Writers Theatre, under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Halberstam and Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma, concludes its 2016/17 season with the musical Parade, with book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, co-conceived by Harold Prince. The Writers Theatre production of Parade is directed by Gary Griffin and features musical direction by Michael Mahler and choreography by Ericka Mac. Parade runs May 24 – July 2, 2017 in the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre at 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe.
This stirring, Tony Award-winning musical explores the endurance of love and hope against seemingly insurmountable odds, telling the true story of Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jewish man falsely accused of murder in 1913 Atlanta. Innovative and daring, and filled with soaring music, Parade is a moving love story, a riveting murder mystery, a gripping courtroom drama and a powerful exploration of innocence and naïveté coming face-to-face with ignorance and prejudice.
Acclaimed director Gary Griffin, who directed the original Broadway production of Jason Robert Brown’s Honeymoon in Vegas and the world premiere of his The Trumpet of the Swan at the Kennedy Center, stages an intimate revival of this celebrated musical. With a book by playwright Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and a score by Brown (The Last Five Years, The Bridges of Madison County) that combines folk, rock, R&B and gospel, Parade ends WT’s 25th Anniversary Season with spectacular impact.
“I had the pleasure of being directed by Gary in a Writers Theatre production of Joe Orton's Loot. He is one of my favorite directors and one of my closest friends, and it is a privilege to be in collaboration with him again,” said Artistic Director Michael Halberstam. “I have enjoyed many, many years of conversation with him over copious glasses of wine discussing masterwork musicals and how best to make them work. I cannot express how happy I am then to be working on supporting Gary’s vision for Parade, a musical that has suddenly become disturbingly relevant given the deeply unsettling swell of anti-semitism. The Anti-Defamation League recently announced that cases of anti-semitism have spiked 86% in the first quarter of this year, proving the old adage that ‘the more things change the more they stay the same.’
“Gary has assembled a first-rate cast with breathtaking vocal prowess and a first-rate design team to create the world in which they bring Mr. Brown and Mr. Uhry’s bravura masterwork to life. Parade is a fully cohesive musical voyage into the triumph of love and the dangers of what can happen when the fires of hatred are irresponsibly stoked within an unhappy and angry populace. Musically, it defies simple definition while maintaining accessibility and a deep emotional core. It is a fitting way to close the season and it passes a symbolic baton to Trevor, a brand new musical which opens next season and strikes open a whole new adventure of its own.”
The cast of Parade includes: Larry Adams (Old Soldier/Judge Roan/Ensemble), Patrick Andrews (Leo Frank), Brianna Borger (Lucille Frank), Jonathan Butler-Duplessis (Jim Conley), McKinley Carter (Mrs. Phagan/Sally Slaton), Devin DeSantis (Britt Craig/Young Soldier/Ensemble), Kevin Gudahl (Hugh Dorsey/Ensemble), Derek Hasenstab (Governor John Slaton/Ensemble), Nicole Michelle Haskins (Minola "Minnie" McKnight/Angela), Caroline Heffernan (Mary Phagan/Essie/Ensemble), Zoe Nadal (Monteen/Ensemble),Jake Nicholson (Frankie Epps/Ensemble), Jeff Parker (Tom Watson/Ensemble), Leryn Turlington (Iola Stover/Ensemble), andJonah D. Winston (Newt Lee/Riley).
The creative team includes: Matt Deitchman (Associate Music Director & Piano/Conductor), Scott Davis (Scenic Designer), Mara Blumenfeld(Costume Designer), Christine Binder (Lighting Designer), Ray Nardelli (Sound Designer) and Scott Dickens (Properties Master). Bobby Kennedy is the Dramaturg, David Castellanos is the Production Stage Manager and Nick Moran is the CFM Contractor.
Single tickets for Parade, priced $35 - $80, are available online at www.writerstheatre.org, by phone at 847-242-6000, or in person at the box office at 325 Tudor Court in Glencoe.
PARADE On-stage Seating
For adventurous theatregoers who want to be part of the action, Writers Theatre is offering a limited number of special on-stage seats for every performance of Parade!
These special on-stage seats, reachable via curved staircases, will be on a raised platform at the back of the stage so that the audience will fully surround the action on stage. This exclusive vantage point provides audience members an immersive experience of Parade, as the area will be located near the orchestra and will also be used by actors during the performance…
Marriott Theatre’s current production is chancy business. For a venue that theatre lovers have come to depend on for family entertainment over the years – wholesome G through PG rated shows such as “Mary Poppins”, “The King and I”, “9 to 5” and “Elf”, just to name a few, Executive Producer Terry James has decided to raunchy things up a bit by bringing in a much more adult-themed production in “Spring Awakening”. Not in Marriott’s subscription package, “Spring Awakening” is running for just over two weeks, and we have to wonder how receptive its normal crowd of theatre goers will be. Filled with f-bombs, simulated sex scenes and dark story lines, “Spring Awakening” will certainly take some of Marriott’s regular audience members by surprise if they attend without researching the play first.
