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

Route 66 Theatre Company is pleased to conclude its ninth season with the Chicago premiere of Halley Feiffer’s dark comedy A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGY UNIT AT SLOAN-KETTERING MEMORIAL CANCER CENTER OF NEW YORK CITY, directed by Keira Fromm, playing August 24 – September 23, 2017 at The Den Theatre’s new Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at route66theatre.org. The press opening is Tuesday, August 29 at 7:30 pm.

A FUNNY THING… features Judy Lea Steele, Meg Thalken, Stef Tovar and Mary Williamson.
 
A foul-mouthed twenty-something comedienne and a middle-aged man embroiled in a nasty divorce are brought together unexpectedly when their cancer-stricken mothers become roommates in the hospital. Together, this unlikely duo must negotiate some of life’s biggest challenges... while making some of the world’s most inappropriate jokes. Can these two very lost people learn to laugh through their pain and lean on each other when all they really want to do is run away?
 
Director Keira Fromm comments, "A Funny Thing… is a play about the ways we use humor as both a balm and a barrier to protect us from the litany of life's discomforts. I'm drawn to plays about the ways in which we cope with life. When those plays involve surviving spiky family relationships, I'm all in. Halley Feiffer is no-holds-barred when it comes to showing extremely flawed individuals at their messiest. She's also completely fearless when it comes to exposing the raw spots that result from the friction of our most fragile family relationships. This play is unbelievably funny one moment and moving in the most throat-grabbing of ways the next. I can't wait to dig in."
 
Artistic Director Stef Tovar adds, “This play was a hit in New York last summer at MCC and the Geffen Playhouse in LA is producing it right after we open with Halley Feiffer playing the role of Karla... so for a theater company our size to secure the Chicago premiere is huge for us. We're so grateful to Halley for trusting us with her incredible script and this dynamite group of ladies are going to kill it. I can't wait to get started."
 
The production team team for FUNNY THING… includes: Courtney O’Neill (scenic design), Mieka Van der Ploeg (costume design), Claire Margaret Chrzan (lighting design), Christopher Kriz (sound design), Amanda Hermann (properties design), Sasha Smith (intimacy choreographer), Catherine Allen (production manager), Helen Lattyak (stage manager) and Matthew Bonaccorso (asst. stage manager)
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
Title: A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE GYNECOLOGIC ONCOLOGY UNIT AT SLOAN-KETTERING MEMORIAL CANCER CENTER OF NEW YORK CITY
Playwright: Halley Feiffer
Director: Keira Fromm
Cast: Judy Lea Steele (Geena), Meg Thalken (Marcie), Stef Tovar (Don) and Mary Williamson (Karla).
 
Location: The Den Theatre’s Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Thursday, August 24 at 7:30 pm, Friday, August 25 at 7:30 pm, Saturday, August 26 at 3 pm & 7:30 pm and Sunday, August 26 at 3 pm
Regular run: Thursday, August 31 – Saturday, September 23, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm; Saturdays at 3 pm & 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm
Tickets: Previews: $25 adults. Regular run: $35 adults; $20 students. Discounts available for groups of 10 or more. Tickets are currently available at route66theatre.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

First Floor Theater is proud to announce their 2017/18 season, featuring one world premiere and two Chicago premieres. Their sixth season opens with the world premiere of Leah Nanako Winkler’s TWO MILE HOLLOW, an explosive satire of the classic white American family drama, directed by Artistic Director Hutch Pimentel. Next winter brings the much-anticipated Chicago premiere of DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA by Nathan Alan Davis, a moving, lyrical story of a young black man searching for a connection to his ancestors, directed by Chika Ike. Closing out the season is the Chicago premiere of Cory Finley’s THE FEAST, a pitch black comedy about what lies beneath our art, our relationships and our feet, directed by Artistic Director Hutch Pimentel. First Floor Theater is proud to continue as a resident company at The Den Theatre.
 
“These three plays demonstrate the potential of theatre to entertain, enthrall and educate us. We’re incredibly proud to be introducing these three playwrights to Chicago whose voices are utterly unique in their field,” says Artistic Director Hutch Pimentel.
 
