Theatre in Review

Playwright Sean Grennan’s latest work is based on a true story about a successful heart transplant that occurs between two very different people who meet briefly and then go on to complete each other's lives without meeting in this world again.

Joy, played realistically and with dry humor by the playwright's sister, Erin Noel Grennan, has just received a heart transplant and is struggling with depression about why she is still alive and what happiness she can find by continuing to work, make money, spend money and work some more. Joy is a cynical loner, abandoned by her parents with one great friend named Dara, played with great humor by Jeri Marshall.

Joy finds out from her nurse, also played by Marshall (who is great at character studies), that she can write a thank you note to the donors family and does so with wonderful but challenging emotional consequences. 

It turns out her donor, Jack, played with sensitivity by Doogan Brown, a 36-year-old aspiring photographer that she once met in a coffee shop and flirted with, still has a family of three that miss him very much and are devastated by his sudden death caused by a car accident. 

Jacks' mother, father and sister - Hank (Steve Pickering),  Alice (Annabel Armouray) and  Sammy (Kayla Kennedy) are all characters brought to life with precision and care. Outside of a reluctant Hank, the family welcomes Joy into their home, hoping to find some answers or comfort for their loss in this stranger who is  carrying the heart of their child in her chest. 

One of the most touching and poignant moments in the play is when each family member listens to Joy's chest and realize that there is their son and brother, his heart still beating out his particular rhythm into this world.

Jack is shown in flashbacks and as a spirit who is sticking around in this world to oversee the healing process begun by the family meeting and bonding with his donor. 

The Tin Woman is directed with great ease into a thoughtful yet quickly moving pace by Linda Fortunato and is complimented with an all-female tech crew including a great set by Sarah Ross. The play includes set lighting by Shelley Strasser-Holland, sound by Victorio Deiorio (who also composed the original music) and costumes by Brenda Winstead, along with props by Brittney O’Keefe. The Tin Woman is a fabulous example of the success that comes with employing women at every level of theater and allowing them free reign to do their jobs. 

Although I have come to expect the fun and excitement of the large, musical theater type productions from Theatre at the Center, this serious, yet darkly funny play was a refreshing offering. 

The simplicity and universality of the story regarding surviving life after the death of a loved one fell on the audience like a soft, summer rain. 

Grennan's writing combined with his own sister's excellent portrayal of a cynical single woman at a crossroads in her life, cleanses the mind and soul with both tears and laughter so that the hope of emotional healing comes shining through the rain.

The Tin Woman is being performed at Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN through August 13th. For more show information or to purchase tickets, visit www.theatreatthecenter.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

A rainy summer night and this party was a guarantee to go on no matter what. The indoor concert venue The Arcada Theater in St. Charles, was the place to be Friday night. The people packed into the ninety-one year old building for a rock show and Femmes of Rock starring Bella Electric Strings gave them just that.

The upscale concert hall was the perfect setting for a rock concert. The walls are decorated with artists that have performed at the Arcada and other music related items. A drum-set chandelier helped to illuminate the main entrance.

From the moment the show started these young ladies strutted their stuff around the stage and played with precision. Each move was well rehearsed. With a pumped up audience to play for, this incredible band performed some of the coolest classic rock songs ever written.

“Kashmir” seems to be a perfect song for this band to play. The Middle Eastern feel is such a natural fit for the violin. These top notch players made a version of Led Zeppelin’s masterpiece that was a perfect opener. Only thought was, how can they possibly keep that energy of the first song? Somehow they managed to do so.

The Femmes of Rock is led by Nina DiGregorio. She dresses in a heavy metal manner similar to that as the Kelly Bundy character, but can play a heavy metal violin. She shreds on the instrument and moves in such a powerful way. This wild child is much more than a pretty face. Her abilities are amazing to see and hear especially with such an amazing band behind her.

Four beautiful women playing violin with a rock band is just something to see. The idea brings classic rock music and a burlesque style show to the stage. The amazing talent and collection of songs selected was all just a perfect combination.

Earlier in the day they were on WGN’s channel nine in Chicago. They played their cover of “Eleanor Rigby” and it was just a version that was remarkable. The choppy swipes at the strings were done so with good mechanics in an almost robotic sort of way. Of course, they played this one at the show as well.

A major highlight of the evening was their cover of the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The girls sat down and sang out the song. It was a very beautiful vocal moment that led into violins playing one of the most popular songs ever.

The long jam at the end goes through some of the best guitar solos from the classic rock era. One guitar god after another was displayed out on violin. Music from Deep Purple, The Eagles, AC DC, Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin and many more!! They played a full show, but it ended too soon; left the audience wanting more. Everyone wants to see more of a good show.

