Theatre in Review

About Face Theatre is pleased to announce its 2017-18 Season, featuring three Midwest premieres! The season kicks off this fall/winter with the romantic comedy SIGNIFICANT OTHER by Joshua Harmon, playwright of the hit comedy Bad Jews. Co-produced with Theater Wit, the Midwest premiere is directed by AFT Artistic Associate Keira Fromm and features AFT Artistic Associate Alex Weisman. 
 
The 22nd season continues next winter with the Midwest premiere of R. Eric Thomas’ gleeful mystery TIME IS ON OUR SIDE. Megan Carney directs this hilarious and heartfelt story of two podcasters and LGBTQ history buffs who may have uncovered more than they bargained for. 
 
Next spring, About Face presents the Midwest premiere of Bryna Turner’s comedy BULL IN A CHINA SHOP, based on the true story of revolutionary academics and lovers Mary Woolley and Jeanette Marks. Directed by Keira Fromm, the all-female cast includes AFT Artistic Associate Kelli Simpkins. 
 
About Face Theatre’s 2017-18 Season concludes next summer with a yet-to-be-titled production by the About Face Youth Theatre Ensemble. 
 
About Face Theatre is in residence at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. in Chicago. AFT’s On Demand Memberships – a flexible, year-round membership ticket are currently available at aboutfacetheatre.com. Single tickets for additional programming will go on sale at a later date.
 
About Face Theatre’s 2017-18 Season:
 
November 2 – December 10, 2017
SIGNIFICANT OTHER – Midwest Premiere!
By Joshua Harmon
Directed by AFT Artistic Associate Keira Fromm
Featuring AFT Artistic Associate Alex Weisman. Additional casting to be announced.
 
Jordan Berman is a single gay man in New York City. Mr. Right is nowhere on his horizons. As he's nearing his 30s, his close group of girlfriends begin getting married en masse. What happens when you feel like life is leaving you behind but you're still expected to be at the forefront cheering on your friends on their perfect wedding day? Significant Other is a bittersweet comedy about friendship, single-hood and hoping you're not the one choking on car exhaust as the "Just Married" sign disappears from view. 
 
In 2015, Joshua Harmon's play Bad Jews hit Theater Wit and performed to capacity crowds for over five months. A breakaway playwright of his generation, Harmon's work offered a unique and searingly funny look at a new generation of American Jews. Now, with Significant Other he turns his compassion and considerable wit to marriage.
 
"I am very excited to join About Face Theatre in presenting the Midwest premiere of Joshua Harmon’s newest work,” comments Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Wechsler. “I think Josh is a remarkably original writer with a gift for showing us the utterly real and utterly unexpected. His plays are always about deeply human characters with a writerly perspective we've not seen previously dramatized, and Significant Other is no exception. Bad Jews was a legitimate theatrical event of 2015 – and Signicant Other promises, in its writing and casting, to be another for 2017."
 
March 1 – April 8, 2018
TIME IS ON OUR SIDE – Midwest Premiere!
By R. Eric Thomas
Directed by Megan Carney
 
Annie loves the past. Curtis lives for the future. Together they host a wildly unpopular podcast from Annie's living room in which they "queer” history, reinterpreting Philadelphia’s lore through a modern, intersectional lens. When Annie finds a family heirloom that reveals a buried connection to the early LGBT rights movement, the political suddenly gets explosively personal. Time is on Our Side’s shape-shifting plot bounds gleefully from the Underground Railroad to pop culture futurity, as Annie and Curtis search for answers to the questions “How do we let go of the past? And when will it let go of us?”
 
“R. Eric Thomas has written this magnificent play that absolutely fizzles with life – I fell in love with it on first read,” comments director Megan Carney. “Time Is On Our Side introduces rich characters – meeting across generations and identities – and forging ahead together. The play is intimate and grand – diving deep to offer a clearer understanding of our shared past and courage for the challenges of the moment – all whipped together with big doses of queer magic. Eric has such a fresh voice and I can't wait to share this play with Chicago audiences.”
 
