Upcoming Theatre

Firebrand Theatre, the first musical theatre company committed to employing and empowering women by expanding opportunities on and off the stage, is pleased to announce casting for its inaugural production, the Chicago premiere of LIZZIE, the rock musical based on the true-life story of accused axe-murderess Lizzie Borden. LIZZIE will play November 11 – December 17, 2017 at The Den Theatre's Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Single tickets for LIZZIE are currently on sale at firebrandtheatre.org. Season subscriptions (including 9 TO 5 THE MUSICAL) are currently available. The press opening is Tuesday, November 14 at 7:30 pm.
 
LIZZIE will feature Liz Chidester as Lizzie, Leah Davis as Bridget, Jacquelyne Jones as Alice and Camille Robinson as Emma. The late night cast/understudies, who will appear in four 11 pm performances, include Kyrie Anderson as Lizzie, Becca Brown as Emma, Amanda Horvath as Bridget and Elle Walker as Alice.
 
Directed by Victoria Bussert with music direction by Julia A. Miller and Andra Velis Simon and choreography by Janet Louer, LIZZIE features music by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt, lyrics by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner, book by Tim Maner, additional music by Tim Maner, additional lyrics by Alan Stevens Hewitt, based on an original concept by Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner with orchestrations by Alan Stevens Hewitt. 
 
"Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, gave her father forty-one." So goes the nursery rhyme describing the crime of the century that took the nation by storm when Lizzie Borden murdered her parents with an axe in 1892. Or did she? LIZZIE is a musical that reimagines that bloody legend with four women fronting a female rock band. LIZZIE is American mythology set to a blistering rock score with rage, sex, betrayal and bloody murder. 
 
"We thought casting Lizzie would be extremely difficult since the skillsets needed are so specific and challenging – yet it turned out to be the easiest casting I've ever done because Chicago is overflowing with talented women,” comments Founder and Artistic Director Harmony France. “It became immediately clear that one cast was not enough. Our regular Lizzie cast is going to blow you away, but our understudies are so incredible that we decided to add four special late-night performances so audiences can also enjoy their talents. Looking to the future, Firebrand will strive to empower both women and men, but for Lizzie we wanted to come out of the gate and flood the stage, the band and backstage with women in a way that hasn't been done before. There isn't a better show to do that with than Lizzie."
 
The production team for LIZZIE includes: Eleanor Kahn (scenic design), Charlotte M. Yetman (costume design), Maya Michele Fein (lighting design), Victoria Deiorio (sound design), Jeff Herrmann (props design) and Danielle Stack (production manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: LIZZIE
Music: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt
Lyrics: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner
Book: Tim Maner
Additional Music: Tim Maner
Additional Lyrics: Alan Stevens Hewitt
Based on an original concept by: Steven Cheslik-deMeyer and Tim Maner
Orchestrations: Alan Stevens Hewitt
Director: Victoria Bussert
Music Directors: Julia A. Miller and Andra Velis Simon
Choreography: Janet Louer
 
Cast: Liz Chidester (Lizzie), Leah Davis (Bridget), Jacquelyne Jones (Alice) and Camille Robinson (Emma).
Late Night Cast/Understudies: Kyrie Anderson (Lizzie), Becca Brown (Emma), Amanda Horvath,  (Bridget) and Elle Walker (Alice).
 
Location: The Den Theatre's Bookspan Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Dates: Previews: Saturday, November 11 at 8 pm and Sunday, November 12 at 3 pm
Regular run: Thursday, November 16 – Sunday, December 17, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Thursday, November 23 (Thanksgiving Day).
Late Night Performances (featuring understudies): Friday, December 1 at 11 pm, Saturday, December 2 at 11 pm, Friday, December 8 at 11 pm and Saturday, December 9 at 11 pm
Open Captioned Performances (by Molly Brennan): Sunday, November 26 at 3 pm and Sunday, 
December 3 at 3 pm
Tickets: Previews $25. Regular run $45. Late night shows $30. Students $20. Tickets are currently available at firebrandtheatre.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

In this thoroughly entertaining and delightfully warm, bright and colorful production of Mary Poppins at Stage 773, NightBlue Performing Arts Company fully (and very creatively) utilizes their intimate stage area to bring this fascinating, feel-good family classic to life. Whether it be a well-choreographed dance number, a scene where Mary Poppins gracefully flies from side to side or just another busy day at the park, NightBlue creatively uses every nook and cranny in the Stage 773 space, making audience members forget they are sitting in a theatre that holds less than 150 people, in fact making the production a much more intimate experience without losing the grandness of the show.   