The incredible venue of The Arcada Theater does it again by bringing some of the best shows to downtown St. Charles, Illinois. The monumental size of a show that Femmes of Rock with Bella Electric Strings can bring to the stage is amazing. The pure talent is packed into a fun filled night of fast paced violin runs that was a pleasure to see.

Published in In Concert

Paramount Theatre is excited to tune up for its rollicking 2017-18 Broadway Series opener Million Dollar Quartet, the wildly popular rock and roll musical that played more than 2,500 performances in Chicago.

Travel back in time to Memphis’s Sun Records recording studio on December 4, 1956, when Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins played together their first and only time and created an explosive album that has yet to be matched. Million Dollar Quartet tells that story with all the raw energy and monumental talent everyone has come to expect from these music giants.

Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti, the man responsible for the past two Jeff Award-winning Best Musicals (Large), Les Misérables and West Side Story, will stage Paramount’s rockin’ opener.

Playing the Quartet are Adam Wesley Brown as Carl Perkins, Kavan Hashemian as Elvis Presley, Gavin Rohrer as Jerry Lee Lewis and Bill Scott Sheets as Johnny Cash, with Nicholas Harazin as Sam Phillips, Zach Lentino as Brother Jay, Courtney Mack as Dyanne and Scott Simon as Fluke.

The production team is Kory Danielson, music director; Trent Stork, associate director; Ethan Deppe, associate music director; Kevin Depinet, scenic design; Sally Dolembo, costume design; Jesse Klug, lighting design; Adam Rosenthal, sound designer; Katie Cordts, wig, hair and makeup design; Amanda Relaford, properties design; Susan Gosdick, dialect coach; Maggie O’Donnell, stage manager; and Matthew McMullen, assistant stage manager. 

Don’t miss Paramount’s high-spirited, nostalgic new take on the three-time Tony Award nominated musical, featuring some of the biggest and best songs of all time like “Peace in the Valley,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “I Walk the Line,” “Hound Dog” and “Great Balls of Fire.”

Previews start September 13. Performances continue through October 29: Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Thursday at 7 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Single tickets are $36 to $64. Million Dollar Quartet is rated PG.

But hold on, there’s still time to include Million Dollar Quartet in Paramount’s “Buy Two Shows, Get Two Shows Free” 2017-18 Broadway subscription offer. For less than the cost of a ticket to one show downtown, patrons can see three more Broadway-quality musicals: Elf The Musical (November 22-January 7), Cabaret (February 7–March 18) and Once (April 25-June 3). Four-play packages start as low as $72. The rewards are ample – four amazing, Broadway-quality musicals, at one of the most majestic theaters in the Midwest.

The Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, is surrounded by affordable parking and a variety of restaurants for pre- or post-show dining. For subscriptions and single tickets, visit ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount box office Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and two hours prior to evening performances.

Behind the scenes: Paramount’s Million Dollar Quartet

There was no plan for Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins to record together on December 4, 1956. But as fate would have it, their impromptu jam session left behind a historic and mind-blowing album. The evening begins in the Sun Records recording studio in Memphis. Up and comer Jerry Lee Lewis is recording songs with rockabilly king Carl Perkins when the iconic Elvis Presley stops by with his girlfriend. The not-quite-yet-guitar-god Johnny Cash is there to pay a visit to music manager Sam Phillips. Throw them all together, and you have one of the most unexpected, unprecedented and unforgettable musical moments in history. It was the first and only time they played together and, through their musical genius, created an explosive album that has yet to be matched.   

Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux wrote the book for Million Dollar Quartet based on Mutrux’s original concept and direction. The Chicago production ran from 2008 to 2016 and became the third longest-running show in Chicago theater history. Critics called it “the most exuberant theatrical event,” “dazzling from first beat to last” and “the best live rock ‘n’ roll show I have ever seen.”

Fast forward to the kick off of Chicago’s 2017-18 theater season, featuring Paramount’s talented lead cast for Million Dollar Quartet. Adam Wesley Brown (Carl Perkins) played Eamon in Once on Broadway, has numerous regional credits and has been seen on local stages including Lookingglass and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Kavan Hashemian (Elvis Presley) began performing his Elvis tribute at age three. Today he performs all over the world, including in London where he won the title of "The World's #1 Rock N Roll Elvis” on BBC-TV. Gavin Rohrer (Jerry Lee Lewis) is fresh from playing the role at Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City, where Broadwayworld.com raved “his piano skills are unrivaled, and his brash certainty provides some of the funniest moments of the night.” Bill Scott Sheets (Johnny Cash) just played the “Man in Black” at Berkshire Theatre Group in Massachusetts. Berkshire Fine Arts wrote “particularly strong was Bill Sheets, whose voice and delivery were sublime.” 