May 24 – July 1, 2018
BULL IN A CHINA SHOP – Midwest Premiere!
By Bryna Turner
Directed by AFT Artistic Associate Keira Fromm
Featuring AFT Artistic Associate Kelli Simpkins. Additional casting to be announced.
 
Bull in a China Shop is a play about Mary Woolley and her partner, Jeanette Marks, two brilliant women who reimagined and revolutionized women's education at the turn of the twentieth century. This fast-moving feminist comedy chronicles the growth of the women's suffrage movement, as well as Mary and Jeanette's romantic relationship. It examines the strength it takes to find your voice, be brave and feel less at odds with the world. 
 
“As a queer female director, I'm always excited by plays that represent gay narratives,” comments Keira Fromm. “Plays that deal specifically with gay female stories aren't terribly common, so when I came across Bryna Turner's radical play, I was immediately taken with it. Bryna is an incredibly smart and savvy playwright. She has a way of writing words and characters who live in both the past and the present concurrently. Mary and Jeanette's struggle to reform women's education and advocate for the suffrage movement echoes of the fights that women still wage today – whether that fight be for equal pay, fair representation or women's health initiatives. Ultimately the play is a unique meditation on bravery.”

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

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

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

Published in Upcoming Theatre

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

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

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

 

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

"The Food Show" a unique take on cooking

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in Theatre in Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Published in Theatre in Review

“Spamilton,” the critically acclaimed parody of “Hamilton,” welcomes Chicago actor Becca Brown to the production as the new female star. Brown has performed with theater companies including The Second City and The Hypocrites, and her TV and film credits include the 2003 feature film “School of Rock” and the second season of “Easy” on Netflix. ”Spamilton” is playing an open-ended run at the Royal George Theatre (1641 N. Halsted).with tickets on sale through October 1 and new tickets added weekly. Tickets ($35 – $99) can be purchased at the Royal George Theatre’s box office online, at Ticketmaster.comor by calling 312.988.9000.
 
“Becca originally joined the ‘Spamilton’ family as our understudy in this spring, and has consistently impressed us with her comedic timing, voice and impeccable impersonations,” said ‘Spamilton’ creator and director Gerard Alessandrini. “It was undeniable that she would be the immediate choice to become the next female performer in Chicago, and she’s seamlessly blended into the show next to our talented ensemble.” 
 
Created by Tony Award honoree Alessandrini, the mastermind behind “Forbidden Broadway,” “Spamilton” officially opened in Chicago on March 12 to rave reviews, with Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times calling “Spamilton” an “altogether brilliant, hilarious, cliché-demolishing send-up of ‘Hamilton,’” Chris Jones of Chicago Tribune noting “You really don’t want to miss ‘Spamilton,’” and Barbara Vitello of the Daily Herald exclaiming the show is “deliciously silly. The laughs come fast and furious!” The all-Chicago “Broadway ready” (Chicago Sun-Times) cast includes Donterrio Johnson, Adam LaSalle, Becca Brown, Eric Andrew Lewis, Yando Lopez and David Robbins, as well as Sydney Charles and Brandon Kinley.
 
Becca Brown is a native Chicagoan actor, comedian and musician with training from University of Illinois at Chicago, The Second City Training Center and iO Training Center. Brown has performed music and stand up all over the country and is a regular performer at The Second City, iO, Laugh Factory and Salonathon. Recent theatre credits include “American Idiot” (The Hypocrites) and the title role in “Jenna Roxy” and the “Church of Modern Love” (The Hideout). Movie fans may recognize Brown as the female bassist in the 2003 film “School of Rock,” and she can be seen in the upcoming second season of “Easy” on Netflix. Brown is represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent.

