Theatre

The hip-hop Broadway in Chicago sensation Hamilton, which, has spawned a secondary market in pricey theater tickets, has also delivered a pair of spin-offs. Shamilton, an improv riff at the Apollo, and now, notably, Spamilton, a send up of the original musical about the founding fathers of the U.S. 

Is it funny if you haven’t seen the original? The short answer is yes – because following the opening sets based on Hamilton, the show quickly turns its sites on other long-time Broadway shows like Cats and Phantom of the Opera, warhorses like Camelot, and shows of more recent vintage like Wicked and Book of Mormon.

The creative force behind the show is Gerard Alessandrini, the originator of the 1982 "Forbidden Broadway," which was similar in format, and has been rewritten and updated more than a dozen times. It has played around the world, including Chicago - I’ve seen two different versions here.

For all practical purposes, Spamilton is the newest Forbidden Broadway, and on some levels it exceeds the earlier ones in appeal.

The key to the storyline is Broadway’s perpetual and desperate struggle to save itself, and to create a new vision of the big musical show. Show business has been mired in novelties like Book of Mormon and the puppet-based Avenue Q; overproduced extravaganza with no memorable songs, like Spiderman; or Sondheim light operetta that those outside the cognoscenti may find hard to sit through.

Alessandrini picks up this scent of desperation, and seizes on Broadway producers struggles with wickedly funny original song and dance numbers that sample or mash-up the originals. Clinging to revivals of Rogers & Hammerstein or Leonard Bernstein; turning over theaters to somewhat vapid Disney productions like Aladdin and Newsies, these producers become fodder for fun in Spamilton.

The show parodies this desperation with another extreme: combining previously successful shows.

A perfect example comes around 10 minutes in, as the Spamilton players switch gears and time periods to present The Lion King & I. Anna the English Governess in hoop skirts dons a Julie Traymor head set in a duet with a squawking animal character. Let’s say I chortled heartily.

The show runs at a mad-cap pace, and even if you don’t get all the references, it’s still funny. A scene of an axe wielding gentleman clad just in Fruit of the Looms is a send up of American Psycho (I think, after Googling). It was funny even though I didn’t know exactly what the reference was.

Wicked and Book of Mormon – once the pricey ‘it’ shows, now discounting tickets like any other production – get nailed pointedly, having yielded star status to Hamilton. Scenes are punctuated by a running gag: homeless ladies in rags begging for Hamilton tickets – understood to be based on true stories of famous  stars desperate for seating.

A Barbra Streisand impersonation finds the aging diving singing in signature reverb, advising that when Hamilton is filmed, she wants to play a role in “The Film When It  Happens.” Likewise, J-Lo and Gloria Estefan walk-on, each hoping to tap the mojo of Hamilton. Liza Minnelli appears, but runs the other direction - and asks that rap be banned on Broadway, so they can “bring back the tunes.”  

The show reveals broader awareness in a number, Straight is Back, which laments the loss of gay show tunes and glitter, as productions like Hamilton skew to more manly styles. 

You can get a taste of Spamilton from the original New York cast album, just released. But it pales compared to the experience of seeing this cast of amazing dancers and singers, and their great comedic timing: Donterrio Johnson, Michelle Lauto, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez, David Robbins, and guest diva Christine Pedi (she's the Streisand character among others), with musical direction by Adam LaSalle.  

While Hamilton’s original star Lin-Manuel Miranda love “laughed my brains out!" when he saw the show, during last Sunday’s production the Chicago cast of Hamilton was in the audience – and they had a blast.

Gerry McIntyre did the choreography;  Dustin Cross gets Costume Design; , Fred Barton (Musical Director), and Richard Danley and Fred Barton (Musical Arrangements). "Spamilton" is produced in Chicago by John Freedson, David Zippel, Gerard Alessandrini, Margaret Cotter and Liberty Theatricals, in association with JAM Theatricals. Chuckie Benson and Arielle Richardson are the understudies the production.

"Spamilton" plays Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Royal George Theater.  www.spamilton.com

Published in Theatre in Review

As the logistical and technical teams work on completing the Odysseo Village at Soldier Field South Lot for the highly-anticipated Midwest debut of Odysseo by Cavalia on April 1, its 65 magnificent horses have arrived in Chicago and are enjoying a relaxing 14-day stay at a nearby farm.

Following sold-out performances in Vancouver, BC, the four-legged stars flew into Chicago O’Hare International airport aboard a charted 747 aircraft equipped with air stalls. They were then transported to a lavish and spacious farm in Bristol, Wisconsin, in specially equipped trailers alongside Odysseo’s equine specialists. The Odysseo herd, consisting of nine breeds including Appaloosa, Arabian, Quarter Horse, Holsteiner, Lusitano, Paint Horse, Percheron Hanoverian Cross, Selle Français and Spanish Purebred (P.R.E.), is under the care of a 20-person team.

