Upcoming Theatre

Celebrating nearly 35 years in their factory space around the North Center neighborhood, American Theater Company has a knack for taking risks on new works. “Welcome to Jesus” is prefaced with a recorded curtain speech by artistic director Will Davis, “It’s our responsibility to take risks.” And that is absolutely true. At no other company in town are you more likely to see a smash hit first production right before it becomes a Pulitzer finalist.

“Welcome to Jesus” is not one of those gems. This new play by Janine Nabers is likely to land among the annals of forgotten plays, but good for ATC for taking a chance. Under the direction of Will Davis, this world premiere is certainly provocative but begs the question, is this the best way to make the playwright’s point?

“Welcome to Jesus” is about a small Texan town obsessed with high school football and wholesome, Christian values. When two bumbling, and related, cops come across the zombie-fied head football coach with a dead body in the woods, the play takes on a racist-flavored B-horror movie feel.

The point that Nabors spends two short acts exploring is what it’s like for people of color in Christian, white dominated places. It’s also a commentary on how the professional sports industry uses up athletes while skirting the issue of racism. In that regard, Nabors’ script is very topical. The problem is that her thesis is obscured by supernatural plot points which ultimately have no resolution or bearing on the conclusion.

Will Davis’ direction is a little strange, but the performances are strong. A little too often the audience is subjected to blinding light and expected to participate. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but if an audience can’t connect with the work, this gimmick is bound to be awkward.

“Welcome to Jesus” has something to say, but whatever it is, isn’t quite there yet. The important thing is that a successful theater company saw a play with a contentious message and gave it a chance. Nabors would be best to revise her well-meaning script so that it’s more like a play and less like a Netflix pilot.

Through December 3rd at American Theater Company. 1909 W Byron St. 773-409-4125

Published in Theatre in Review

Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to conclude its 15th Anniversary Season with its most popular show ever: the holiday hit RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER 2017 by David Cerda*, co-directed by Becca Holloway and AJ Wright*. Handbag’s irreverent parody of the 1967 Rankin Bass children’s television special will play November 25 – December 30, 2017 at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St. in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. Tickets are on currently available at www.handbagproductions.org (through Brown Paper Tickets) or by calling (800) 838-3006. 

RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER will feature Graham Heacock as Rudolph, Kristopher Bottrall* as Herbie, Allison Petrillo as Jane Donner, Chase Wheaton-Werle as Tom Donner, Michael Jack Hampton as Santa, Tommy Bullington as Mrs. Claus, Sydney Genco* as Elfina, Colin Funk as Spike, Michael Rawls as Score, Josh Kemper as Coach Comet, Lori Lee* as Yukon Cornelia, Terry McCarthy* as Connie Blitzen, David Cerda* as Gladys Dasher, Christea Parent* as Clarice and Matt Sergot as Sam the Snowman.
 
Chicago’s favorite cross-dressing reindeer is back and he’s 20 years old! RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER had its first reading in 1996 and has evolved into one of Chicago’s most popular anti-holiday, holiday shows. Join Rudolph and all of his misfit friends as they struggle with fitting in and being ‘normal’ in an increasingly abnormal world. Playwright David Cerda* always adjusts the show to fit the current social climate. 
 
The production team for RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER includes: Roger Wykes (set design), Kate Setzer Kamphausen (costume design), Cat Wilson* (lighting design), Ralph Loza (sound design), Adrian Hadlock* (props design), Lauren Griffith (choreography), Keith Ryan* (wig design), Sydney Genco* (make-up design) JD Caudill* (music director) and Drew Donnelly (stage manager).
 
*Denotes Hell in a Handbag Ensemble Members
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER 2017
Playwright: David Cerda*
Directors: Becca Holloway and AJ Wright*
Cast (in alphabetical order): Kristopher Bottrall* (Herbie), Tommy Bullington (Mrs. Claus), David Cerda* (Gladys Dasher), Colin Funk (Spike), Sydney Genco* (Elfina), Michael Jack Hampton (Santa), Graham Heacock (Rudolph), Josh Kemper (Coach Comet), Lori Lee* (Yukon Cornelia), Terry McCarthy* (Connie Blitzen), Christea Parent* (Clarice) Allison Petrillo (Jane Donner), Michael Rawls (Score), Matt Sergot as (Sam the Snowman) and Chase Wheaton-Werle (Tom Donner).
 
