Upcoming Theatre

The live sounds of 30’s and 40’s jazz transform Court Theatre into a music venue in this production of Five Guys Named Moe. Written by Clarke Peters and directed by Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson, with Music Director Abdul Hamid Royal and Associate Director Felica P. Fields, this lively musical is a tribute to the great songwriter and saxophonist Louis Jordan (1908-1975), who went down in history as an innovator and popularizer of “jump blues,” a dance forward mix of jazz, blues and boogie-woogie, that paved the way for rock’n’roll in the 1950’s.

The uncomplicated plot provides the perfect canvas for Louis Jordan’s greatest hits and goes something like this: Nomax (Stephen ‘Blu’ Allen) is a clueless but perfectly lovable young lad who is broke and heartbroken because his girlfriend left him. Drinking at home one night and listening to Louis Jordan’s hits on the radio, depressed Nomax is whining about his life, when out of the blue (no pun intended) his radio erupts with five guys, who climb out one by one, introduce themselves as Big Moe (Lorenzo Rush Jr), Eat Moe (James Earl Jones II) , No Moe (Eric A. Lewis), Four-Eyed Moe (Kelvin Roston Jr), and Little Moe (Darrian Ford), and get the party started with ‘Five Guys Named Moe.’ Because five heads are better than one, The Five Moes are very helpful in trying to solve Nomax’s lady problem; the dynamic and superbly fun hits “I Like ‘Em Fat Like That” and “Messy Bessy” are prove of that. Not to mention “I know What I’ve Got” and “Safe, Sane and Single,” which were outstanding. Louis Jordan’s use of comedy in his songwriting had become one of the most prominent elements in his music, for he “laughed to keep from crying”. Besides, having been married five times, he most certainly contemplated the relations between the opposite sexes in his own life.

There was some great talent on that cleverly designed stage made to look like inside of an old radio (scenic design by Courtney O’Neill). Powerful voices, the most remarkable of them Darrian Ford’s [whose new original vocal jazz album, The New Standard, is set to release later this year], impressive dancing with occasional somersaults thrown in for a good measure (by James Earl Jones II), Lorenzo Rush, Jr’s commanding presence and hilarious relic, always on.

The band is no slouch either: led by the pianist/Music Director, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Broadway’s Five Guys Named Moe composer/arranger Abdul Hamid Royal, who had worked with many recording artists, such as Liza Minelli, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole, and Christina Aguilera, to name just a few; it produces a tight sound.

By the end of the First Act, the audience is playfully forced to sing the silly lyrics to “Push Ka Pi Shi Pie,” and some fortunate first row attendees are dragged onto stage to dance with the cast and then led to the lobby bar. Hey, “What’s the Use Of Getting Sober?”, right?

Second Act takes us to The Funky Butt Club, where the Five Moes have a gig to do. The sounds of old jazz are like an anti-anxiety remedy, taking us to a different time far, far in the past, it seems. What great 63rd Season opener for Court Theatre! “Five Guys Named Moe” is being performed at Court Theatre through October 8th. For more show information visit www.courttheatre.org.

*Now extended through October 15th

Published in Upcoming Theatre
Tuesday, 19 September 2017 21:49

Review: Goodman's "A View from the Bridge"

The Goodman Theatre almost never includes a show in their subscriber season that they haven’t developed themselves. Dutch director Ivo van Hove began his vivid production of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” in London before bringing it to Broadway in 2016. It went on to win the Tony Award for best revival. Goodman artistic director Robert Falls requisitioned the work for Chicago prior to the Broadway run. Some may remember van Hove’s contribution to the Goodman’s 2009 Eugene O’Neill Fest. His arresting version of “Mourning Becomes Electra” performed entirely in Dutch was a sure stand out.

Ivo van Hove’s vision for Arthur Miller is uniquely his own in that it’s nothing like you’ve ever seen. If a standard Miller production bores you, then imagine an electric guitar version of Miller. The scenery and scene changes have been cut and what’s left is a minimalist masterclass in strong directorial choices. Minimalism doesn’t mean a lack of spectacle. The white cube contains the play to a small portion of the stage, allowing for audience members to sit right on stage. Each movement of this highly choreographed production creates a stunning visual.

