‘Magic Penthouse’ a Date Night Fantasy

Magic Penthouse as a date night experience. (Photo by Reno Lovison)
Magic Penthouse as a date night experience. (Photo by Reno Lovison)

For those of you interested in surveys and statistics three out of the five top traveler-ranked places of interest in Chicago are magic shows.

By the way, the blockbuster theater experience, “Hamilton,” is ranked number two with “Jazz Showcase” and “Lyric Opera” at six and seven respectively followed by Chicago Symphony and The Shakespeare Theater.

So based on travellers willing to take the time to leave a review and rank their performance experiences at Trip Advisor, “Magic Penthouse” falls in as number five in the top ten.

If you are a fan of prestidigitation, magic impresario and Munich native, Sin Ordu and his troupe of tricksters and spellbinders will keep you thoroughly engaged and entertained for roughly two and a half hours.

This is a unique total post-dinner evening package that includes entertainment, ample adult beverages, and a smattering of appetizers for one fixe prix.

Doors open at 8 p.m.  The festivities begin with a mix and mingle cocktail reception featuring an open bar and plenty of sparkling wine pre-poured and ready to go.

The atmosphere was upbeat with an air of eager anticipation from the guests.  Interestingly, there was plenty of interaction between guests as we managed to enjoy short conversations with three or four other couples including the very tall and mysterious “Mr. Johnson,” also a pleasant conversation with one Stetson-hat/ostrich-leather-boot adorned “dude” from the Northshore named Nick.

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‘Anastasia’

 

 Lila Coogan (Anya), Stephen Brower (Dmitry) (Photo courtesy of Broadway In chicago)
Lila Coogan (Anya), Stephen Brower (Dmitry) (Photo courtesy of Broadway In chicago)

3 stars

There is plenty to like about this Broadway in Chicago theatrical extravaganza. It is loosely based on the true story of a woman who claimed to be the surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia and whose family was assassinated along with him by the Bolsheviks following the Communist uprising in July 1917.

But don’t worry this version of “Anastasia” has little to do with reality. Inspired by the Twentieth Century Fox animated film (later acquired by Disney Corporation), it refers to the tragedy but is scrubbed clean of most of the ugly parts, leaving behind the tale of a young, beautiful and strong heroine striving to find her true identity while struggling to come to terms with her inner princess.

It was an enthusiastic and appreciative, mostly female audience that packed Chicago’s Nederlander Theater opening night. The book by Terrence McNally is expertly crafted to suit its intended audience of preadolescent girls who themselves are likely exploring their own future and place in the world.Read More

‘A Bronx Tale’ offers lessons of fear and love

 

Touring company of 'A Bronx Tale' (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)
Touring company of ‘A Bronx Tale’ (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)

4 stars

This version of the coming of age story “A Bronx Tale” is based on an off-Broadway, one-man play by Chazz Palmintiri later turned into the 1993 Robert De Niro movie of the same name.

Adding music by Alan Menken and Lyrics by Glenn Slater this is a very successful adaptation appearing in Chicago on tour.

Narrated by Calogero (Joey Barreiro), he tells of growing up in an Italian/American section of the New York borough of The Bronx during the tumultuous and racially charged era of The Sixties. And that he is mentored by a local mobster, Sonny (Joe Barbara), and is hanging out with “the wrong crowd.”Read More

‘Choir of Men’ pub crawl serves up 90 minutes of pop

Choir of Man at Broadway In Chicago Playhouse. (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)
Choir of Man at Broadway In Chicago Playhouse. (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)

3 Stars

In spite of the venue “The Choir of Man” is more boy band concert than Broadway musical. It features nine very energetic, vocally talented, male singers who purport to be “regulars” at a traditional Irish Pub named “The Jungle,” that serves up pop.

This musical extravaganza is loosely narrated by Denis Grindel who introduces his mate. He provides a bit of backstory about each of their characters as a way of establishing the iconic stereotypes we have all encountered in every tavern and public house the world round.

