Monthly Archives: February 2012
STREET TEMPO THEATRE ANNOUNCES
THE SECOND PRODUCTION OF THEIR INAUGURAL SEASON: LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS AT STAGE 773 APRIL 9 – MAY 13
Street Tempo Theatre Presents a New Twist on the Classic Production
CHICAGO –Street Tempo Theatre announces Little Shop of Horrors as the second production for the newly launched musical theatre company. Street Tempo Theatre is committed to creating raw, intimate, thought-provoking musical theatre in Chicago and opened their first season with the 1970’s cult classic Let My People Come. The Company’s production of Little Shop of Horrors is Co-Directed by Street Tempo Theatre Artistic Director Brian Posen and Music Director Kory Danielson. Previews for Little Shop of Horrors are Monday, April 9 and Tuesday, April 10 at 8 p.m. Preview tickets are $15. Opening/Press night is Wednesday, April 11 at 8 p.m. The production runs through Sunday, May 13 with regular performances Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $38 and may be purchased at www.stage773.com, by phone at 773.327.5252 or in person at the Stage 773 box office. Senior, student and group discounts are available. For more information on Street Tempo Theatre visit www.streettempotheatre.com.
Street Tempo Theatre’s Little Shop of Horrors will take the audience on a journey through the streets of Skid Row to a struggling flower shop where a blood-thirsty plant from another world is anxiously awaiting her next victim. Seductive, tragic, and full of twisted humor, this darkly re-imagined production of Little Shop of Horrors is an onstage homage to b-movie cult films of the 1960’s.
“Street Tempo Theatre’s production of Little Shop of Horrors will prove to be a refreshing take on a musical theatre classic. The company’s mission is to showcase work that has never, or rarely, been seen in Chicago and put a fresh spin on old classics – and this production will do just that!,” said Artistic Director Brian Posen and founder of Street Tempo Theatre.
The complete cast and production team for Little Shop of Horrors includes:
Little Shop of Horrors is the second production of Street Tempo Theatre. Previews for are Monday, April 9 and Tuesday, April 10 at 8 p.m. Preview tickets are $15. Opening/Press night is Wednesday, April 11 at 8 p.m. The production runs through Sunday, May 13 with regular performances Thursdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $38 and may be purchased at www.stage773.com, by phone at 773.327.5252 or in person at the Stage 773 box office. Senior, student and group discounts are available. For more information on Street Tempo Theatre visit www.streettempotheatre.com.
OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill.— Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winning country star Loretta Lynn will perform three concerts from June 22 through 24 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane. For over 50 years, Lynn has remained one of the most artistically and commercially successful country singer-songwriters in the world.
Lynn’s critically acclaimed music has confronted many of the major social issues of her time and has drawn from her compelling journey from the poverty of the Kentucky hills to Nashville superstardom. Lynn has had ten #1 albums and sixteen #1 singles on the country charts and
is the winner of four Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, eightBroadcast Music Incorporated awards, twelve Academy of Country Music, eight Country Music Association and twenty-six fan-voted Music City News awards. She was also the first woman in country music to receive a certified gold album, for 1967’s Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind) and was the first woman honored as “Entertainer of the Year” by the Country Music Association in 1972. She was named “Artist of the Decade” for the 1970s by the Academy of Country Music, and was the first female country artist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1977. In 1976, Coal Miner’s Daughter, her autobiography (written with journalist George Vescey) became a New York Times Bestseller; in 1980 the book was made into an Academy Award-winning film starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.
Loretta Lynn was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2001, her most well-known song, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was selected as one of NPR‘s “100 Most Significant Songs of the 20th Century” and in 2003 she received Kennedy Center Honors. In 2010, Lynn received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for her prolific 50 years in country music. Produced by Jack White of The White Stripes, Lynn’s critically acclaimed most recent release, Van Lear Rose, features stunning arrangements and intimate songwriting and has earned Lynn a new generation of fans.
The performance schedule is as follows: Friday, June 22 at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 23 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 24 at 2 p.m. A 6 p.m. Dinner is available for an additional $19 on Friday, June 22 and Saturday, June 23. On Sunday, June 24 Lunch is available at noon for an additional $19. Concert tickets are $65. Group discounts are available. For reservations, call theDrury Lane Theatre box office at 630.530.0111, or TicketMaster at 800.745.3000. For more information visit www.drurylaneoakbrook.com.
