Zoo animals take over Marriott stage in a musical Madagascar adventure

A zebra, giraffe, hippo and lion escape from a NYC zoo in Madagascar A Musical Adventure at Marriott Theatre. (Photos courtesy of Marriott theatre)
A zebra, giraffe, hippo and lion escape from a NYC zoo in Madagascar A Musical Adventure at Marriott Theatre. (Photos courtesy of Marriott Theatre)

3 stars

if you were an animal in a zoo, what would you would wish for as you blew out candles on your birthday cake?

Marty the zebra, charmingly portrayed by Ron King, wanted to leave New York’s Central Park Zoo to return to the wild. But he wasn’t the only one. A handful of like-minded penguins also pined for their icy climes.

And so, Marty, accompanied by his friends who don’t want him to go alone, Alex the lion, Gloria the hippo and Melman, a hypochondriac  giraffe, head out of Manhattan to find paradise in the  Marriott’ Children’s Theatre production of  “Madagascar – A Musical Adventure.”

Penguins and a lion escape a zoo in Madagascar A Musical Adventure at Marriott Theatre
Penguins and a lion escape a zoo in Madagascar A Musical Adventure at Marriott Theatre

The penguins also seem to end up there.

Based on DreamWorks’ animated film, Marriott’s stage version zips along in an easy-for- youngsters, sit-through hour filled with zany, fantasy fun.

The show’s sub-theme, that friends stick together, is enhanced by George Noriega and Joel Somellian’s score for the stage musical.

Liam Quealy as Alex, king of the zoo, is terrific as he hungers for steak but his roar also comes in handy as he scares away dangerous creatures where they land on Lemur King Julien’s side of Madagascar.

Directed by Johanna McKenzie Miller, the Marriott show features Jesus Perez’ wonderfully creative costumes and Sarah E. Ross’ terrific puppets.

The lemur king and his subjects live in Madagascar.

However, I wish the actors moving the penguins would remember they need to fade more into their puppets instead of the penguins fading into the actors. After all, kids love penguins.

Also, if ordering tickets, try not to sit where I did in the low number area of Section 2 because many of the characters will have their backs to you.

DETAILS: “Madagascar – A Musical Adventure” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, through Dec. 19, 2019. Running time: one hour. For tickets and other information visit Marriott Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

It takes an Ibsen to describe societal ills

 

Greg Matthew Anderson and Cher Álvarez in "A Doll's House" at Writers Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)
Greg Matthew Anderson and Cher Álvarez in “A Doll’s House” at Writers Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)

‘A Doll’s House’

3 stars

Arguably, a play that has been cut down to some of its basic tenets and character features works for some audiences and with some scripts. However, the 95-minute, one-act Sandra Delgado-Michael Halberstam adaption of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House (also called “A Doll House”) now at Writers Theatre, left me yearning for the original, three-act play.

To me, what makes the adaption worth seeing is its superb acting and directing.

The show nicely fits into scenic designer Arnel Sancianco’s charming Victorian parlor in WT’s intimate Gillian Theatre. It brings the action so close to the audience that no characters’ telling facial expressions, nods and shoulder shrugs are missed.

Well helmed by Lavina Jadhwani, the characters’ body language is as important as what they are saying and not saying. Both those points are essential in this version because of the missing character development that is found in Ibsen’s original play.

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A memorable mid-century musicale

Cast of Lerner and Loewe. (Photo by Brett Beiner)
Cast of Lerner and Loewe. (Photo by Brett Beiner)

3 stars

Music Theater Works presents the clever lyrics and memorable mid-century melodies of Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe in “Lerner and Loewe’s Greatest Hits” at Evanston’s Nichols Concert Hall.

Directed by Rudy Hogenmiller with musical director Linda Madonia the show is an enjoyable trip down memory lane. It starts in the Highlands of Scotland, goes over the bumpy trails of the American West then travels through the streets of London, the salons of Paris and ends up in the woods and palaces of historic old England.