Suffice it to say, you’ll never see “A View from the Bridge” like this again. van Hove’s intention is to create an “ultimate” version of classic American works through a European lens. What he reflects back is interesting. The concluding scene is a work of installation art, and leaves you with an unsettling feeling that we are but animals battling it out at the bottom. As with his interpretation of O’Neill’s “Mourning Becomes Electra”, van Hove is unafraid of heightening the subtle sexuality in the script. The blocking between Catherine (Catherine Combs) and Eddie Carbone (Ian Bedford) is highly suggestive and pushes the envelope even further than Miller had in 1953.

There’s no scenery, no costumes and no tricks for this cast to hide behind. Since the New York production, some of the parts have been recast, but many have not. Catherine Combs reprises her role as Catherine, but is no stranger to the Goodman stage. Combs’ performance is transfixing. She’s able to balance the juvenile qualities of a young girl in a falsetto, but convey the deep-voiced desires of a woman with an unexpected control. Playing her adoptive mother Beatrice, Andrus Nichols, commands each scene. The script would make this character a weakling, unable to stand up to her hulking husband. Nichols brings a hardened strength to the role that propels the final scenes to full throttle.

This production will stick with you. With our nation’s president touting severe immigration reform, this play comes at a critical point in history. Arthur Miller wrote plays that addressed social issues. In many ways Eddie Carbone is how Miller saw America, as something afraid of change. When we hear white supremacists chanting “You will not replace us” on national TV, it’s hard not to draw comparisons. This is an essential play for our times. Ivo van Hove has created a striking and extremely intense version of “A View from the Bridge” that Arthur Miller himself would applaud.

Through October 15th at the Goodman Theatre. 170 North Dearborn. 312-443-3811

*Now extended through October 22nd

Published in Upcoming Theatre

There has never been a better Broadway marriage of story and storyteller – until Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, three decades later, anyway – than Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and songsmith Roger Miller. Floating between aching country ballads, soulful slave spirituals, and the side-splitting novelty tunes that made Miller famous, Big River brought an American classic about century-old America into the 20th century, earning seven Tony Awards in the process. And now through October 15, Theatre at the Center in Munster, Indiana, ferries Huck, Jim, and their story of friendship and freedom to today’s audiences, showing that the stories and the struggles of America haven’t changed all that much.

While Twain’s tale is titled for its teller – the author’s most famous creation – Huck Finn was the original Nick Carraway, in that he is best when playing narrator for the other characters and their quandaries. And in TATC’s production of Big River, James Romney’s Huck is just such a narrator. Romney’s work is fine – his voice is strong, his acting is as well, and he’s got boyish charm galore – but it’s when he allows the rest of the cast to shine that he’s at his best, supporting each of the people we meet along the Mississippi as they spin their yarns, share their pain, and make us chuckle.

The first people we meet are the orchestra, led by pianist and musical director, Bill Underwood. Part of the simple but gorgeous set, the group fits right into the rural riverside, playing guitars, mandolins, accordion, harmonica, and even the jaw harp. Their accompaniment throughout is just the right balance of polished and down home; they’re part of the set and part of the spectacle, bringing the surroundings to life without stealing the show.

Huck’s fellow townsfolk enter as the opening overture plays, each dancing and playing percussion – washboard, shakers, the tambourine. Liz Chidester’s stern Miss Watson is a favorite, a spinsterly hoot. And Kyle Quinlivan’s Tom Sawyer, who will reappear throughout, starts us off expecting a comical adventure, more puckish even than Huck as he leads the local lads in the energetic “We Are the Boys.”