"Icons Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash were southern, rockabilly country boys before they were discovered by Sam Phillips, the young, upstart record producer and owner of Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. Their purely by chance meeting for the first and only time on Dec. 4, 1956, is a seminal moment in the birth of Rock ‘N’ Roll,” said Paramount Artistic Director Jim Corti.

“The show, exploring the connections of these four to their music and each other, is full of intriguing surprises and is not only a fascinating, short history but a full scale, no holds barred, in-your-face jam session of the kind of music that grabbed hold of our youth culture back then and hasn’t let go ever since,” Corti added. “From our Chicago and national talent pool, we’ve assembled a dynamite cast; you won’t believe your eyes and ears! There’ll be a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on, all live, all on the Paramount stage, all made in Aurora!”

Jim Corti (director) was hired in 2011 to be the first-ever artistic director in the Paramount’s 80+ year history. He was instrumental in launching Paramount’s inaugural Broadway Series and directed and choreographed Paramount’s first self-produced Broadway Series show My Fair Lady, which played to rave reviews. Corti’s 2013 Paramount production of Fiddler on the Roof was a smash hit, and his Miss Saigon was the only musical to make the Chicago Tribune’s Top Ten Shows of 2013. Rentin 2014 was a critical and box office success, followed by consecutive productions of The Who’s Tommy and Les Misérables, which collectively garnered five Jeff Awards for Paramount in its first year of eligibility, including Best Production – Musical - Large for Les Misérables and Best Director - Musical for Corti. He also staged Paramount’s 2015-16 opener Oklahoma! and closer West Side Story, Paramount’s second-consecutive Jeff Award winning Best Musical. Last season, Corti directed memorable productions of Mamma Mia! and Sweeney Todd. Before Paramount, Corti was a seasoned Broadway veteran, appearing in the New York casts of Ragtime, A Chorus Line and Candide and national tours of Urinetown, Cabaret and Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. Career highlights over three decades include being the only director in Chicago to have two productions at the same time in the Chicago Tribune’s list of 10 Best Shows in 2009 – Drury Lane’s Cabaret and Writers Theatre’s Oh, Coward!. He remains the sole honoree to have garnered a Jeff Award as an actor (in Marriott’s Grand Hotel), a choreographer (Drury Lane’s Singin’ in the Rain) and director (Paramount’s Les Misérables, Drury Lane’s Sweet Charity and Northlight’s Blues in the Night).

Kory Danielson (music director) is coming back for his 11th consecutive musical at the Paramount, after serving as co-music director and associate conductor with Tom Vendafreddo on Jesus Christ Superstar, and assistant music director and associate conductor for Sweeney Todd-The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Mamma Mia!, West Side Story, Hairspray – The Broadway Musical, A Christmas Story - The Musical, Oklahoma!, Les Misérables and The Who's Tommy. Other Chicago credits include Assassins, The Full Monty, Loving Repeating, Heathers, Tomorrow Morning (Kokandy Productions); Passion (2014 Jeff Award for Outstanding Music Direction), Smokey Joe's Cafe (Theo Ubique); How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Porchlight Music Theatre); Hedwig, Wedding Singer (Haven Theatre); and Zanna, Don't!, Lucky Stiff, Triumph of Love (The Music Theatre Company). Danielson has also worked with Drury Lane, Broadway in Chicago, Chicago Children's Theatre, Bailiwick and Hell in a Handbag.

Paramount’s 2017-18 Broadway Series is sponsored by BMO Harris Bank and The Dunham Fund. Broadway Series Orchestra Sponsor is Rush-Copley Medical Center. Broadway Series Lighting Sponsor is ComEd. Broadway Series Costume Sponsor is Gerald Kia. Million Dollar Quartet is also sponsored by Asbury Gardens.


More about Paramount Theatre’s 2017-18 Season

In addition to Paramount’s Broadway Series, Paramount’s 2017-18 season also includes Tim Allen (August 18), 60s music favorite The Happy Together Tour (August 25), Unforgettable: Falling in Love with Nat King Cole (November 5) featuring Evan Tyrone Martin (Jesus in Paramount’s 2017 smash hit Jesus Christ Superstar), comedian and impersonator Frank Caliendo (November 10), The Second City’s Non-Denominational Christmas Show (December 1-23 in the Copley Theatre), Las Vegas’s #1 ventriloquist Terry Fator (January 20), the incredible magic of Penn & Teller (March 23), Chicago’s own Jersey boys Under the Streetlamp (March 24), country star and American Idol winner Scotty McCreery (March 25), late night comedy legend Jay Leno (April 13), Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shinef eaturing Angela Ingersoll (June 10) and the world’s #1 Bee Gees tribute band Stayin’ Alive (June 15).

