Around town end of June

A parade of trombones, a tap dance opera and a dog invite that includes you close out June with interesting, fun events.

 

Goodman Theatre os doing a revival of 'The Music Man.' (Goodman Theatre Photo)
Goodman Theatre os doing a revival of ‘The Music Man.’ (Goodman Theatre Photo)

76 Trombones

What: To celebrate the revival of “The Music Man” that starts Saturday in its Albert Theatre, Goodman Theatre will hold a parade of more than 76 Chicago area trombonists and percussionists performing the show’s famed tune.

When: Friday, June 28 beginning at 1 p.m.

Where: The parade tarts at Goodman theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, then continues to Daley Plaza (50 N. Washington St., then returns to Goodman about 1:15 to do an encore .

Who:  The parade is in partnership with Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles that includes LGBTQ members and friends.

 

Chicago Tap Company's new production ends the last weekend of June 2019. (Chicago Tap Company photo)
Chicago Tap Company’s new production ends the last weekend of June 2019. (Chicago Tap Company photo)

“Saving the World”

What:  Chicago Tap Theatre’s opera-style dramatic tale of disasters colored by greed and demagoguery.

When: June 28-30 is the last weekend of this production, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

Where: Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

Who: Chicago Tap Theatre is a non-profit organization of tap dance professionals who put on story-based shows.

 

The Patio at Cafe Brauer is a popular pace for drinks or food with a view. (J Jacobs photo)
The Patio at Cafe Brauer is a popular pace for drinks or food with a view. (J Jacobs photo)

The Dog Days of Summer

What: A dog-friendly brunch where they can play and get treats while their people show down.

Where: The Patio that is the rear end of the historic Brauer building in Lincoln Park Zoo at 2021 N. Stockton Dr.

When: June 30 from 9 to 11 a.m. Reservations needed. Call (312) 507-9053

Who: The Patio at Cafe Brauer at the back of a Prairie School-style landmark is a popular summer cocktail and lunch stop that overlooks the pond at the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo  and its view of the Chicago skyline. Bentley’s Pets will have gift bags for the dogs.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

 

A Touching, Tragic Tale

Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Theo Ubique. (Austin D. Oie Photography)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Theo Ubique. (Austin D. Oie Photography)

 3 1/2 stars

First of all be warned. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch, may not appeal to every taste. Audiences who attend this four-time, 2014 Tony Award-winning musical should be comfortable with in-your-face performances, deafening rock music, blinding concert lighting and 95 minutes of adult humor and a brazenly bold backstory.

The theatergoer who considers Rodgers & Hammerstein or Lerner & Loewe the hallmarks of the American musical probably won’t love a show that’s this garish and loud. However, younger, less conservative audiences, as well as the many devotees of this cult musical, will find everything to love about Theo Ubique’s finale to their first season, now playing in Evanston through July 28.

The show began as a modest little rock musical that told the story of Hedwig Schmidt, a young, queer, glam, rock singer who underwent gender reassignment surgery.

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The hidden agenda of ‘Four Places’

 

Meg Thalken, Bruch Reed and Amy Montgomery in 'Four Places' at The Den Theatre.' (Michael Brosilow photo)
Meg Thalken, Bruch Reed and Amy Montgomery in ‘Four Places’ at The Den Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)

4 stars

Theatergoers who prefer their dramas as real and affecting as everyday life should run to see this extraordinary production, now in its final performances at the Den Theatre.

Joel Drake  Johnson’s 80-minute one-act which plays out in real time, speaks to every member of the audience, but particularly to those between ages 40 and 65.

Smartly and perceptively directed by Lia Mortensen, a fine actor, herself,  she expertly guided a gifted, four member ensemble as they breathe life into their characters and avoid artificial schmaltz.

Eleven years ago Johnson’s heartbreaking, emotionally stunning play premiered at Chicago’s Victory Gardens. This revival production is every bit as poignant and passionate as the original. What makes the play particularly powerful is the intimacy of the Den’s upstairs 2B Studio venue. The actors are never more than a few feet from the audience, allowing this compelling, sometimes caustic, characters to reach into the hearts of its audience.

The story is about a bitter confrontation and intervention between a mother and her two middle-aged children.

Peggy and her widowed daughter, Ellen, have a weekly lunch date at the same local eatery. They’re always seated in Barb’s section, a chatty waitress who has a special, protective fondness for Peggy.

On this particular day, the dynamics change when Peggy’s 40-year-old son, Warren, unexpectedly joins them. From the beginning of the play, something unspoken between the two siblings creates a tension that you can cut with a knife.

As the hour unfolds, the audience gradually discovers the secrets and lies that these family members have kept hidden, and they learn what this mediation is all about.