Another member of Huck’s St. Petersburg is town drunkard and the boy’s old man, Pap Finn, played by Bret Tuomi. His swaggering, staggering rendition of the bluesy “Guv’ment” is the first real showstopper. Tuomi later retakes the stage as the King, a conman whose partner in crime, the Duke played by Jason Richards, struts and preens and malaprops his way into the townspeople’s pockets and the audience’s hearts, a highlight being a ludicrous Shakespearean soliloquy. Seeing grifters hoodwink the general populace for their own gain has never been so much fun – or, sadly, so timely.

But even as the cast entertains, the darkest side of humanity is always present. The ensemble cast playing slaves – slaves in Huck’s hometown, and those enslaved on down the river – give the show gravitas not just with their singing, but by their mere presence. Adhana Reid delivers a lovely hymn, “How Blest We Are,” while Camille Robinson provides a highlight in the reprise of “Waitin’ for the Light to Shine.” But early on, as Jim and Huck hear voices from the other bank sing the lament, “The Crossing,” Jim knows these are escaped slaves who’ve been recaptured simply from the sound of their voices. And because Jim tells us, we know this, too. And we hurt right along with him.

Blessed with a big, beautiful voice, and an even bigger and more beautiful presence, Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, as Jim, is the heart of this production, just as Jim is the heart of the book and the musical. Whether cleaning a catfish or chained to a cabin, whether telling of his daughter’s scarlet fever or telling tall tales to Huck aboard their raft, we feel for and with and through Butler-Duplessis’ Jim. This culminates in his rendition of Roger Miller’s finest gospel tune – and perhaps the finest tune Miller ever wrote – “Free at Last.” Shackled there on center stage, Butler-Duplessis shows us the sorrow this man has seen and hints at the hope that freedom may bring.

But perhaps for this writer, the most powerful moment comes at the end of the first act. As Huck joins the shysters in plotting their latest scheme in “When the Sun Goes Down in the South,” Jim returns to the show’s main theme, the yearning, churning “Muddy Water.” Jonathan Butler-Deplessis’ solo soars over his raftmates’ shenanigans, in a plea for freedom, for justice, for life. In 1800's Missouri or in modern times, there is injustice and there are those who stand against it. Yesterday and today, there is good and there is evil. And in that moment, I sure got the shivers as TATC’s Big River allows the good to rise above.

Big River is being performed at Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN through October 15th. For more show information visit www.theatreatthecenter.com. A Wonderful Life: The Musical begins November 16th.

Published in Theatre in Review

Interrobang Theatre Project launches its 2017-18 Season, exploring the urgent question “What is Truth?,” with the Midwest premiere of Dawn King's darkly comic and politically relevant British drama FOXFINDER, directed by Literary Manager Margaret Knapp. FOXFINDER will play September 28 – November 5, 2017 at The Athenaeum Theatre (Studio 2), 2936 N. Southport Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at www.interrobangtheatre.org, by calling (773) 935-6875 or in person at The Athenaeum Theatre Box Office. The press opening is Monday, October 2 at 7:30 pm.
 
FOXFINDER will feature Alexandra Fisher, David Anthony Marshall, Jack Olin and Alanna Rogers.
 
In the not so distant future, the economy is failing, food is scarce and paranoia is in the air. Samuel and Judith Covey live in rural England, maintaining their government-controlled farm – in constant fear of losing it all. After an anonymous tip, William Bloor, a "Foxfinder," arrives to investigate a suspected contamination, threatening to uncover secrets of desire and regret that will change all of their lives forever. 
 
Comments Director Margaret Knapp, "Although it flirts with thematic elements like the examination of a police state in today's society, the effects of global warming, and religious zealotism, at it's core Foxfinder is about the battle against the forces of nature, both external and internal, and how when these forces threaten to overwhelm us, we look for someone, or something, to blame."
 
The production team for FOXFINDER includes: Eric Luchen (scenic design), Melissa Perkins (costume design), John Kelly (lighting design), Jesse Case (sound design), Pauline Oleksy (properties design) Georgette Verdin* (asst. director), Claire Yearman* (fight choreographer), Lindsay Bartlett (dialect coach) and Victoria Bustoz (stage manager).
 