Grindel’s introductions explain that this is one of those places where we go to be who we are and where people accept us for who we are — good, bad and ugly. Though in this case the boys are not too “bad” and nary a one, would be accused of being ugly.

This being the case, “The Choir of Man” is a perfect fantasy for those looking for a bit of testosterone flavored eye-candy, perhaps a “girls night out,” that’s not too naughty.

I could not help thinking that after taking little sister to the American Girl store, a few steps away, Mom could take bigger sister here for her share of fun.

Yes, there is plenty of beer flowing but I do not think there is anything said or done that an average thirteen year-old has not seen or heard on prime-time TV. And in fact, there were a number of youngsters on hand opening night.

Sadly, the program does not include a list of songs so I suspect they change it up as they get a sense of what’s working. It is basically about 15 or so cover tunes by Adele, Queen, Paul Simon, Katy Perry, Red Hot Chili Peppers and others that everyone will find enjoyable and most will find familiar.

The harmonies are awesome with onstage guitar accompaniment by Peter Lawrence, occasional piano by Connor Going and random percussion including a foot stomping tap dance by Matt Cox.

This is good clean well-intentioned, high caliber, fun. Perfect, if you happen to be in town for a visit or just looking for something to do before or after a nice dinner near Michigan Avenue or Rush Street.

“The Choir of Man” is at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, through March 17, 2019 (before continuing their US tour). For more information, visit BroadwayInChicago.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

‘Ariodante:’ love and lust, deception and trust

 

'Ariodante'in a shadow-box type set woks well at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Photo by Cory Weaver)
‘Ariodante’ in a shadow-box type set woks well at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Photo by Cory Weaver)

4 Stars

The Lyric Opera’s “Ariodante” by George Frideric Handel (of “Messiah” fame) satisfies the sensibilities of a modern audience.

The storyline of this eighteenth century Baroque opera has elements familiar to a twenty-first century TV audience including love, sex, drugs, infidelity, deception and a missing person. Oh! and puppets.

The plot-line would benefit from a chart. But essentially, Ginevra and Ariodante are in love and soon to be married, however, the villainous Polinesso is also in love with Ginevra who incidentally, can’t stand the sight of him.

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‘The Realistic Joneses’ rings true

From left, Joseph Wiens, Cortney McKenna, H.B. Ward and Linda Reiter in Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater Wit's "The Realistic Joneses." (Evan Hanover photo)
From left, Joseph Wiens, Cortney McKenna, H.B. Ward and Linda Reiter in Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater Wit’s “The Realistic Joneses.” (Evan Hanover photo)

3.5 Stars

Bob (H.B. Ward) and Jennifer (Linda Reiter) Jones are surprised to meet their new neighbors who also share the same last name.

The second Jones couple, Pony (Cortney McKenna), and John (Joseph Wiens) are a quirky duo. Pony is a bit scatter brained, maybe even clueless while John is prone to outlandish non-sequiturs and pseudo philosophical profundities.

We learn that Bob, who prefers to communicate in one word sentences, is suffering from a mortal neurological illness that he is dealing with by trying to ignore it and which is causing Jennifer and him a good deal of stress.Read More

‘An Artist and The Ember’ has a warm glow

Maddie Sachs and Zach Tabor in ‘An Artist and the Ember’ (Photos by Nick Murhling)
Maddie Sachs and Zach Tabor in ‘An Artist and the Ember’ (Photos by Nick Murhling)

In “An Artist and The Ember,” long suffering musical composer Eve (Maddie Sachs) struggles to create songs and a libretto for a musical she is writing based on a premise provided by her collaborators Sam (Taylor Snooks ) and Daniel (Quinn Rattan).

At the same time, she is constantly tormented and cajoled by her alter ego and fiery inner passion personified in the character, Ember (Zach Tabor).

The device of the character, Ember, is the genius of this play. Who among us has not been (at least from time-to-time) bedeviled by our inner voice? Ember has a Faustian quality though he makes no promises. It is a more cerebral or modern psychological spin on an old theme.