For subscriptions, single tickets or more information, go to ParamountAurora.com, call (630) 896-6666, or stop by the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in Aurora.

 

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Barry Harris is not exactly a household name unless you are a Jazz musician. He is a gifted piano player who goes back far enough to have played with Charlie Parker. However, I think his personal greatest achievements are actually as an educator. Barry Harris is the authority from which to learn Jazz.

I was able to attend the Straight Ahead Jazz Camp at Jazz Institute of Chicago located within Columbia College. They day I attended, I sat through four different classes. Three featured Mr. Harris.

The first session of the day was appropriately called “The Truth About Jazz”. Barry lays down the law concerning music profoundly citing, “Jazz is the continuation of Classical.” I say Jazz is just The Blues with an education - the education coming from Classical music. Harris spoke of how much of the rules of music are not taught correctly. I agree with that. He even joked around a bit saying, “I shouldn’t teach students, only teachers.” Most music teachers I have met in my years as a growing musician could certainly learn a thing or two from Barry Harris.

“The Truth About Jazz” was followed with story time between Harris and Joe Segal, the owner of Jazz Showcase. The two musicians, aged eighty-eight and ninety-one years old, offered captivating accounts from there many years in the industry, as well as some really strong opinions about Jazz. One would be fortunate to learn from a great such as Harris and Segal. It’s also fascinating from a historical standpoint when you realize that these gentlemen are some of the last links to the era. With only a handful left in Chicago, I was amazed to hear about how many Jazz clubs there were at one time. Hearing the two Jazz great talk was not only eye-opening, it could easily make one long to have lived and participated in the days when Jazz was still so fresh and widespread.

After the highly stimulating two-man panel had ended, I sat in on a Jazz Improvisation class. That was interesting. It is always nice to be reminded that there still are people out there studying music. It’s so easy to let machines make music these days. I’m sure Mr. Harris would agree with me when I say art and music classes are very important. It is beneficial to learn things in school other than the basics. Fact is, kids who learn music do better in their other subjects. I am very appreciative that there are centers like the Jazz Institute of Chicago out there for people to hone their musical ability and where creativity is encouraged.

The last class I attended was a jam session hosted by Mr. Harris. I had hoped Mr. Harris would be playing but such was not the case. Rather, it was a mix of students and attendees performing with Mr. Harris directing traffic. It was a thrill to see the renowned keeper of the flame of bebop pianism leading such fine musicianship!

I would like to thank the people there running the workshop. It was an awesome experience that got better and better as the day progressed. Jazz Institute of Chicago is a wonderful environment for all musicians alike. Some of the students were “scary” good if you understand what I mean. It kind of blows my mind seeing young people who like Jazz. It’s unlikely the genre of music fell into their lap. No. These are people that had to look for it, which somehow adds a greater appreciation for its students. And the fact that Barry Harris is still teaching helps keep the form alive. Hopefully, some of these talented young people will continue and master the practice so that years from now they become the next teachers.

Barry Harris was recognized as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1989.

For more information on the Jazz Institute of Chicago or to see their upcoming list of events, visit www.jazzinchicago.org. You can also learn more about Barry Harris at www.barryharris.com.

Published in BCS Spotlight

Gentle breezes, crickets chirping (or whatever that sound is they make), and comfortably warm summer nights. We're here. And knowing it won't last forever, Chicagoans certainly relish the summer months, making the most of each balmy evening. And, you know it’s July when Shakespeare comes alive under the stars at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook. Continuing their long run of Shakespeare classics, A Winter’s Tale and A Midsummer Nights Dream taking stage over the past two years, First Folio brings to life As You Like It, the rustic comedy that follows young Rosalind as she escapes to the Forest of Arden to avoid her uncle’s wrath. Rosalind is joined by her cousin Celia and the two, like in all great stories, meet many intriguing characters along their journey. Then there's Orlando, who also seeks refuge in the forest after being persecuted by his older brother, Oliver. But our hero, Orlando, is in love – with Rosalind whom he had briefly met after impressing her during a bout of strength, out wrestling her uncle’s champion, loving her at first glance.

Rosalind, disguised as a boy and Celia, dressed as a poor woman continue to trek through the forest, while at the same time Orlando, traveling with his elderly servant Adam who insisted to travel at his master’s side, does the same while obsessively carving poems of love on seemingly any tree he can find. It is when the Orlando and Adam run into the good Duke Sr. (ousted from the kingdom by the nefarious Duke Frederick) as their desperation for food brings them to her doorstep, that they are warmly taken in and soon realize that they have stumbled onto a hidden community that lives in harmony. Jaques, who plays somewhat of a confidant/friend to Duke Sr., gives us some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines when the forest is referred to as a theatre playing out its own story.