*Denotes Interrobang Theatre Project Company Member. 
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: FOXFINDER
Playwright: Dawn King
Director: Literary Manager Margaret Knapp
Cast: Alexandra Fisher (Judith Covey), David Anthony Marshall (Samuel Covey), Jack Olin (William Bloor) and Alanna Rogers (Sarah Box).
 
Location: The Athenaeum Theatre (Studio 2), 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Thursday, September 28 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, October 1 at 7 pm
Press opening: Monday, October 2 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Thursday, October 5 – Sunday, November 5, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 2 pm. 
Tickets: Previews: September 28: pay-what-you can, October 1: $17. Regular run: $32; Students $17 (with ID), Seniors $17. (Ticket prices include $2 Athenaeum Theatre restoration fee). 
Tickets are currently available at www.interrobangtheatre.org, by calling (773) 935-6875 or in person at The Athenaeum Theatre Box Office.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

First Floor Theater open its sixth season with the world premiere of Leah Nanako Winkler’s explosive satire of the classic white American family drama, TWO MILE HOLLOW, directed by Artistic Director Hutch Pimentel. TWO MILE HOLLOW will play October 8 – November 4, 2017 at The Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are on sale now at firstfloortheater.com
 
The cast includes First Floor company member Aurora Adachi-Winter with Jazmín Corona Kai Ealy, Deanna L. Myers and Jose Nateras.
 
When the Donnellys gather to divide their belongings after the sale of their oceanfront mansion, both metaphorical and literal storms are brewing. As this famous, longing-to-be-famous and completely messy Caucasian family comes together with their POC personal assistant, Charlotte, some 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. 
 
The production team for TWO MILE HOLLOW includes Arnel Sancianco (scenic design), Virginia Varland (costume design), Dan Friedman (lighting design), Sarah D. Espinoza (sound design), Claire Stone (props design), Carol Ann Tan (dramaturg), Cole von Glahn (production manager) and Julie Leghorn (stage manager).

PRODUCTION DETAILS:

Title: TWO MILE HOLLOW
Playwright: Leah Nanako Winkler
Director: Artistic Director Hutch Pimentel
Cast: First Floor company member Aurora Adachi-Winter (Charlotte), with Jazmín Corona (Blythe), Kai Ealy (Christopher), Deanna L. Myers (Mary) and Jose Nateras (Joshua).
 
Location: The Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Sunday, October 8 at 8 pm and Tuesday, October 10 at 8 pm
Regular Run: Thursday, October 12 - Saturday, November 4, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm.
Tickets: Previews: Pay What You Can. Regular Run: $10 - $2. Tickets are on sale now at firstfloortheater.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

First Folio Theatre (Mayslake Peabody Estate, 31st St. & Rt. 83.) is thrilled to present the World Premiere of Joseph Zettelmaier’s THE MAN-BEAST, previewing October 4-6, opening October 7 and running through November 5, 2017. A tale like none other, THE MAN-BEAST gives audiences the chance to fall back in time and experience the history and horror of French monsters and fear in a timely production perfect for the crisp, shadowed nights of a Midwestern fall.
 
From the playwright who wrote The Gravedigger and Dr. Seward’s Dracula, comes the final installment of his classic horror trilogy, a werewolf tale straight out of history. A dangerously romantic werewolf tale set in the 18th century French countryside, THE MAN-BEAST tells the tale of a mysterious wild animal ravaging the livestock and citizenry, leaving behind a trail of blood and death. When Louis XVI puts a bounty on the animal, the mystery and horror only deepen. No one has been able to trap the perpetrator, but the citizens have seen the gory results of its savage attacks and suspect that it’s a Loup-Garou, the savage werewolf of French legend.
 
THE MAN-BEAST, written by Joseph Zettelmaier and directed by Hayley Rice, features Elizabeth Laidlaw as Virginie Allard and Aaron Christensen as Jean Chastel. The artistic team includes Scenic Design by Angela Weber Miller, Lighting Design by Michael McNamara, Original Music and Sound Design by Christopher Kriz, Costume Design by Rachel Lambert, Properties Design by Vivian Knouse, Violence Design by Rachel Flesher, and Julia Zayas-Melendez as Stage Manager.
 