“Spamilton,” which was initially scheduled in New York as an exclusive 18-performance off-Broadway engagement, has extended three times and is now playing its fourteenth smash month of an open engagement at the 47th Street Theatre in the heart of New York’s Theatre District. The New York production earned rave reviews across-the-board, with Ben Brantley of The New York Times calling it “smart, silly and convulsively funny!” and Lin-Manuel Miranda exclaiming “I laughed my brains out!” In its Chicago premiere, the local cast received additional acclaim, with critics hailing the production “endlessly entertaining” (Performink), “A Must-See!” (BroadwayWorld.com), and “razor sharp and filled with wit and humor” (Chicago Theatre Review). On opening night, cast members from the Chicago production of “Hamilton” were in the audience, and following the performance Wayne Brady called the production “Amazing! It’s the perfect blend of funny and parody. Go see ‘Spamilton!’
 
In addition to Alessandrini, the creative team includes Gerry McIntyre (Choreography), Dustin Cross (Costume Design), Milo Blue (Scenic Design), Andy Kloubec (Lighting Design), Matt Reich (Sound Design), Jamie Karas (Prop Design), Leah Munsey-Konops (Wig 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. 
 
The performance schedule for “Spamilton” is as follows: Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For additional details, visit Ticketmaster.com or TheRoyalGeorgeTheatre.com. For more information, visit Spamilton.com.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

The Second City is excited to announce “I Can’t Believe They Wendt There: The Roast of George Wendt” a night guaranteed to destroy one of the world’s most beloved comedy legends, George Wendt--all in the name of charity.
 
Roastmaster Jason Sudeikis, along with Roasters Bob Odenkirk, Betty Thomas, David Koechner, and a growing list of the biggest and brightest names in comedy will gather for this once-in-a-lifetime evening of comedy and camaraderie to benefit Gilda’s Club Chicago and The Second City Alumni Fund, hosted at Chicago’s iconic Mainstage at The Second City.
 
The one-night-only performance will take place on Saturday, September 9th, 2017 in the Second City Mainstage Theater (1616 N. Wells, Chicago, IL 60614) The show will begin at 7:00pm.
 
“The Second City has been a phenomenal friend of Gilda’s Club Chicago since we opened in 1998, and we are grateful for the opportunity to partner with them on this exciting event,” stated LauraJane Hyde, CEO of Gilda’s Club Chicago. “Support like this helps us continue to ensure that anyone impacted by cancer is empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community.”
 
“We’re looking forward to an incredibly special evening that brings back the long-lost art of the Dean Martin-era celebrity roast. It’s been a few years since George has returned to his old stomping grounds here at Second City, and he’s saint of a guy for letting us put him in the hot seat for two incredible causes. We are thrilled to be able to partner with Gilda’s Club Chicago again for this tremendous opportunity to impact the lives of those who are battling cancer, their support circles, and also the members of our own Second City family who are up against the most challenging of circumstances.” Andrew Alexander, CEO/Executive Producer of The Second City.
 
Tax-deductible tickets for the “I Can’t Believe They Wendt There: The Roast of George Wendt” are on sale now and are organized into three ticketing tiers.
 
Top-Shelf VIP Tickets ($3,000 each) include a pre-show VIP reception inside Second City’s historic complex at 1959 Kitchen & Bar. Includes a photo opportunity with George & Jason. Appetizers and top shelf open bar service provided.
 
The 1959 Package ($1,959 each) features a backstage experience led by Second City’s Behind the Bentwood tour guides including special surprise guests. Open bar & dinner in Mainstage Theater provided by the best of Chicago's classic cuisine is also included.
 
General Admission is also available ($1,000 each) and includes open bar & dinner in Mainstage Theater provided by the best of Chicago's classic cuisine.
 
Tickets are tax-deductible and can be purchased online at www.secondcity.com or by phone at 312-664-4032.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Led by the original Broadway powerhouse team, including ten-time Jeff Award-winning director Gary Griffin, Tony Award-nominated choreographer Denis Jones, and Emmy Award-winning costume designer Brian Hemesath (PBS’s “Sesame Street”, NBC’s “SNL”), HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, a loving throwback to the classic American musical, makes its Regional Premiere at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire with previews August 23, opening August 30 at 8 pm, and running through October 15. With music and lyrics by three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown and book by highly-acclaimed American screenwriter Andrew Bergman, HONEYMOON IN VEGAS is a hysterical romantic comedy, based off the hit 1992 film. The veteran team also includes Jeff Award-winning musical director Ryan T. Nelson and Jeff Award-winning associate choreographer William Carlos Angulo.
 