Location: Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago
Dates: Previews: Saturday, November 25 at 7:30 pm, Sunday, November 26 at 7:30 pm and Thursday, November 30 at 7:30 pm
Regular run: Thursday, December 7 – Saturday, December 30, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursday, Fridays and Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 6 pm. Please note: there will not be performances on Saturday, December 2, Sunday, December 3 or Sunday, December 24 (Christmas Eve); there will be an added performance on Wednesday, December 20 at 7:30 pm.
Tickets: Previews $13. Regular run $25 in advance, $30 at the door. VIP tickets with cocktail $40 and up. Group rates $20 for 10 or more. Tickets are currently on sale at www.handbagproductions.org (through Brown Paper Tickets) or by calling (800) 838-3006.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Other Theatre is pleased to continue its 4th season with the third revival of its holiday hit BARNEY THE ELF, a campy and irreverent musical comedy, written by Bryan Renaud with lyrics by Renaud and Emily Schmidt. After helming the 2016 production, Tommy Rivera-Vega returns to direct and choreograph, with music direction by Nik Kmiecik and arrangements by Jermaine Hill. BARNEY THE ELF will play November 17 – December 31, 2017 at Other Theatre’s resident home, The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.  Tickets are available at www.theothertheatrecompany.com, in person at the Greenhouse Theater box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. Season subscriptions are currently available. 
 
BARNEY THE ELF will feature Roy Samra as Barney, Chicago drag sensation Dixie Lynn Cartwright returning as Zooey, Maggie Cain as Mrs. Claus, Jaron Bellar as Junior and Courtney Dane Mize as Cookie/Ensemble with Emilie Rose Danno, Colleen DeRosa, LiSean McElrath, Lance Spencer and Cody Talkie.
 
After Santa Claus retires, his wicked son begins a not-so-jolly reign as the new head of Christmas. The North Pole begins to crumble under his bigoted rule, and Barney the Elf is forced to leave his home for being different from the others. Soon he embarks on a fabulous journey of self-discovery (or is it elf-discovery?) that lands him in one of Chicago's hottest drag bars. But can he truly leave Christmas behind for a new life in the big city? BARNEY THE ELF brings pop-infused musical numbers galore and plenty of queer holiday cheer to Lincoln Park for the third year in a row! 
 
"Rather endearing [with] surprising emotional payoffs... Renaud and his collaborators may well have a fringe holiday repeat hit to call home for the holidays."  –The Chicago Tribune
 
The production team for BARNEY THE ELF includes Michael Johannsen (scenic design), Olivia Crary (costume design), Matthew Carney (lighting design), Ashley Pettit (sound design, production manager), Bobby Taves (asst. music director) and Meghan Erxleben (asst. lighting designer).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: BARNEY THE ELF
Written by: Bryan Renaud
Lyrics by: Bryan Renaud and Emily Schmidt
Directed and choreographed by: Tommy Rivera-Vega
Musical Direction by: Nik Kmiecik
Musical Arrangements by: Jermaine Hill
Cast: Jaron Bellar (Junior), Dixie Lynn Cartwright (Zooey), Maggie Cain (Mrs. Claus), Emilie Rose Danno (Ensemble), Colleen DeRosa (Ensemble), Roy Samra (Barney), Courtney Dane Mize (Cookie/Ensemble), LiSean McElrath (Ensemble), Lance Spencer (Ensemble) and Cody Talkie (Ensemble).
Swings/understudies: Bella DeBalle, Miranda Harris and Tommy Rivera-Vega
 
Location: The Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago
Dates: Preview: Friday, November 17 at 8 pm, Saturday, November 18 at 7 pm, Sunday, November 19 at 3 pm and Sunday, November 26 at 3 pm.
Regular run: Thursday, November 30 – Sunday, December 30, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm; Sundays at 3 pm. Please note: there will not be a performance on Sunday, December 24 (Christmas Eve).
Tickets: Previews: $20 with code “PREVIEW.” Regular run: $25. Students $15 with code “STUDENT.” Industry $15 with code “INDUSTRY.” Tickets are available at www.theothertheatrecompany.com, in person at the Greenhouse Theater Center box office or by calling (773) 404-7336. Season subscription are currently available.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Sarah Ruhl’s ‘In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play’ returns to Chicago at Timeline Theatre. Directed by Mechelle Moe, this drawing room comedy about the advent of electricity is sure to tickle audiences. Ruhl’s works have often been produced around the city as she’s an Evanston native. She may reside in Brooklyn now, but we’ll still claim her as our own.

‘In the Next Room’ was shortlisted for the 2009 Pulitzer after a successful Broadway run. It was also nominated for the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play. ‘In the Next Room’ might just be Ruhl’s most fully realized play. It’s a whimsical, if not loose, history of the invention of the vibrator. While it may sound like a cheeky sex comedy, ‘In the Next Room’ is a feminist anthem.

Dr Givings (Anish Jethmalani) is a country doctor who specializes in hysteria, a very real condition that afflicted women during a much less sexual period in history. His wife Catherine (Rochelle Therrien) does not suffer as her husband’s patients do, but instead yearns for romantic love. In some ways, this play is like Sarah Ruhl’s own version of ‘A Doll’s House.’ A wife searching for her purpose in a world dominated by men. Catherine says at one point “I do not know what kind of person I am” and feels like a failure when her child will not nurse. Through various entrances and exits, we’re shown how sexless life was between man and wife during the Victorian era. As an audience with hindsight, we understand that this miracle cure for hysteria is nothing more than a medically induced orgasm.

The ensemble is well cast. Rochelle Therrien makes Ruhl’s fanciful dialogue endearing and innocent. Her fresh-faced and child-like performance is so charming you can’t believe her husband’s indifference. Though quiet and understated, Dana Tretta plays Annie, the physician’s midwife. A sort of “Igor” sidekick type, but Ruhl doesn’t overlook the character. Her arch of a life without love is perhaps the most touching of all.

Not only is this play a feminist anthem, but a play about orgasms. The very idea that women did not discuss anything related to sex is absurd in a world where you can watch re-runs of ‘Sex and the City’ at any given time. Even nursing a child was considered distasteful to discuss. Rarely if ever have so many simulated orgasms happened in one theatrical performance. Though, like the era, they’re so unsexualized that you can’t help but giggle at the characters discovering themselves. In one full-length play Sarah Ruhl bursts nearly every female taboo of the time out of the closet. Never have Women’s Rights been a more hot button issue and ‘In the Next Room’ comes at just the right time.

Through December 16 at Timeline Theatre Company. Stage 773, 1225 W Belmont Ave. 773-327-5252

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Most people are aware of the movie Carrie, starring the haunting Sissy Spacek as the picked on teenaged outsider who uses her telekinetic powers to burn down her high school with most of her attackers in it, but few know there was a sequel made in the 90's where her long lost sister ends up using the same powers to avenge her and her best friend’s mistreatment. The sequel is appropriately titled Carrie 2: The Rage

Writer/composer Preston Max Allen does an amazing job of using the movie sequel as his starting point in Carrie 2: The Rage (An Unauthorized Musical Parody), writing many very funny and well-crafted parody songs and scenes to fill out the play. 

Rachel Lang, the lead played solidly by Demi Zaino, finds out that the reason her best friend committed suicide the day after happily losing her virginity to one of the boys on the football team is a cruel game that the boys are playing with young girl's minds by judging their looks with a point system for the football player who "bangs them". The boys then and then dump the girls who are considered "coyote's,” not really the ugly girls just the sensitive, nerdy vulnerable ones. 

Then to make things worse Rachel ends up stealing the heart of the only nice football player that the head cheerleader is in love with and thereby invites the wrath of the cheerleaders and the team when she tries to prove the team were at fault for her friend’s death. As revenge, the team and cheerleaders gang up on Rachel and orchestrate the video taping of her having sex with the nice football player named Jesse. After viewing herself having sex and being laughed at by everyone invited to a private party, Rachel unleashes her inherited telekinetic rage powers to kill everyone much the same way Carrie did nearly two decades earlier. 

Although the plot of Carrie 2: The Rage seems like a perfect warning tale about bullying, it is also a terrifying reminder of the damage caused by sexual harassment and rape.

First of all, it is terrifying to grow up in an age where your immature teenage peers can make a sex tape of you and show it to everyone you know. Also, it shows that Rachel's virginal friend is actually thrilled to have "become a woman" with what she thinks is her new boyfriend - until he breaks up with her the very next day because his friends call her a "coyote".

The way she is broken up with is worse than the act of sex itself because it means that the act of sex itself was a vengeful act to him, not the beautiful loving experience she had been conned into thinking it was. 

All three cheerleaders are played with perfect camp, each having their own unique brand of snotty mean girl-ness that is very funny and well played. But two character actresses really steal the show in the roles of Rachel's mentally ill mother, Annie Pfohl and the high school counselor, who witnessed the first destruction of the high school with Carrie at the helm played by Sue Snell. Both Snell and Pfohl play the crazy in their roles with fantastic realism and comic timing which takes the play to a whole new level of both humor and spookiness. Sam Button-Harrison is also tremendously funny as the play’s lead bully.

You really feel for these beleaguered women who are trying desperately to forget and prevent the tragedy that has ruined their lives as well as Carrie, and now poor Rachel's, at the hands of some of the meanest boys and girls the musical comedy stage has ever seen. 

Eric Luchen, designs a set in the tiny Arkham space that seems to expand and contract with each number in marvelous ways. Choreographer Maggie Robinson and co-directors Rachel Elise Johnson and Isaac Loomer each do a wonderful job bringing this nice sized cast to life with full out dance numbers and great lighting and sound effects that move along quickly and seemed to be unfolding in a much larger space. 

I really laughed at, and thoroughly enjoyed, this well played, musical wild ride through the early nineties (right down to Rachel’s torn jeans, army boots and plaid shirt tied around her waist). The Rage is filled with gore, laughs and a moral - "People shouldn't suck so much!" Just in time for Halloween! 

Underscore Theatre’s Carrie: The Rage (An Unauthorized Musical Parody) is being performed at The Arkham through November 19th. For more show information visit http://www.underscoretheatre.org/.

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Monday, 16 October 2017 12:08

BLUE MAN GROUP CELEBRATES 20th BIRTHDAY!

With two decades in its home at Lakeview’s Briar Street Theater under its belt, Blue Man Group is still going strong. The show can best be described as a bizarre, performance-arty take on STOMP, with both running about 90 minutes without an intermission, both featuring silent performers, both utilizing homemade percussion instruments, and both inciting audiences to go, “What the hell did I just see?”

Blue Man Group was founded in New York in 1991 by three friends: Chris Wink, an artist and drummer, Phil Stanton, a DIY designer and builder, and Matt Goldman, an entrepreneur and software developer. All three have been nominated for Grammys for their musical work on Blue Man Group.

Even after twenty years, Blue Man Group’s uniqueness keeps people coming back. For a show that has become such a staple, it is still unlike any of its theatrical peers, i.e. musicals, plays, operas. And for good reason. What other mainstream theatrical production features paintings created live onstage, quirky feats like seeing a performer catch dozens of marshmallows in his mouth, surprisingly funny, albeit silent, sketches with deer-in-the-headlights audience participants, and tons of cool, otherwordly, Pink Floyd-esque music being played live right in front of you?

A rundown of the materials used for each show should give some idea (or not) as to what a BMG audience is in for. Each week the three Blue Men go through the following materials: 32 pounds of Jell-O, 8 boxes of Cap'n Crunch, 385 marshmallows, 40 pieces of white chocolate Toblerone, 44 boxes of Twinkie Lights, 60 drum heads, 64 drumsticks, and 28 cakes of blue makeup made specially for BMG -- they even have their own proprietary color called "Blue Man Blue."

The 20th birthday performance featured some minor add-ons from the regular BMG show. One of the pieces of art created live onstage during the show via paint being spit out of one of the Blue Men’s mouths revealed “20!” in big white text, while there were lots of treats for the audience like tote-bags, various SWAG, and custom Sprinkles cupcakes.

It's clear why the indefinable show has continued to dazzle audiences across the country for twenty years, and as long as this city remains a vibrant hub for entertainment, Blue Man Group will have a welcome home in Chicago.