Opening on October 7, 2017, THE MAN-BEAST runs through November 5, 2017, with special Preview Performances on October 4, 5, and 6. All performances will take place at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, located at 1717 W 31st St., off Rt. 83, in Oak Brook. First Folio is easy to get to from the East-West Tollway (I-88) or the Stevenson Expressway (I-55). Free parking is available on the grounds. Preview tickets are $25. Regular priced tickets are $34 Wednesdays and Thursdays (seniors and students are $29), and $44 on Fridays through Sundays (seniors and students are $39). Three and four show subscriptions are available for $63-$115. Season subscriptions and individual tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at 630.986.8067 or online at www.firstfolio.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Black Ensemble Theater continues the 2017 Season (The Dance Theater Season) with the World Premiere of Living The Black Renaissance (More Than a Moment in History), written and directed by Black Ensemble Theater Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor. Living the Black Renaissance (More Than a Moment in History) will be performed at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street in Chicago, October 14-November 26, 2017. 
                  
Through the struggles, trials and tribulations of those who fought and fight against oppression and racism, Living the Black Renaissance is a musical and historical depiction of the African American experience in a racist America that will uplift, inspire and motivate all of us to create a world where racism cannot exist. Living the Black Renaissance (More Than A Moment In Time) is more than a play, it is a movement. A movement through song and dance that will help us understand the systemic process of racism and oppression. This thought provoking production will uncover the root of racism, what is it and why we must remove it from our society. 
 
When asked the reason why she decided to tackle this subject, Jackie Taylor replied, “Because of the climate within in our society today, now is the time! Living the Black Renaissance has difficult moments because the racism pill is a very difficult pill to swallow. In order to solve our societal issues, we must be able to confront those issues. And that is the purpose of Living the Black Renaissance (More Than A Moment In Time).” 
 
Through this historical presentation from slavery to Obama to Trump, we will be led on a spiritual journey that will ignite the healing process and help us understand how to respect and honor our differing cultures while learning how to live together as one race – the human race.  
 
Living the Black Renaissance features Michael Adkins, Brian Boller, Jana’ah Coates, Rueben Echoles, Lemond Hayes, Wendell Jackson, Dwight Neal, Linnea Norwood, Rhonda Preston, LeKeya Shearrill, Henri Slater, Lynn Solar and Levi Stewart.
 
As with all Black Ensemble Theater productions, Living the Black Renaissance features live musicians, including musical director Robert Reddrick, (drums) Adam Sherod (piano), Mark Miller (bass) and Gary Baker (guitar).
 
The designers are Ruthanne Swanson (costumes), The A Team (set), Denise Karczewski (lights), Aaron Quick (sounds). The stage manager is Bekki Lambrecht.
 
 
Tickets are available at the Black Ensemble Box Office located at 4450 N. Clark St in Chicago, or online at www.blackensemble.org, or by phone at (773) 769-4451. Tickets are $45 for previews (preview dates); $55 (Thursdays and Saturday matinees) and $65 (Fridays, Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees).  There is a 10% discount for students, seniors and groups
 
 
Fact Sheet Living The Black Renaissance (More Than a Moment in History)
 
Title:                               Living the Black Renaissance (More Than a Moment in History)
 
Directed by:                    Black Ensemble Theater Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor
 
Dates:                            October 14-November 19, 2017
Previews:                        October 14, 15, 20 and 21, 2017
 
Schedule:                        

Thursdays:                                7:30 pm
Fridays:                                     8:00 pm
Saturdays:                                 3:00 pm
                                                 8:00 pm
Sundays:                                   3:00 pm
 
Location:                         Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark Street, Chicago
                                      Valet parking is available.
 
Ticket prices:                 

$45 Previews
$55 on Thursdays and Saturday matinees;
$65 on Fridays, Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees
A 10% discount is available for students, seniors, and groups.