This cabaret style performance begins with the ensemble of Samantha Behen, Alicia Berneche, Billy Dawson and Martin L. Woods harmonizing to the theme from the far off sleepy village of “Brigadoon” which rising from the Scottish mist, awakens once every one hundred years.

Songs include “I’ll Go Home with Bonnie Jean” featuring tenor Dawson, “Almost Like Being in Love” and “Heather on the Hill.”

Part one continues before a fifteen minute intermission with selections from the Western themed “Paint Your Wagon” with Woods’ powerful baritone rendition of “They Call the Wind Maria” and an ensemble version of “Wand’rin’ Star.”

The production continues in Part Two with perhaps Lerner and Loewe’s most successful musical, “My Fair Lady,” in which virtually every song was a hit.

The audience enjoyed hearing “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “On the Street Where You Live,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” and the insomniac favorite “I Could Have Danced All Night” belted out by the soprano, Berneche.

The story of  “Gigi” deals with love and romance in a most Parisian way and includes a nod to mature romance in songs like “I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore” and  “I Remember it Well,” charmingly performed by Berneche and Woods.

He opens the final segment with Lancelot’s self-aggrandizing “C’est Moi” from “Camelot” that tells the story of a brief and shining moment from the legendary court of Arthur.

Behan as the ingénue gets a few slightly bawdy moments in “Lusty Month of May” before the emotional “Camelot” Finale Ultimo which I am certain brought the majority of this audience back to memories of a hopeful time in 1960 when the show premiered.

The singers are accompanied by Madonia (piano), Nina Saito (violin), Joseph Krzysiak (bass), and Joey Zymonas (drums).

Music Theater Works will end the 2019 season with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat opening Dec. 21, 2019.”

The company’s Founder/General Manager Bridget McDonough and Artistic Director Hogenmiller are retiring on New Year’s Eve this year. Hogenmiller has personally told me he intends to travel and relax.

Incoming Producing Artistic Director Kyle A. Dougan assumes management of MTW on Jan. 1, 2020 when the new season will include “Mamma Mia!,” “Ragtime” and “Billy Elliot.”

DETAILS: “Lerner and Loewe’s Greatest Hits” is at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, IL through Oct. 13, 2019. Running time: about 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and information call (847) 920-5360 or visit musictheaterworks.

Reno Lovison

Related: Top Leadership at Music Theater Works talk about the company they helmed and their retirement

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An argument for women playing Shakespearean male leads

 

John Tufts (Edmond Rostand) and Terri McMahon (Sarah Bernhardt) in Bernhardt/Hamlet at Goodman theatre. (Liz Loren photo)
John Tufts (Edmond Rostand) and Terri McMahon (Sarah Bernhardt) in Bernhardt/Hamlet at Goodman Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)

3 stars

In “Bernhardt/Hamlet” now playing at Goodman Theatre, prolific playwright, screenwriter and novelist, Theresa Rebeck has pulled back the curtain on a real happening,  populated by real people. She colors it with witty, fictionalized dialogue in the first act.

Rebeck’s heroine, the incomparable French actress, Sarah Bernhardt, born Henriette-Rosine Bernard in 1844, had played Dumas’ “La Dame Aux Camelias,” which is repeatedly mentioned in the play as no longer a suitable role for an aging actress.

And she was in “L’Aiglon,” written by her lover, Edmond Rostand, a main character in “Bernhardt/Hamlet” played by John Tufts.

Just as important, is that Bernhard really did play male parts including Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which she preferred to Ophelia and Gertrude, and she did have to argue about those choices with the critics. But, after all, she was Bernhardt. By the way, her “L’Aiglon” role was as the Duc.

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‘Something Rotten’ turns Shakespeare Bottoms up

 

High-kicking, high-energy cast of Something Rotten at Marriott Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)
High-kicking, high-energy cast of Something Rotten at Marriott Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)

3 stars

It’s silly, It’s clever. It’s creative. It’s laugh-out-loud absurd

It’s “Something Rotten,” the 2015 Tony nominated musical with witty lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick and unusual book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell that is now making its regional debut at Marriott Theatre.

