Theatre

Writers Theatre, under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma, concludes its 2016/17 season with the musical Parade, with book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, co-conceived by Harold Prince.  The Writers Theatre production of Parade is directed by Gary Griffin and features musical direction by Michael Mahler and choreography by Ericka Mac.  Parade runs May 24 – July 2, 2017 in the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. 

 

This stirring, Tony Award-winning musical explores the endurance of love and hope against seemingly insurmountable odds, telling the true story of Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jewish man falsely accused of murder in 1913 Atlanta. Innovative and daring, and filled with soaring music, Parade is a moving love story, a riveting murder mystery, a gripping courtroom drama and a powerful exploration of innocence and naïveté coming face-to-face with ignorance and prejudice.

 

Acclaimed director Gary Griffin, who directed the original Broadway production of Jason Robert Brown’s Honeymoon in Vegas and the world premiere of his The Trumpet of the Swan at the Kennedy Center, stages an intimate revival of this celebrated musical. With a book by playwright Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and a score by Brown (The Last Five Years, The Bridges of Madison County) that combines folk, rock, R&B and gospel, Parade ends WT’s 25th Anniversary Season with spectacular impact.

 

“I had the pleasure of being directed by Gary in a Writers Theatre production of Joe Orton's Loot. He is one of my favorite directors and one of my closest friends, and it is a privilege to be in collaboration with him again,” said Artistic Director Michael Halberstam.  “I have enjoyed many, many years of conversation with him over copious glasses of wine discussing masterwork musicals and how best to make them work. I cannot express how happy I am then to be working on supporting Gary’s vision for Parade, a musical that has suddenly become disturbingly relevant given the deeply unsettling swell of anti-semitism.  The Anti-Defamation League recently announced that cases of anti-semitism have spiked 86% in the first quarter of this year, proving the old adage that ‘the more things change the more they stay the same.’

 

“Gary has assembled a first-rate cast with breathtaking vocal prowess and a first-rate design team to create the world in which they bring Mr. Brown and Mr. Uhry’s bravura masterwork to life.  Parade is a fully cohesive musical voyage into the triumph of love and the dangers of what can happen when the fires of hatred are irresponsibly stoked within an unhappy and angry populace. Musically, it defies simple definition while maintaining accessibility and a deep emotional core. It is a fitting way to close the season and it passes a symbolic baton to Trevor, a brand new musical which opens next season and strikes open a whole new adventure of its own.”

 

The cast of Parade includes: Larry Adams (Old Soldier/Judge Roan/Ensemble), Patrick Andrews (Leo Frank), Brianna Borger (Lucille Frank), Jonathan Butler-Duplessis (Jim Conley), McKinley Carter (Mrs. Phagan/Sally Slaton), Devin DeSantis (Britt Craig/Young Soldier/Ensemble), Kevin Gudahl (Hugh Dorsey/Ensemble), Derek Hasenstab (Governor John Slaton/Ensemble), Nicole Michelle Haskins (Minola "Minnie" McKnight/Angela), Caroline Heffernan (Mary Phagan/Essie/Ensemble), Zoe Nadal (Monteen/Ensemble),Jake Nicholson (Frankie Epps/Ensemble), Jeff Parker (Tom Watson/Ensemble), Leryn Turlington (Iola Stover/Ensemble), andJonah D. Winston (Newt Lee/Riley).

 

The creative team includes: Matt Deitchman (Associate Music Director & Piano/Conductor), Scott Davis (Scenic Designer), Mara Blumenfeld(Costume Designer), Christine Binder (Lighting Designer), Ray Nardelli (Sound Designer) and Scott Dickens (Properties Master). Bobby Kennedy is the Dramaturg, David Castellanos is the Production Stage Manager and Nick Moran is the CFM Contractor.

 

Single tickets for Parade, priced $35 - $80, are available online at www.writerstheatre.org, by phone at 847-242-6000, or in person at the box office at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe.