Box Office:                      

Buy online at www.blackensemble.org or call (773) 769-4451
 
The Black Ensemble Theater
Founded in 1976, by the phenomenal producer, playwright and actress Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theater is the only African American theater located in the culturally, racially and ethnically diverse north side Uptown community. Through its Five Play Season of Excellence, The Black Ensemble Theater dazzles audiences locally, nationally and internationally with outstanding original musicals that are entertaining, educational and uplifting. The Black Ensemble Theater has produced more than 100 productions and employed over 5,000 artists.
 
On November 18, 2011, The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center opened and is able to accommodate larger-scale productions, bigger audiences and a wider range of educational programming. The new facility includes amenities such as a 299-seat main stage theater (double the capacity of the original venue); 14 offices, classroom space, rehearsal hall, dance studio, scene shop, costume shop, and wardrobe rooms; seven dressing rooms; rehearsal room for musicians; front lobby space with concession areas; and an indoor parking garage.  The completion of a 150-seat theater, which will serve as an experimental stage for the work of the Black Playwright Initiative (BPI), with construction by General Contractor Norcon Inc., is expected in 2018.
 
The mission of the Black Ensemble Theater Company is to eradicate racism and its devastating effects upon society through the theater arts.  For more information on the Black Ensemble Theater Company, please visit www.BlackEnsembleTheater.org or call 773-769-4451.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Casting is complete for the three “developmental productions” featured in Goodman Theatre’s 14thannual New Stages festival—a free celebration of new works by some of the country’s finest established and emerging playwrights. These three plays, which are staged in repertory following two weeks of rehearsal, include Lottery Day by Ike Holter, directed by Lili-Anne Brown; Continuity by Bess Wohl, directed by Annie Tippe; and Twilight Bowl by Rebecca Gilman, directed by Erica Weiss. Developmental productions are designed by Kevin Depinet (Set), Noël Huntzinger (Costumes for Lottery Day and Twilight Bowl), Birgit Rattenborg Wise (Costumes for Continuity), Jesse Klug (Lights) and Richard Woodbury (Sound). Full cast lists are included below. New Stages runs September 20 – October 8 in the 350-seat flexible Owen Theatre; to reserve FREE tickets, call 312.443.3800, visit GoodmanTheatre.org/NewStagesFestival or the box office (170 N. Dearborn). For more information about “Industry Professionals Weekend,” visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Professionals.

In addition, four one-time-only staged readings and a first look at an immersive work-in-progress appear during the final weekend of the festival (“Professionals Weekend”), including How to Catch Creation by Christina Anderson, directed by Jess McLeod (October 6 at 10:30am); Eden Prairie, 1971 by Mat Smart, directed by Henry Wishcamper (October 6 at 2pm); a preview presentation of POSTNATION by Mikhael Tara Garver(October 6 at 4:30pm); The Untranslatable Secrets of Nikki Corona written and directed by José Rivera(October 7 at 10am); and We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time by David Cale, music by Matthew Dean Marsh and directed by Tony Speciale (October 7 at 2pm).

Since New Stages’ 2004 inception, more than 70 plays have been produced as a developmental production or staged reading. Nearly half of these plays were authored by playwrights of color and/or authored by female playwrights. More than one-third of all plays developed in New Stages have received a world premiere production at the Goodman or another leading U.S. theater. The Goodman’s 2017/2018 Season features the world premiere of Ellen Fairey’s Support Group for Men, which originated in New Stages in 2016. The Goodman’s immediate past season featured acclaimed works that began at the festival: The Magic Play by Andrew Hinderaker, King of the Yeesby Lauren Yee and Objects in the Mirror by Charles Smith.

The Goodman is grateful for the generosity of its New Work sponsors, including: the Time Warner Foundation, Lead Support of New Play Development; The Pritzker-Pucker Foundation, Major Support of New Play Development; The Glasser and Rosenthal Family and the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Support of New Work Development; and The Joyce Foundation, Principal Support for Diverse Artistic and Professional Development.