The four places of the title are the car, the restaurant, the waiting room of the eatery and diner’s restroom, all wonderfully and modestly created by scenic designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec, assisted by Milo Bue.

Melissa Schlesinger’s detailed sound design along with Josh Prisching’s area lighting perfectly help delineate each of the four locales.

The cast is absolutely magnificent. Every actor in this ensemble production belongs to Actor’s Equity. Affiliation in this professional guild often guarantees a stellar production, and this staging is no exception. Each of these  actors has performed at every major Chicago area theatre.

Meg Thalken, the senior member of this brilliant ensemble, is sheer perfection as Peggy. With her upswept hair and her handbag clutched in a death grip, Thalken is completely believable as this complicated, conflicted mother.

At first Peggy seems innocent, although she’s suspicious as to why Warren is suddenly joining Ellen and herself for lunch. It’s a weekday and her son should be in school teaching, but, for some vague reason, Warren has invited himself along.

As information unfolds and emotions peeled away, Peggy remains a sympathetic character, an aging woman fiercely trying to hang on to her dignity and independence.

Amy Montgomery is superb as Ellen. Together with the always masterful Bruch Thomas Reed, as Warren, these two siblings plot, palter, bitterly plead and run the gamut of emotions, from guilt to indignation as they pry information from their mother and attempt to sensitively reveal their plans for her future.

The bumpy road to their hidden agenda digs deeply, exposing buried secrets dealing with aging, disease, alcoholism, pent-up resentments and coping with the inevitable.

Rebekah Ward is both clever and comical as Barb the busybody waitress who’s just a little too familiar with her customers.

One of the highlights of this production is the long car ride during which very little is said, but the faces of these three actors speak volumes.

The Den Theatre’s excellent revival of Joel Drake Johnson’s poignant one-act drama is sometimes searing, often humorous and ultimately heartbreaking.

The show, the Den Theatre’s return to producing its own plays and musicals, is a must-see.

DETAILS: “Four Places” continues through June 30, 2019 at the Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee, Chicago. Running time: 80 minutes. For tickets and other information call (773) 697-3830 or visit The Den theatre.

Colin Douglas

For more shows visit TheaterInChicago.

 

Top leadership at Music Theater Works talk about the company they helmed and their retirement.

 

Past Music theater Works/Light Opera works shows. (Photo courtesy of Music theater Works)
Past Music theater Works/Light Opera Works shows. (Photo courtesy of Music theater Works)

As anyone who attended Music Theater Works’ Frank Loesser’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” recently learned, company co-founder and general manager Bridget McDonough and artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller announced they are making this 39th season their last one at the rudder.

They also introduced producing artistic director designate Kyle Dougan who will step into a new position that combines their two job descriptions so that audiences know Music Theater Works will continue when they step down.

What audiences may not know are the back stories.

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‘Sweet Texas Reckoning’ has racism and homophobia plus a happy ending

 

Sweet Texas Reckoning at The Den. (Photo by Heather Mall)
Sweet Texas Reckoning at The Den. (Photo by Heather Mall)

2 1/2 stars

The word that keeps coming to mind, while watching Traci Godfrey’s story about a family reunion in Texas, is “cliched.” The hour-and-forty-five minutes spent with these four characters offers glimmers of brilliance but ultimately feels like a special Pride Month movie on the Lifetime Channel.

Had this “dramedy” been written by a playwright who could offer some honest, new insights into what makes people tick, especially in small, conservative towns, it would’ve been a far more honest portrayal. There’s a germ of a good idea here. But, in the hands of Horton Foote, Preston Jones or Tennessee Williams, this story wouldn’t be nearly as banal and stereotyped.

Set in the conservative, southeastern town of Sealy, Texas, Godfrey’s play is about a woman who for decades, has been drowning her guilt, bigotry and lies in her secret stash of bourbon.

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Playing It the company way

Ken Singleton (J. Pierrepont Finch) in Music Theater Works’ How to Succeed in Business Without really Trying. (photo by Brett Beiner)
Ken Singleton (J. Pierrepont Finch) in Music Theater Works’ How to Succeed in Business Without really Trying. (photo by Brett Beiner)
4 stars
The bouncy overture winds down, the curtain rises and we find a young man in coveralls descending from above in the Music Theater Work’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
J. Pierrepont Finch, an ambitious young window washer, is discovered reading Shepherd Mead’s tongue-in-cheek instructional book of the same name, while dangling from scaffolding above Madison Avenue.
Narrated for this production by NPR news quiz host, Peter Sagal, the book progresses chapter-by-chapter, charting the recommended course for Ponty’s rise to power in the business world.
Now, bear in mind that this how-to manual, a 1952 best-seller by Shepherd Mead, subtitled “The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune,” was written as a parody of the popular self-help books of that era. Between this book’s unfailing advice and Finch’s pluck and pizzazz, this likable kid is undoubtedly destined to rise to the top…or is he?
It’s hard to believe that this show which set a new standard for musical comedy satire, is almost 60 years old now. The hummable score by Frank Loesser (“Guys & Dolls,” “Most Happy Fellow”) features a libretto by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, adapted from Mead’s humorous book of the same name.
The musical has a field day lampooning the seeming ease with which an entry level employee can rise to the top of the corporate ladder. A film preserving the performances of most of the original cast was released in 1967. This 1962 Pulitzer Prize and eight-time Tony Award winner has been successfully revived twice on Broadway, earning additional Tony Award nominations and wins.
Throughout the play, whenever it seems the darkest, the young, eager beaver aligns with precisely the right people to learn from and suck up to, as well as the easiest loopholes to infiltrate, in order to reach the top. And when all those elements are out of reach, Ponty employs his considerable boyish charm, ultimately helping him to achieve success.

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‘Hadestown’ and ‘Ferryman’ take multiple Tonys but revivals and adaptions also popular

Cast of 'The Ferryman' which won four Tony Awards. (Photo courtesy of The Ferryman Production.
Cast of ‘The Ferryman’ which won four Tony Awards. (Photo courtesy of The Ferryman Production.

 

You might have a favorite TV series and are bemoaning the end of Downton Abbey but the Tony Awards broadcast form Radio City Music Hall, Sunday, reminded folks of what theater is all about. – live dramatic and musical performances.

Host James Corden and the casts of Tony nominated shows put on a lengthy, fun-filled number about performing live. Though he did run up to the cameras saying “Forget what I just said… TV pays us better.”

If you watch the Academy or the Tony Awards on TV you do see the nominees’ reactions to winning and losing. So Corden looked for a few nominees in the audience and asked them to put on their best “loosing” expression.

The fun moment may have helped when the winners were announced because the losers seemed to try to wear their best congratulatory expressions.

Those expressions were particularly in force when Ali Stroker who performed her Ado Annie’s “I Cain’t Say No” song  from her wheelchair, won the Tony for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical  for “Oklahoma” and when 80-something-year-old comedienne, screenwriter, film director, actress Elaine May received the Tony for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play for “The Waverly Gallery. ”

Here is a brief look at who and what took home Tony Awards.  For the complete list please visit TonyAwards/Winners.

Hadestown” (14 nominations) was the big winner with eight awards including Best Musical  and best actor in a featured role in a musical, André De Shields. Written by singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and directed by Rachel Chavkin, the show combines the mythical tales of Orpheus and Eurydice with King Hades and wife Perspehone.

Ferryman” (nine nominations) was the next big winner with four Tonys including Best Play . Written by Jez Butterworth and directed by Sam Mendes it is a thriller that takes place in Northern Ireland in 1981.

“Ink,” “The Cher Show,”  “Oklahoma” and “Tootsie,” each took home two awards.

Ink” (6 nominations), written by James Graham and directed by Rupert Goold, is based on Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of the The Sun newspaper  and his aim to destroy the competition with the help of editor Larry Lamb and a team of reporters. Set in 1969 London, the show brought Bertie Carvel the Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play as Murdoch. Neil Austin received a Tony for Best Lighting Design of a Play.

The Cher Show” (3 nominations)  previewed in Chicago before taking a “made-up show”about the entertainer’s life (so far) to Broadway. No surprise that Cher’s costumer Bob Mackie took the Tony for Best Costume Design. The show also brought Stephanie J. Block the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical.

Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma  (8 nominations)  received Tony Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical (see above) and Best Revival of a Musical.

Tootsie – (11 nomination) won a Tony for Robert Horn for Best Book of a Musical and a Tony for Santino Fontana for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical.

“Choir Boy,” “The Boys in the Band,” “Network,” “Aint Too Proud,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Waverly Gallery” each won one Tony.

Choir Boy,” (4 nominations) Tarell Alvin McCraney’s gender-sensitive show about making it in a choir was directed by Trip Cullman.

The Boys in the Band,” (2 nominations), by Matt Crowley and directed by Joe Mantello about a group of gay men, won Best Featured Actor in a Play  for Robin de Jesus.

Network,” ( 5 nominations) Lee Hall’s adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s Academy Award-winning film about an anchorman who falls apart while live on-screen, won Bryan Cranston Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play as anchorman Howard Beale.

Aint Too Proud” about the life and times of the Temptations, won Best Choreography for Sergio Trujillo.

To Kill a Mockingbird”  (9 nominations), Harper Lee’s famed play, adopted by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Bartlett Sher, brought Celia Keenan-Bolger the Tony for  Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured role in a Play.