In 1595 England, show manager/ director Nick Bottom and his brother, playwright/poet Nigel, aren’t worried that something is rotten in Denmark. As their acting troupe fails to put on a successful show, they worry about financing, finding an original play idea and their inability to compete with William Shakespeare.

To set the character of the era, the opening number has the Minstrel (Jonathan Butler Duplessis) gloriously sing out, “Welcome to the Renaissance,” joined by a large company of dancers and singers. The era is also well set by Theresa Ham’s costumes

Something Rotten” moves from one fun musical number “God, I Hate Shakespeare” sung by the brothers and their troupe, to another – “Will Power” sung rock-concert style by Shakespeare and his ensemble of fans.Read More

Curtis Bannister wows in ‘The Pajama Game’

 

as Brenda, Elizabeth Telford as Babe, Sierra Schnack as Poopsie and Maggie Malaney as Mae in Pajama Game. (Photo by Brett Beiner)
(left to right) Aalon Smith as Brenda, Elizabeth Telford as Babe, Sierra Schnack as Poopsie and Maggie Malaney as Mae in Pajama Game. (Photo by Brett Beiner)

3 stars

If you don’t go see The Pajama Game at The Theatre at the Center for any other reason, go to hear the booming tenor voice of the hunky lead, Curtis Bannister.

The actor who has appeared on NBC’s Chicago Fire, plays Sid Sorokin, the “Chicago guy” and newly hired superintendent at Sleep Tite, a pajama factory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The factory is a hotbed of union activity and sexual innuendo – both surprising themes for a musical that premiered in the mid-1950s.

The musical started as a 1953 novel, 7 ½ Cents by Richard Bissell based on his experience working in his family pajama factory in Dubuque, Iowa.

Opening to rave reviews on Broadway in 1954 with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and book by George Abbott and Richard Bissell, the Tony Award-winning show inspired the 1957 film starring Doris Day. You’ll recognize songs such as “Steam Heat,” “Hey There (You with the Stars in Your Eyes)” and “Hernando’s Hideaway.”

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Chicago revolution never materializes

 

L-R: Brandon Janssen, Jesus Nunez, Peyton Smith, Danielle Fraser, Loki D. Wolf. (Photo provided by Revolution Chicago)
L-R: Brandon Janssen, Jesus Nunez, Peyton Smith, Danielle Fraser, Loki D. Wolf. (Photo provided by Revolution Chicago)

1 star

The show is poorly conceived and executed.

It purports to tell the story of the rise of “House Music” but does not deliver what it promises.

DETAILS: “Revolution Chicago” is at Stage 773 through Sept. 29, 2019. For information call (773) 327-5252 or visit revolutionchi.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ blends fun and fantasy

 

Cast of Peter and the Starcatcher at Citadel Theatre ( Photo by North Shore Camera Club)
Cast of Peter and the Starcatcher at Citadel Theatre ( Photo by North Shore Camera Club)

2 1/2 stars

It’s a show about finding your way home, no matter how lost you are. Now playing at The Citadel Theatre, “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a fantasy/comedy that one might call a prequel to the beloved story of Peter Pan. It imagines how Peter might have become one of the lost boys of Neverland.

The show, a winner of five Tony Awards, comes from the pen of Rick Elice (“Jersey Boys,” “The Adams Family,” The Cher Show”)

Under the fine direction of Jeremy Aluma, “Peter and the Starcatcher ncludes an ambitious cast of 17, all playing multiple roles. The show is filled with music, dancing and non-stop action plus lots of humor and antics that keep the audience laughing.

Stand outs include the lovely Mariah Copeland as Molly Aster who captures the heart of Peter and Jayson Lee as Boy/Peter who makes the audience see the longing in his innocent soul.

Adrian Danzig is a hoot as pirate Black Stache who becomes Captain Hook in Peter Pan and Rebecca Fletcher is excellent as the nanny to Molly, Mrs. Bumbrake.

