Imagine living through more than 100 years of historic events and changing cultural attitudes. What would you predict might happen?
The Delany sisters, Bessie who lived to 104 (died 1995) and Sadie who lived to 109 (died 1999), thought a woman would eventually become president but not a colored man. They disliked the term black “We’re not black, we’re brown, we’re colored.” They also were OK with the formal race designation of Negro.
The sisters tell their story in “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” playing now at Goodman Theatre.
Raised in a family of achievers (lawyers, a judge, doctor, teachers and dentists, their father was the first colored person (they also didn’t like the term, African-American. “We’re American” they shout) to rise to bishop status in the Episcopal Church in the US. Read More
There are enough politically incorrect attitudes in “The Explorer’s Club” to offend anyone who isn’t a member of a good old boys WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) group.
So just remember if seeing the show, now playing at Citadel Theatre, that it is a farce about the kind of men’s club (right, no females allowed) that would have felt comfortable during Queen Victoria’s reign.
This club’s focus is not wealth or lordship. It is for adventurers and scientists who seek glory with trophy killings, experiments and “discovery” of cultures to be exploited that have not yet been revealed in their part of the world.
Catherine Holly (Grayson Heyl) is declared insane for recounting details related to the horrific death of her cousin Sebastian Venable while the two vacationed in a Latin-American beach resort.
It all happened, “Suddenly Last Summer” and no one, especially her aunt, Mrs. Violet Venable (Mary K. Nigohosian), Sebastian’s mother, wants to believe it.
The aging socialite, Mrs. Venable, invites Dr. Cukrowicz a/k/a Dr. Sugar (Wardell Julius Clark) to interview the suspected mad woman to assess whether or not she is a candidate for a lobotomy. The operation would erase the abhorrent memory and preserve the reputation of the beloved Sebastian.
Though the action takes place in a misty New Orleans garden, this is essentially a drawing room drama that plays out much like a whodunit with Dr. Sugar slowly extracting the details that reveal the shocking truth.
Skillfully written by Tennessee Williams and directed by Jason Gerace, the 90 minute production moves along swiftly in the capable hands of this Raven Theatre ensemble.
The play employs themes of mental illness and includes the prototypical characters of the delusional matriarch and the sensitive, often confused ingénue familiar to such other Williams works as “Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie.”
This is simply a good solid play well performed.
Full of Southern charm, I suggest you invite a friend to go with you, then afterwards head over to Big Jones in Andersonville, Jimmy’s Pizza Café (at Lincoln & Foster), or Luella’s Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square for fresh beignets and coffee to complete the New Orleans experience.
DETAILS: “Suddenly Last Summer” is at the Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville), Chicago, through June 17, 2018. For tickets and more information call (773) 338-2177 or visit Raven Theatre.
“Prometheus Bound” at CityLit is a world premiere translation by Nicholas Rudall of the classic (which may or may not have been) written by Greek playwright Aeschylus. Rudall is Professor Emeritus of Classics at the University of Chicago.
This was originally conceived as the first play in a trilogy. However, the other two are lost to history.
The title character, Prometheus (Mark Pracht), a god, is being punished by Zeus, for giving humanity the knowledge of fire and other “arts.” His punishment is being bound and pinned to a rock is for eternity in one of the far corners of the Earth.
Prometheus is visited periodically by a number of other gods who come to either further his torment or offer solace.
BTW, don’t be fooled by spurious or expensive ticket offers. Best is to buy through Broadway In Chicago or at the box office.
Now, the exhibit
Hamilton: The Exhibition, will premiere in Chicago in November, 2018 before traveling to other cities, according to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the musical, “Hamilton” and Producer Jeffrey Seller.
Housed in an all-weather, football field sized structure, the exhibition is slated to open Nov. 17 on Chicago’s Northerly Island.
Presented with Imagine Exhibitions, Inc which operates traveling museum exhibits, Hamilton: The Exhibition is being put together by Hamilton set designer David Korins, Miranda, Yale University Professor Joanne Freeman, Hamilton Director Thomas Kail and Seller with additional historical advice from Annette Gordon-Reed.
Miranda explains some of the thinking behind the exhibition. “Hamilton” is a musical. It’s as much of Alexander Hamilton’s life as we could wrestle into two and a half hours of musical theater, and it’s been incredible and surreal to see the renewed interest this has sparked in Alexander Hamilton’s life and times,” he said.
Miranda added, “I’m so thrilled with the work David Korins has done alongside eminent historians Joanne Freeman and Annette Gordon-Reed, who are experts in this arena. With this exhibition, they’re creating an immersive companion piece for Hamilton” and a deep dive into the details and experiences of Hamilton’s story.”
Miranda will narrate the audio tour as the exhibition moves visitors into the life and times of Alexander Hamilton and illustrates the creation of the United States of America and the American Revolution.
Visitors will find the tales told with in-depth scenography, lighting, sound, multimedia and music as they experience Hamilton’s journey from St. Croix to his famed demise in a duel in Weehawken, N J. They will also learn of how what Hamilton did still impacts our lives.
“I hope to use this exhibition to answer some questions that the musical doesn’t address, like ‘What did Alexander actually do when he was a trader in St. Croix “ What did Hamilton’s Manhattan look like? How did we win the battle of Yorktown?” said Seller.
“ In an environment that is visually stunning, aurally thrilling and ingeniously educational, we aim to give visitors yet another unique portal through the life of Alexander Hamilton into the American founding,” he said.
Tickets to HAMILTON: THE EXHIBITION will be on sale at a later date, to be announced.
For more information and to sign up to be the first to receive news and ticket sales alerts, please visit hamiltonexhibition.com
Refresh your memory. How rock ‘n roll was changed by the guy with the big glasses from Lubbock, Texas is worth the trip back in time when taken there by the American Blues Theater’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.”
“Buddy” tells the tale of singer/songwriter Buddy Holly and the Crickets through an all too brief career ended by tragedy. Yet, some 50 years later, his music continues to be played and loved by a whole new generation.
Classic songs include: “That’ll be the Day,” “Maybe Baby,” “Peggy Sue,” “It’s so Easy to Fall in Love,” “The Big Bopper’s,” “Chantilly Lace,” “Ritchie Valens,” “La Bamba,” plus many more.
When performing the biography of a legend, how successful the show is depends on who plays the star. In this case, Zachary Stevenson who performed in Paramount’s “Million Dollar Quartet,” is spectacular.
Not only does he physically resemble Holly, but he exudes Holly’s dynamic energy and has all his dance moves down pat, such as hopping on one foot as he plays the guitar. Stevenson’s portrayal of Holly is a joy to watch.
But credit must be given to the entire ensemble whose amazing performances, both vocally and with a range of instruments, are stellar.
Piano, violins, bass, electric guitar and drums glide in and out throughout the show. Although they don’t appear until late in the second act, Cisco Lopez as Ritchie Valens and Vasily Denis as Big Bopper are outstanding.
“Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” an American Blues Theater revival is written by Alan Janes and directed with precision by Lili-Anne Brown. Musical direction is by ensemble member Michael Mahler and costume design is by Samantha C. Jones who must have a ball putting these 1950’s costumes together.
The first act is filled with lots of upbeat Holly music as his career ascends. But it’s a hard act to follow since the audience knows what’s going to happen
However, instead of ending on a downer the show explodes with more of Holly’s music as an enduring testament to his legacy. The audience never wanted it to end.
Prepare yourself for one fabulous night of theater!
DETAILS: The Buddy Holly Story is an American Blues Theater production at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, through May 26, 2018. For tickets and other information call (773) 327-5252 or visit American Blues Theater.
Ah, the “Scottish play,” in all its gory allegorical ambition, madness and magic, closes the 2017-18 Chicago Shakespeare’s season.
Adapted and directed by Aaron Posner and Teller, who did Chicago Shakes’ “Tempest” production, their “Macbeth” proves a worthy vehicle for ghostly special effects and a bit of audience participation.
Maybe engaging the audience as the drunken porter (Matthew Floyd Miller) does immediately after the blood splotched Macbeth and Lady Macbeth appear following the murder of Duncan (Christopher Donahue), offers welcome comic relief. This is the first time I have heard audiences laugh and converse with the Porter during “Macbeth.”
But then the play descends into the darkness of never-ending death as Ian Merrill Peakes as Macbeth finds that one murder has to lead to another and Chaon Cross as Lady Macbeth realizes their murderous ambition ends in madness. Cross’ sleeping-walking “Out damn spot” scene declares her formidable talent.
Every once in a while, someone remarkable touches our lives for a short time-and changes everything.
Such is the heartwarming theme of ‘Once,’ the Tony Award-winning musical now playing at Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Helmed by artistic director Jim Corti and musical director Tom Vendafreddo, it’s the musical’s first Chicago-area regional staging.
In case you haven’t heard the buzz, ‘Once’ is a story about a couple of Irish musicians in modern-day Dublin who meet and fall in love as they write songs together.
It started out as a low-budget indie movie in 2007 and its signature song, “Falling Slowly,” won an Oscar for Best Original Song the following year. The film was directed by John Carney; the music and lyrics were written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova who also played the lead roles.
‘Once’ saw second life as a Broadway musical based on the book by playwright Enda Walsh. In 2012, it took home eight Tony Awards including Best Musical.
But back to Paramount. As the story goes, the encounter between the two leads is so fleeting, only a week, that we never learn their names. Tiffany Topol plays Girl and Barry DeBois plays Guy. Both actors have ‘Once’ national touring credits in real life.
In the Paramount production, Girl and Guy are accompanied, quite literally, by a cast of congenial music-makers who double as the orchestra. They’re a fun bunch to watch, even though the lyrics sounded muddled half the time.
Topal and DeBois duet well with adequate chemistry, but she stands out better on her own. She’s an enchanting vocalist and charmingly funny without seeming to try.
Other noteworthy players include Alex E. Hardaway, a stuffy bank manager with performance dreams of his own. It’s written as a humdrum role with a solo, “Abandoned in Bandon,” that Hardaway executes as a champion. And Jon Patrick Penick shows great comedic chops as rough-and-tumble music shop owner Billy.
The starlet of the show is red-headed lassie, 6-year-old Everleigh Murphy as Girl’s daughter Ivonka.
Not only is she adorable, but she’s a fine Irish step-dancer and violinist as well. Her talent runs in the family. Cousin Madeleine played the same role on Broadway.
Also, just as on Broadway and in the national tour, the stage is designed as an operational pub. The audience is invited to step up and purchase beverages pre-show and at intermission. With a few props and a little imagination, the stage is segmented for additional scenes. Scenic designer is Jeffrey D. Kmiec.
DETAILS: “Once” is at Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, through June 3. For tickets and other information, call (630) 896-6666 or visit Paramount.
Experiencing ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera at the Lyric, is akin to attending a high-powered rock concert.
Amps are set on high much of the time so audiences really do need to already know the lyrics. The high intensity stage lighting designed by Lee Curran echoes those of Super Bowl half times.
The main tenors, Jesus Christ (Heath Saunders) and Judas Iscariot (Ryan Shaw) mix singing with high-pitched, grating screams, and they, plus Pontius Pilate (Michael Cunio who is also a tenor) play their guitars on stage. In addition, the singers use mikes. Indeed, the mike handling is often a part of the choreography.
In other words, the Lyric production would gladden the hearts of today’s Millennial Generation.