A rock musical with music by Duncan Sheik and a book and lyrics by Steven Slater, the story takes place in Germany sometime during the late nineteenth century where a classroom of children are the focus as they learn about their own sexuality and question what they have been taught by authority figures, whether it be teachers or their own parents. Under rigid instruction from their teachers, the children often stand clad in school uniforms surrounded in a light fog in front of a large blackboard, giving one the feeling that stage band could break in to “Another Brick in the Wall” at any moment. Unfortunately, this show is not nearly as musically memorable as it strains to make any impact in that department, falling far short of shows one might suggest it is akin to as “Rent” or “American Idiot”.
Despite its less-than-charged or lack of unforgettable musical numbers barring a crowd pleasing, gut-punching “Totally Fucked”, the show is not without fine acting efforts and talented vocal performances, particularly by its two leads, Patrick Rooney and Eliza Palasz. Palasz quickly shows her aptitude as a singer in the show’s opening number “Mama Who Bore Me” and impresses along with Rooney in their first-act duet “The Word of Your Body”. There are also many well-choreographed and finely executed dance pieces by the ensemble throughout the show, which IS something that can be counted on in a Marriott Theatre production. Also featured in the show are Marriott favorites Brian Bohr, Nate Lewellyn and Kevin Gudahl, all of who performed wonderfully along with local talents Callie Johnson and Hollis Resnik. There is certainly no shortage of ability in this production.
Based on Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play of the same name, this somewhat slow-moving production centers on confused youth, the questioning of what we are told as kids, the lack of what we are told and the great distance that can often be present between a parent and their child. It is about growing pains, being misunderstood and dealing with the choices we have made – or having parents deal with their children’s choices as depicted so grimly in the show’s center act when Wendla (Palasz) gets pregnant, partly in thanks to the poor information given to her by her mother on how children are conceived. But the musical also delves into the joys of trying things for the first time, like creating new relationships or having sex.
Though certainly not the central point of this production, it was enjoyable to see the performing band as they surrounded each end of the stage as opposed to enjoying their musicianship while out of sight from the audience.
“Spring Awakening” is being performed at Marriott Theatre through January 31st. For tickets and/or more show information visit www.MarriottTheatre.com.
Here we go again. Wow, this year went by fast! Christmas is again just around the corner, which means it’s time to bring on the holiday plays! This year one of the funniest Christmas shows of the season will certainly be “Elf”, now playing at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. Based on the hilarious 2003 film of the same name starring Will Ferrell, the play deviates a bit from its original script but carries the same overall story-line and still pushes its simple message – to spread Christmas cheer.
For anyone to pull of this production, it all really comes down to who plays Ferrell’s character as the ever naïve and loveable elf, Buddy. Fortunately, Alex Goodrich was cast in the role. Though, he has some big curly shoes to fill, Goodrich quickly wins over the crowd - maybe not the the point of "Ferrell who?" (who can?), but he certainly does a fantastic job. Goodrich’s precise comic timing and ability to be believable as a fun-loving, child-like adult who is ever so innocent of this world makes this show a big winner.
“Elf” is the story of Buddy, a human who is raised as an elf after he accidentally crawls into Santa’s sack during one of his stops at an orphanage. Despite the size difference between Buddy and the elves and his lack of toy making aptitude, it isn’t until he is a full on adult at thirty years old before he figures out that he is human. It’s at that time Santa sends Buddy out into the world – New York to be exact – to find his real father. From there, as one might imagine, is a story of a fish out of water in the biggest way.
Full of silly holiday songs that may not stick in one’s head ten minutes after the show, “Elf” is pretty much a laugh fest from beginning to end. And that’s okay since one does not see “Elf” because of its music, we see it because we want to laugh and get into the Christmas spirit. In this fun holiday treat, Goodrich finds himself surrounded by a strong cast, especially in Kevin Gudahl who plays Roy Hobbs, Buddy’s true dad, and Roger Mueller as a Santa Claus who actually weighs in on the “cool” scale. James Earl Jones II also delivers an enjoyable performance as the manager at Macy’s.
The point of the story is simple and clearly delivered – to get people in the Christmas mindset of selflessness and giving despite all the daily issues and problems we might be facing. And what’s even better is that we can have some good laughs while getting there.
“Elf” is a thoroughly amusing production that the entire family can share. Playing at Marriott Theatre through December 31st, it is the perfect way to get a jump start and primed up for the holidays. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.MarriottTheatre.com.