Theatre in Review

From the picturesque covered bridges of 1965 Winterset, Iowa, comes the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, continuing Marriott Theatre’s spectacular 2017 Season, running June 21 through August 13, 2017 at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Featuring one of Broadway’s most accomplished creative teams with music and lyrics by three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown and book by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Marsha Norman, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY first captured the nation’s heart as a best-selling novel by Robert James Waller and remains one of the most romantic stories ever written. Seven-time Jeff Award Winner Nick Bowling (Man of La Mancha, The King and I) returns to The Marriott Theatre to direct, with musical direction by Jeff Award Winner Ryan T. Nelson.
 
“When I first came across this piece, I was immediately drawn to the spectacular score. It’s the kind of music you fall in love with the first time you hear it, which can’t be said for all musicals,” says Director Nick Bowling. “I feel a strong personal connection to the story having grown up in a small town in Iowa similar to Winterset. Seeing my mother face the same challenges Francesca is going through in terms of navigating a world that is foreign to her, my focus is to keep the story as true to Iowa as can be. Every detail from the set design to the costumes will be inspired by Madison County’s beauty to capture the true essence of the story’s setting.”
 
A true sweeping romance, THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY is the heartbreaking and touching story of two people caught between duty and desire. A beautiful Italian war-bride who longs for the dreams of travel and excitement she once had as a girl, Francesca Johnson is a dedicated Iowa housewife living a simple, yet dispassionate life. When her family goes on a trip to the 1965 State Fair and leaves her behind to take care of the house, Francesca’s world is shattered as a ruggedly handsome National Geographic photographer, Robert Kincaid, pulls into her driveway seeking directions. A quick ride to photograph one of the famed covered bridges of Madison County sparks a soul-stirring, passionate affair for the couple, whose lives are forever altered by this chance encounter. Audiences will be swept away by Jason Robert Brown’s soulful score, drawing upon the rich textures of Americana and folk. 
 
THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY stars Jeff Award Winner Kathy Voytko as “Francesca” (The Marriott Theatre: Les Misérables; Chicago Shakespeare Theatre: Passion; Broadway: Oklahoma!, Nine, The Frogs, The Pirate Queen and Next to Normal); Jeff Award Winner Nathaniel Stampley as “Robert” (The Marriott Theatre: Man of La Mancha; Broadway/National Tour: The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess; Broadway: The Color Purple and The Lion King; London: The Lion King; Apple Tree Theatre: Big River; Milwaukee Rep: Dreamgirls and Man of La Mancha); Bart Shatto as “Bud” (Broadway: Les Misérables, The Civil War, Dracula, Hands on a Hardbody; National Tours: Cats, The Civil War, Les Misérables); Wydetta Carter as “Marge” (The Marriott Theatre: Little Shop of Horrors); Terry Hamilton as “Charlie” (The Marriott Theatre: She Loves Me, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, October Sky); Tanner Hake as “Michael”; Brooke MacDougal as “Carolyn”; and Emily Berman as “Marian” (World Premiere: Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley at Northlight Theatre; Chicago Shakespeare Theatre: Sense and Sensibility). Also starring in THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY are Shea Coffman, Nick Cosgrove, Phoebe González, Allyson Graves, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Danni Smith and Brandon Springman.
 
The production will feature set design by Jeff Kmiec, costume design by Sally Dolembo, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Bob Gilmartin, projections design by Anthony Churchill, properties design by Sally Weiss, and musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.
 
The performance schedule for THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY 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

Try to remember a time before the Internet, before dating sites, before personal ads and instant cameras and you will eventually discover the age-old path of finding love and dating for men and women called "Lonely Hearts Clubs". 

 

In Marriott Theatre’s “She Loves Me", a musical with a book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock, two co-workers at the quaint Maraczek’s Parfumerie shop have unwittingly fallen in love with each other by the “Dear Friend” letters they have sent and received through their lonely hearts club connection. Though Georg and Amalia have not seen even a single photo of the other they each are certain by the written words of the other that they are truly in love and are ready to finally meet. 

 

Alex Goodrich’s Georg, the male half of this love match starts out as a bit of a jerk. Goodrich, who puts forth a very strong performance, makes Georg very sympathetic, albeit a bit of a boor though he is likable to his co-workers. He is earnestly content with his fifteen-year-plus job at the store. Although he has lots of girls who are real friends, it turns out Georg is completely insecure and out of touch with his feelings towards the opposite sex when it comes to romance. 

