Summers;” Moriah Mitchell, “Keeley Gibson; Paula Hlava, “Angela Robson;” Anna L. Bramlett, “Julie Hope;” McKenna Rogers, “Karen Davidson;” Emerson Tait, “Sharon Percy;” Katelyn Montgomery, “Margaret Gormley;” Kendall Sorkin, “Tina Harmer;” Ayla Gray, “Tracy Atkinson” and Bernadette Olivia Schwegel, “Susan Parks.”
 
Additional members of the creative/production team of Billy Elliot the Musical include Porchlight Artistic Associate Bill Morey, costume designer; Denise Karczewski, lighting designer; Christopher Rhoton, scenic designer, Robert Hornbostel, sound designer; Mealah Heidenreich, props designer; Adrian Abel Azevedo, assistant director; Kayla Boye, assistant choreographer/dance captain; Sara Haverty, assistant to the choreographers/associate child supervisor; Sammi Grant, dialect coach; Jaq Seifert, fight choreography; Sean McStravick, stage manager*; Corey Boughton, assistant stage manager*; Matt Nadler, assistant stage manager; Shannon Desmond, assistant stage manager; Joaquin Gomez, child supervisor/ASM swing and Samantha Treible, wardrobe supervisor.
 
Musical Director Madonia conducts and is the pianist with musicans Justin Kono, drums/percussion; Cara Hartz, reeds; Sarah Younker, french horn; Greg Strauss, trumpet; Justin LaForte, guitar and Dan Kristan, electric bass.
*Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Wednesday, 02 August 2017 12:14

"The Food Show" a unique take on cooking

As a cook and a big fan of Ina Garten, I was excited to see “The Food Show” on opening night by The Neo-Futurists theatre. The main plot of the story is about family, which is brilliantly defined through cooking. Rather than hold the show at the Neo-Futurium, there was a last-minute change in location as the theatre company is partnering with Metropolitan Brewing in Avondale. 

Upon entering the venue, we were greeted by gentleman who offered us a beer before heading to our bleacher-like seats, similar to what one would find in a football stadium or gymnasium. Yes, this was going to be a different theatre experience.

As we sat down, I noticed Tif Harrison kneading some dough that will later be used to make pasta, which was interesting to watch in itself – and pleasantly strange. I was also happy to see Spencer Meeks who starred in “We Are Going to Die” at Den Theatre earlier this year, who puts on yet another steady performance in this very unusual, yet entertaining, production. The play is divided into seven sections with an opening by Kyra Sims who was visiting from New York. 

One of the most identifiable performers in “The Food Show” is Oliver Camacho who happens to be a chef in his days before acting. He is easy to connect with and, in this particular performance, made what looked to be a perfectly seared salmon. Bilal Dardai is another intriguing character impressed upon the audience who engagingly talks about Islamic constraints of eating pork and his kid's food allergies. 

I want to be clear. The style of cooking in “The Food Show” is not refined like that you would see Ina Garten cooking up in her Hamptons home. Actors before cooking professionals, these chefs were a bit messy and their chopping skills (sorry, Bilal) need some help. But that is all part of the fun in “The Food Show”. After getting past the fact that we are not watching Gordon Ramsay, it’s easy to appreciate what the play really is - sharing life experiences over food and reflecting on where our food comes from. 

The Neo-Futurists' “The Food Show” is being performed at 3031 North Rockwell, right next to the Metropolitan Brewing. Tickets range from $10-$25 and can be purchased at www.neofuturists.org. The show will be playing until September 2nd. My tip to those planning to see this production - wear something light and breezy as there is no air conditioning in the warehouse. 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

I was very happy to see Brown Paper Box Company put together this once hugely successful romantic comedy by Neil Simon, which played on Broadway for four years with music and book by Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager. Produced, directed and choreographed by Daniel Spagnuolo, this semi-autographical piece about the true-life romance of Hamlisch (hot off “A Chorus Line") and Sager, who was busy writing and performing hits of her own for Barry Manilow and Melissa Manchester. 

Although “They’re Playing Our Song” is basically a two-character show, the introduction of a chorus of players playing behind each of the leads referred to as " the voices in his head" or " the girls" representing, the "ID, the EGO and Passion" is a delightful and effective tool to understanding how quickly each character’s mood is changing and reacting to every word from the other. When the characters insult each other the chorus reacts instantly and likewise when they begin to loosen up. As the two stop competing with each other’s insecurities and speak honestly about their growing love, the chorus reflects on their faces and through dance how happy each character really is on the inside. 

If only we each had such clear representations from our subconscious minds to guide us moment by moment though lovers and arguments in real life, more couples might find the happiness these two finally find by the end of the play. 

Vernon Gersch (Dan Gold) and Sonia Walsk (Carmen Risi) meet for the first time in his luxury NY apartment where he is searching for new songwriters to collaborate with and has begun working on one of Sonia's songs. Although the balance of power is off at the beginning, Sonia asserts herself by letting him know she has been writing music since she was eleven and has other lucrative offers coming in musically as well as a persistently needy, but still attractive, ex-boyfriend waiting in the wings. 

Dan Gold has an excellent singing voice for this piece but has a little trouble always delivering the "funny", as his character veers from outright patron-ism towards Walsk to put her in her place to a kind of forced sneering anger as her bubbly personality seems to outshine his own success. Still, Gold does have his moments. Risi, whose overall trained voice is pleasant puts her own spin on some of the notes originally scored for Lucie Arnaz. Risi's opening night performance early on found herself speaking way too fast for the audience to understand everything she is saying at times, which made many of the good one liners fall flat. However, once finding her comfort zone in the role as perhaps opening night nerves had quelled, Risi eventually redeemed herself, injecting it and Vernon Gersch with her infectious, if somewhat relentless bubbly, enthusiasm for him and their possibilities for living together successfully in a mutually respectful yet non-competitive marriage. Gersch finally admits that he is "terrified, literally terrified by the feelings she causes in him both loving and hateful at the same time and we as an audience understand his neurotic sense of loss of control around her perfectly. 

Gold and Risi might seem mismatched at first, but by the play’s second act their intense pairing seems justified.

Every inch of this intimate theater space was used to the max including dance numbers by all six members of the Greek chorus behind the two leads.

I liked the kitschy sets and costumes but felt music was thin, which sort of cheapens the real amount of musical talent packed onto the stage in every performer. 

I do recommend this very funny, psychologically instructive comedy for a couple's date night. 

I think every man and every woman will see parts of themselves they want to change in the struggle for power and finally supportive equilibrium of these two highly-neurotic yet supremely artistically gifted lovers that Hamlisch and Sayer so lovingly documented in this  1979 award winning musical. 

“They’re Playing Our Song” is being performed at Rivendell Theatre through August 20th. For more show information visit www.brownpaperbox.org.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Page 4 of 18

 

 

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