First Floor Theater's 2017/18 Season:
 
The World Premiere of
TWO MILE HOLLOW
By Leah Nanako Winkler
Directed by Artistic Director Hutch Pimentel
October 8 - November 4, 2017
 
When the Donnellys gather to divide their belongings after the sale of their oceanfront mansion, both an internal and literal storm brew. As this brood of famous, longing-to-be-famous, and mess, of a Caucasian family comes together with their POC personal assistant, Charlotte, some really really really really really complicated and totally unique secrets are revealed over white wine.  A satirical takedown coupled with moments of disorienting sincerity, TWO MILE HOLLOW explores the age-old genre of plays about affluent white families retreating to their waterfront homes to battle it out with brutality, awe and compassion. Only this time, none of the white characters are played by white actors. TWO MILE HOLLOW was named one of the Top 15 Plays on the 2017 Kilroys List.
 
The Chicago Premiere of
DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA
By Nathan Alan Davis
Directed by Chika Ike
March 4 - March 31, 2018
 
Eighteen-year-old Dontrell Jones the Third decides it is his duty and destiny to venture into the Atlantic Ocean in search of an ancestor lost during the Middle Passage, but his family isn’t ready to abandon its prized son to the waters of a mysterious and haunting past. Blending poetry, humor, wordplay and ritual, DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA is a present-day hero’s quest exploring the lengths and depths we must go to redeem history’s wrongs. The play has been called “a mesmerizing blend of magical realism and poetic social comment” by the Los Angeles Times and “the most important play on DC stages” (DC Theatre Scene).
The Chicago Premiere of
THE FEAST
By Cory Finley
Directed by Hutch Pimentel
May 13 - June 9, 2018
 
Matt and Anna’s relationship is going swimmingly, until the sewers under their apartment open up and begin to speak. The plumber is angry, Matt’s paintings are getting stranger, and a storm is gathering. THE FEAST is an “agreeably scary and original” (New York Times) comedy that draws on the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft to ask, what’s real, what’s not, and who knows.

About First Floor Theater
First Floor Theater stages stories of individuals facing moments of radical change. Through a process of collaborative dramaturgy, FFT expands these stories to ask urgent social questions. FFT was named the "Best New Theater Company" in the Chicago Reader's Best of 2013 Reader's Pick edition. First Floor Theater is a Resident Company at The Den Theatre.
 
For more information on First Floor Theater, visit http://firstfloortheater.com/

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Black Button Eyes Productions is pleased to present the Chicago storefront premiere of SHOCKHEADED PETER, the silly and sinister musical based on Heinrich Hoffmann's popular German children’s book The Struwwelpeter. Directed by Producing Artistic Director Ed Rutherford with music direction by T.J. Anderson, SHOCKHEADED PETER was created for the stage by Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott with original music and lyrics by The Tiger Lillies. SHOCKHEADED PETER will play August 11 – September 16, 2017 at The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at athenaeumtheatre.org, by calling (773) 935-6875 or in person at The Athenaeum Theatre Box Office. The press opening is Saturday, August 12 at 7:30 pm. Note: recommended for ages 13+.
 
SHOCKHEADED PETER features Ellen DeSitter, Kat Evans, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Caitlin Jackson, Cody Jolly, Josh Kemper, Genevieve Lerner, Pavi Proczko, Stephanie Stockstill, Gwen Tulin, Kevin Webb and Anthony Whitaker.
 
A sinister but incompetent master of ceremonies leads the audience through the tale of a childless couple that has their fondest wish granted in the most delightfully dreadful way imaginable, accompanied by vignettes in which the hilariously horrible fates that befall naughty children everywhere are brought to darkly comedic life.
 
The production team for SHOCKHEADED PETER includes: Jeremiah Barr (scenic design, props design, puppetry and technical director), Beth Laske-Miller (costume design), Liz Cooper (lighting design), John Mathias (sound design), Derek Van Barham (movement director) and Alexa Berkowitz (stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: SHOCKHEADED PETER
Created for the stage by: Julian Crouch and Phelim McDermott
Original Music and Lyrics by: The Tiger Lillies
Adapted from: Heinrich Hoffmann's The Struwwelpeter
Director: Ed Rutherford
Music Director: T.J. Anderson
Cast: Ellen DeSitter, Kat Evans, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Caitlin Jackson, Cody Jolly, Josh Kemper, Genevieve Lerner, Pavi Proczko, Stephanie Stockstill, Gwen Tulin, Kevin Webb and Anthony Whitaker.
 