“HONEYMOON IN VEGAS brings a modern twist to the beloved classic American musical, written by a contemporary writer for today’s audiences,” says Director Gary Griffin. “And there’s just something about Chicago. I am excited to give The Marriott Theatre audiences unprecedented access to this particular show, with so many touch points coming straight from the Broadway stage.”
 
A delightful and bouncy mix of old-time Vegas and contemporary musical theatre, HONEYMOON IN VEGAS tells the story of Brooklyn couple Jack Singer and Betsy Nolan, who have escaped to Las Vegas to tie the knot. Everything changes when the couple encounters Tommy Korman, a dashing Vegas gambler who believes Betsy is a spitting image of his deceased wife. With Tommy’s determination and Jack’s hopeful heart, HONEYMOON IN VEGAS throws the audience on a hilarious rollercoaster ride of love, humor, and competition for true romance.
 
HONEYMOON IN VEGASstars Jeff Award Winner Michael Mahler as “Jack Singer” (Broadway: Miss Saigon; Marriott Theatre: October Sky, Hero,City of Angels); Samantha Pauly as “Betsy Nolan” (Marriott Theatre: Evita, Elf the Musical); Jeff Award Winner Sean Allan Krill as “Tommy Korman” (Broadway: Mamma Mia!, Honeymoon in Vegas, and On a Clear Day; National Tour: Thoroughly Modern Millie; Marriott Theatre: Brigadoon, 1776, and Pirates of Penzance); Cole Burden as “Buddy Rocky/Roy Bacon” (National Tours: Les Misérables, The Bridges of Madison County; Marriott Theatre: Legally Blonde); Marya Grandy as “Bea Singer” (Broadway: Les Misérables; Marriott Theatre: How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Sister Act, and On the Town); and Steven Strafford as “Johnny Sandwich” (National Tours: Spamalot, Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Grease; Marriott Theatre: She Loves Me and Madagascar). Also starring in HONEYMOON IN VEGAS are DeShawn Bowens, Christine Bunuan, Aaron Choi, Shana Dagny, Devin DeSantis, Alejandro Fonseca, Alex Goodrich, Anne Gunn, Kristina Larson, Tyler John Logan, Richard Manera, James Rank, Jessica Wolfrum Raun, Drew Redington, Laura Savage, Allison Sill, and Ambria Sylvain.
 
The production will feature set design by Kevin Depinet, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin, properties design by Sally Weiss, projections design by Anthony Churchill, and musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.
 
The performance schedule for HONEYMOON IN VEGAS is Wednesdays at 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m., with select Thursday 1:00 p.m. shows. Ticket prices range from $50 to $60, including tax and handling fees. Call for student, senior and military discounts. On Wednesday and Thursday evenings there are a limited number of FREE dinners available with the purchase of a full-priced theatre ticket, which can only be purchased through the Marriott Theatre Box Office. To make a restaurant reservation, please call 847.634.0100. Free parking is available at all performances. To reserve tickets, please call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or go to www.ticketmaster.com. Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com for more information.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

‘S wonderful. “An American in Paris” was the surprise hit of 2015 on Broadway. It is of course the stage adaptation of Vincent Minnelli’s 1951 Best Picture winner of the same name. With familiar songs by George and Ira Gershwin, it would be hard not to be charmed.

 

To appreciate this “new musical”– you need to go back to a simpler, post-war era. Musicals were essentially plotless vehicles for stars like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland to showcase their talents. If some of the songs sound recycled here, that’s because they were. Often Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the Gershwins repurposed their songs for multiple films. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

 

The stage musical devised by Craig Lucas and Christopher Wheeldon is fairly standard. While it may not be a reinvention of the wheel, it artfully pays homage to Vincent Minnelli’s lush style. Wheeldon’s ballet-flavored choreography is beautiful. The playfulness is tres Francais. Sometimes when a show hits the road, the production has to sacrifice some visual elements for the sake of portability. Not the case here. It’s impressive how well the vivid set pieces and projections travel. Visually, this “American in Paris” is stunning.