You can catch Blue Man Group at Briar Street Theater at 3133 N Halsted St on Thursdays through Sundays. Tickets on Ticketmaster.

Published in Theatre Reviews
Wednesday, 12 July 2017 22:19

Review: "HIR" at Steppenwolf Theatre

With “HIR” by Taylor Mac, Steppenwolf Theatre continues its legacy of pushing relevant and sometimes uncomfortable topics onto its audiences. Directed by Hallie Gordon, this is the Chicago premiere of Mac’s acclaimed 2015 Off-Broadway hit. This vivid production is sure to unsettle some subscribers, but that’s the point. Mac’s script offers up laughs and lessons and is able to gets its point across without coming off as preachy.

What a treat it is to see ensemble member Amy Morton back on the Steppenwolf stage. Morton is a frequent director at the Steppenwolf but has been scarce since her much-praised performance as Martha in 2010’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” which transferred to Broadway. Morton plays Page, the mother of a transgender teen, Max (Em Grosland) and recently discharged soldier Isaac (Ty Olwin). She is also caring for her ailing husband (Francis Guinan) who has been incapacitated by a stroke. Page has unusual ideas about politics and lifestyle and is finally able to express herself the way she wants without an oppressive husband and societal restrictions.

Playwright, performer and singer-songwriter Taylor Mac (otherwise known as “judy”) is hot right now. His one-man “24-Decade History of Popular Music” was shortlisted for the 2017 Pulitzer. There’s no one quite like judy. HIR is essentially a fictionalized thesis on gender and politics in America. Guinan’s feeble character represents the fragile white male ego and Morton’s character is the at-times militant voice of the future. That future is without gender, without color, and without boundaries. Page seems to relish in abusing her once violent husband. An apt metaphor. Mac has a great sense of humor about the LGBT community and that shines through, but his script is also dense with a vital cultural insight that suburban audiences need to hear in the age of Trump’s America.

Hallie Gordon’s vision for this show is spectacular. Collette Pollard has created a fitting set for the chaos of this family. Gordon’s cast is top-tier. You can’t do much better than Amy Morton and Francis Guinan. Morton quickly becomes the focal point of the play and displays an overwhelming capacity for physical comedy and emotional honesty. You can’t take your eyes off her. Guinan is extremely brave to tread the boards in nothing more than adult diaper, or even braver, a full-face of clown makeup. Without uttering more than a few intelligible sentences, Guinan turns in a complicated but moving performance. This is likely to be one of the most talked about shows in Chicago, and good for the Steppenwolf for continuing to take risks.

Through August 20 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. 1650 N Halsted Street. 312-335-3830 www.steppenwolf.org

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Lookingglass Theatre Company announces a partnership with TodayTix—the free mobile app that provides on-demand access to theater tickets—to offer exclusive $25 Lottery tickets to the return of its award-winning production of Moby DickMoby Dick, adapted and directed by Ensemble Member David Catlin, from the book by Herman Melville, in association with The Actors Gymnasium, runs June 7 – September 3, 2017 at Lookingglass Theatre Company, located inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson.
 
A limited number of $25 tickets will be available through the TodayTix mobile Lottery for all evening performances of Moby Dick beginning June 7, 2017. The lottery will open every performance day at midnight and all winners and non-winners will be notified 2 - 4 hours before the performance. Lottery winners may pick up their tickets at the Lookingglass box office one hour prior to show time.
 
“We had incredible audiences and sold-out performances during the first run of Moby Dick in 2015,” notes Director of Marketing, Anna Marie Wilharm. “Tickets were in high demand and often gone weeks in advance. We’re excited that our daily ticket lottery partnership with TodayTix will provide our patrons and TodayTix users a chance at securing great seats at a great price, and increase accessibility to this blockbuster show.”
 
Winner of four Jeff Awards, including Best Production, and fresh off a national tour, the critically-acclaimed Moby Dick returns to the Lookingglass stage in this harrowing and intoxicating exploration of revenge, obsession, and destiny.  Madness rages like the angry sea when man pits himself against leviathan in Herman Melville’s epic and poetic tale, furiously reimagined by director David Catlin (Lookingglass Alice). Climb aboard the Pequod with Ishmael, Starbuck, and the intrepid crew on a voyage into the darkest reaches of the human psyche with an insatiably driven Captain Ahab at the helm in reckless pursuit of the legendary white whale.
 
The cast of Moby Dick includes Ensemble Members Kareem Bandealy, Anthony Fleming III and Raymond Fox who return to reprise their roles as Starbuck, Queequeg and Stubb from the critically-acclaimed 2015 production. Also returning to the production are Jamie Abelson (Ishmael – evening performances), Micah Figueroa (Cabaco) and Javen Ulambayar (Mungun). Joining the cast are Kelly Abell (Fate #1), Walter Owen Briggs (Ishmael – matinee performances), Cordelia Dewdney (Fate #3), Mattie Hawkinson (Fate #2) and Nathan Hosner (Ahab).
 
Moby Dick, adapted and directed by Ensemble Member David Catlin, from the book by Herman Melville, in association with The Actors Gymnasium, runs June 7 – September 3, 2017 at Lookingglass Theatre Company, located inside Chicago's historic Water Tower Water Works, 821 N. Michigan Ave. at Pearson. The press opening is Saturday, June 17 at 7:30 pm. The performance schedule is as follows: Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. (except June 8 & 15 and August 3) and 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. (except June 10 & 17) at 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. (except June 18) and 7:30 p.m. (except June 11 & 18). There is an additional performance on Tuesday, August 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, priced $35 - $80 are available at the box office, by phone at (312) 337-0655, or online at lookingglasstheatre.org.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Chicago’s Akvavit Theatre is pleased to present the U.S. premiere of Rhea Leman’s wild black comedy HITLER ON THE ROOF, a play for two clowns starring Amy Gorelow and Jay Torrence. Co-directed by Co-Artistic Director Kirstin Franklin* and Associate Amber Robinson*, HITLER ON THE ROOF will play a limited engagement June 21 – July 9, 2017 at the new Strawdog Theatre Company, 1802 W. Berenice in Chicago. Tickets are currently available at chicagonordic.org. The press opening is Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 pm.
 
This prescient 2011 Danish play finds the Nazi propagandist Dr. Joseph Goebbels (Amy Gorelow) and filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (Jay Torrence) doomed to a perpetual afterlife in which to confront their pasts. Locked deep down inside the present day Führerbunker, the two engage in cunning feats of denial, manipulation and pure slapstick. 
 
Written during an alarming rise of Danish Nationalism in 2011, this play is a timely reminder of the consequences of selling lies as truth and propaganda as art. A favorite of audiences and critics alike, HITLER ON THE ROOF’s original production toured Denmark for two years with the company Folketeatret, winning the prestigious Reumert award for Best Leading Actress. The English language version is scheduled to tour Europe in 2017.
 
Talkback with Playwright Rhea Leman

Akvavit will host a talkback with playwright Rhea Leman following the performance on Friday, June 23 at 7:30 pm.
 
The production team for HITLER ON THE ROOF includes: Chad Eric Bergman* (set design), Piper Hubbell Robinson (costume design), Emma Deane (lighting design), Nigel Harsch* (sound designer), Letitia Guillaud (properties design), Madelyn Loehr (production manager), Mark Litwicki* (technical director), Bernadette Hagen (technician) and Margaret Bystrek (stage manager).
 
PRODUCTION DETAILS:
 
Title: HITLER ON THE ROOF
Playwright: Rhea Leman
Directors: Co-Artistic Director Kirstin Franklin* and Associate Amber Robinson*
Cast: Amy Gorelow (Dr. Joseph Goebbels) and Jay Torrence (Leni Reifenstahl).
 
Location: Strawdog Theatre Company,1802 W. Berenice, Chicago
Dates: Preview: Wednesday, June 21 a 7:30 pm
Regular run: Friday, June 23 – Sunday, July 9, 2017
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 4 pm. 
Tickets: Previews: $10. Regular Run: $25. Students/seniors/industry $15. Tickets are currently available at chicagonordic.org.
 

*Denotes Akvavit Theatre company members.