 

When Elizabeth Telford enters the store as Amalia (who is both seeking employment and unsuspectingly the other half of the lonely hearts club love letters), Georg is utterly irritated by her natural instinct for sales. Georg treats her with disdain even though she is cute and eminently qualified for the job she gets from the boss after selling a new product, a musical cigarette box, in record time. 

 

Both Goodrich and Telford endear you to their stubborn characters over the course of the show. As delivery boy, Arpad, played with youthful cheer, by Grant Kilian says to another clerk at the store with wonder, "Do they like each other?” The other clerk says, " Yes, they like each other very much," to which Arpad says, "Well shouldn't someone tell them?"  

 

Elizabeth Telford really knocks it put of the park emotionally and vocally with the number “Will He Like Me?", as she muses about all the different qualities he may or may not find attractive about her once they finally meet. Also, her genuinely joyous and girlish rendition of "Vanilla Ice Cream" lifts the audience to believe in true love again as Georg, who has already stood her up once, breaking her heart so badly that she cannot return to work that day, delivers a pint of Amalias' favorite vanilla ice cream. The thoughtful gesture makes her happy at his consideration in a way that begins to dimly realize what might be real love despite his earlier disdainful and brutish treatment of her feelings at work.  

 

Yes, it's like a period piece version of " You've Got Mail" that plays with a very modern feel as couples STILL face these challenges trying to find their mate today despite the Internet dating revolution. 

 

(Above) Jessica Naimy as "Ilona" and Jame Earl Jones II as "Sipos"

Jessica Naimy as Ilona steals the show with two of her numbers as the sexy, single gal at the Parfumerie who lets her desire for Mr. Right get in the way of finding her Mr. Right. In “I Resolve”, Naimy sings with genuine force and power that she resolves to let go of her destructive purely sexual relationship with the lothario of the drugstore and rather stand up for the truly lovable and deserving-of-respect woman she really is. In the number “Trip to the Library", Ilona seems to unconsciously know that a trip to a place of higher learning for the evening instead of to the local drinking hole will eventually lead to her meeting a man of substance and intelligence who loves her the way she was meant to be loved. 

 

James Earl Jones II as Sipos, the clerk with a family who will kiss anyone's butt to save his boring but dependable job, delivers a very funny, dry performance and his singing voice is both comical and deeply resounding. Great job!  And David Schlumpf as Steven Kodaly, the womanizing and insensitive clerk who'll sleep with anyone, really makes you want to slap him in the face, but his number “Grand Knowing You" shows the audience his sexist honesty is what finally pushes Ilona over the brink to find her own self-respect again, even if it means being alone for a while. 

 

Shop owner Mr. Maraczek is also well played by Terry Hamilton, as he is able to finely capture both the character’s storminess as that of a demanding boss and the good heartedness that hides beneath his exterior. 

 

The slicked back hair and black tails of The Headwaiter who serves Georg and Amalia at their very first meeting at a "romantic hideaway" is hysterically portrayed by Steven Strafford who has great physical comedy skills with his spot on facial expressions and timing. 

 

Directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Aaron Thielen, “She Loves Me” is a cute love story that features many charming characters and fun numbers including the adorable “Thank You, Madam” a goodbye the store employees sing together whenever a customer leaves the shop.

 

Thank you, madam. 

Please call again. 

Do call again, 

Madam

 

I highly recommend this heartwarming, fresh and fun production which is brought to life by Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s sets, Jesse Klug’s soft and lovely period lighting and especially Sally Dolembo’s really delicious, color-rich costumes for both the leads and the wonderful ensemble of players who portray shoppers in the store. Altogether with this superb cast, "She Loves Me" brings the art of lovemaking in this long past period to life in a delightful modern way. 

 

“She Loves Me” is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through June 18th. For tickets and show information click here

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Set against the lavish backdrop of a 1930s Hungarian perfume shop, the Tony Award-winning musical comedy gem, SHE LOVES ME, continues The Marriott Theatre’s 2017 Season, running April 26 through June 18, 2017 at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Based on Miklos Laszlo’s play, Parfumerie, which then became the inspiration for the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan box office hit, You’ve Got Mail, SHE LOVES ME features a soaring score by Tony Award-winning composers Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof), and book by Joe Masteroff (Cabaret). With musical direction by Matt Deitchman, Marriott Theatre Lead Artistic Director and Jeff Award-winner Aaron Thielen directs and choreographs this euphoric comedy.