Now, fifty-two years after the release of the classic Disney film starring Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews comes this new heartwarming and spectacular production directed beautifully by Artistic Director David E. Walters.

A family is in distress, the children are spoiled and bored, troublesome, the mother is neglected and ineffectual, the father is cold and overworked and he is still reeling psychologically from the beatings he received as a child from his mean nanny, Miss Andrew, a.k.a. The Holy Terror. The family has gone through one nanny after another, none sticking around for very long. It has nearly become a lost cause.   

The children write a list of the qualities they need in their new nanny and much like writing to Santa Claus they ask that she be kind, care about them, give them candy and be rosy cheeked and pretty to look at. The father quickly dismisses the written ad, tears it up and tosses it into the fireplace. Not long after, Mary Poppins appears quite magically at their door ready for work. She quickly qualifies herself as the children’s wish come true with the charming number “Practically Perfect”.

Mary Poppins has true mystical powers that she uses to transform the children. A game she plays called “walk in the park” shows them the wonder of simple things from being out in nature. The simple, yet joyfully magical “walk in the park” also introduces the children to the concepts of accepting others of lower social standing like the chimney sweeps, and the soulful benefits of giving to the poor and feeding animals in the park.

Mary helps the mother realize her importance in the world that gives her the confidence and romantic enjoyment of life again. Mary also helps the father by showing him that his childhood nanny did not empower him with her brutal way of pointing out the worst and punishing him for every action. In the end he chooses putting the moment by moment happiness of himself and his family members first, before work and money no matter what the outcome and this personal rebellion ends up saving both his family and his career.

Even the archetypes of the “Old Crone Mother Mary” are honored here as the audience realizes that without the lessons taught by the old beggar woman feeding birds in the park and the mean old childhood nanny that none of these cathartic transformations into “good” living and happiness would ever have occurred.

No matter how good the costumes, set, musical direction and choreography, it would not be possible to pull off a successful production without correctly casting Mary Poppins. Not to worry, as Kyrie Anderson is flawless in the role. Just wonderful as Mary Poppins, Anderson sings beautifully and has the cool, perfect beauty that radiates the confidence and magic that justifies her introductory song, “Practically Perfect (I Am Perfect in Every Way!)”.

You also want a Bert than can dance, sing and radiate his love and curiosity for life as we’ve been so spoiled by Dick Van Dyke in the role. Ryan Dooley is convincing as Bert, likeable and charming as he whimsically interacts with Mary and the children and delivers some fancy footwork of his own.  

Caron Buinis who plays the multiple roles, most notably that of the mean nanny Miss Andrew, is outstanding. Buinis is nearly unrecognizable when she switches roles and has a fabulous, funny dry delivery as Miss Andrew that gets some of the biggest laughs in the show.

The family is well-rounded with rock-solid performances from both Joseph Smith (Mr. Banks) and MacKenzie Skye (Mrs. Banks). Sage Harper and Liam Dahlborn who play the children were also very good in their roles - not too sugary sweet or precocious – just the right amount of each when needed. Both children had a good sense of comic timing and contributed nicely with their pleasant singing voices.

Kevin Bellie’s choreography is exciting and uplifting. The big numbers really dazzle the eye and convey the magical quality of Mary Poppins’ spell while trying to help this lovely family. But be warned - the catchy, infectious show tunes such as “Step in Time”, “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” will most likely be running through your head over the next couple of days. You might even be talking in a Cockney accent for a while. 

The staging and costume design have some true surprises for the audience that I will not reveal so as not to spoil the effect. The magic of the film is really captured through unique lighting, makeup effects and the backdrop screen, which really helps in setting up scenes with its giant projections. The creative team’s costume design is superb, stylish and expressive with magnificent Victorian period lines and rich colors in every scene.

I highly recommend seeing this heartwarming and spectacular production of “Mary Poppins” for your entire family to enjoy and learn from together! It’s always nice to see theatre designed for all ages taking place in Chicago’s local and more intimate venues, so families should take advantage while they can. “Mary Poppins” is playing at Stage 773 through March 27th. For tickets and/or more information call (847) 634-0200 or tickets and/or more information visit  www.NightBlueTheatrer.com or www.Stage773.com.  

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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