Published in Upcoming Theatre

It’s the wild 1930’s in Berlin and it’s anything goes at the Kit Kat Klub where an impish Emcee feasts on making the haunt as alluring as possible to its guests. He loves the boys, he loves the girls and he loves the orchestra. Headliner Sally Bowles leads the cabaret dancers in the playful club where one can phone table to table if interested in another. Bowles is brassy, commanding and she flat out belts, leaving little doubt who runs the show. This is quickly evidenced in her racy opening number “Don’t Tell Mama”. It is a place of decadent carnival where boundaries do not exist and guests are endlessly entertained by its sexy performers. 

American writer Cliff Bradshaw soon arrives via train ride where he meets new friend Ernst Ludwig. The two quickly hit it off. While getting to know each other, Bradshaw reveals he is looking for a place to stay, so Ludwig recommends a boarding house run by Fraulien Schneider. Searching for inspiration for his second novel, Bradshaw visits the nearby Kit Kat Klub where he is opened to a world he never knew existed. 

While Bradshaw and Bowles get to know each other (and then some), Herr Schultz, an elderly German, regularly visits the boarding house where he shows his affections for Schneider by bringing her fruit from the nearby produce store that he owns. Soon Schultz and Schneider agree to marry, while Bowles and Bradshaw become cozier, the two now living together. The club is thriving and all seems well in 1930’s Berlin. 

But the shadow of the Nazi regime is gradually becoming much more apparent. Slowly, the danger of a growing Third Reich is affecting Berlin. Gradually, the carefree mood of many Berlin residents becomes that of one awaiting impending doom. Some sense a mounting tragedy afoot and fear a change for the worse in Germany. 

Yet, the threat is still in its infancy stage, whereas Schultz, a Jew, naively states, “Everything will be fine. After all, I am a German.” At the same time, Schneider fears her association with Schultz will put her business under as the hatred against Jewish-Germans becomes more apparent. 

Cabaret is the gripping account of how a circle of friends and businesses in Berlin are overcome by the inevitable Nazi threat, from the story's hopeful beginning full of modernization and progressive views to its haunting end. 

The production is seamlessly woven together. Throughout the musical, there is an ongoing collocation of dialogue scenes and songs that serve as explanation to the story while a series of distinct cabaret numbers provide a public observation for the times. 

Cabaret continues to attract both new audiences and return visitors more than fifty years after its initial Broadway production, because it has everything – fascinating characters, iconic music, a dazzling look that transports us to a different world that is still incredibly timely and relevant today,” says Artistic Director Linda Fortunato.

Her statement couldn’t bear more truth as the production has won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. 

The casting in Theatre at the Center’s Cabaret is very strong. Danni Smith, who recently impressed theatre goers in the leading role of “Donna” in Marriott Theatre’s Mamma Mia! is sensational as Sally Bowles. Smith’s robust, velvety vocals along with just the right air of confidence make for yet another successful leading role for the fetching stage star. Smith’s astounding performance alone is worth the ticket cost and drive to Munster, Indiana. Yet, the same impressionable effect on the audience can be said for co-lead Sean Fortunato as the mischievous Emcee, who is a pure delight to watch as he captures a changing Berlin within his character most effectively through a well-acted gamut of emotions. We watch on as the whimsical Master of Ceremonies is sincerely affected by what he recognizes is the beginning to the end of an era, yet we see his strength as he bravely presents an amusing appearance for his club-goers to distract from the imminent threat. 

Patrick Tierney (Bradshaw), Craig Spindle (Schultz), Iris Lieberman (Schneider), Christopher Davis (Ernst) and a very capable ensemble round out this talented cast that help in creating a magical Cabaret experience, along with an extraordinary creative team that so well brings the period to life. 

Based on a book written by Christopher Isherwood, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, Cabaret is loaded with wonderful show tunes that include “Perfectly Marvelous”, “The Money Song”, “Married”, "Willkommen", “If You Could See Her” and Bowles highly-charged title song “Cabaret”. 

Well-constructed, finely acted and beautifully sung, Cabaret is an epic theatre experience not to miss.   

Cabaret is being performed at Theatre at the Center (1040 Ridge Road, Munster, IN) through June 4th. For show times, tickets and/or more show information, visit www.TheatreAtTheCenter.com

 

Published in Theatre in Review
Page 3 of 5

 

 

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