“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” 

As the play progresses, multiple relationships are revealed and created around Orlando’s search for his true love, Rosalind and, in the end, everything ties together just beautifully, as Shakespeare’s pen so often did.

The many performances in this humorous adventure are done with passion and zest. Nicholas Harizin as Orlando and Leslie Ann Sheppard as Rosalind lead the play’s talented cast with a fire-infused appetite, it’s outcome an honest, raw passion to which we can truly relate. The two as comfortable in their roles as I am in my favorite pajama pants. And it would be difficult to find an actor who does Shakespeare better than Kevin McKillip, whose seamless delivery as Jaques so effectively pulls out the humor in Shakespeare’s writing. Luke Daigle stands out as Orlando’s hate-filled brother, Oliver, while Belinda Bremner as Duke Sr. is nothing less than mesmerizing. The cast in its entirety is strong and one would be hard-pressed to find any shortcomings in any of the performances by its talented individuals. In the role of Amiens, Amanda Raquel Martinez even shows off her guitar and vocal skills in a handful of haunting numbers. Standing out as Hermia in last year’s A Midsummer Nights Dream, Sarah Wisterman returns this time as Phebe again impressing while Vahishta Vafadari is very funny as runaway cousin, Celia and Courtney Abbott shines as the highly energetic Touchstone.

Well directed by Skyler Schrempp, the play is yet another ode to the excitement of falling in love and the adventures that come with such a happening and the toils one will undertake in order to find his or her soulmate.

As You Like It comes highly recommended as one of this year’s best outdoor summer experiences.

Surrounded by trees and a beautiful landscape, As You Like It is being performed on the grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook through August 20th. Guests are invited to bring chairs, blankets and picnic baskets. And just to add a final touch of comfort, bug spray is provided along with bug repellent candles. As You Like It has a running time of two hours and twenty-five minutes with one intermission. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.firstfolio.org. Enjoy!

Published in Theatre in Review

Kokandy Productions is pleased to present the Chicago premiere of Michael John LaChiusa's LITTLE FISH, directed by Producing Artistic Director Allison Hendrix with music direction by Kory Danielson and choreography by Kasey Alfonso, playing July 9 – August 20, 2017 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. Tickets for LITTLE FISH are currently available at www.kokandyproductions.com, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office. 
 
LITTLE FISH features Curtis Bannister as John Paul, Kyrie Courter as Anne Frank, Adam Fane as Marco, Casey Hayes as Robert (August 1 – 20, 2017), Carl Herzog as Mr Bunder, Teressa LaGamba as Cinder, Nicole Laurenzi as Charlotte, Jeff Meyer as Robert (July 9 – 30, 2017) and Aja Wiltshire as Kathy. 
 
Thirty-something writer Charlotte decides to give up smoking and tries to compensate with swimming and jogging – but to no avail. With the help of her friends Kathy and Marco, she embarks on a modern-day odyssey to face the eclectic demons of her past. Loosely based on Deborah Eisenberg’s short stories Days and Flotsam, LITTLE FISH’s score is infused with Latin, jazz, rock, and what’s been described as "pure urban noise within Charlotte's mind."
 
LITTLE FISH premiered off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre in 2003.
 
"What I love the most about this musical is that it has these huge ideas attached to it – isolation versus connection… addiction… trauma… but they exist within a bright, fast-paced, hilariously wry musical comedy,” comments Director Allison Hendrix. “We see three friends in the midst of their ‘Saturn Returns,’ figuring out how to be better people, better friends and ultimately, better citizens of the world. These characters' journeys will feel familiar and close to home to our audiences." 
 
The production team for LITTLE FISH includes: Arnel Sancianco (scenic design), Kate Kamphausen (costume design), Alexander Ridgers (lighting design), Michael J. Patrick (sound design), Mealah Heidenreich (props design), Shawn Rodriguez (master electrician), Keegan Bradac (sound engineer), Lindsay Brown (production manager), Alan Weusthoff and Zach Schley (techinical directors), Emily Boyd (paint charge), Ethan Deppe (keyboard programmer), Kait Samuels (stage manager) and Alison McLeod (asst. stage manager). 
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: LITTLE FISH
Book, Music & Lyrics: Michael John LaChiusa
Director: Producing Artistic Director Allison Hendrix
Music Director: Kory Danielson
Choreographer: Kasey Alfonso
Cast: Curtis Bannister (John Paul), Kyrie Courter (Anne Frank), Adam Fane (Marco), Casey Hayes (Robert, August 1 – 20, 2017), Carl Herzog (Mr Bunder), Teressa LaGamba (Cinder), Nicole Laurenzi (Charlotte), Jeff Meyer (Robert, July 9 – 30, 2017) and Aja Wiltshire (Kathy). 
 