At their Wisconsin retreat, expansive paddocks welcome the four-legged stars of Odysseo where they are able to play, bathe in the sun or roll in the snow. This interlude between shows is part of Cavalia’s horse care and training philosophy, which is based on understanding the needs, preferences, and emotions of the animals, and on mutual respect, kindness, patience, and trust.

The world’s largest touring show, Odysseo is a show unlike any other on the planet, an immersive theatrical experience in which horses are front and center. Imagined by Normand Latourelle - creator of Cavalia and renowned for combining different forms of artistic expression and reinventing the scenic space - Odysseo is a veritable revolution in live performance that makes hearts race. Audiences of all ages will be transported on an epic journey to some of nature’s greatest wonders by this breathtaking production that features the 65 horses plus 48 talented riders, acrobats, aerialists, dancers and musicians. 

TICKETS – Adult tickets are priced from $34.50 to $144.50 (no service charge). Special pricing and packages also available for groups, children (2-12), juniors (13-17) and seniors (65+). For an extra special outing, the Rendez-Vous VIP package offers the best seats in the house, full meal buffet dining before the show, open bar, desserts during intermission and an exclusive visit to the stables after the show. This unique VIP experience takes place in a tent alongside the White Big Top. The Rendez-Vous VIP package prices range from $144.50 to $269.50 (no service charge).

                    Odysseo will be performed at Soldier Field's South Lot April 1-April 23     Photo by Jak Wonderly  

ABOUT CAVALIA INC. - Cavalia Inc. is an entertainment company that specializes in the creation, production and touring of innovative shows. Founded by Normand Latourelle, the company reimagines the equestrian and theatrical arts. With its headquarters in Montreal, Cavalia Inc. is an integral part of Canada’s cultural heritage, and the largest Canadian-owned cultural enterprise. Its expertise in high technology, multimedia and special effects creates magical, unique, never-before-seen experiences. Its first show, Cavalia, has been seen by more than 4 million people across North America, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and Asia since its 2003 debut. Odysseo, the company’s second show, has toured to rave reviews and public acclaim since its 2011 premiere. Follow Cavalia’s latest developments at www.twitter.com/cavalia or www.facebook.com/cavalia. #OdysseoCHI

 

FOR CALENDARS

 

WHAT:            Odysseo by Cavalia

WHEN:            Shows begin April 1

                       Official Opening Night Premiere – Tuesday, April 4

                       Matinee and evening performances scheduled through April 23

WHERE:          Under the White Big Top at Soldier Field South Lot

                       South Lot, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago

                       **Entrance at parking gates on East 18th Drive**

TICKETS:         Available at www.cavalia.comand by calling 1-866-999-8111

                       Adult tickets are priced from $34.50 to $269.50 (no service charge)

                       Special pricing & packages available for groups, children (2-12), juniors (13-17) and seniors (65+).

INFO:               www.cavalia.com

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes leading up to opening night at the theater? Do you have any idea how much detail goes into a stage production? Can you imagine the funny moments that could take place while building a set or rehearsing lines? Do directors really get as frustrated as we hear? 

Theater Wit brings to the stage the latest, and possibly most innovated, work by author Anne Washburn 10 Out of 12. A headset rests on each seat in the theater for audience members to wear as they become engulfed the midst of tech rehearsals just one week prior to a production opening. We hear random chatter and instruction from the stage crew as 10 Out of 12 gives us an in-depth view of the goings on behind the scenes of mounting a show. Burns, known most recently as the playwright behind Mr. Burns, A Post Electric Play that found a successful run at Theater Wit in 2014, delves into the high stress that comes with detailing theater specifics such as lighting, cues and prop placement while also touching on actor stereotypes, tantrums and the desire in some to hold their work to a standard that demands integrity.

“No one in Chicago has ever seen anything like 10 Out of 12. Simultaneously exacting real-to-life and riotously funny, Anne Washburn’s detonation of a single technical rehearsal is promising to be a unique and thrilling viewing experience,” said Jeremy Wechsler, Artistic Director of Theater Wit and director of 10 Out of 12.

We watch as the production team fastens bolts to secure the set, samples the lighting and sound from scene to scene, place each mark to the director’s satisfaction and amuse themselves during down time. We see actors rehearsing their lines, suggesting where changes might be made (usually to the director’s chagrin). In our headsets we get a real feel for the high levels of demand that must be met along within a time crunch that increases by the minute. We also hear stage hands discussing their lunch and such, along with occasional side remarks about what is transpiring on the set. The fourth wall is often broken with actors using the aisles and theater as though an audience were not present, the director and actors often taking a seat amongst us to watch their handiwork from a patron vantage point. 

The production as a whole is a truly inimitable experience and provides an insight to theater that most may not be familiar with, adding a new appreciation for the art. Upon leaving the theater many discuss how they’ve had no idea the work and precision involved in mounting a play, making 10 Out of 12 an informative piece – perhaps also an homage to those behind the scenes.