Sara Esty in the role as Lise evokes the spirit of a young Leslie Caron who starred in the original. Esty has been with the production since its conception at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. Though, her dialogue is sparse, she’s a lithe dancer and thoroughly adorable. Her co-star McGee Maddox takes up Gene Kelly’s role as Jerry Mulligan. What he loses in convincing line delivery he more than makes up for with impressive dance.

If you’re asking yourself, why “An American in Paris” or why now? Why not is a good answer. This show endures because it casts a heartwarming spell over audiences from varied generations. It may not be the most poignant musical, but for the nostalgia lover or Francophile this is sure to bring a smile to your face.

 

Through August 13 at The Oriental Theatre. 24 W Randolph. Broadway in Chicago

Published in Theatre in Review

In the Chicago premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s 38th original production, LUZIA (a combination of two Spanish words, luz (light) and lluvia (rain)) transcends the audiences into a lucid dream, an imaginary world of Mexico. Based on traditional Mexican culture, this Big Top show reflects back on the beautiful country and the rich culture, history and mythology it draws its inspiration from; it’s playful, colorful and romantic.

LUZIA opens with the curious traveler/clown descending onto the stage outfitted with a large golden disk that resembles Aztec calendar; he turns a large key, and everything comes to life. Nature figures prominently in this beautiful spectacle: rain water, desert, animals and enormous insects crawling around during some acts will keep the kids in the audience well entertained. For the first time in Cirque du Soleil’s touring history, water is made an integral part of the show; rain is incorporated into acrobatic and artistic scenes; at one point the rain itself magically turns into silhouettes of plants and animals (set designer Eugenio Caballero). The stream of water culminates in the cenote (a naturally occurring sinkhole the Mayan believed was a sacred gateway to the afterlife) at the center of the stage floor. During visually enticing Aerial Straps act the performer glides across the cenote, flipping his long, wet hair around and interacting with a life-size puppet-jaguar whose movements are so well choreographed, the entire scene looks like a CG (puppet choreography by Max Humphries). Another highlight of the show for me was the contortionist Aleksei Goloborodko’s act, who is believed to be the most flexible person in the world. He first appears folded like a giant tarantula, then stretches into a snake and morphs back again into an insect – mesmerizing!

Guinness World Record holder Rudolf Janecek’s impressive performance (he can simultaneously juggle 7 pins at mind blowing speeds) is a tribute to the art of speed juggling popular in Mexico. Another time-bending act is the Hoop Diving with acrobats wearing bird costumes; the clever use of two treadmills creates the illusion of time speeding up.

A distinct vintage detail abounds throughout the show giving it a classy old Mexico feel. The old movie set is a reminder of simpler times, and the beautiful Adagio number has a romantic 1920’s flare with the three porters hurling a seemingly weightless female flyer above their heads in a graceful dance.

Costume designer Giovanna Buzzi kept the costumes colorful but subdued, with each scene having its own color or combination of colors creating bright yet sophisticated scenery.
As expected from a Cirque du Soleil show, a live band with a singer (Majo Cornejo) provide accompaniment during some acts, performing a total of 15 songs.

In the end, everything comes together: the music, the costumes, the performances. Co-written by Hamelin Finzi and director Daniele Finzi Pasca, LUZIA is a magical journey to the heart of Mexico. Highly recommended!

For more show information or to purchase tickets, click HERE.

Cirque du Soleil
LUZIAis Cirque du Soleil’s 38th original production since 1984, and its 17th show presented under the Big Top. The company has brought wonder and delight to more than 160 million spectators in more than 400 cities on six continents. Cirque du Soleil has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from close to 50 different countries.
For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.

Published in Theatre in Review
Page 6 of 23

 

 

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