The Writers Theatre production of ‘Parade, a powerful, Tony Award-winning musical about the wrongful conviction and death of a Jewish factory manager, is so well acted and sung that many audience members seemed to have bought the false witnesses’ stories.
They must have believed the manager was guilty because there were gasps from the show’s opening night audience when in the second act the stories turned out to be no more than lies coached by a prosecutor with an eye on the governorship.
The story is a true tale of how Leo Frank, a Brooklyn Jew, is deliberately convicted and killed for the rape and death of a young Atlanta, GA factory girl in 1913.
Although married to a lass Georgia born and bred, Frank was a Yankee and a Jew. He appeared cold and unfriendly and didn’t appreciate his wife in the beginning.
There is nothing ragged about this Griffin Theatre version of Tony Award-winning ‘RAGTIME.’
Re-imagined by Director Scott Weinstein, the 1996 musical with book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, has new orchestrations by Matt Deitchman and is perfectly scaled to the intimate Den Theatre stage.
A tight ensemble follows the adventures of three groups of individuals from various cultural and socio-economic strata at the turn of the 20th century by using the new music of the era – Ragtime. It has become the soundtrack of the age.
The new sound’s syncopation punctuates the changing rhythms of the increasingly fast-paced times that introduced industrialization along with such social challenges that defined pre-WWI America as European immigration, urban racial integration, unionization and women’s independence.
Taken from E.L. Doctorow’s novel, the musical throws together African American domestic worker Sarah (Katherine Thomas), her baby and the baby’s piano playing daddy, “Coalhouse Walker Jr. (Denzel Tsopnang), into the household of an upper middle class, white suburban (New Rochelle) family
“Father” (Scott Allen Luke) is a fireworks manufacturer and part-time world explorer who leaves his wife to manage the business. In the process she finds opportunities to explore her own independence.
This brings “Mother” (Laura McLain) into contact with “Teteh,” a recent Jewish immigrant (enthusiastically played by Jason Richards), and his pre-teen daughter (Autumn Hilava) who recently arrived in New York seeking the American dream.
“Little Boy” (Ben Miller) opens the play by introducing the characters to the title tune “Ragtime.” “The Little Boy” weaves among the characters throughout the rest of the production and is on some level the thread that pulls them together and toward one another.
The “Family” household additionally includes “Grandfather” (Larry Baldacci who also appears as industrialist J.P. Morgan). He just wants some quiet.
Then there is “Mother’s Younger Brother” (Matt Edmonds). He finds meaning in his life by embracing the plight of the underclass “Negroes” and mistreated workers.
There are appearances by historical notables Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington, Henry Ford, Emma Goldman and “Specialty Entertainer/Celebrity” Evelyn Nesbit (Caitlain Collins), who provides periodic comic relief. Their vignettes supply political and social context of the time that drives the action.
Every character has a musical opportunity to shine resulting in a production with many glittering gems that come together like a charm bracelet; each with an individual tale commemorating a specific experience but in the end working together to tell the story of one grand shared adventure.
The entire cast is comprised of excellent singers. Laura McClain gave us everything she had in “Back to Before.” Katherine Thomas was a joy every moment she sang including “Your Daddy’s Son” and the show stopper duet “Wheels of Dream” with Denzel Tsopnang.
Pianists Jermaine Hill and Ellen Morris with Clarinet Dan Hickey perform in costume onstage providing outstanding accompaniments in a production where the music virtually never ends.
Details RAGTIME is at the Den Theatre at 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, now through July 16, 2017. For tickets and other information visit Griffin Theatre or call (866) 811-4111.
Lincoln Hall, Metro, Park West, Schubas, Subterranean and The Vic are some of the 16 venues hosting the Lollapalooza Aftershows. Show tickets go on sale June 2, 2017 at 10 a.m. CT.
Here is the Aftershow list of entertainers and venues. For more information visit Lollaaftershows.
Aug. 1 – Jon Bellion with MAX and Anthony Pavel are at Metro.
Aug. 2 – Suicideboy$ are at Bottom Lounge, Kaytranada with Kweku Collins and Lou Phelps are at Concord, the Drums with Stef Chura are at Empty Bottle, the Temples with Declan McKenna are at Lincoln Hall, Spoon with CRX is at Metro, Liam Gallagher with Blossoms is at Park West, Hippo Campus with Remo Drive is at Reggies, Mondo Cozmo with Billy Raffoul is at Schubas, Atlas Genius with Stanaj is at Subterranean and Foster the People with Home are at The Vic.