Star Chicago theater personalities are recruited to provide pre-recorded roles such as John Mahoney, Martha Lavey, Barbara Robertson and Jeremy Wechsler, Mahoney delivering some of the play’s funniest lines. The stage cast also packs a punch with Erin Long, Adam Shalzi, Dado, and Riley McGliveen as the production team, Shane Kenyon as The Director, and Eunice Woods, Gregory Fenner, Christine Vrem-Ydstie, Kyle Gibson and Stephen Walker as the actors. Walker, taking advantage of several moments to shine in only the way he can in delivering highly-charged monologues with just the right amount of entitlement and sardonic flair as the veteran actor brought in to bring credence to the production. Walker’s character questions the truthfulness in his character, conflicted by his passion for honest art, which he feels is losing its grip in modern day theater.  

So what does the title 10 Out of 12 mean? A 10 out of 12 is a day in which, per the rules of Actors Equity, the actors are contracted to work for 12 hours with one 2-hour dinner break. It’s during that time that all the designing elements of the production are united as a whole, as costumes, sound, lighting, projections, set and acting are fine-tuned just prior to a show’s opening. 

When asked why she wrote a play about a tech rehearsal, Washburn descriptively states, “A decade ago most theaters didn’t have Wi-Fi…and no one is more useless in tech than the playwright. So, I began taking notes. I was fascinated by the strange surreal interplay of light and music. I loved the mysterious technical languages being used around me, the rhythmic drone of the calling light and sound cues. I liked watching the actors freed from their normal self-consciousness. I liked the low continual volume of play which bubbled up throughout the tech as a desperate counterpoint to the long periods of tedium and waiting. And the endless snacking, and discussion of snacking.”  

Throughout the production we hear small talk between the techs – everyday musings that are often quite humorous. We also hear the actors talking hopefully about getting their big break, but also turning down roles for the sake of integrity. At one point the leading actress asks the stage manager if she can leave early to audition for a role in a pilot. We have entered the world of theater. 

As much as this often funny and revealing play is a fantastic chance to catch the inner-workings of theater production, it misses a few opportunities that were begging for the injection of timely humor, at points drifting away only to grab the audience again just in time. It would also have been nice if the script called for a larger role from Mahoney, whose well-timed remarks were almost always met with crowd laughter. Notable was the play’s pace, perhaps running about thirty minutes too long (two and a half hours plus intermission), making the thought of a slightly condensed version somewhat appetizing. Washburn's story nicely envelopes the stresses, complications and rewards in theater production. 

Still, there is much to like in 10 Out of 12, the good outweighing the bad by significant measure. One should expect a fun lesson in Theater Production 101 that is coupled with fine acting performances and enough humor that insures an overall pleasant experience. The headsets are a nice touch, giving audience members an opportunity to feel at times as though they were part of the production team.  

10 Out of 12 is being performed at Theater Wit through April 23rd. For tickets and/or more show information click here

 

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Brown Paper Box Co. is thrilled to announce their upcoming cabaret event, Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret, hosted by company member, Kristi Szczepanek*. This is the first occasion that the company has announced their season in full, and they are excited to do so. This cabaret will feature performers, some of which are members of Brown Paper Box Co. and some that are not! Kristi Szczepanek* first worked with the company as the female understudy in NOW. HERE. THIS. in the summer of 2016.

 

In the past couple of months, curator and host, Kristi has been thinking about what it takes for us to keep ourselves positive and focused on the present moment in the face of adversity. She says: “The current political climate is the most obvious source, but we are all living rich lives that are much more than politics. How do we balance all of this and keep ourselves sane in the process?” Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret will feature songs and stories of people trying to do just that on two nights in April at Mary’s Attic.

 

This event will feature Shalita Cake, Diego Colón, Kamille Dawkins, M. William Panek*, Deanalís Resto, Anna Schutz*, Matt Sergot*, Nick Shoda*, Brittany Stock, & Travis Austin Wright, with musical direction by Ken Jones.

 

Additional information can be found on BrownPaperBox.org and tickets are on sale now.

 

*Denotes Brown Paper Box Co. members

About Brown Paper Box Co.

Brown Paper Box Co. creates challenging and inspiring theatre that focuses on the text. By employing a smart, simple aesthetic in intimate spaces, we connect audiences directly to the heart of the story. For more information, please visit www.BrownPaperBox.org.

Who: Brown Paper Box Co.

What: Positively Present: An Uplifting Cabaret

Where: Mary’s Attic at 5400 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60640

Regular Run:  April 7 - April 8, 2017 at 7:30PM

 

 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

A Red Orchid Theatre concludes its 2016-2017 Season with the Chicago premiere of 3C, written by David Adjmi and directed by Ensemble Member Shade Murray. The production runs April 20 – June 4, 2017, at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells. The press opening is Monday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m.

Inspired by 70’s sitcoms and the political incorrectness of "jiggle television," 3C is a hilarious and horrifying look at identity and what lies beneath the homogeneous perky veneer. Brad lands in L.A. to start a new life. A wild night of partying finds him passed out in Connie and Linda’s kitchen and the three strike a deal that raises the suspicions of the landlords. Complications spiral out of control, taking the show from farce to something... unexpected. 

 “We could use a good laugh, an out-loud, roll-on-the floor, cringe-worthy, ugly-cry laugh,” notes Artistic Director Kirsten Fitzgerald.  “3C certainly brings that to the room along with much, much more. I am beyond thrilled to get to know David and for our artists and audiences alike to mine the deepest and darkest of identity questions both personal and public. Director Shade Murray has a knack for finding the hilarity in the darkest of interactions. I cannot wait to have them in the same room exploring and sharing the world and words with all.”  

The cast of 3C includes Ensemble Members Jennifer Engstrom (Mrs. Wicker), Lawrence Grimm (Mr. Wicker) and Steve Haggard (Terry), with Christina Gorman (Linda), Nick Mikula (Brad) and Sigrid Sutter (Connie).

The creative team includes Sarah Fabian (Set Designer), Myron Elliott (Costume Designer), Rachel Levy (Lighting Designer), Brando Triantafillou (Sound Designer), Lydia Hanchett (Props Designer) and Jon Martinez (Choreography). The Production Stage Manager is Christa van Baale.

About the Artists

David Adjmi (Playwright) was called "virtuosic" by the New York Times, one of the "best and most original theatre artists of a generation" by Vogue, and one of the Top Ten in Culture by The New Yorker magazine. 3C received its world premiere at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (with Rising Phoenix and Piece by Piece Productions) in June 2012, and was dubbed "revelatory" by the Times and “the most divisive and controversial play of the season” by the New York Post. 3C was selected as one of the top ten plays of 2012 by the Post, Time Out New York and the Advocate.  His other plays include Marie Antoinette (A.R.T. & Yale Rep, Soho Rep, Steppenwolf, Woolly Mammoth and more), Elective Affinities (Royal Shakespeare Company, Soho Rep with Rising Phoenix & Piece by Piece Productions), Stunning (LCT3/Lincoln Center Theater, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company), The Evildoers (Sundance, Yale Repertory Theatre), Caligula (Soho Rep Studio Series), and Strange Attractors (Empty Space).  David was awarded a Mellon Foundation Playwrights Residency, the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Whiting Writers’ Award, the Kesselring Prize for Drama, the Steinberg Playwright Award (the “Mimi”), McKnight and Jerome fellowships, the Helen Merrill Award, the Marian Seldes-Garson Kanin Fellowship, the Fadiman Prize and the Bush Artists Fellowship, among others.  A collection of David’s work, Stunning and Other Plays, is published by TCG, and his work is included in The Methuen Drama Book of New American Plays. His memoir SAVE US, SUPERMAN! is forthcoming from HarperCollins as is a second collection of plays entitled 1789 / 1978.

Shade Murray (Director) is an ensemble member of A Red Orchid Theater, where he has directed the world premieres of Brett Neveu’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Ike Holter’s Sender, as well as productions of Marisa Wegrzyn’s Mud Blue Sky and The Butcher of Baraboo, Annie Baker’s The Aliens, Nick Jones’ Trevor, Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party and Kimberly Akimbo by David Lindsay-Abaire.  He also performed in the A Red Orchid production of The Mutilated.  Other directing credits include Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The House Theater, Steep Theater, Second City, Writers’ Theater and elsewhere.  Shade is a lecturer at University of Chicago and teaches at DePaul University and Actors’ Studio Chicago.

Jennifer Engstrom (Mrs. Wicker) returns to A Red Orchid Theatre in 3C. An ensemble member since 2003, Jennifer was most recently seen in AROT's The Mutilated, garnering a Jeff nomination for Outstanding Actress. Other Orchid productions include: Eric LaRue, The Fastest Clock in The Universe, The Hothouse, Weapons of Mass Impact, Fatboy, and Simpatico. Other credits include A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of A Streetcar named Virginia Woolf (Writers Theatre); Sweet Bird Of Youth (The Goodman Theatre); One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, The North Plan (Steppenwolf Theatre); Skygirls (Northlight); The Incident, Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been... (Next Theatre); MacBeth (Notre Dame Shakespeare); Angels In America (Kansas City Rep).  This summer Jennifer will fill in for the mighty Amy Morton in Steppenwolf's Hir. Jennifer will be seen in the upcoming film Slice starring Chance The Rapper.

Christina Gorman (Linda) is an actor and fight choreographer, originally from the Hudson Valley region of upstate New York. Chicago acting credits include: Men Should Weep (Jeff Award for Best Production-Play) and Stage Door for Griffin Theatre; The Bottle Tree (Stage Left Theatre); Making God Laugh (Fox Valley Rep); Leading Ladies (Buffalo Theatre Ensemble); The Thin Man (City Lit); and The Tall Girls, In the Heat of the Night, The Grown Up, The Rose Tattoo, Our Country's Good, Happy Now, and Romeo and Juliet for Shattered Globe Theatre, where she is an ensemble member.

Lawrence Grimm (Mr. Wicker) is back at A Red Orchid where some of his favorite and more recent shows include Trevor (Jeff Nomination), Solstice, In a Garden, Pumpgirl, Abigail’s Party, The Meek, The Physicists, Mr. Kolpert, Caine-Mutiny Court Martial, In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, and Born Guilty. Other recent Chicago credits: King Charles III and The Tempest (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre), 2666 (Goodman Theatre), My Name is Asher Lev (Timeline Theatre), In the Next Room or The Vibrator Play (Victory Gardens), Maple and Vine, Welcome Home Jenny Sutter (Next Theatre), Orlando (Court Theatre),  King Lear, Two by Pinter (Piven Theater Workshop), The Balcony (New Crime), Apocalyptic Butterflies, Sketchbook, (Collaboraction), The Glass Menagerie (Raven Theatre – Jeff Award), The Brothers Karamazov, 1984, The Naked King (Lookingglass), I Never Sang for My Father, Wolf Lullaby (Steppenwolf). Film: Welcome to Me, Perfect Manhattan, Cicero in Winter and the upcoming Captive State. Television: Chicago PD, Chicago Med.

Steve Haggard (Terry) was last seen at A Red Orchid in Sender and The Mutilated. He has been an ensemble member since 2007. Other Orchid shows include Accidentally Like A Martyr, The Aliens, Kimberly Akimbo and The Mandrake. Chicago credits: Tribes (Steppenwolf); Funnyman and Season’s Greetings (Northlight); Doubt, Old Glory, The Subject Was Roses and Our Town (Writers); Wasteland (Timeline); King Lear, As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet (Chicago Shakespeare). Regional Credits: R+ G are Dead, Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Tempest, Hay Fever, Comedy of Errors and Ah Wilderness (American Players Theatre), Almost Maine (Milwaukee Repertory) and Fallen Angels (Indiana Repertory). Steve is a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University. 

Nick Mikula (Brad) makes his A Red Orchid Theatre debut. Other credits include Warped, Joe Egg, All's Well that Ends Well, LeapFest's And Eat it Too (Stage Left Theatre) Luther (U/S Steep Theatre), The Brig, Cherrywood (Mary-Arrchie), The Improv Play (Infusion), Map of Virtue (Cor) The Dining Room, The Man Who Was Thursday (New Leaf), 44 Ways (Redtwist) SS! A Midsummer Nights Dream (U/S Chicago Shakespeare), Six Degrees of Separation (Signal), Macbeth (Greasy Joan), W;T (Gift), ROAD (Ka-Tet), Pretty Penny, Half Shut (Right Brain),  Paper City Phoenix (Tympanic Theatre), Radio Silence, Ping-Pong, The Gas Heart (The Nine), and 20%. Improv Credits include Octavarius and Sam Hill. Film credits include the web series Under Covers.

Sigrid Sutter (Connie) makes her debut at A Red Orchid Theatre. In Chicago, she’s worked with Northlight Theatre, Steep Theatre, Jackalope Theatre, Teatro Vista, Sideshow Theatre, Back Room Shakespeare Project, and others. Her film credits include Colma: The Musical and Strange Culture; her television credits include Chicago Justice and Ellen. She is represented by Actors Talent Group. 

Fact Sheet/ 3C

Title: 3C

Written by: David Adjmi

Directed by: Ensemble Member Shade Murray

Featuring: Ensemble Members Jennifer Engstrom, Larry Grimm and Steve Haggard with Christina Gorman, Nick Mikula,and Sigrid Sutter.

 

Dates:              

Previews: April 20 – 23, 2017

Red Night Opening: Friday, April 28, 2017 at 8 p.m.

Regular Run: April 29 – June 4, 2017 

Schedule:        

Thursdays: 8:00 p.m.

Fridays: 8:00 p.m.

Saturdays: 8:00 p.m.         

Sundays: 3:00 p.m. (except April 23).

Location: A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells Ave.

Tickets: $15-$25 previews, $30-$35 regular run.  ($30 Thurs, $35 Fri, Sat, Sun)

Box Office: Located at 1531 N. Wells Ave, Chicago, (312) 943-8722; or online www.aredorchidtheatre.org

 

About A Red Orchid

A Red Orchid Theatre has served as an artistic focal point in the heart of the Old Town community of Chicago since 1993 and was honored this year with a 2016 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Over the past 23 years, its Resident Ensemble has welcomed into its fold an impressive array of award winning actors, playwrights and theatre artists with the firm belief that live theatre is the greatest sustenance for the human spirit. A Red Orchid is well known and highly acclaimed for its fearless approach to performance and design in the service of unflinchingly intimate stories. In addition to its professional season, the company also produces an annual OrKids (youth) project and hosts The Incubator (providing artists with space and time to explore new work, new forms and new artistic collaborations).

 

A Red Orchid Theatre is: Lance Baker, Kamal Angelo Bolden, Dado, Mike Durst, Jennifer Engstrom, Kirsten Fitzgerald, Joseph Fosco, Steve Haggard, Mierka Girten, Larry Grimm, Karen Kawa, Karen Kessler, Danny McCarthy, Shade Murray, Brett Neveu, Michael Shannon, Guy Van Swearingen, Doug Vickers and Natalie West.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Monday, 13 March 2017 12:34

Review: Kokandy Productions' "The Wiz"

"The Wiz" is a perfect collision of disco and show tunes. Appearing on Broadway in 1975, "The Wiz" went on to win the Tony for Best Musical. Though it was not the first all-black production on Broadway, the cross-over appeal of its music made it a sensation. A few years later it was adapted for film starring Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Lena Horn. The film is considerably different than the stage version, for the worse. 

 

Kokandy Productions' "The Wiz" accentuates all the enduring qualities of the show while adding some modern flare of its own. This has to be the hardest working cast in Chicago right now. For two and a half solid hours director Lili-Anne Brown's cast of talented singers and dancers fill the space with an infectious energy. Sydney Charles as Dorothy is cute and brings a sense of humor to the character, her soaring vocals come to an inspiring crest during "Home." Though, it may well be Frederick Harris in the titular role (in fabulous drag no less) who walks away with the evening's biggest laughs. There's not a sour note in this production and each song is either a powerhouse ballad or a funky dance number. 

 

One of the show's many pleasant surprises is the costuming and overall aesthetic. This is highly conceptualized version that suits the intimate space at Theatre Wit. Borrowing from 90s-era TLC and blending it with today's street fashion, costume designer Virginia Varland creates a very stylish motif in an otherwise minimal set. The ensemble looks as great as they sound. 

 

Lili-Anne Brown doesn't complete her update of "The Wiz" with costumes alone. There's some fairly edgy humor written into this production, including a nod to the prevalence of police brutality cellphone videos. This version of "The Wiz" is how it was originally intended to be–for adults. What the movie and the NBC live version miss is a lot of the grown-up humor in the script. After all, this is an urban contemporary version of the Wizard of Oz, it should be cheeky. Miss Brown's vision for Kokandy Productions' "The Wiz" is a lot of fun and keeps its source material relevant. 

 

Through April 16th at Theater Wit. 1229 W Belmont Ave. 773-975-8150

*Extended through April 23rd

 

Published in Theatre in Review

In The Source, Gabriel McKinley has penned what may be destined to become a stage classic. A gripping thriller, The Source is a timeless existential drama as well.

It centers on a pair of journalists –  a writer, and a photographer – holed up in a hotel, waiting to connect with a whistleblower - someone who will reveal deep background on a cache of information just released on a security agency in the government.

In 85 tightly controlled minutes director Jason Gersace ensnares our curiosity, luring us into this very topical examination of the tension between privacy and security. It is also a study of what happens when two people who don't necessarily like each other are bound together by necessity. 

The journalists are professional opposites – the writer Vernon (Cody Proctor) is cool and cerebral; the photographer Luna (Kristina Valada-Viars) warm and intuitive. On a journalistic level, Vernon holds writing in higher esteem than photography – a notion that causes competitive professional sparks familiar to those in the field. For her part, Luna feels pictures rule. “I don’t read newspapers; it’s a dead medium,” she digs.

Vernon enters the hotel room as the lights come up, and makes a hurried canvass of the premises -  unplugging the TV, putting his phone in the freezer after removing its batteries, he draws the curtains tight – establishing his high level of anxiety and paranoia. We are not sure why.

We soon see they are opposites on a human level, too. Luna’s arrival catches him off guard (he was in the shower), and she exhibits far less angst than him. Luna readily introduces herself to Vernon and shares her background, while he is reluctant to provide even his name.

That they are to pose as a married couple while they await further signals from their source only heightens the emotional aspects of this drama.

Thrown together in a hotel room for a period that is indeterminate, the two unfold before the audience – and each other – as any roommate or cell mates will. They empty the mini bar, they attempt a tryst in bed, they lose sleep, and sleep too much.

The progression of time is conveyed artfully, with a supertitle Day 2, Day 4, etc., flashed on the wall above the window. Because the two will not admit room service, their quarters also mark the passage of time by become messier. Their clothes need laundering. They are at each other’s throats, and their claustrophobia germinates into a mutual paranoia.  

That wait goes on interspersed by just a few external diversions – a fire alarm goes off, periodically someone pounds on the door of the room, lights from an unknown source scan across the room and its occupants.

This is where The Source rises from a topical drama about government intrigue and media, to a timeless study of two people cast together, waiting, but not knowing what exactly they are waiting for. It seems like a play that will wear well over time.

Credit goes to Jack McGaw for scenic design, Claire Margaret Chrzan for lighting design, and Mark Comiskey for projection design for lighting design – particularly artful are the abstract glowing shadows of lamps inscribed on the wall when the room goes dark.  

Route 66 Theatre Company ‘s The Source runs through April 2 at The Den Theatre. www.route66theatre.brownpapertickets.com.

Published in Theatre in Review

Replacing the twenty-eight-year long-running hit show "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind", which was known for delivering thirty original plays in sixty minutes with an ever-changing cast, is a new troupe of high energy players each with their own personal gifts and comedic skills. In the same tradition, Neo Futurium now presents The Infinite Wrench. 

Greg Allen, the original founder of the name and style of such theater decided to revoke the use of the name and concept a few years after he left the troupe in 2011. The last performance of “Too Much Light” came on December 31st, 2016. The show, as most know, was a longtime late-night fixture in Chicago. All I know is that two of my best buddies in college spent four years with me honing exactly these type of skills, improvising and then writing/performing - John C Reilly and Phil Ridarelli. While John went off to make films fairly quickly after school, Phil worked hard for years with the original Neo Futurist members to turn "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind" into the thoughtful, yet funny and exciting theater experience it was. “Too Much Light” went on to become the longest running theatre- production in Chicago’s history and became an iconic piece of our pop culture. Though the new show could very well be just as unique and exciting (and I do look forward to seeing what it will develop into), I’ll certainly miss Phil and some of those older members. 

That said, the new troupe has an energy all their own. The topics of the plays were more political in nature, which I liked. For example, one consisted of an actor writing DECENCY at one end of a thirty-foot-long chalkboard then drawing a LONG line to the words CHILD RAPE, finally drawing a line below the word CHILD RAPE that points to the word BREITBART, comparing the publication to that dark side of the spectrum, which was quite funny. 

The Infinite Wrench creates a team atmosphere, each guest receiving a name tag with a color upon walking into the theatre. Teams are decided by the color designated and get to decide the next play by yelling out their color when the actors say “Next” at the end of their sketch. Five stations each of different colors (red, blue, green, pink, and yellow) hold five plays that are randomly selected by the actor after running towards the color the actors hear first. But the overall goal is to complete thirty plays in sixty minutes, a timer set just after the actors explain the rules to the audience. 

Each play varies in content and could come in the form of monologues, musical numbers and/or group sketches, some being silly-funny (First Man on the Moon) while some poignant and some perhaps a bit nonsensical. The audience is warned by the actors that all plays, inspired by something they have experienced, might not be as funny when acted out as they may have been while writing them. If such is the case, the play is scrapped and a new one reworked into the next show though new plays are worked in weekly regardless. Each play introduced into the show is written by one of the performing actors.  

The Infinite Wrench has big shoes to fill in replacing such a popular Chicago theatre pastime that has actually created its own cult-like following. After watching the show in its opening weekend and seeing the highly-animated actors go to work and the material that was so well presented, but especially noting the positive crowd reaction, I am quite sure the Neo-Futurist tradition will carry on, seamlessly. 

I LOVE the way the actors involve the audience throughout the entire show. I have been asked onstage to play the piano, I have shouted out the word PINK at inappropriate moments to huge laughs. The Neo-Futurists offer a very special and freewheeling, uniquely Chicagoan, way of viewing theater. 

There are often performer antics taking place in the lobby before and after the show, and are low-priced snacks at the end of the Hall of Presidents entryway enroute to the theatre itself. 

Should this new, and very talented, cast keep the heart in what they’re doing, as did The Neo-Futurists in the past, The Infinite Wrench will continue to run for another twenty-eight years. The creative production team and actors include Kurt Chiang, Trevor Dawkins, Nick Hart, Jeewon Kim, Kirsten Riiber, Malic White, Ida Cuttler, Tif Harrison, Dan Kerr-Hobert, Lily Mooney and Leah Urzendowski Courser.  

Where does the name come from?

As mentioned on the Neo-Futurists home page for the show - The title of our show The Infinite Wrench is partly inspired by text from Mina Loy’s “Feminist Manifesto” (1914). Loy was briefly associated with the original Italian Futurists, and wrote her manifesto in response to some of the group’s establishing principles.

If you are disabled or have a hard time walking, please note the theatre is not wheelchair accessible and that climbing a flight of stairs is necessary to enter the theatre. However, they do honor accessibility requests and offer to assist the best they can. To find out more about making an accessibility request, click here.  

The price is right and even paying to get in is part of the fun. Tickets are just $9 plus a role of the dice that add an extra $2-$12. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. For more show information, click here

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

In anticipation of high ticket demand, Lyric Opera of Chicago announced today that the initial block of tickets for its Spring 2018 production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar will be available for sale a year in advance, starting Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 10 a.m. The North American debut of Jesus Christ Superstar, in a reimagining of Timothy Sheader’s award-winning production from London’s Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre, will be presented at Lyric’s Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, April 27 - May 20, 2018.  Single tickets, which start at $44.00, will be available online at https://www.lyricopera.org/concertstickets/calendar/2017-2018/productions/lyricopera/jesus-christ-superstar-tickets, by visiting Lyric’s Civic Opera House box office, or by calling 312-827-5600.

Three-time Olivier Award winner Timothy Sheader directs the American debut of his acclaimed 2016 production from Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre. Sheader will be joined in Chicago by the original creative team from this production to re-envision and mount the grand-scale Lyric production, including 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 an all-star cast (to be announced at a later date), along with members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Jesus Christ Superstar is the sixth installment of Lyric’s Musical Initiative. It follows Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s beloved My Fair Lady, which is being presented at Lyric’s Civic Opera House, April 28-May 21, 2017.  

“Up to now in our musical theater productions, we’ve concentrated on American classics,” notes Lyric's General Director, President & CEO Anthony Freud, “but in 2017/18, for the first time, we’re producing an iconic rock opera, one that suits a big theater: Jesus Christ Superstar.” In director Timothy Sheader’s production, “Our audience will be reminded that this is a truly unforgettable piece. When it arrived in America in 1972, it became one of the greatest successes in Broadway history, and it’s been enthralling audiences everywhere ever since.”

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.

The Lyric Opera premiere of Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar is generously made possible by Lead Sponsor The Negaunee Foundation and cosponsor Mr. and Mrs. J. Christopher Reyes. Production by The Regent’s Park Theatre London.

Single tickets for the balance of Lyric Opera’s 2017/18 season will go on sale in July 2017. Season subscriptions are on-sale now by visiting https://www.lyricopera.org/concertstickets/1718-lyric-opera-season

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Monday, 06 March 2017 19:22

On the Run with Marriott's Madagascar

Charming, colorful and inventive, the Marriot Theater’s Madagascar – A Musical Adventure, for young audiences, is a fun-filled ride with themes that will surely resonate with both kids and adults.

 

Based on the popular 2005 film by DreamWorks Animation, Madagascar centers around four main characters from the Central Park Zoo: Alex the Lion (Russell Mernagh), Marty the Zebra (James Earl Jones II), Melman the Giraffe (Stephen Schellhardt), and Gloria the Hippo (Rashada Dawan).

 

At first glance this fun-loving group seems happy enough to perform for park visitors, especially the king of the jungle, Alex the Lion, who is in his element prancing around the stage, showing off his perfected “roar”. But when presented with the idea of freedom by a cadre of hilarious and enterprising penguins who say “it’s not natural to be in a zoo,” Marty the Zebra, to the surprise of his friends, makes a run for it.

 

Having lived their entire lives in captivity, Alex, Melman and Gloria are shocked that Marty would even consider leaving the comfortable life of the Central Park Zoo. But in the spirit of true friendship, they push their misgivings aside and embark on a rip-roaring adventure that eventually lands them in the exotic wilds of Madagascar.

 

The quirky and pompous lemur King Julien (wonderfully played by Jonathan Butler-Duplessis) is a joy to watch as he tries to incorporate Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria, in his masterplan to rid the island of the fossa who hunt and attack his fellow lemurs. However, this plan goes awry as Alex, who now has to fend for himself in the wild, can’t contain his animal instincts and attacks Marty.

 

Directed and choreographed by Matt Raftery, Madagascar – A Musical Adventure, hits all the right notes in “crack-a-lackin’” style as Mernagh and Jones also shine in their roles with both chemistry and good-natured fun, as they show that in the end true friendship can overcome even the “laws of nature”.

 

Perhaps of the best moment of the production is the high-energy rendition of “Move It, Move It!” which gets the crowd clapping and kids, as well as adults, up on their feet.

 

Colorful costume and props really enhance the performance, bringing this animated favorite vividly to life. “Madagascar is already an established idea,” said Jesus Perez, costume designer and assistant director, “but since this is a live production and not a movie, it has opened up a world of creativity for us. This is the perfect vehicle for me as a designer to bring this fantastical world to life.”

 

The talented cast, which also includes: Leah Morrow as “Skipper,” Liam Quealy as “Kowalski,” Laura Savage as “Mort and Private,” Elena Romanowski as “Rico,” Samantha Pauly as “Maurice,” and Jed Feder as “Mason,” won’t disappoint as they sing and dance to some of your favorite tunes from the movie.

 

Recommended

 

All performances are followed by a question and answer session with the cast.

 

Madagascar – A Musical Adventure, playing at the Marriott Theater located in the Lincolnshire Marriott Resort, runs through April 15 Tuesdays through Sundays at 10 a.m. with certain performances at 12:30 p.m. For more information and tickets, visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Page 2 of 29

 

 

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