 

“I fell in love with SHE LOVES ME twenty-six years ago, when I was cast in the show while attending the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Also in that cast we're soon to be Marriott Theatre alumni Guy Adkins and Tari Kelly. I think it's a brilliant show and am thrilled to get the opportunity to work on it again,” says Director and Choreographer Aaron Thielen. “From the details of the props and costume pieces, to the music’s Hungarian influence, we’re really adding the element of tradition back into this already amazing piece. This production is a nod to the folk tradition of the era.”

 

A captivating jewel-box of a musical, SHE LOVES ME follows Georg and Amalia, two parfumerie clerks who don’t see eye to eye, constantly quarreling on the job. But once the work day is done, the feuding coworkers find solace in their anonymous romantic pen pals, not knowing their respective correspondents are actually each other.  Chaos ensues as a tangle of mistaken identity and hilarious encounters finally bring the soulmates together, leading Georg to realize the animosity between the two may have been nothing less than love in disguise. SHE LOVES ME radiates pure romance through some of the most iconic songs in the musical theatre canon, including“Vanilla Ice Cream,” “Tonight at 8” and “She Loves Me.”

 

SHE LOVES ME stars Elizabeth Telford as “Amalia Balash” (The Marriott Theatre: La Cage aux Folles, The Wizard of Oz, On The Town); Jeff Award Winner Alex Goodrich as “Georg Nowack” (The Marriott Theatre: World Premiere of HERO, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, ELF, and On the Town; Northlight Theatre: World Premiere of Shining Lives: A Musical); Jeff Award Winner Terry Hamilton as “Mr. Maraczek” (The Marriott Theatre: How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying; October Sky); Jeff Award Winner David Schlumpf as “Steven Kodaly” (The Marriott Theatre: Evita; Chicago Shakespeare: Sense & Sensibility, As You Like It, and Timon of Athens), Jessica Naimy as “Ilona Ritter” (The Marriott Theatre: How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying; Broadway: Honeymoon in Vegas; National Tour: South Pacific);James Earl Jones II as “Ladislav Sipos” (The Marriott Theatre: She Loves Me, Madagascar, October Sky, Dreamgirls and Full Monty); and sharing the role of “Arpad Laszlo” are Grant Kilian (Marriott Theatre debut!) and Johnny Rabe (Marriott Theatre: Mary Poppins and For The Boys; Broadway: A Christmas Story).SHE LOVES ME also features Lillian Castillo, Aaron Holland, Johanna McKenzie Miller, Jeff Pierpoint, Laura Savage, Allison Sill, Cassie Slater, Jason Slattery, Brandon Springman, Steven Strafford and James Rank.

 

The production will feature set design by Jeff Kmiec, costume design by Sally Dolembo, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin, properties design by Sally Weiss, musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.

 

The performance schedule for SHE LOVES ME 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
Monday, 06 March 2017 19:22

On the Run with Marriott's Madagascar

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Recommended

 

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

 

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

 

Published in Theatre in Review

As stories go, Mamma Mia! is a light, simple love story injected with plenty of humor and song – nothing heavy in the least, rather an evening island getaway where the sounds of ABBA reign supreme. It is the story of Sophie Sheridan and her mother Donna, who have made home on a Greek Island where they own and run a small resort. But the story really begins when Sophie, unsure of who her real father is, invites three possibilities to her wedding based on information she’s uncovered in her mother’s journal. Of course, Donna has no clue until the three men show up at the island – awkward! With several people vacationing at the island in anticipation of Sophie’s wedding to Sky in a few days, multiple love narratives unfold - and how couldn’t they? After all, you have a handful of romantically starved individuals thrust together in close proximity to each other on a tropical island that oozes amorousness, coupled with the fact that they all seem to lose control to ABBA classics, which come aplenty. 