Musicians: Korey Danielson (conductor/keyboard), Charlotte Rivard-Hoster (keyboard 2), Mike Matlock (reeds), Kyle McCullough (guitar), Jake Saleh (bass) and Scott Simon (percussion).
 
Location: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Sunday, July 9 at 7 pm, Monday, July 10 at 7 pm, Thursday, July 13 at 8 pm and Friday, July 14 at 8 pm
Regular run: Sunday, July 16 – Sunday, August 20, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will be added 3 pm performances on Saturday, August 12 and Saturday, August 19.
Tickets: Previews $25. Regular run $33 - $38. Tickets are currently available at www.kokandyproductions.com, by calling (773) 975-8150 or in person at the Theater Wit Box Office.
 
For additional information, visit www.kokandyproductions.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Greenhouse Theater Center is pleased to launch its 2017-18 season with Artistic Director Jacob Harvey and Elizabeth Margolius’ bold reimagining of Sophie Treadwell's most celebrated play, MACHINAL. Inspired by the surreal life and trial of famed murderess Ruth Snyder, MACHINAL will play August 11 – September 24, 2017 at The Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Main Stage), 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. Single tickets and season subscription packages are currently available at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. 
 
The cast of MACHINAL includes Heather Chrisler, Maddie DePorter, Sean Gallagher, Arti Ishak, Cody Proctor, Sarah Rachel Schol, Scott Shimizu, Carin Silkaitis, Paul Michael Thomson and Jonah Winston.
 
MACHINAL will be presented through an educational partnership with North Central College, allowing students to shadow professional actors as the production’s understudy cast. Students will be immersed in every facet of the production, serving not only as understudies but as assistant designers and assisting members of the production team, in a program that serves as an extension of classroom work and a springboard into the Chicago theatre community. The student understudy cast will have two guaranteed performances at the Greenhouse, one for a high school audience and one for the public.
 
One young woman must break out in this exhilarating reimagining of MACHINAL, the American classic inspired by the sensational, true story of murderess Ruth Snyder. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, the young woman finds a thrill in the arms of a flyby lover. But when reality returns, how far will her fight for freedom take her? And who will pay the ultimate price? How do you escape the machine?
 
“Our team is thrilled to bring this intimate exploration of one woman's choice between captivity and freedom to our Chicago audience,” commented Artistic Director Jacob Harvey. “As we put the show together,” added Movement Director Elizabeth Margolius, “I am thrilled to bring this cast's diverse perspectives into focus to illuminate the world of Machinal – a world from our past that still speaks to the struggles facing all of us, especially women.”
The production team for MACHINAL to date includes: Nick Thornton (associate director/movement coordinator), Eleanor Kahn (scenic/props design), Eric Watkins (lighting design), Jeffrey Levin (sound design), Christina Leinicke (costume design), Adrian Shelton (dramaturg), Darek Lane (stage manager), Ron Rude (production manager) and Stephen Kossak (asst. stage manager).
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: MACHINAL
Playwright: Sophie Treadwell
Director: Jacob Harvey
Movement Director: Elizabeth Margolius
Cast: Heather Chrisler (Young Woman), Maddie DePorter (Track 7), Sean Gallagher (Track 6, Husband), Arti Ishak (Track 5, Telephone Girl), Cody Proctor (Lover), Sarah Rachel Schol (Track 4), Scott Shimizu (Track 8), Carin Silkaitis (Track 3, Mother), Paul Michael Thomson (Track 2) and Jonah Winston (Track 1).
 
Location The Greenhouse Theater Center (Upstairs Main Stage) 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Dates: Previews: Friday, August 11 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, August 12 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, August 13 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Friday, August 18 – Sunday, September 24, 2017
Curtain times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2:30 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Thursday, August 17.
Tickets: Preview: $20. Regular run: $35. Students: $15. Tickets are currently at greenhousetheater.org, in person at the box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. Season subscription packages are also available.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Following a sold-out engagement at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre this spring, actor and magician Brett Schneider’s hit one-man show COMMUNION: An Evening of Magic, returns to Chicago for three performances only August 4 – 6, 2017 at The Den Theatre’s Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets, priced at $20, are currently available at thedentheatre.com.
 