Androcles and the Lion, ShawChicago
Ruth Page Theater, 1016 North Dearborn Street, Chicago
February 4-27, 2012
For staged readings and Shaw’s works, ShawChicago is the place to go.
Review by Darcy Rose Coussens
This February, ShawChicago is revisiting George Bernard Shaw’s “Androcles and the Lion” for its 100th anniversary. The show is a humorous take on the unlikely friendship between a lion and the Greek Christian who removes a thorn from his paw. The story takes place during Caesar’s reign in Rome, when both Androcles and the Lion are captured and expected to fight for the entertainment of the Romans. Androcles and his fellow Christians refuse to renounce their religion, but when sent to fight, the Lion remembers Androcles and refrains from hurting him.
This traditional tale is entertaining even in a minimal, staged reading approach. The actors were quite funny, particularly Christian Gray as Androcles, and the lion’s mask was very impressive. Although I prefer readings in which the actors interact with each other instead of facing the audience at all times, this production was engaging and only about an hour and a half in length, something important to consider for a staged reading with minimal action.
I might not pay $25 for a ticket, especially considering the extremely minimal production aspects. However, this not-for-profit is an excellent cause to support, presenting the plays of George Bernard Shaw as well as his contemporaries in a way that allows the imagination to flourish while involving several talented actors. They also present an extremely friendly community, providing for a comfortable setting and pleasant experience overall.
For fans of Shaw’s work, next up will be George Bernard Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession,” which will run April 14-May 7, also at the Ruth Page Theater.
By Devlyn Camp
Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company’s latest production is not the most riveting work in the city to see right now, but I will say this: Superior Donuts is the best play I have ever seen at Mary-Arrchie. Their production of the Tracy Letts play is above their average standard because of the on-stage talent. Richard Cotovsky and Preston Tate, Jr. make a great duo in the leading donut shop workers, Arthur and Franco, as they present Letts’s comments on current racial issues and ways of life with an edge of decent comedy.
The Donuts set design is interesting, but not the most exciting compared to other productions (ie. Steppenwolf debut of the play, among others), but Arrchie makes due with their small space. At the top of the show when the shop is being looked over by police after an overnight break-in, the place is delicately destroyed in an unrealistic manner. Sugar packets are almost strategically placed across the counter; knick-knacks are knocked over just perfectly. It’s unlikely that vandals would commit such a silly crime.
While it has its flaws (seconds-off lighting cues among the worst, and most distracting) Mary-Arrchie puts a decent work together that honors the quick and brilliant words of Letts. Perhaps this is a new step in an exciting direction for them. Or perhaps just a happy, exciting accident.
Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.
Through March 25, 2012
Tickets $18-22, available at maryarrchie.com
Contact critic at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Lazlo Collins
When you love theater as much as I do, and you are of a certain age, you have either been IN a production of “South Pacific” or have SEEN innumerable amateur productions of “South Pacific”. This being the situation in both cases, I was excited to see a professional production in all its glory. From the buzz at the 2008 Tony award winning production from Lincoln Center, I was looking forward to this new revival.
With the overture intact, underscoring what can only be described as, homage to the color slide tinting of “South Pacific” the movie, on the act curtain, I was excited to hear the classic songs of this winning musical.
If you are not familiar with the story of “South Pacific” it is the story of a World War Two romance. She is Nellie Forbush, the naïve girl from Little Rock, and he is Emile de Becque, the suave, plantation owning, Frenchman who left his native town because he, yes, killed a man.
The story goes deeper than war torn lovers thrust together. It weaves the tale of race and discrimination based on the color of skin and the consequences of following one’s heart and not what we are taught.
As “Nellie Forbush”, Jennie Sophia brings her strong acting chops and pleasant personality into the role. She has stepped into the role with enthusiasm and grace. She brings a lovely dependable voice. Her opposite is “Emil de Becque” played by opera guy Marcello Guzzo. He is solid and sings beautifully the shows familiar musical pining’s. The pair has a believable rapport and keep their scenes moving throughout the show.
Cathy Foy-Mahi as “Bloody Mary” puts in a standard performance. Her accent came and went from time to time and I actually wanted her to be even bolder, but she won me over with her creepy version of “Happy Talk”. The irony of attempting to make things cheerful with her dark intent was great.
While I enjoyed all the seabees, ensigns, and sailors in the show, they kept the action lively and fun. “Luther Billis”, (Christian Marriner) was a standout throughout the whole south sea adventure. His energy and enthusiasm was a noticeable addition.