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‘Brooke Astor’s Last Affair’ is Fair

 

Underscore Theatre Ensemble, Brook Astor's Last Affair. (Photos by Jesus Ricca)
Underscore Theatre Ensemble, Brook Astor’s Last Affair. (Photos by Jesus Ricca)

2.5 Stars

The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival produced by Underscore Theatre through Feb. 24, 2019 is a great opportunity to experience new work from emerging composers, lyricists, and playwrights of this classically American performance genre.

My first festival experience this weekend was “Brooke Astor’s Last Affair” based on the life of New York socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor.

The format is flashback fantasy in which Brooke is forced to review some life choices including the relationship between her and her son (from a previous marriage), Tony Marshall.

I very much wanted to love this show and it has a number of interesting moments but overall it was a miss.

The book and lyrics by Rachael Migler are the heart of the production and get the job done in terms of telling the story but the music by composer Nick Thornton is generally underwhelming with the exception of “Marry for Money” and the very cute “Dachshunds and Men.”Read More

‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’ finds the right tone

Cyndey Moody and Mike Newquist in Deadman's Cell Phone at Greenhouse theater. (Photo by Paul Goyette
Cyndey Moody and Mike Newquist in Deadman’s Cell Phone at Greenhouse theater. (Photo by Paul Goyette

 

3 stars

Our cell phones have truly become extensions of ourselves, storing bits of personal and secret data with the potential to live-on sharing and connecting pieces of our lives even after we are gone.

In “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” presented by “The Comrades,” Wilmette playwright Sarah Ruhl explores what might happen when a stranger interacts with a deceased man’s cell phone she retrieves in a diner.

This is an absurd tongue-in-cheek noir-style, dark comedic drama directed by Arianna Soloway. It features the winsome, inquisitive and inventive  Cydney Moody as “plain Jane” Jean who is perhaps being a bit voyeuristic  but also just wants to make people feel better. In the process, she finds herself more involved than she probably expected.

Valeria Rosero and Cyndney Moody in Dead Man's Cell Phone
Valeria Rosero and Cyndney Moody in Dead Man’s Cell Phone

Performed by an expert ensemble that includes Bryan Breau as the dead man Gordon, Caroline Dodge Latta as his at times overbearing but loving mother Mrs. Gottleib, Lynnette Li as his somewhat reluctant widow Hermia, Mike Newquist as his neglected brother Dwight and Valeria Rosero as the secretive “Other Woman.”

The stunning simple set design by Sydney Achler is a series of monochromatic paint-splattered trapezoids whose hectic colorization and odd angles contribute visually to the unbalanced surrealistic quality of the story.

There are a few bothersome inconsistencies in the story but they are easily overcome by the outstanding performances of the ensemble and the thought provoking subject matter.

This is a weird ride that makes you want to see what’s around the next turn.

“Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” The Comrades production at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, goes through March 10, 2019. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.For tickets and other information call (773) 404-7336 or visit Greenhouse Theater.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

‘Photograph 51’ is a portrait of life

 

Chaon Cross Rosalind Franklin) in Court Theatre's Photograph 51 (Michael Brosilow photo)
Chaon Cross Rosalind Franklin) in Court Theatre’s Photograph 51 (Michael Brosilow photo)

3.5 Stars

“Photograph 51” written by Anna Ziegler and Directed by Vanessa Stalling at the Court Theatre is a snapshot of the life of British chemist Rosalind Franklin (Chaon Cross).

Until recently she had gone virtually un-credited for her contribution to the discovery that revealed the structure of DNA to be a double helix. But the discovery earned her research colleague Maurice Wilkins (Nathan Hosner) and two rival collaborators James Watson (Alex Goodrich) and Francis Crick (Nicholas Harazin) the Nobel Prize.

Franklin was hired by King’s College London for her cutting edge expertise in the field of X-ray crystallography and assured that she would be in charge of her own research. Instead, she was assigned to Wilkins’ DNA project thus leaving her status of independence unresolved at best. Read More