Casting for 2017 New Stages Festival Developmental Productions

Lottery Day
By Ike Holter, directed by Lili-Anne Brown
Appears in repertory, September 20 – October 7
In his latest play, acclaimed Chicago playwright Ike Holter integrates characters from his past works into a new story about the cost of belonging and the gift of community.
When an act of violence robs Mallory of her family, she creates a new one by opening her home to a wild array of neighbors, activists and artists. Tonight, she’s throwing them a party of her own invention—“Lottery Day”—where anyone could win, but everyone has something to lose.

CAST:
Aurora Adachi-Winter…………...Tori
Bear Bellinger…………………….Nunley
J. Nicole Brooks………………….Mallory
McKenzie Chinn……………….....Cassandra
Sydney Charles…………………..Zora
Robert Cornelius………………....Robinson
Anthony Irons……………………..Avery
Monica Orozco……………………Vivien
Tommy Rivera-Vega……………..Ezekiel
Pat Whalen………………………..Ricky

Continuity
By Bess Wohl, directed by Annie Tippe
Appears in repertory, September 22 – October 8
Bess Wohl’s startlingly funny new play examines what is worth saving and what isn’t—especially when facing the end of the world.
As her big budget thriller about climate change and eco-terrorism falls behind schedule, film director Maria attempts to salvage the production from the behind-the-scenes drama of its cast and screenwriter.

CAST:
Rammel Chan…………………....The PA
Amanda Drinkall………………...Nicole (Eve)
Marc Grapey……………………..David Claxton
Ryan McBride……………………Jake (George)
Bill McGough…………………….Larry
Rebecca Spence………………...Maria
Netta Walker……………………..Lily (Anna)
*This production also features voice-over roles portrayed by McKenzie Chinn (Second AD), Robert Cornelius(Sound Guy), Anthony Irons (Camera OP), Pat Whalen (First AD) and Aurora Adachi-Winter (2nd PA).

Twilight Bowl
By Rebecca Gilman, directed by Erica Weiss
Appears in repertory, September 24 – October 8

In her latest play, Goodman Artistic Associate Rebecca Gilman depicts six young women about to embark on their adult lives. But how do they—or we—define success?
Cousins Sam and Jaycee grew up together in a small Wisconsin town. Sam, who sharpened her bowling skills at the local alley, is now heading to college on scholarship. But Jaycee’s future isn’t looking so bright. As the young women and their friends face adulthood, the alley becomes a place to celebrate, mourn, and forge new identities. But can their bonds survive as their paths diverge? And is success always earned, or is it sometimes a matter of luck?

CAST:
Hayley Burgess………………...Clarice
Heather Chrisler………………..Jaycee
Angela Morris…………………...Maddy
Becca Savoy…………………….Sam
Mary Taylor………………………Brielle
Anne E. Thompson…………….Sharlene

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Today, the producers of “Spamilton,” the critically acclaimed parody of “Hamilton,” announced an October 8 closing date for the Chicago run at the Royal George Theatre (1641 N. Halsted). Created by Tony Award honoree Gerard 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 Becca Brown, Aaron Holland, Adam LaSalle, Yando Lopez, Gabriel Mudd and David Robbins. Original cast members include Donterrio Johnson, Michelle Lauto and Eric Andrew Lewis.
 
The final tickets for “Spamilton” are available now. The final performance takes place Sunday, October 8 at 5 p.m. Tickets ($59 – $99) can be purchased at the Royal George Theatre’s box office online, at Ticketmaster.com or by calling 312.988.9000.  
 
“After seven great months in Chicago here at the Royal George with our talented local cast, we feel very lucky to have been so well-received for so long,” said Alessandrini. “While it’s bittersweet to be leaving the Windy City, we’re thrilled about the next steps for ‘Spamilton,’ including continuing our open run in New York and opening the Los Angeles production in November.”
 
“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 seventeenth 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!’ This fall, “Spamilton” makes its West Coast debut at the Kirk Douglas Theatre with Center Theatre Group November 5 – December 31, 2017.
 