Shane Donovan as “Lt. Joe Cable” was pleasing as the dutiful Marine. His voice was amazing and clear. I found him to be pleasant and very matinee idol like. I think I did want to see more consternation about decision to leave his lover “Liat”. (Hsin-Yu Llao)
A shout out to James Graham who played “Commander Harbison”, I thought his stage presence was outstanding and his strong but sensitive commander was superb.
The rest of the cast romping on the island were fun to watch and voices with all the familiar songs took me back to the first time I had heard the album at my bubba’s house when I was young.
The set was just right for me. It seemed like a post card with every scene. It was simple in its use with this traveling production. The themes seemed fresh and new for today; and not from 1949.
This production of South Pacific both made me nostalgic and satisfied. Not bad for the sometimes maligned Rodgers and Hammerstein. I think we could all use a dose of corny sweetness once in a while.
You can enjoy this treat of a south sea adventure and Bali Ha’i through Feb. 26, 2012 at the Cadillac Palace Theater. www.broadwayinchicago.com
By Frank Meccia/Gayle Kirshenbaum
Show Boat Is it a musical or an opera?
The magic of Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern came to life this past Sunday under the direction of Francesca Zambello. With added musical numbers and rearrangements by John DeMain, this 1927 hit transformed Broadway back then and transformed the Lyric Sunday with a new kind of musical theatre. Opera Diva Frederica von Stade once said in an interview that ” the lines between Opera and musical theatre can be very blurry”. There are many Broadway musicals that are really operettas; Sweeney Todd, A little Night Music, The Most Happy Fella and Les Miserable to name a few. But these are hybrids to true opera. The debate will go on for years, but for Lyric Opera it has been a fantastic journey.
With opera greats such as Nathan Gunn, Morris Robinson, Alyson Cambridge, Angela Renee Simpson and Ashley Brown their music and voices soar. Add to that some of the greatest voices and actors that have graced the Chicago stages for years, including Ross Lehman, Cindy Gold, Bernie Yvon, Renee Matthews and many others this show could only be superb. We had a chance to speak with Renee about what this experience means to her. After having studied at the Met for years she said “this is a dream of a lifetime come true, to step on the stage of the Lyric Opera with such an incredibly wonderful cast and crew”. Set design by Peter J. Davison really shows off the charm of Chicago in the early 1900’s and the beauty of the showboat. And the period piece costumes by Paul Tazewell are a treat to admire.
If you’re looking for classic opera then see AIDA which is also playing at the Lyric this month. If you want to see a timeless musical with a cast that is truly the cream of the crop then this is the show to see. In answer to the question is it an opera or musical? Call it what you want but in the end it is truly a masterpiece.
Showboat runs through March 17.
For tickets call 312-332-2244 or Lyricopera.org
By Lazlo Collin
“Hunger”, which opened recently at Lifeline Theatre, is one part interesting, historically based thriller and one part Soviet soap opera. So put on your gray overcoat and hunker down with a dedicated cast with a powerful drama.
When the Nazi siege of Leningrad in 1941 starts to happen, we come upon a group of scientists huddle together in a laboratory. We soon learn these scientists, although with different specialties, all are gathered to serve Stalin’s regime. And what do they all have in common? The service is to the seed. We have begun our journey with botanists of all disciplines safe (for now) in their office, or rather, the seed stronghold.
“Ilya”, broodily played by John Henry Roberts, in the lead; takes us through the story of 900 days of terror, famine, loss, and redemption. He is ultimately charged to protect the seeds along with his colleagues. They examine, philosophize, and ponder the meaning of why the seeds are so important. And what the real science of seed growth and propagation can bring.
Ilya’s wife, and fellow botanist, is “Alena” played by Kendra Thulin. Ms. Thulin’s portrayal of dutiful wife and true believer of good is subtle and quiet. She makes little noise against her circumstances until it is too late. Her opposite in the work place is the lovely Jenifer Tyler portraying”Lidia”. Ms. Tyler’s sad portrayal in the decline of what was once beautiful and sacred is at times heartbreaking.
The vocal and unsettled co-worker who gets worked up quite easily is “Sergei” played by Dan Granata. Mr. Granta’s worrisome portrayal of a man torn between duty and want is excellent.
Rounding out the lab partners is “Vitalli” played by Peter Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg plays Vitalli with a fragile resignation brilliantly. Later he excellently portrays Lysenko. The opposite in every way, Lysenko becomes the director of the scientific team and uses intimidation and inside knowledge to toy with the remaining team members. Mr. Greenberg sinks his acting chops deep and never let’s go. I loved seeing his transformation from the first act to the second. Well done Mr. Greenberg.
