Chicago Theatre Review

Monthly Archives: December 2013

Welcome to Berlin

December 26, 2013 Comments Off on Welcome to Berlin

Annie Get Your Gun

4-Annie-Get-Your-GunLight Opera Works’ holiday production of Irving Berlin’s classic Wild West love story is a glorious treat for the ear. Conductor/Chorus Master Roger L. Bingaman’s competent 28-member orchestra wrings every drop of joy from Berlin’s melodic score in a way that would’ve made the Tin Pan Alley composer proud. Indeed, in this age of economical, tinny-sounding synthesized pit orchestras, LOW’s rich, full-sounding musical accompaniment is always the highlight their productions and provides an auditory feast.

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All in the Family

December 17, 2013 Comments Off on All in the Family


msb_5804Sometimes seated around the dinner table, often popping into the kitchen as they attack each other with verbal barbs, the five family members seem like a typical family, albeit an intellectual, creative, extremely verbal and somewhat dysfunctional tribe who express their love for one another (as well as their discontent with their own lives) through insults. Through the shouting and turmoil the audience slowly begins to notice that one of the family, Billy, is just sitting quietly observing and eating. He hasn’t joined in the ridicule nor has he been part of any discussions. We soon learn that Billy has been deaf from birth. He’s been “listening” to everyone by reading their lips, a skill his parents taught him early in life so that Billy might fit into regular society. Billy has even learned to talk, though he’s never heard the human voice. However, as a result of his upbringing, neither Billy nor his family have ever learned to sign, thus isolating him and preventing him any interaction with the deaf community.

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Mystery Most Foul

December 17, 2013 Comments Off on Mystery Most Foul

An Inspector Calls

AIC_Isabel,Rick,Luke,Greg,LiaFollowing an elegant family dinner at Arthur and Sybil Birling’s comfortable home in northern England, the arrival of a mysterious man is announced. He claims to be police Inspector Goole who inexplicably shares with them the sad news that Eva Smith, a young working-class woman, has tragically committed suicide. No one at the family gathering, including young Gerald Croft, who has just officially proposed to Arthur’s daughter Sheila, nor Arthur’s son Eric, recognize the young woman’s name, and begs the question: why is the inspector involving this family in the unfortunate incident?

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The Case of the Christmas Oddity

December 14, 2013 Comments Off on The Case of the Christmas Oddity

Let’s start with the good: Raven Theatre Company’s “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Goose” is a delightfully acted, fast-paced mystery that effectively captures the inquisitive, whimsical spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed investigator. Darren Hill (as Watson) and Tyler Rich (as Holmes) make an ideal pair, and the show’s supporting cast (especially Bryan Dawidowicz and Dan Toot, who chew up the scenery with considerable aplomb) are more than capable in their own right. And to top it all off, the show’s sound design is quite enjoyable, with a DIY aesthetic reminiscent of old radio programs.

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Hell in a Handbag presents a Campy Christmas Classic

December 13, 2013 Comments Off on Hell in a Handbag presents a Campy Christmas Classic


By Lazlo Collins

joanIt wouldn’t be Christmas in Chicago without a Hell in a Handbag offering to keep the holidays real (unreal?). With “Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer” at rest this year, the folks at Hell in a Handbag bring us “Christmas Dearest”.

At the center of this Dickensian once over is none other than Joan Crawford herself. David Cerda (Actor/Writer/Artistic Director) is “Miss Crawford” in all her maternal glory.

“Christmas Dearest” is the story of Joan Crawford and her impetuous rule over the cronies that surround her in Hollywood with her extraordinary ego. The characters of her well documented life appear throughout the show. From daughter Christina (Christopher Lewis) to movie mate Bette Davis (lovingly played by Caitlin Jackson), move through the past and present twisting and turning though Miss Crawford’s Christmas Carol story treatment.

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An Angel Gets His Wings

December 10, 2013 Comments Off on An Angel Gets His Wings

It’s a Wonderful Life – American Blues Theatre

get-attachment.aspx(1)The name George Bailey has become synonymous with Christmas since Frank Capra’s holiday classic first began airing on television nonstop during the 1980’s. Based upon “The Greatest Gift,” a short story privately published in 1945 by
Philip Van Doren Stern, this tale of a man who sacrifices all his own dreams to help his family and friends has become a timeless classic. Most audiences will be familiar with the 1946 b&w film, which is just about as perfect as anyone can expect. But American Blue Theater’s version takes this classic one step further.

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One Dickens of a Show

December 7, 2013 Comments Off on One Dickens of a Show

A Christmas Carol

get-attachment.aspxWhoever would’ve thought that a novella published back in 1843 London would not only become the most-told Christmas story of all time; it would even rival the story of the first Christmas in familiarity. There have been, and will no doubt continue to be, more versions and adaptations of Dickens’ story of Scrooge’s redemption than anyone can count. M.E.H. Lewis’ new adaptation is good, but director Shifra Werch’s production could use some tweaking.

Matthew Hallstein makes a good Scrooge, possessing a rich, commanding baritone that can level the youngest carolers or drive away even the most benevolent charity collectors. He fully understands the nature of the old miser and the dialogue Lewis has given him. The problem stems from his pacing. Scrooge has to be the driving force of this play and Hallstein simply takes too many moments of “reflection” to keep the story moving. At times Hallstein seems as if he’s stalling until he can recall his next line; but in retrospect, it’s more likely a directing choice. As a result, the rhythm becomes slow or staccato. When Mr. Hallstein is on a roll his Scrooge is a real fireball, but every time he stops to ponder the situation the play’s momentum comes to a halt.

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