Marriott Theatre takes on Mamma Mia! as their latest production, uniquely staging the energy-filled production in the round, giving the audience the feeling that they too are guests at the island resort as the action is up close and the aisles are frequently used during the performance. Set designer Scott Davis does a fantastic job creating an island atmosphere throughout the theatre. Strategic alterations are made to convert the musical to the round, including scenic touches like the moat of illuminated water that surrounds the stage and the walls behind theatre goers that are converted into those of a Greek taverna complete with the colorful shutters of French-styled windows. Adding the finishing touches to the Mamma Mia! setting are dazzling costume designs by Theresa Ham and lighting effects by Jesse Klug. 

Danni Smith takes on the leading role of Donna Sheridan, the short-haired brunette replacing the prototypical long-haired, wavy-blonde we are used to seeing in this production. The change is nice. Smith, who was last seen at Marriott Theatre in Man of La Mancha, serves up a powerhouse vocal performance, especially during her crowd stunner “The Winner Takes It All” and her heartfelt rendition of “Slipping Through My Fingers”, delivered with just the right touch of care and concern a mother would have for her daughter. Capturing the essence of Donna so well, we immediately like her and cheer for her. Putting it bluntly, Danni Smith is truly extraordinary. Meghan Murphy and Cassie Slater are rightly cast as Donna’s two lifelong friends Tanya and Rosie. The casting couldn’t have been more perfect. As many times as I have seen Mamma Mia!, I have never seen a more believable friendship than that as between Donna and her besties in this production, which is so convincing you’d think it true in real life. Murphy gets to show off her great sense of comedic timing as Tanya, also taking it to the house vocally, hitting one way out of the park in the racy number “Does Your Mother Know”. 

Taking on yet another challenging vocal role in the show, this one of Sophie, is Tiffany Tatreau, who handles it with apparent ease. Tatreau, undoubtedly gifted in the vocal department, tackles several demanding songs on her own and adds on many occasions to the captivating vocal harmonies that make this musical so special. 

Sophie’s three possible fathers are also cast well, Peter Saide getting plenty of chances to display his own finessed vocal skill as Sam Carmichael, while Karl Hamilton and Derek Hasenstab draw some big laughs as Donna’s other two ex’s Harry Brightwell and Bill Austin. Russell Mernagh makes his own mark as Sky, Sophie’s soon to be husband. Mernaugh, whose beach bum charm is nothing short of convincing, puts forth a well-rounded performance that makes him a solid choice for the role. Overall, the cast is just sensational from top to bottom, getting strong support from its incredible ensemble who wows the audience on several occasions with big-time dance and vocal routines.

All the elements are in place to provide an entertaining evening without even the slightest lull. The stage is often taken over by energetic dance numbers that will have you tapping along or beautifully arranged ballads that will move your soul. The humor is abundant, the subject matter light and the visuals so easily take your mind elsewhere - somewhere dreamy. Yes, the table is perfectly set to enjoy a night of ABBA hits done with much originality from “Dancing Queen” to “Waterloo”. Fun is "the name of the game" in this wild ride stringed together by a compilation of the Swedish sensation's biggest hits - so much fun in fact, that you might have to pull out your glitzy, bell-bottomed, spandex one-piece (we all have one, don't we?) after getting home from the show.  

Mamma Mia!, already a winning show, has now become even more of a special experience as it is put together so well, and uniquely, by Marriott Theatre in a way that cannot be seen anywhere else. When you put it all together – the great music, the talented performances and a setting that takes you miles and miles away to a tropical bliss – it all adds up to “Having the time of your life”.

Highly recommended. 

Mamma Mia! has already been extended and is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through April 16th. For more show information, click here.     

   

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Lincolnshire, IL – The global phenomenon seen by over 60 million people all around the world and one of Broadway’s longest running hits, MAMMA MIA!, kicks off Marriott Theatre's 2017 Season, running February 8 through April 2, 2017 with a press opening on February 15 at 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Multi Jeff Award Winner Rachel Rockwell (World Premiere of October Sky and 42nd Street at Marriott Theatre; Ride the Cyclone at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and MCC Theatre, New York; and Brigadoon at Goodman Theatre), returns to direct the much-loved  piece, with music and lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA, and book by Catherine Johnson.Rockwell, who has an extensive history with the show, having performed it many times including on Broadway, joins forces with longtime collaborators Set Designer Scott Davis, who will re-imagine the signature theatre-in-the-round space, and Costume Designer Theresa Ham who returns to the Marriott following the success of October Sky, along with Choreographer Ericka Mac and Musical Director Ryan T. Nelson.