The female counterpart to Mr. Greenberg’s duo roles is Katie McLean Hainsworth as the mousey, quietly rebellious, “Efrosinia” in the first act and the slithery, sneaky scientist,” Klavdiya”. Ms. McLean Hainsworth does an excellent job with both characters. She creates two distinctly different women, both characters ultimately fooling themselves in the end.
Christopher M Walsh’s brings the group together as “The Director” that keeps hoping that everything will turn out okay until he is whisked away in an effort to bring about chaos and change among the scientists. Mr. Walsh also makes a second act resurrection as a different character with satisfying results.
Chris Hainsworth’s adaptation of Elise Blackwell’s novel of the same name is well crafted. Its detail to the days of the struggle represented by all the scientists is well done. Its seriousness circumvented with some humor to lighten the mood where needed. The play moved well, but I think could be served by a few scene snips.
With the writing and characters firmly in place, we should introduce the last of the characters in the show, the set. Jessica Kuehnau’s multi layered a multi-use space, was amazing. The nooks and crannies of the set explored by the cast, made the adventure of watching “Hunger” all the more entertaining. The set really had a life of its own; revealing itself, layer by layer, as the story progressed. Along with Lighting (Kevin D Gawley), and Sound (Andrew Hansen) the setting could not have been more satisfying.
The soundtrack sometimes seemed a bit Tele Novella, although I could see the movie reel style design bringing us back to a time of uncertainty and intrigue. This play will plant a seed of contemplation with its audiences.
“Hunger” runs through March 25 at Lifeline Theatre. For tickets dial 773-761-4477 or visit www.lifelinetheatre.com
By Devlyn Camp
Quest Theatre Ensemble’s mission is to create theater for the non-theatergoer in Chicago (surprisingly, there are some out there!). This is why they make a
huge effort to make their productions free to everyone. If you watched our television show this morning (CANTV, Channel 19 on Comcast), you might have heard Jason Bowen, a founding member of Quest, call their productions “gateway” shows into more Chicago theater. Their goal is to get more people interested in live theater, which is a pretty important goal if you ask anyone involved in the arts.
Bowen is currently leading The People’s Barnum at Quest, which, as mentioned, is free. The musical is a fantastic night for kids, as it is circus-themed and visually exciting. There are several songs and character voices to keep momentum moving. While the bar isn’t set high for great quality theater, it’s the perfect evening to get the kids acquainted with live shows and let them hoot and holler as excitedly as they wish.
THE PEOPLE’S BARNUM
Quest Theatre Ensemble
Through March 18, 2012
Tickets free, reservations available at questensemble.org
Contact critic at email@example.com
Who Cares Whodunnit when you’re Dating Walter Dante?
By Angeli Primlani
If you yelled at the TV when you heard that Drew Peterson was engaged to a 23-year-old girl despite being suspected of murdering two of his four previous wives, oh boy is this is the play for you! The Raven Theater’s world premiere of Jon Steinhagen’s Dating Walter Dante turns this tabloid situation into a delectable murder mystery, which teases a deeply human drama out of the cheap and familiar headlines.
Walter Dante is not exactly Drew Peterson. His first wife drowned in a swimming pool, not a bathtub, and Dante was married only twice, not four times. Unlike Peterson it is just possible he is innocent. That does not matter. This is not a play about the Drew Peterson case. It isn’t even really about Walter Dante. Instead the play asks why on earth any sane woman would date such a person, much less sign on to be Dead Wife Number Three?
Is Laura Bakersfield naive or brave to love this man? Are her friends justifiably concerned, or absurdly paranoid? Did Walter Dante really kill his two ex-wives, or is he an innocent man in a tragic horrific situation? And what is up with his dead wife’s ghost? Is this, as the characters conflictingly claim, a drama, comedy, tragedy, dramedy, murder mystery, ghost story or love story? That’s for the audience to decide. The answers do not come easily.
Each member of the fine cast walks a delicate line that leaves the audience guessing. But Kristin Collins’ crushingly hopeful Laura is the heartbeat of the piece. At turns ridiculous, sensual, and flaky, she still has small town Midwestern steel carrying her willful optimism. You may find yourself wanting Walter to live up to her belief in him. Or you may want to scream that he can’t.
Dating Walter Dante is at the Raven Theater, Fridays-Sundays through March 24th. If you love true crime, murder mysteries, love stories, or just a head cracking good tale, make sure you don’t have to rush home. You may want to stand out in the cold discussing the play with total strangers afterwards.
By Lazlo Collins
As I settled back into my chair at the Oriental Theater in Chicago, I began to recall Green Day’s American Idiot album (or should I say CD) that I heard before. The break out songs, the angry guitar riffs, and the raging lyrics by Billie Jo Armstrong were being strongly considered before the curtain rose.
When the act curtain was finally open, I searched the set for signs of a great Broadway musical. The music began and the volume was LOUD. Perhaps the “rage against society” or “where am I going” rock musical would be too much for me? Perhaps I was too old to appreciate the messages of lost youth, of lost passions, of friends separated too soon? I was getting nervous.
The hour-forty, no intermission, groundbreaking Broadway musical had begun. With the band onstage and ready to go, the story of three friends bored and ready to beat it out of town for something more, was off to a frantic start, with the title song of “American Idiot”.
The main trio of men is revealed immediately throughout the first song. Johnny (Van Hughes), Tunny (Scott J. Campbell, and Will (Jake Epstein) are three close friends. The three are bored, unmotivated, and questioning the world around them. And with their musical “Holiday” cue they are off.
At the gate, Will stays behind to take care of his child and girlfriend. Mr. Epstein plays Will with all the downtrodden apathy he can muster. He takes on his child filled consequences with careful consideration. He is left behind by his pals, but the drama of an unhappy girlfriend will keep his story moving throughout the show.
As Tunny and Johnny continue on to the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, Tunny joins the Army and Johnny stumbles behind. These two men are standouts in this production. Mr. Campbell is not only stunningly strong throughout his portrayal of the reluctant Army guy, but his lovely tenderness that translates from his profound loss is clear and so moving. He is a presence with his frame and his fabulous voice. I could not wait for him to sing again.
Mr. Hughes’s Johnny is also strong, clear, and a little dopey. I am not sure if this was a convention of this particular show, but was a choice that worked for his character. His descent from love into heroin madness is a heartbreaking. Mr. Hughes is very likeable on stage, not to mention his enormous talent as a performer and singer. His clear tones with contrasting sweet ballads versus rock and roll anthems are well executed, and emotionally driven. His casual, wily, smile suits this actor well.
Wait a minute, my nervousness and apprehension about the show is gone. I am totally into the story, song, and characters. It is still LOUD, but also soft, also sweet, and also sad and thought provoking. It is official. I am a fan.
As the story moves along for each of the men, we meet their muses. The pregnant, Heather, played by Leslie McDonel; the mysterious drug lover, Whatsername, played by Gabrielle McClinton; and the Army fantasy companion, The Extraordinary Girl, played by Nicci Claspbell. These woman were all excellent in there respective roles. Ms. McDonel and Ms. Claspbell were matched perfectly for their characters. Through the anger and frustration came lovely voices that translated throughout the audience. Ms. McClinton’s intensity sometimes overshadowed her performance and at times it was difficult to understand her lyrics. That said, it is a difficult role to perform with its constant intensity.
the rage is “St. Jimmy” played delectably sinister and invasive by Joshua Koback.(His “exit” was brilliantly staged.) His voice was amazing as well. Bravo!
It would be completely wrong not to mention the dynamite ensemble that continued to swirl and move around the main characters. The choreography (Steven Hoggett) was always interesting and always seems to be pushing, and fighting against an invisible force surrounding the actors. Each time an ensemble member was featured in a solo performance there was never a disappointment in style and performance.
The scenic design (Christine Jones), sound design (Brian Ronan), lighting design (Brian Ronan), and lighting design (Kevin Adams) were all amazingly integrated in this production. Many times I smiled at the wonder of these elements all working together at such an accelerated pace.
I tip my hat to Michael Mayer for another successful youth driven discovery piece for us; (Although the set seemed reminiscent of “Spring Awakening” in some ways; sans the monitors.) and to Green Day for its driving melodies and clear line of musical power; moving from album to musical theater showpiece.
As the final strains of the guitars after the curtain call brought a tear to my eye, it was clear; I HAD been captivated by all the misplaced dreams and rage. “American Idiot” had won me over. You are never too old for rock and roll and rage. Go get carried away.
“American Idiot” continues at the Oriental Theater, through Broadway in Chicago, through 19 Feb. 2012. Call 800-775-2000 or online at www.broadwayinchicago.com