Have you ever wished you could know what someone else is thinking? What if you could? COMMUNION: An Evening of Magic is a 70-minute performance that explores magic as a proxy for human connection, and a celebration of our desire to better understand one another. Highly interactive and unconventional, COMMUNION blends world-class magic, sleight of hand and psychological suggestion with live participation from the audience. No two performances are alike.  For additional information, visit brettschneidermagic.com
 
Schneider’s previous work has received critical praise from across the U.S.:
 
“Schneider is captivating... his rapport is winning, his routines are confident, and 
he’s great at generating anticipation... you’ll need to see this.” 
–The Washington Post
 
“The show dips its toes into the realm of actual magic... some quite elaborate onstage magic from 
designer Brett Schneider involving disappearances, levitations and the like.”
--The Chicago Tribune
 
“…a highly intelligent and vulnerable actor and a first-rate magician.” 
–Time Out Chicago
 
“A magnificent central performance... [Brett Schneider] has a casually charismatic stage presence that blends the inner power of a Robert Mitchum 
with the sex appeal of a James Dean... Schneider’s ability to communicate and make intimate contact with the audience is its own kind of magic.”
–The Hollywood Reporter
 
“Handsome professional magician ‘Great’ (Brett Schneider) dazzles crowdswith his amazing card tricks… 
Schneider is a charismatic and appealing performer, impressive as both an actor and a magician.”
 –LA Weekly
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: COMMUNION: An Evening of Magic
Written and performed by: Brett Schneider
 
Location: The Den Theatre’s Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Dates: Friday, August 4 – Sunday, August 6, 2017
Curtain times: Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday at 7 pm
Tickets: $20. Tickets are currently available at thedentheatre.com.
 
About Brett Schneider

Brett Schneider is an actor, magician and illusion designer. Brett has been performing magic professionally for over 20 years and is a member of the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. His work has received numerous awards and citations and he was a finalist in World Magic Seminar. Recently, Brett starred in and created the illusions for the Goodman Theatre’s hit production of The Magic Play. In addition to magic performance, Brett also works as a magic consultant for theatre, television and film. His theatrical work has been twice nominated for a Jeff Award and has appeared in venues such as The Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and The Roundabout Theatre in New York. His work has also been incorporated into TV shows, music videos, short films and features. For additional information, visit brettschneidermagic.com.
 
About The Den Theatre

Artistic Director Ryan Martin opened The Den in 2010 with a single theatre space. Seven years later, The Den boasts five intimate and unique theatres on two floors ranging from 50 – 200 seats, as well as two additional spaces primarily used for classes and rehearsals. The Den is also equipped with two bars enveloped by a never-ending field of lounge space for audiences and like-minded culture hounds to drink, talk, read, watch, think, listen and live. The Den is home to five resident theatre companies including First Floor Theater, Haven Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre, Irish Theatre of Chicago, and The New Colony. Hundreds of other companies from Chicago and beyond have also called The Den home, utilizing its theatres, studio space and easily convertible cabaret space to accommodate a stream of programming, including plays, musicals, film screenings, classical and jazz performances, dance, improv and stand-up, seminars and speaking engagements. For additional information, visit www.thedentheatre.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Cirque du Soleil is thrilled to venture into uncharted territory with its brand new creation, Cirque du Soleil Crystal, exploring the artistic attributes of ice for the very first time. Specifically created for arenas, the state-of-the-art production will create a fresh innovative experience, pushing the boundaries once again by combining outstanding skating and sliding, remarkable aesthetics and acrobatic feats that defy the imagination.
 
“We are excited to create a unique entertainment experience on ice for all spectators to enjoy. It's a wonderful opportunity for Cirque du Soleil as ice provides us with an entirely new field of play which also comes with a set of creative challenges. Our goal is to continuously surprise audiences by showcasing all the incredible possibilities on ice,” explained Yasmine Khalil, Executive Producer of Crystal.
 
Crystal will follow a young woman who shatters through reality to reach a surreal world filled with possibility. Beneath the surface, she pursues the life that has been glistening within. Sometimes, we must first leave solid ground to find our true footing.
 
Cirque du Soleil invites the audience to discover Crystal – A Breakthrough Ice Experience – and find out what it means to skate on the edge of reality.
 
Performance Schedule & Ticket Information
Cirque du Soleil Crystal will be presented at the Sears Centre Arena, 5333 Prairie Stone Parkway, Hoffman Estates, IL in six performances only, November 16-19, 2017. Performances take place Thursday - Friday, November 16-17, at 7:30pm; Saturday, November 18, at 3:30 & 7:30pm; and Sunday, November 19, at 1 & 5pm.
 
Tickets for Cirque du Soleil Crystal start at $30.00 and go on sale Wednesday, June 21, at 10am by phone at 888-SEARSTIX (732-7784) or online by visiting www.searscentre.com.
 