 

“I’m really excited to put my spin on this exuberant celebration of music and friendship,” says Rockwell. “The show is a story of the enduring female relationships in our lives – mothers and daughters, women supporting each other. Paired with these songs that we all love, it brings such joy. It truly is a love letter to that ABBA sound."

 

MAMMA MIA!is the story of the dynamic relationship between independent and carefree mother, Donna Sheridan, and her spirited daughter, Sophie, who she has raised alone on an idyllic Greek island. While Donna invites her two best friends to her daughter's wedding, practical and no-nonsense Rosie and wealthy, multi-divorcee Tanya, Sophie has plans of her own up her sleeve. On a quest to find the identity of her father to walk her down the aisle, she brings back three men from Donna’s past to the Mediterranean paradise they visited 20 years earlier, hoping to build a bond with the father she’s never known. Chaos ensues over the next 24 hours as new love blooms and old flames are rekindled on this lush island full of possibilities. Fusing explosive dance numbers with timeless songs, including “Dancing Queen”, “S.O.S.”, “Money, Money, Money” and “Take a Chance on Me,” MAMMA MIA! will have audiences singing along to all the classic favorites in this feel-good story full of laughs, love, family and friendship.

 

MAMMA MIA! stars Danni Smith as “Donna Sheridan” (The Marriott Theatre: Man of La Mancha and City of Angels; Paramount: A Christmas Story; Porchlight: Chess), Meghan Murphy as “Tanya” (The Marriott Theatre: City of Angels; Drury Lane Oakbrook: Smokey Joe’s Café), Cassie Slater as “Rosie” (The Marriott Theatre: Man of La Mancha and City of Angels), Tiffany Tatreauas “Sophie Sheridan” (The Marriott Theatre: Sister Act and Spring Awakening; Chicago Shakespeare Theater/MCC: Ride the Cyclone), Peter Saide as “Sam Carmichael” (Chicago Shakespeare/Old Globe: Sense and Sensibility; Paramount: Oklahoma!; Las Vegas: Jersey Boys), Karl Sean Hamilton as “Harry Bright” (The Marriott Theatre: For the Boys and The Full Monty; Goodman Theatre: Wonderful Town; Chicago Shakespeare Theater/MCC: Ride the Cyclone), Derek Hasenstab as “Bill Austin” (The Marriott Theatre: How To Succeed…, Spring Awakening, October Sky; Lookingglass Theatre Company: Eastland), Russell Mernagh as “Sky” (The Marriott Theatre: Evita; Chicago Shakespeare Theater: Ride the Cyclone; The Mercury Theatre: The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes), Kayla Kennedy as “Ali,”Lillian Castillo as “Lisa,” Liam Quealy as “Pepper,” and Gerard Salvador as “Eddie.” Also featuring Ari Aaron, William Carlos Angulo, Aramie, Julie Baird, Nathaniel Braga, Colte Julian, Tommy Lucas, Ericka Mac, John Marshall, Jr., Zoe Nadal, Hanah Rose Nardone, Laura Savage, Colette Todd and Kylah Williams.

 

The production will feature set design by Scott Davis, costume design by Theresa Ham, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Bob Gilmartin, properties design by Sally Weiss, musical supervision and orchestra conducted by Patti Garwood.

 

The performance schedule for MAMMA MIA!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 Buzz Extra

Marriott Theatre has staged an audacious, vibrant production with its adaptation of the 1952 Gene Kelley musical, ‘Singin’ in the Rain.’

This show reaches for the stars, and its company is so exuberant, its orchestration and choreography  so refined, that shortcomings of the script (by legendary duo Adolph Green and Betty Comden) don’t really matter. It came to life, after all, as the low-brow, plot-free Hollywood Revue of 1929, a cinema collection of musical numbers to showcase big stars in early talkies.

Danny Gardner plays silent film era Don Lockwood (the Gene Kelley character); Gabriel Ruiz Yoder, his bosom buddy and pianist Cosmo Brown (Dennis O’Connor in the film). 

The third in this musical menage is Mary Patterson as Kathy Selden (in the movie, Debbie Reynolds). Patterson is a standout in this show: a most natural dancer, a bit of a bel canto, and emotive in her role, performing as naturally as someone falling off a log.

The songs were hits long before Singin’ in the Rain’s theatrical release. Burned into our collective unconsciousness (‘You Were Meant for Me’, ‘’Make Em Laugh’, ‘All I Do Is Dream of You’’Good Mornin’) we recognize these tunes from note one, accompanied by scenes from the movie re-enacted faithfully – if on occasion a bit slavishly.

The production builds to the show-stopping stormy solo dance, choreographed (as are all the dance sequences) by Gene Kelley and taken nearly intact to this staging, which includes hundreds of gallons of rain delivered from above for the Singin’ in the Rain scene.  For my money, though, the best is Good Mornin’, in which the Gardner, Yoder, and Patterson really channel the spirit of unfettered joy expressed by the screen originals.

Among the standouts in great cast is Amanda Tanguay as gossip columnist Zelda Zanders (that 1920s elocution is on key), and Alexandra Palkovic as Lina Lamont, the star with a voice perfect for silent film (a Judy Holiday doppelganger). The orchestra directed by Patti Garwood is amplified in perfect balance throughout the theater.

Also a special nod to the set design by Tom Ryan, costume design by Nancy Missimi, lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Bob Gilmartin, properties design by Sally Weiss. The recreation of the silent film sequences which were much more incidental to the 1952 original are very, very funny - and beautifully conceived, with 18th Century France transmogrified to the 1920s silent era Hollywood - you'll recognize the style of those movie palaces in these very creative scenes. 

This original production developed in Chicago could easily be Broadway bound. Seize your chance to see it through December 31 at Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre.

Published in Theatre in Review

Wouldn’t it be great if we were given a simply written book to tell us how to succeed in whatever it is we wanted to pursue so long as its easy steps were followed? Supposing we were unqualified and the book taught us how to beat the system in ten or so easy steps? Well, such would be the case in Marriott Theatre’s latest production How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

 

In this latest Marriott musical, we are taken to the “Madmen” era of the early 1960’s, thrust back into a day when women in the business world were either secretaries or sex objects – or both - and men lacking professional skills could save their jobs simply by reaching out to the brotherhood of man, even getting women to join in their argument. We’ve all heard the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it” and in some ways everyone adheres to such advice conscious of the fact or not, meaning we can all relate. In How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, based on Shepherd Mead’s 1952 book of the same name, we get a highly exaggerated example of such a philosophy as well as a humorous satire of a sexist corporate structure.     

 

In the heart of fast-paced New York City we find window washer J. Pierrepont Finch. He immediately shows a strong desire to become something bigger – someone important. Taking a break, he reads from a book in his hands, “How to Succeed in Business”. The audience hears what he is reading – shortcuts and tricks to quickly climb the ladder in a company. One of the first steps is to “find a company big enough where no one knows what the other employees are doing”. Finch may lack the qualifications to be a business professional but has no shortage of enthusiasm or ambition. Thanks to the book’s instructions, Finch “unwittingly” bumps into the right people and quickly lands himself a job in the mailroom of a large New York company. Referring to the book as often as possible, Finch butters up important decision makers in his path and, as the book predicts, is unceasingly promoted to higher positions. When Finch first arrives at the company he is met by Rosemary, a secretary, who has eyes for the young, determined newbie. Though her advances are obvious, Finch is dismissive having his eyes firmly fixed on succeeding within the company. Naturally, his plan does not proceed without a few hiccups along the way, the book always nearby for reference on what to do in such situations. As the quick-witted newly hired employee tries to climb to the next level, company owner Biggley’s nephew Frump (who was reluctantly hired by the big boss in the first place), jealous of the attention the newcomer is getting, always finds himself scheming to bring Finch down.        

 

Seinfeld fans are reminded of George Costanza who cheats the system at work to always appear busy by acting annoyed at all times, continuously saying “five minutes” if someone asks for your time, keeping unkempt piles of paperwork on your desk, always having a document in hand while walking and sighing loud enough for fellow employees to hear to seem stressed. 

 

Ari Butler admirably takes on the role of fast talking J.P. Finch, creating a likeable go-getter that we can back as he sidesteps company protocol to better his success. Gifted with fine acting chops and a pleasant voice that holds it own, Butler is exciting to watch from the musical’s opening number “How to Succeed”. Due to Butler’s energy-filled personality and charismatic nature that he injects into the character, we can easily overlook the fact that Finch is really just a transparent status-seeking kid who, rather than working hard, wants to cut all the corners he can in order to leapfrog those who really deserve it. We still like him – and the cast is filled with goodies. Jeff Award winner Alex Goodrich, who many may remember from his leading role as “Buddy” in Elf, takes his role as Biggly’s envious nephew and knocks it out of the park garnering most of the show’s biggest laughs. Terry Hamilton as Biggley is also a delight, perhaps making his biggest splash in the duet he shares with Finch “Grand Old Ivy” to which Finch of course is lying about his alma mater to appease his superior. And while a talented and hard-working ensemble is pivotal in moving the story along in a most entertaining fashion, Jessica Naimy naturally seizes audience attention as Rosemary who is constantly vying for Finch’s attention. The striking young starlet who has in the past landed a Broadway role in Honeymoon in Vegas and has hit the road for a national tour of South Pacific, is genuinely funny as she sings and dances her way into everyone’s hearts. In the now obviously sardonic number “How to Keep His Dinner Warm” near the show’s beginning (not so sure that was the case at the show’s inception in 1967), Naimy clearly lays the groundwork for a strong performance to come.

 

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying has several big song and dance numbers that come with a large amount of pizzazz and lines that will probably be stuck in one’s head for a while afterwards. A light comedy that can’t be taken seriously with lots of laughs and snappy numbers, Marriott’s latest production is a fine escape from life’s rigmarole if just for a night, as the early 1960’s are nicely recreated helping us lose ourselves in an charming story that comes with fine acting performances.     

 

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is being performed at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire through October 16th. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.MarriottTheatre.com.

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

One of the world’s most popular musicals has found a temporary home at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. And you should see it! Celebrating five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the 1964 hit takes on a most interesting chapter in the life of Don Quixote while spending time in prison as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. Based on one of 17th century Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes’ most famed characters the 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote set the stage for what has become one of the most successful musicals to date. Often referred to as a play within a play, Man of La Mancha focuses on Quixote, an imprisoned writer who has turned away from the harsh realities of the world such as battle, crime and poverty and decides rather to view the world as he wants to see it where a prostitute, Aldonza, can instead be a his beloved Dulcinea, a battered cane can be a mighty sword or a cooking pot can be a prized helmet – a victorious trophy. 

 

Music Director Ryan T. Nelson and six-time Jeff Award director Nick Bowling take on this long-time prolific musical, splendidly piecing together a production that engages throughout and profoundly touches the heart. It is together with the powerhouse acting performance of Nathaniel Stampley, that this production goes over and beyond, becoming an instant Marriott classic and a show that will long be remembered for its superb acting and gripping storytelling. Stampley brilliantly seizes the lead role, which is really two leading roles, as the passionate writer who has defied the Spanish Inquisition along with the imaginary knight he has become in his imagination. 

  

Stampley is an actor you can easily root for. Magnetic and captivating, Stampley is a tour de force, capturing the character’s subtleties while becoming a dominating presence when called for, particularly during his breathtaking rendition of the production’s famed song “The Impossible Dream”, which led to a much deserved extended applause that only escalated to a higher volume every time the cheers began to die down.  

 

Stampley gets solid support from actress Danni Smith who delivers a memorable performance of her own, the two skillfully playing off each other to generate the much needed connection to make this show work. Richard Ruiz is also excellent as Quixote's trusty sidekick, Sancho. As all Marriott shows go, we are treated to a very gifted ensemble, as well. 

 

Director Nick Bowling does add a twist to the original by having the story take place in modern times. Simply said, it works. As Bowling explains, “We put the story in modern day with the notion that there are inquiries still going today and there will always be inquisitions.” Bowling’s underlying tones are powerful and serve as a wake up call for some while everyone can still enjoy a masterful musical that can be as heartwarming as it can sad and often humorous in just the right spots. 

 

Wonderfully acted with a slew of talented vocal performances, Man of La Mancha is a sure summer hit that is sure to make theatre goers cheer, feel and emphasize with and for a man who dares to dream the impossible dream and fight the unbeatable foe. 

 

Man of La Mancha is being performed at Marriott Theatre through August 14th. Tickets range from $50-$55. For more show information visit www.marriotttheatre.com.               

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

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
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