Kudos to scenic designer Eric Luchen who has created a fascinating set and to director Aluma who makes great use of the intimate Citadel stage by incorporating the seats and doorways to expand the stage.

The problem with the show is the script which has too much madcap and mayhem going on. It was challenging to follow and some of the English accents were difficult to understand.

DETAILS: “Peter and the Starcatcher” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 Waukegan Rd.,  Lake Forest, through Sept. 29, 2019. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission.  For tickets and other information, visit Citadeltheatre.

Mira Temkin

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A delicate performance with a powerful message

‘The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon’

 

Rebeca Aleman and Ramon Camin in Delicate Tears. (Photo by Stephanie Rodriguez)
Rebeca Aleman and Ramon Camin in Delicate Tears. (Photo by Stephanie Rodriguez)

4 stars

Paulina finds herself barely able to speak after three months in a coma, being cared for by her good friend and co-worker, Rodrigo.

Over time she begins to recover her memory, revealing her former life and the events that have brought her to this point.

She and Rodrigo are journalists in Venezuela where her search for truth and her advocacy for justice have resulted in tragedy and a total upheaval of her life.

The action centers around Paulina’s recuperation but through her recollections we are slowly and systematically exposed to political and social realities that provide a deeper context.

Inspired by true events “The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon” onstage at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theater is written by playwright/actress Rebeca Aleman (Paulina) which partially explains the extremely high caliber of her performance.

She obviously has internalized this material, understands it deeply and brilliantly interprets the character’s physical limitations.

Likewise as the play’s translator Ramon Camin (Rodrigo) provides a sensitive portrayal, no doubt informed by this intimate relationship to the material which is presented by the Water People Theater as part of the 3rd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival.

The play was originally written in Spanish and performed here in English, expertly directed by Iraida Tapias who guided the delicate unraveling of the mystery surrounding Paulina’s condition.

The simple set design by Manuel Jose Diaz effectively incorporates a large window as a projection screen providing flashbacks and access to more intimate musings.

I learned in the post production discussion that the cast  began their rehearsals in their native language in order to establish their emotional connection then switched to English to prepare for the festival performance.

For Spanish speaking theater-goers the stage is equipped with two monitors displaying the translation.

DETAILS: “The Delicate Tears of the Waning Moon”is  at the Steppenwolf 1700 Theater, 1700 N. Halsted St., Chicago, through Oct. 13, 2019. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and information call (312) 335-1650. or visit Steppenwolf/Lookout.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

An unusual motherhood challenge

 

Kate Fry, Grace Smith, Casey Morris in Mother of the Maid at Northlight Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow.)
Kate Fry, Grace Smith, Casey Morris in Mother of the Maid at Northlight Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow.)

‘Mother of the Maid’

2 1/2 stars

The story of Joan of Arc, spelled in her home country of France as Jeanne d’Arc and also called “The Maid of d’Orléans,” has inspired numerous sculptures, musical works, books and films. Among the best plays is George Bernard Shaw’s classic “Saint Joan” which premiered in 1923, three years after the Roman Catholic Church canonized her.

A age 19, she was burned at the stake for heresy stake in 1431 after continuing to claim visions of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (and other saints). Her successes in leading French troops against the English during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War had worried powerful people in the government and church so when captured by a French faction friendly to the English she was put on trial by Pierre Cauchon, a pro-English bishop.

What playwright Jane Anderson has done in “Mother of the Maid,” now playing at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, is zoom in on Joan’s mother, Isabelle Romée. Born in a peasant family of northeastern France, Joan’s name comes from her father, Jacques d’Arc.

The idea of examining how her family reacted to her visions and particularly how her mother worried  and coped with unusual challenges  may arguably form the basis of a fine play.

However, the work on stage at Northlight has contrived dialogue infused with current language trends and moves from one stilted scene to another.

DETAILS: “The Mother of the Maid” is at Northlight Theatre in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, through Oct. 20, 2019. Running time: about 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 676-6300 or visit Northlight.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago