Theatre in Review

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

Tribute shows are generally as good as the performers that star. I probably just stated the most obvious fact on the planet. Yet it’s so very true. No matter how good the song selection, the costumes, the set, it is the vocal performance that we bring home with us. In “My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” a different taste of Sinatra is delivered; rather than presenting an Ol’ Blue Eyes impersonator, we are invited to a 1960’s club setting where four actors casually reminisce with the audience over more than fifty Sinatra favorites. 

The musical revue, rich in its depicted era, stars George Keating, Christine Mild, Eric A. Lewis and McKinley Carter, each taking turns riffing through classics like “Makin’ Whoopee”, “Fly Me to the Moon”, “The Best is Yet to Come”, “Young at Heart”, and “It was a Very Good Year” – the songs are countless. The four have made their mark in the Chicago theatre scene, Lewis a Jeff Award Winner for his work in Porchlight Music Theatre’s “Dreamgirls”, Mild, who not only starred in Theater at the Center’s “Pump Boys and Dinettes” but who has recently released her debut solo album “Love Is Everything”, Carter, who has done work in prestigious venues such as Writers Theatre and Drury Lane Oakbrook, and Keating, who not only has been featured in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” at Paramount Theater, but is the co-founder of the very popular Chicago and Off-Broadway hit “Schoolhouse Rock Live”. 

The four actors work well together as snippets of Sinatra songs are often worked into light exchanges between the characters. They gracefully glide around the stage and upon the stairways often pairing elegantly for dance routines. Often, the characters might be seen having a drink at the bar or nonchalantly interacting at a table, setting a relaxed night-out-on-the-town mood. Throughout the show, Sinatra factoids and quotes are tossed about during song breaks, allowing at times for the audience to participate. The club centers around a bar, where a live band simplified to piano (William Underwood), bass (Jake Saleh) and drums (Nick Anderson) plays directly behind it. Despite the small size of the outfit, the sound is big and the musicians ever-impressive, each getting to show their skills off a bit while briefly featured individually in the second act. 

While perhaps wishing for a little more "oomph" overall in the individual vocal performances (mainly on the lower notes) ala Sinatra, each of the performers have their shining moments and are able to deliver the songs with their intended pizzazz and vigor. But the magic in this show is when the four would sing together, whether it be a duet or a four-part harmony. It is with these synchronized vocal efforts one easily loses themselves in the beauty of Sinatra’s work. 

Brenda Didier both directs and choreographs this fascinating piece with a stylish aplomb that captures the charm of the period so very well. Lewis particularly stands out during his renditions of “My Kind of Town” and “I’m Gonna Live ‘Til I Die”, while Keating finishes strong with a fervent version of “That’s Life”. The production flows at a nice pace and is a pleasing homage to Sinatra, though we are often teased with a song segment left wanting to hear the piece in its entirety. This is countered by the fact that we are given such a vast collection of the music Sinatra made famous. The show ties together well eventually leading us to an expressive interpretation of perhaps Sinatra’s most timeless classic, “My Way”, commendably performed by the entire cast. 

“My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra” is a time capsule that will certainly touch the hearts of “Chairman of the Board” fans, but is equipped with enough nostalgia, panache and musical talent to please even the most curious. This polished production is being performed at Theater at the Center in Munster, IN through March 19th. Click here for tickets and/or more show information.   

 

Published in Theatre in Review

While not explicitly a biography about The Supremes, "Dreamgirls" is awfully close. It's a Quincy Jones-flavored musical about the road to fame, and the pitfalls of show business. Porchlight Theatre concludes its season with a rarely produced modern classic. Choreographed and directed by Brenda Didier, with musical direction by Doug Peck, "Dreamgirls" is a delight. 

 

"Dreamgirls" is really one of the first musicals about the early days of rock 'n roll. Though it's about more than just the rise of the "girl group" in popular music. The book by Tom Eyen uses a familiar story to illustrate how mainstream music helped open minds about race in America. The original Broadway production opened in 1981 and ran for four years. It has since been adapted into an Oscar-nominated film. 

 

Porchlight has assembled an all-star cast for this production. Particularly Donica Lynn as Effy. The three Dreams fill the rafters with soaring vocals. While Lynn may be the voice, Candace C. Edwards and Katherine Thomas as co-Dreams, turn in strong performances as well. Eric Lewis is electrifying in the role of fictional soul legend Jimmy Early. His numbers are thrilling.  

 

Didier's vision for this show is vivid. Her choreography is high-energy and visually pleasing throughout. Peck's musical direction proves a high point as well. It's not often you find yourself thinking about the band in a theatrical performance - but the wall of sound coming from this pit is a funky good time. Rounding out aesthetics are Bill Morey's costumes, which are well conceived and provide an extra layer of authenticity. 

 

Porchlight Music Theatre turns out another gem at Stage 773. "Dreamgirls" is a feast for the eyes and ears. Shows like "The Wiz" and "Dreamgirls" aren't produced nearly as often as they should be, which makes this impressive production all the more rare. The vocals are so good you'll wish you could take the soundtrack home with you. 

 

Through May 22nd at Stage 773. 1225 W Belmont Ave. 773-327-5252

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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