The Waverly Gallery ” (1 nomination) by Kenneth Lonergan about a grandson watching his grandmother die from Alzheimer’s disease, brought in a Tony for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play.  (see above)

Check these show’s websites given here for their Broadway schedule.

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

‘Bridges’ and ‘Requiem’ big Jeff Non Equity Award winners

 

Theo Ubique Cabaret theatre" 'Bridges of Madison county' won four Jeff Awards. (pPhoto by . Joe Mazza / Brave Lux)
Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre” ‘Bridges of Madison county’ won four Jeff Awards. (pPhoto by . Joe Mazza / Brave Lux)

The Jeff Awards which have recognized outstanding theatre productions and artists since 1968 announced the 2019 Non-Equity recipients for the 2018-19 season on June 3, 2019. The Equity awards will be announced Oct. 21, 2019. For all nominees, awards and other news visit JeffAwards.

There were 144 Non-Equity productions eligible during the season going from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019, Sixty eight of them were recommended for awards.

This year’s multiple awards by theatre were The Artistic Home – 4, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre – 4, Raven Theater -4, Sideshow Theatre Company – 3, Jackalope Theatre Company -2, Broken Nose Theatre-2 (1 in association with About Face Theatre), Haven Theatre Company – 2 and Kokandy Productions- 2.

Multiple awards by production: The Bridges of Madison County (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre) – 4, Requiem for a Heavyweight (The Artistic Home)  – 4, Grand Hotel (Kokandy Production)  – 3, Tilikum (Sideshow Theatre Company) – 3, Dutch Masters (Jackalope Theatre Company) – 2, Girl in the Red Corner  (Broken Nose Theatre) – 2 and Yen (Raven Theatre)  – 2.

Trap Door Theatre received a Special Award for “opening the door to an evocative and surreal world for 25 years.”

Broken Nose Theatre received the “Ensemble” award for “Plainclothes.”

'Requiem for a Heavyweight' was a big winner in the Non-Equity Jeff Awards. (Photo by .Joe Mazza / Brave Lux)
‘Requiem for a Heavyweight’ was a big winner in the Non-Equity Jeff Awards. (Photo by .Joe Mazza / Brave Lux)

The productions that took the most awards were Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre’s “The Bridges of Madison County” which won best Musical Production, Best Director of a Musical (Fred Anzevino), Best Performer in a Principal Role in a Musical (Kelli Harrington as Fancesca), and Best Musical Direction ( Jeremy Ramey).

The Artistic Home’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight” took Best Production- Play, Best Director-Play (John Mossman), Best Sound Design (Petter Wahback) and Performer in a Principal Role – Play (Mark Pracht as Harlan “Mountain” McCintock. There were two awards in this category. The other went to Patrick Agada (Eric) in Jackalope Theatre Company’s “Dutch Masters.”

To see all the awards and their categories please visit Jeff Awards.

Jodie Jacobs

Let’s live life through music . . .

Cast of Falsettos. (Joan Marcus photo)
Cast of Falsettos. (Joan Marcus photo)

4 stars

In 2017 when “Falsettos” returned to Broadway, it was nominated for five Tony Awards, including the Best Revival of a Musical.  Now two years later, this fabulous musical is in Chicago, directed by playwright James Lapine with music and lyrics by William Finn.

Taking place in New York in the 1970s, we meet a charming, neurotic gay man, Marvin, played by Max Von Essen; along with his 10-year-old son, Jason, played by Thatcher Jacobs.

We also meet psychiatrist, Mendel (Nick Blaemire) and Marvin’s wife Trina (Eden Espinosa)whom he leaves for his lover, Whizzer (Nick Adams).

“Falsettos” second act introduces two lesbian neighbors of Marvin’s, Dr. Charlotte (Bryonha Marie Parham) and Cordelia (Audrey Cardwell).

Performed by phenomenal voices, “Falsettos’ ” wonderful songs tell the story throughout the show.

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‘Next to Normal’ dives into mental illness with clarity

 

From L. Kyrie Courter (Natalie )Keely Vasquez (Diana) David Schlumpf (Dan) and Liam Oh (Gabe). (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
From L. Kyrie Courter (Natalie )Keely Vasquez (Diana) David Schlumpf (Dan) and Liam Oh (Gabe). (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

4 stars

“Next to Normal” brilliantly and unerringly brings to the stage what life is like in a home where a family member is mentally ill.

Penned by Brian Yorkey who also did the lyrics and with music by Tom Kitt, the show took three Tony awards in 2009. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama because even though it has highly expressive musical numbers, it is not a feel-good musical.

“Next to Normal” is a heart-wrenching drama about a husband who keeps trying to help his wife combat what has been diagnosed as bi-polar depression triggered by the death of their young son early in their marriage and about their teenage daughter who no matter how successful she is in school, can’t get the attention she deserves and craves.

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