Sponsor
Forsythe Technology is the Official Sponsor of Crystal in the United States
 
Cirque du Soleil
Crystal is Cirque du Soleil’s 42nd original production since 1984. The company has brought wonder and delight to more than 180 million spectators in more than 450 cities on six continents. Cirque du Soleil has over 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from 50 different countries.
For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.
More information about Crystal by Cirque du Soleil can be found at cirquedusoleil.com/crystal, and on  Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

If you haven't seen the film version of “The Bridges of Madison County” starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, do not fear - the musical adaptation for the stage is full of beautiful songs and choreography that make this production a whole different animal than the 1995 movie and 1992 novel it was based. 

The story is simple, and universal. What to do when your life has not turned out the way you dreamed and true love steps in to give you another chance? Will you take a chance on Love? 

In "Bridges" we meet Francesca, an Italian war bride who married the first, kind GI she met after the war and came to America leaving everything familiar behind her to start a new life. While her husband and children are away at the state fair in Indianapolis for the weekend, fate brings true love knocking right on her front door in the form of a handsome and single National Geographic photographer, Robert Kincaid, who is on assignment in the area photographing the seven beautiful bridges of Madison County. 

After directions, that turns into a guided tour of the seventh bridge, followed by a few drinks and the sharing of deep personal stories, this compatible coupling quickly heats up into a life changing affair.

Francesca Johnson, played by the beautiful Kathy Voytko, reminds me a lot of a young Patti Lupone. Voytko, who has appeared in numerous Broadway productions, has a strong and lovely voice with a lovely Italian accent and very expressive face which reflects her growing attraction to Kincaid with every glance or bat of her large brown eyes. 

Kincaid, played by actor Nathaniel Stampley, comes alive on stage with a masculine warmth and grounded sensuality which make both Francesca and the audience feel she is infinitely safe within his embrace. We quickly realize that this is no one night stand nor even a chance encounter but all of destiny itself intervening to make these two lives powerfully intersect, if only for the weekend. 

Stampley and Voytco's passionate and unexpected love affair is well-supported with some comic relief by the actors who play her husband, kids and friends. Bart Shatto plays Bud while Brooke MacDougal plays the couple's young daughter Carolyn and Tanner Hake is their teen aged son Michael. Francesca's' supportive best friend, her closest neighbor out in farm country, is wonderfully played by Wydetta Carter. Carter also has a great Jazz voice and sings a very funny song about her envy of the magical love affair unfolding just across the fields from her perch in the front window of her country home. 

Jeffrey D. Kmiec's set design is very open, changing rapidly from the bridge location back to the kitchen and gives one the feeling that the ageless beauty of the bridges of Madison County represent a type of true love that is only found in dreams come true and that the small house in which Francesca and her family live is actually more of an astral 18 year-long "rest stop" -  that the travel loving and exotic Francesca is fundamentally out of place here.

I loved the song, "Before and After You" passionately and exquisitely sung by both Voytko and Stampley. The song perfectly describes how true love changes one's life and perceptions completely, making one realize in an instant just how much has been missing from their lives before they met and also how much their future lives will be forever indelibly stamped by the experience of this miraculous encounter and gift from fate. 

During their brief, but instantaneous, courtship over Francesca's kitchen table, Robert Kincaid, who is a devout loner and world traveler, tells her he feels disconnected from the world. In a flashback type setting, his ex-wife Marian, who is a hippy folk singer played by actress Emily Berman sings a very lovely song behind the flirting couple about her relationship with Kincaid and we see a whole other, liberal free loving side to the somber Kincaid character. The romantic, open-minded, artsy side of Kincaid has long since disappeared from his own consciousness as he jets sets around the globe never stopping for that "glass of iced tea or night cap of brandy" that will open the door to a new relationship thereby sidestepping over and over the vulnerability that a new relationship will inevitably bring. 

I highly recommend this beautifully cast and performed production of the stage musical. The relationships are very well played and the audience is allowed to see how the lover's interactions with each other bring to life all of the best aspects of their personalities, important living aspects and hopeful expectations of freedom and genuine loving excitement that have been long buried by the monotonous work and family demands of daily life. We also sit on pins and needles as the play brings its leading characters to an incredibly tough choice.

Voytco and Stampley's performances in the lead roles are deeply drawn, rich and compelling. Their chemistry feels real and palpable and their expansive individual artistry as singer/actors draws you in and makes the audience really care what choices they make and how their decisions will impact their mind-opening love affair, which is obviously a gift from heaven. 

“The Bridges of Madison County” is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through August 13th. For tickets and more show information visit www.marriotttheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
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