Aug. 3 – Pretty Reckless with Slothtrust appears at Bottom Lounge, Little Dragon with Xavier Omar is at Concord, Pup with Deeper is at Empty Bottle, Phantogram with Flint Eastwood comes to House of Blues, Crystal Castles with Pham is at Lincoln Hall, Jai Wolf with Gryffin appears at Logan Square, Porter Robinson with Intermodal is at Mid, Tegan and Sara with Frenship are at Park West, Cloud Nothings with Oozing Wound are at Reggies, Skott with Flor comes to Schubas, Paper Diamond with Golf Clap at Soundbar, Highly Suspect with the Frights are at Subterranean, Whitney with Kevin Devine is at Thalia Hall and Ryan Adams with the Districts appear at The Vic.
Aug. 4 – Andrew McMahon with Missio at Bottom Lounge, Mac Demarco with Middle Kids at Concord, San Fermin with Ron Gallo at Empty Bottle, Vance Joy with Cobi at House of Blues, Royal Blood with White Reaper at Lincoln Hall, Slushi with Young Bombs at Logan Square, Gramatik with K?D at Mid, Live with the Shelters at Park West, Taylor Bennet at Reggies, Lemon Twigs with Bunny at Schubas, Warpaint at Subterranean, Sylvan Esso with Flock of Dimes at Thalia Hall, Banks with the Japanese House at Vic.
Aug. 5 – Mura Masa with Saint JHN is at Bottom Lounge, G-Jones with EPROM is at Chop Shop, Zane Lowe Presents Towkio plus Amine plus Jidenna spear at Concord, Alvvays is at Empty Bottle, Milky Chance with Arizona comes to the House of Blues, Car Seat Headrest with Gold Connection appear at Lincoln Hall, NGHTMRE with Moksi is at Logan Square, Alison Wonderland with Ephwurd is at Mid, Grouplove with 888 is at Park West, 6lack with Michael Christmas is at Reggies, Barns Courtney with Luke Henry is at Schubas, Joyryde is at Soundbar, Moose Blood with Vant is at Subterranean, Kaleo with Colony House is at Thalia Hall and the Shins with Mt. Joy appear at The Vic.
Aug. 6: – Zeds Dead with Wax Motif is at Concord, the Head and the Heart with the Walters are at Metro, Borgore with Dirty Audio is at Mid and Slander is at Soundbar.
Theater-goers lucky enough to have seen Mark St. Germain’s ‘Freud’s Last Session’ at Mercury Theater when Mike Nussbaum took on the role of Freud (as of June 3, 2012) will have an idea of how Albert Einstein is portrayed in the world premiere of ‘Relativity’ at Northlight Theatre.
Once again, Nussbaum, now 93, is brilliant and St. Germain’s intelligent writing presents interesting insights into a world-renown, intellectual figure.
The story line revolves around a daughter born to him in 1902 by first wife Mileva Marić before the two were married. The world knew about his two sons born later, but not about daughter Lieserl until correspondence came to light in 1987.
What was known then was that Lieserl had contracted scarlet fever but no mention was made later about her. Although conceived in Switzerland where her parents were at the Zurich Polytechnic, Lieserl wasn’t brought back there to by her mother following the birth and Marić’s convalescence with her parents in Serbia.
St. Germain builds his new play on the premise that Lieserl survives.
Einstein is working at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study where his cantankerous housekeeper/secretary Helen Dukas, delightfully played by Chicago theater veteran Ann Whitney, protects him from interruptions by curiosity seekers and reporters.
Dukas successfully stops Margaret Harding, well depicted by Katherine Keberlein. The forty-something Harding who says she is a reporter from a Jewish publication finally waylays Einstein outside. Noting that it is cold he asks her in.
What follows are personal questions because Harding says her article will be different.
Using known quotes by Einstein, St. Germain has him field and rebuff Harding’s piercing questions about family, personal relations and views on mankind with statements about the importance of solving the mysteries of the universe.
Similar to ‘Freud’s Last Session’ where two protagonists, Freud and allegorist C. S. Lewis, argue their points of view, ‘Relativity’s arguments, though more personal, are between Harding and the originator of the famous E=MC2 formula. Theories, including those in quantum physics are mentioned, but Harding’s arguments keep returning to the definition of a “great” person.
Directed by BJ Jones, the play is a fascinating, fictionalized, 80-minute look at Albert Einstein.
Details: Relativitiy’ is at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, through June 18, 2017. For tickets and other information call (847) 673-6300 and visit Northlight.