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. Brandon Kinley and Keirsten Hodgens are the understudies for the production.
 
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 5 p.m. For additional details, visit Ticketmaster.com or TheRoyalGeorgeTheatre.com.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

For Chicagoans that grew up in the 1980’s music scene, we remember favorite rock clubs such as The Thirsty Whale, Chances R and Dirty Nellies where spandex and rayon were the materials of choice and eye-liner on Aqua-net sprayed, long-haired guys was all the rage. For the glam rock scene, Chicago was always the minor league affiliate (Single A) to its Los Angeles big brother, where new bands seemingly broke out nearly every week. Almost grinding hair bands out akin to a factory assembly line, Los Angeles set the bar for rock bands all across the world, its clubs The Whiskey a Go Go, Troubadour and The Roxy stepping stones for the next big thing. In “Rock of Ages” the hilarious 1980's musical, we are taken to Los Angeles where the fictional Bourbon Room, one of the last rock hold outs, is under the threat of eminent domain as big money developers have other plans for the property.

Club owner Dennis (riotously played by Chicago favorite Gene Weygandt) runs The Bourbon Room with his sidekick and fellow rocker Lonny (Nick Druzbanski), who also serves as the play’s narrator. Realizing the club’s days are numbered, the two decide to go all out by bringing back Arsenal, a major band that got the start from The Bourbon Room, to play their final show with lead singer and egomaniac, Stacee Jaxx, who is off to pursue a solo career.

And what would an 80’s musical be without a cheesy love story? Bar back and aspiring musician, Drew, is instantly love struck when Dennis hires Sherrie (of course a hopeful actress) to be the club’s new waitress. From there we root for The Bourbon club, along with those protesting the new corporate development, and also for Drew and Sherrie to find love.

“Rock of Ages” is a fun time capsule filled with 80’s rock classics that includes Warrant’s “Heaven”, Journey’s “Don’t stop Believin’”, Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Extreme’s “More than Words” and many, many more. Though a parody of the era, “Rock of Ages” is an entertaining tribute to an age in music that, though considered kitschy by some, left a major impact in the world of music. The musical makes several 80’s refences that can’t help but make us forty-to-fifty-somethings laugh, such as Drew’s date with Sherrie where he tries to romance her with a four-pack of Bartles & James wine coolers.

The show boasts as good of a cast as one could ask for. Adam Michaels as self-aggrandizer and vulgar lead singer, Stacee Jaxx, is absolutely hysterical in the role. His moments are plenty as he puts on full display his great knack for physical comedy along with some pretty raging vocals. And as one who has seen this production more times than I remember, I can say quite confidently that Nick Druzbanski may just be the best Lonny I have seen yet. Druzbanski really fires on all cylinders and is a comedic whirlwind, also contributing nicely with strong vocals, certainly deserving a Fogmaster 5000 for a performance nothing short of outstanding.

Notable vocal performances are aplenty in this production with both Cherry Torres as Sherrie and Russell Mernaugh as Drew impressing with their singing prowess in number after number. Both skilled singers as they are actors, Torres and Mernaugh also spark a wonderful chemistry and are able to deliver plenty of funny moments. Though many, other performances of note are Donica Lynn, who sings beautifully when called upon and Nick Cosgrove who nails the role of Franz, the flamboyant German son of developer Hertz, who draws a laugh in just about every scene he occupies.

“Rock of Ages” is silly fun. It’s a campy drive down memory lane. It’s highly recommended. It’s also part concert, as a live band plays from a stage upon the stage throughout the show, tasty guitar licks and all. For some, they will relive the highly memorable era, for others they will receive a tongue-in-cheek glimpse of a time when the Los Angeles rock scene churned out hair bands like Motley Crue, Poison and Ratt.

With Falls theatrical productions in full bloom, this is a must see.

“Rock of Ages” is being performed at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook through October 15th. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.DruryLaneTheatre.com.

Published in Theatre in Review
Page 4 of 21

 

 

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