Location: The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago
Dates: Preview: Friday, August 11 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Sunday, August 13 – Saturday, September 16, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2 pm. 
Tickets: $32. Students $17 (includes $2 Athenaeum Theatre restoration fee). Tickets are currently available at athenaeumtheatre.org, by calling (773) 935-6875 or in person at The Athenaeum Theatre Box Office. Note: recommended for ages 13+.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Linda Fortunato, Artistic Director of Theatre at the Center (TATC), Northwest Indiana’s only professional theater company, has announced the mainstage titles for TATC’s 2018 Season.  
 
Fortunato will direct three of the five productions, including Steel Magnolias, which will launch the 2018 season. Forever Plaid and The Lady with All the Answers are the spring and summer shows. In the fall, Fortunato will also direct Ghost The Musical, a stage adaptation of the 1990 Academy-Award winning film. Closing the 2018 season, she will direct and choreograph Meredith Willson’s Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical inspired by the 1947 classic film.
 
Steel Magnolias (February 22 – March 25, 2018) is a hilarious and heart-warming play set in a Louisiana beauty shop. It follows the hopes, dreams, triumphs and tragedies of six colorful characters and inspired the 1989 film which starred Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine and Dolly Parton. It’s a story exploring the bond between a mother and daughter, and friendships of those who feel like family.
 
Spring welcomes Forever Plaid (May 3 – June 3, 2018), one of the most popular and beloved of musical revues. “The Plaids” are a quirky quartet of high school chums in the spotlight for the biggest performance of their lives. Their spirited antics and comic banter weave together such hits as “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “Heart and Soul” and “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” in this playful tribute to the close harmony of “guy groups” of the 1950’s.
 
An up-close and personal introduction to the real Ann Landers awaits audiences in The Lady with All the Answers (July 12 – August 12, 2018).  Popular advice columnist Ann Landers had a life which seemed letter-perfect. With more than 90 million readers each day, she had a quick wit which could be comical and creative, as well as sharp and shocking, all in the same sentence. The play unfolds in Landers’ Lakeshore Drive apartment in 1975 where she shares some of her most fascinating stories as she prepares to write the most difficult column of her career.
 
In the fall, Ghost The Musical (September 13 – October 14, 2018) is the musical adaptation of the 1990 Academy-Award winning film sharing the love story of Sam and Molly. After Sam’s untimely death, he tries to protect Molly from an unknown threat. In an attempt to communicate with her, he enlists the help of a storefront psychic to hilarious and harrowing effect. This tale about the power of love features a score by Grammy Award winning songwriters Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard, and includes the classic “Unchained Melody.”
 
The holidays are celebrated with Meredith Willson’s Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical (November 15 – December 23, 2018), from the composer of The Music Man. Inspired by the beloved 1947 film, audiences will enjoy the gift of music and laughter. After Santa encounters a skeptical little girl during the season of sharing and caring, a message about the importance of believing is made clear to all. “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” became famous as one the memorable songs in this joyous favorite for all ages.
 
“In choosing Theatre at the Center’s 2018 season, I wanted to create a blend of different styles to engage our audience,” Fortunato said.
 
“Through intimate plays, a beloved musical revue, a new musical, and a holiday classic, we will explore the bonds of friendship and family, of loves lost and found, and meet strangers who feel like family. I hope our audiences will laugh heartily, maybe cry a little, and enjoy some favorite music and songs as they join us for both familiar stories and new ones, as well.” 
 
Founded in 1991, the 410 seat Theatre at the Center is a year-round professional theater at its home at The Center for Visual and Performing Arts, 1040 Ridge Road, Munster, Indiana. Theatre at the Center is the only professional theater company in Northwest Indiana, offering downtown caliber performance in an accessible venue with plenty of free parking. Theatre at the Center is located off I-80/94, just 35 minutes from downtown Chicago.
 
Renewal for existing Season Subscriptions begins Aug. 20 and continues through Sept. 24, with sales for new Season Subscription patrons beginning Oct. 10. Individual tickets for any of the five mainstage shows of the new 2018 Season are on sale beginning Dec. 12.
 
Theatre at the Center mainstage show performances are 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 3:00 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays and select Thursday and Sunday evenings.  Individual ticket prices range from $42 - $46.  To purchase individual tickets, including the remaining shows of the 2017 Season, call the Box Office at 219-836-3255 or Tickets.com at 800-511-1552.   Group discounts are available for groups of 11 or more and gift certificates are also available. For more information about Theatre at the Center, visit www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

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

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
Page 6 of 14

 

 

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