 

PARADE On-stage Seating

For adventurous theatregoers who want to be part of the action, Writers Theatre is offering a limited number of special on-stage seats for every performance of Parade!

 

These special on-stage seats, reachable via curved staircases, will be on a raised platform at the back of the stage so that the audience will fully surround the action on stage. This exclusive vantage point provides audience members an immersive experience of Parade, as the area will be located near the orchestra and will also be used by actors during the performance…

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Possibly one of the best productions of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” that has graced the Chicago area is currently playing through June 5th at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Powerful, rich in musical and vocal performance and brilliantly choreographed, we are treated to a Tony caliber cast, as this production of “Evita” stirs the souls of audience members throughout in its intimate theatre-in-the-round setting. Superbly directed and choreographed by Jeff Award nominee Alex Sanchez, this electrifying production of “Evita” captivates from its opening ensemble number “Requiem” and continues to do so through the end of its second act. 

“Evita” is the story of Eva Peron who became Argentina’s First Lady in 1946 and remained so until her death in 1952. Married to Argentinian President Juan Peron, Eva was the country’s ambassador and became a true inspiration for its people. Hers is truly a story of rags to riches coming from one of the poorest areas of Junin before fleeing with a musician to Buenos Aires years later where her good looks contributed to her becoming a successful actress. In 1944 Eva Duarte met Colonel Juan Peron at a fundraising benefit for a major San Juan earthquake that claimed over 10,000 lives. From there the pair became of historical fame as together, they brought together “a new Argentina” much to the skepticism of Che, the iconic revolutionary. As the two ruled Argentina, Che is suspect that nothing has really changed for the better as promised by the power couple except for the wealth of the newly married Peron’s. 

Hannah Corneau is nothing less than triumphant as “Eva Peron”. Corneau delivers a spectacular performance that is sure to be remembered long after. Strong, passionate and eloquent, Corneau is seemingly meant to play the role of Eva. And for any production of “Evita” to succeed, there needs to be a convincing “Che”. Austin Lesch is just that and even exceeds expectations thanks to his hypnotic charisma and gifted voice. Local favorite and seasoned veteran Larry Adams also turns in a sincere performance as “Juan Peron”, Eva’s love interest and future president of Argentina. The set is impressive with rising platforms emerging from the stage when needed and props lowered from above, creating an imaginative setting of 1940s Buenos Aires while the dancing and music enthralling and the story engaging – all the components of a musical masterpiece.

While the leading actors are comprehensively engaging throughout, the ensemble is exceptional in their own right. This tightly knit collaborative is sprinkled with actors who have successfully taken on leading roles themselves at Marriott Theatre such as Brian Bohr and Jameson Cooper (this being his twentieth Marriott production).  At the same time Eliza Palasz as Peron’s mistress and David Schlumpf (Magaldi) round out the cast with solid performances in their highly relevant supporting roles.  

This tour de force production comes highly recommended. There is a reason that Andrew Lloyd Webber is the wealthiest musician in the world and “Evita” is one of his greatest works. And Marriott Theatre does this production to perfection. Produced and directed with a vision that would be sure to please Webber himself, this is a must-see show. 

“Evita” is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. For more information and/or tickets visit www.marriotttheatre.com. 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

If you’ve ever enjoyed the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, then “Spamalot” is definitely for you. But even those who have never seen the classic comedy would be hard pressed not to relish the musical proudly tabbed as “lovingly ripped off from the motion picture”. Now playing at the Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana through October 18th, “Spamalot” brings its witty English humor to your doorstep – well, at least just a short drive away. From its opening number “Fisch Schlapping Song” to its roaring finale “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, this is a musical that never runs out of funny.

 

Celebrating 40 years since the film was released, “Spamalot” comes with a renewed score created by Eric Idle and John Du Prez. Directed flawlessly by David Perkovich and choreographed to perfection by Linda Fortunato, each number captures just the right amount of physical comedy needed to score high on the funny meter while also keeping the integrity of Monty Python humor firmly intact. Colette Todd, is stunning as she is humorous as the “Lady of the Lake”.  A true talent, Todd gets to show off her impressive vocal range on many occasions and also dazzles the crowd with her spot on comedic chops. Comic timing is vital in Theatre at the Center’s production of “Spamalot”. Chicago favorite Larry Adams knows this and is more than up for the challenge as he takes on the leading role of King Arthur and runs with it.  Adams really brings down the house in his very funny rendition of “I’m All Alone” and is just marvelous as the often oblivious king who must lead his men in the search for the Holy Grail.

 

The cast as a whole is impressive and many play multiple roles. With wonderful performances by Jarrod Zimmerman (Sir Dennis Galahad, Dennis, Black Knight and Herbert’s Dad), Sean Fortunato (Sir Lancelot, The French Taunter, Knight of Ni and Tim the Enchanter) and a very strong ensemble, I only regret not naming the entire cast in this review because they all deserve their kudos.  

 

“Spamalot” is a spin on King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table like never done before. Its unique Monty Python humor is heavily instilled into each bit of dialogue as well as its many colorful and hysterical dance numbers, making this the perfect musical production to add to your calendar.  

 

“Spamalot” is smashing.

 

 

For show information and tickets visit www.theatreatthecenter.com

Published in Theatre Reviews
Friday, 06 February 2015 00:00

La Cage aux Folles Fabulously Fantastic!

Get ready for men dressed lavishly in drag, big laughs and plenty of high-flying dance action. Kicking off their 40th season in fabulous fashion, Marriott Theatre presents the smash hit musical La Cage aux Folles, a comedy that can be as touching as it is glamorous.

In this musical that debuted on Broadway in 1983, longtime life partners Georges and Albin run the glitzy St. Tropez nightclub where dazzling all male revues are regularly performed. Georges is the club’s master of ceremonies while his “wife” Albin is the star performer “Zaza”. But when Georges’ son Jean-Michel surprisingly announces that he plans to marry the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician bent on shutting down the so-called “filth” in his district, their lives take a hectic turn – and the chaos begins. In Jean-Michel’s efforts to impress his fiancé’s visiting parents, he requests for Albin to make himself scarce and proceeds to “un-gay” his father’s home in order to also appear conservative. Naturally, this is upsetting and hurtful to Albin though a reluctant Georges insists it is just for one night and that it will be something they can laugh over for years to come. However, once Jean-Michel’s fiancé arrives with her parents nothing goes as planned and the pandemonium really begins.     

Throughout this very funny theatre-in-the-round production we encounter numerous song and dance numbers superbly choreographed by Melissa Zaremba, most notably its big opener “We Are What We Are” where the audience gets blitzed with drag dancers pulling off a series of colorful costume changes. We meet a variety of characters including a take charge whip-wielding diva and can only be impressed with the St. Tropez dancers’ precision and flexibility. However, while we enjoy stunning costumes, overdone makeup and overly exaggerated female characteristics, at times we wonder if women are celebrated or parodied.

David Hess as Georges and Gene Weygandt as Albin truly light up the stage. The chemistry between the two is dynamic and projects a real sense of love and admiration for one another. Their closeness can easily be envied by so many, displaying a sincerity that is truthfully touching, uplifting and lasting. Hess and Weygandt stalwartly captain the helm of this humorous but moving story that tells us to never be ashamed of who we are.     

Brian Bohr puts out an adequate performance as Jean-Michel but the show’s real support comes from Joseph Anthony Byrd who is charming as Jacob, the couple’s butler who wants to be recognized as the maid and also desires a spot in La Cage. Always a pleasure to see Larry Adams perform, the Chicago acting veteran is entertaining as ever in this time a limited role as waiter M. Renaud.

La Cage aux Folles is a well-directed show that is as fun yet tender and should not be missed. La Cage is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through March 22nd. For tickets and/or more information visit www.MarriottTheatre.com.  

Published in Theatre Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These nervous women deserve respect!

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

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