With so many reality, edgy plays pricking the conscience of today’s highly news-aware theater-goers, an old-fashioned, enchanting boy-girl attraction can become a refreshing change.
Luckily, Marriott Lead Artistic director Aaron Thielen recognized the need by bringing composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick’s and writer Joe Masteroff’s delightful 1963 musical, ‘She Loves Me,’ to this Lincolnshire theatre.
The plot: two people fall in love with each other through letters and later find out that their correspondents are people they know and don’t think they like.
That story line has been too good not to repeat in different forms over the years. Think “The Shop Around the Corner,” “In the Good Old Summertime” and more recently, “You’ve Got Mail.” Read More
If you paint over a color you lived with for years would you be able to forget the original, familiar shade? What about your identity? If you identify your name with your family, could you comfortably give it up and adopt a different name and identity?
In ‘Objects in the Mirror’ now at Goodman Theatre, Shedrick Kennedy Yarkpai, a young man who escaped to Australia from war-torn Liberia with his uncle John Workolo’s family, had to leave his mother, Luopu Workolo, and adopt his dead cousin Zaza’s name so that his uncle could use his name for another family member who also needed papers.
The name change haunts Shedrick throughout the play.
The wonderfully lyrical songs and the delightfully fun numbers in Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s ‘My Fair Lady’ plus the gorgeous voice of Lisa O’Hare as Eliza Doolittle and Anthony Powell’s costumes are reasons enough to see the Lyric’s show.
Bryce Pinkham who played Monty Navarro on Broadway in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,” was a treat to hear as he sang “On the Street Where You Live” as Freddy Eynsford Hill. So was the ensemble, many of whom either hailed from the Lyric Opera Chorus or past Lyric operas.
Powell’s period costumes made exceptional fashion statements that defined the characters.
The voices, music, lyrics and the story based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” make up for some of the production’s deficiencies.
Richard E. Grant as Henry Higgins appears unaccountably childish, particularly when he waves his arms about in his mother’s home and when back at his office.
In addition, the acts don’t flow well. There is a what-are-we-supposed–to-do-now moment when Eliza visits her father after she has become a lady, and the excellent dancers in Alfred Doolittle’s drunken pre-marriage morning scene move in a way more appropriate for a Parisian Apache street then one in London.
Set Designer Tim Hatley’s Ascot scene, shown first in silhouette, perfectly emulated the stiff, no emotion can be shown, restraint expected of the British upper class and O’Hare was grandly shocking in her close encounter with the race and Mrs. Higgins friends.
However, that same stiffness seemed to pervade the production except for Hill’s song and when Eliza encounters him outside Henry Higgens home.
The music, conducted by Broadway veteran David Chase, reminded audiences why “My Fair Lady” continues to be a draw more than 60 years after it debuted.
Directed by Olivier Fredj, the Lyric’s show is the Robert Carsen production for Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet starring a new cast.
Details: ‘My Fair Lady’ is at the Lyric’s Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago, April 28 through May 21, 2017. For tickets and other information call (312) 827-5600 or visit My Fair Lady.
It was a very appreciative audience, some dressed as flappers, who packed the house opening night of “Chicago” at Drury Lane Oak Brook.
The Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb script with music by John Kander is iconic due in no small part to its signature song “All that Jazz.”
This new production is fresh and energetic with a set worthy of a full-fledged Broadway production. The costumes (or lack thereof) were tastefully sensuous with no hint of vulgarity. Every performance was spot on and the choreography of Jane Lanier was an entertaining mix of classic Fosse with a hint of Busby Berkeley.
It’s hard to explain how a story line that follows the escapades of a number of imprisoned female murderers plotting their strategies to elude prosecution can be so amusing. However this dark subject matter manages to find humor in the abject cynicism of the characters and the media’s interest in salacious subject matter.
The two co-equal leading ladies Alena Watters (as Velma Kelly) and Kelly Fethous (as Roxie Hart) are smitten with the idea of parlaying their infamy as murderesses into bankable fame on the vaudeville stage upon their seemingly inevitable acquittals.
Velma and Roxie’s certainty of release is based on the flawless record of their attorney one Billy Flynn skillfully played by Guy Lockhard.
These three characters drive the story aided by Matron Mama Morton (E. Faye Butler) and Roxie’s pathetic husband Amos Hart (Justin Brill) who interject a good deal of humor, notably Amos’ song “Mr. Cellophane” and a charming duet, “Class” by Velma and Mama Morton.
The character of Mary Sunshine (J. London) is also delightful as is her solo “A Little Bit of Good” dynamically sung in an operatic style.
The action takes place in the 1920’s, so suitably, the play’s style harkens back to productions from that era.
It is more of a musical revue based around a loose storyline, rather than a more traditional play that utilizes songs to further the plot – – which is the formula of modern American Musicals of the post WWII era
In this way the production is closer in style to George Cohan than Rodgers and Hammerstein while the overall mood is reminiscent of ‘ Cabaret’ and ‘A Three Penny Opera.’
‘Chicago’ is a fun evening, suggested as appropriate for children 13 and older.
Details: ‘Chicago’ is at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL now through June 18, 2017. For tickets and other information call (630) 530-0111 and visit Drury Lane.
By Reno Lovison
(Guest reviewer Reno Lovison produces business videos. His interest in theater began very young. He studied with the Jack & Jill Players Children Theater and earned his Equity Card appearing in several professional Chicago productions at the Goodman Theatre, Mill Run, Melody Top and Ivanhoe. Reno does content writing, blogging and business articles and has authored two non-fiction books. See business video at Renoweb.)
Imagine children named for popular characters who then take on some of those people’s characteristics in situations similar to their namesake’s and you get some idea of what to expect in ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha And Spike.’
Written by satirist and witty playwright Christopher Durang, and directed by Mark E. Lococo, Loyola University Director of Theatre, the play is currently bringing chuckles to the Citadel stage in Lake Forest.
When Vanya’s adopted sister, Sonia, says she had a bad dream – “I’m 52 and not married,” he answers, “You are 52 and not married.” He asks her if her dream was a documentary.
Seriously funny, the play is, in a sense, a tribute to Anton Chekhov’s understanding of sibling relationships, middle-aged angst and boredom.
A mash-up of Chekhov’s characters in ‘The Seagull,’ ‘Uncle Vanya’ and ‘The Three Sisters,’ the action plays out in a Bucks County, PA farmhouse in an increasingly attractive region outside of Philadelphia. Kudos to Scenic Designer Michael Lewis for creating a terrific setting on Citadel’s intimate stage.
Vanya and Sonia, named by their late parents who were professors, still live in the house where they grew up but it is owned by their sister Masha, a successful actress who pays the bills instead of an aging, male relative. Of course the land includes somewhat of a cherry orchard.
The play’s title, alone, clues audiences in to Durang’s play as a Chekhovian takeoff. Instead of an aging professor bringing his young, beautiful wife home, Masha shows off her young lover, Spike who likes to undress to show off his bod.
Add to the mix, Cassandra, a colorful psychic cleaning lady, blends Greek tragedy with Haitian voodoo for some delicious, almost Carol Burnett-style comedy.
It all works because of perfect, inspired casting.
Billy Minshall, Father Mark in Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding is the ideal, philosophical, gay Vanya. He is writing a play seen through the eyes of a molecule that is left when the earth destructs. His rage at Spike’s representing current cultural and societal change, is worth the price of admission.
Multi-talented actress/director Ellen Phelps wears the life-has-passed-me-by Sonia role so well she might have just stepped out of Chekhov’s world. But unlike a Chekhov play, she goes to a costume party, her first outing in years, and dresses as Maggie Smith going to an Oscar ceremony. Afterwards, Phelps does an amazing phone piece as a woman who doesn’t know how to respond when a man she met at the party calls for a dinner date.
Susie Steinmeyer, outstanding in Citadel’s ‘Lend Me A Tenor’ and ‘Jake’s Women,’ projects just the right amount of celebrity aura and angst as an actress who doesn’t want to admit shes aging.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater regular Colin Morgan is superb as the witless boy-toy Spike. Lizzie Schwarzrock is delightful as ingénue Nina, a next door neighbor who admires Masha and wants to be an actress.
Judy Lea Steele, a veteran of Chicago theater, brings the house down when she crazily warns of various misfortunes as Cassandra.
North Shore theater goers are lucky to have the production so close but it is worth a trip north for Chicagoans.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha And Spike’ is at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Rd. lake forest, now thru May 28, 2017. For tickets and other information call (847) 735-8554 or visit Citadel.
Joy, passion, happiness, pessimism, satire and angst, the various moods of brilliant composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim are all represented in ‘Marry Me A Little’ at Porchlight Music Theatre.
Magnificently performed with an amazingly broad vocal range by Bethany Thomas and artfully sung and played on the piano by multi-talented Austin Cook, the Porchlight production is a special treat for Sondheim fans.
The 21 pieces that make up the show include rarely heard songs.