‘Tootsie’ is ready for Broadway

Santino Fontana in 'Tootsie' at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. (Julieta Cervantes photo)
Santino Fontana in ‘Tootsie’ at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. (Julieta Cervantes photo)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

When “Tootsie,” a Columbia Motion Pictures film  based on a book by Don McGuire and Larry Gelbart, came out in 1982, it received 10 Academy Award nominations. Adapted by Gelbart with uncredited assistance from Elaine May, Barry Levinson and Murray Schisgal, its cast had Dustin Hoffman starring and included, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr and Bill Murray.

Tthe movie, a tale of how an actor who has trouble finding a job adopts a female persona in order to land a role, presents a myriad of riotous scenarios.

Although really funny, the telling point of the film was that the Library of Congress decided to preserve it in the National Film Registry in 1998 because it was culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Given the current culturally and historically significant climate of women’s issues, “Tootsie” as a musical comedy with a clever book by Robert Horn (“13”) and witty and insightful score by Tony winner David Yazbek (“The Band’s Visit), promises to be a Tony winner when it goes to Broadway Spring of 2019.

Nods to the “Me Too” and other concerns are scattered throughout the musical from a show director guiding a female cast member off stage while saying “I’m not touching you” to a character noting that female actors are paid less than the males.

Instead of following the film and having the lead don female garb to tryout and land a soap opera role, the musical has Michael Dorsey snagging the role of Dorothy Michaels, Juliet’s nurse, in a crazy adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet.”  In cahoots with Juliet, he takes over the show to make a feminist statement and promote the character of Dorothy.

It is hard to picture the role played any better than it is currently handled by Tony Award nominee Santino Fontana (“Cinderella”) who nails the character’s angst and Dorothy’s feminine side while holding onto his own masculinity, his natural attraction to Juliet (Julie Nichols) plus his feelings for his girlfriend, Sandy Lester (Sarah Stiles).

Lilli Cooper is well cast as Julie, innocent of her attraction to Dorsey as Dorothy. Stiles is amazing as Sandy who sings a rapid-fire accounting of all her problems in a style reminiscent of Gilbert and Sullivan.

The rest of the cast is also sterling with Broadway actors John Behlmann playing Max Van Horn, Andy Groteluesche as Jeff Slater, Julie Halston as Rita Marshall and Michael McGrath as Stan Fields and theater, film and TV actor as Ron Carlisle.

Superb choreography by Denis Jones, gorgeous costumes by William Ivey Long and spot-on set design by David Rockwell are all worthy of Broadway nominations.

Just as important, under the fine direction of Scott Elis the show moves at an energetic pace that enhance comedic and startling moments.

Lucky for Chicago audiences it is following in the steps of such other Broadway hits as “Kinky Boots,” previewing in our city before heading to New York. It is currently showing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

DETAILS: “Tootsie” is at the Cadilac Palace theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago, through Oct. 14, 2018. Running time: 2 hrs, 20 min. with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (800) 775-2000 and visit Broadway In Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

‘White Rabbit Red Rabbit’ is a Fuzzy Tale

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

A different performer takes on White Rabbit Red Rabbit at each Interrobang production.
A different performer takes on White Rabbit Red Rabbit at each Interrobang production.

It can be said that any piece of literature is a conversation with the author across time and space but Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour takes this to a new level.

For those interested in a nontraditional performance experience, “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” presented by Interrobang Theatre Project is an enjoyable, thought provoking, perhaps at times, philosophical, leap into experimental theater.

A different actor every night is presented with a few props and a sealed script which is opened on stage. At this point the actor follows the instructions and performs accordingly. Performers: Stephanie Shum (September 24) JD Caudill (October 1), Echaka Agba (October 8), Michael Turrentine (October 15), Joe Lino (October 22), David Cerda (October 29), Shawna Franks (November 5) and Owais Ahmed (November 12).

For some this may be a trip down a proverbial rabbit hole but others like “Alice” may encounter a splendid adventure.

Part of the intrigue is that no one (including me) is permitted to talk about the details of the play because no one sees exactly the same show twice.

Approximately one hour long, it is a kind of improvisational comedic/dramatic,social experiment.

If you are expecting a traditional night at the theater this may not be your thing but if you are looking for a refreshing break from the ordinary then hop over to see “White Rabbit Red Rabbit.”

DETAILS: “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” is at The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, through Nov. 12, 2018. For tickets and other information call (312) 219-4140 and visit Interrobangtheatre.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Powerful solo show commands Goodman stage

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

David Cale in his show at Goodman Theatre. (Photo by Liz Loren)
David Cale in his show at Goodman Theatre. (Photo by Liz Loren)

We’re told not to give away plot points  of “We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time,” British born, American actor, singer, composer David Cale’s musical memoir now in its world premiere at Goodman Theatre.

So suffice it to say Cale takes audiences from his unusual growing up years through how an early tragedy impacted him and his family to his leaving England for a new life in the United States where he blossoms as an adult and loves being alive.

OK, that’s an oversimplification.

“We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time” is a commanding performance that combines acting and singing.

Cale adopts the mantle of each of his characters. His change of voice, movements, prose and lyrical poetry set to music, pull audiences into how he thinks family members and he viewed life and each other.

The changes are complemented by a superb six-piece orchestra on stage directed by co-composer/arranger pianist Matthew Dean Marsh. They are adroitly lit in parts and whole by Jennifer Tipton. Kevin Depinet’s creative set design enhances the verbal pictures painted by Cale.

No matter what else the show is and does for audiences, it is his tribute to his mother. If viewers look at the playbill cover they will see a woman pictured on his shirt. It is no accident that her picture is placed over his heart.

What is hard to believe is that he tells his story in 90 minutes, a short amount of time given that it has enough plot points to fill a two hour play or three-hour opera.

But Cale who has written one-person shows before, likely understands that brief exposure makes powerful statements.

Directed with great insight and empathy by Robert Falls, “We’re Only alive for A Short Amount of Time” is definitely powerful.

DETAILS: “We’re Only Alive for A Short Amount of Time” is at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago through Oct. 21, 2018. Running time: 90 min. no intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3800 and visit Goodmantheatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

 

Lookingglass does ‘Frankenstein’ and the story behind it

 

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Cordelia Dewdney at Lookingglass. (Photo by Sean Williams)
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Cordelia Dewdney at Lookingglass. (Photo by Sean Williams)

In January, 1818 British author Mary Shelley first published “Frankenstein (subtitle The Modern Prometheus).” This season, Court (Manual Cinema), Lifeline, Lookingglass and Remy Bumppo Theatre Companies are recognizing the 200th anniversary by each doing their version of “Frankenstein.”

Anyone interested in the similarities and differences that the four excellent Chicago companies will emphasize in their productions should try to snag a ticket to “Frankenstein: Unearthed,” Sept. 30, 2018, a 1 p.m. program at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave. in the Chicago Water Tower Water Works. For tickets and information visit Lookingglass Theatre.

Moderated by Chicago Tribune  Critic Chris Jones, the event features a panel of Manuel Cinema’s Drew Dir, Lifeline’s Robert Kauzlaric and Ann Sonneville, Lookingglass’ David Catlin and Cordelia Dewdney and Remy Bumppo’s Ian Frank and Eliza Stoughton.

Among the issues examined will be “How is this story told?” To answer that from the Lookingglass perspective, Chicago Theater and Arts talked with ensemble member and the production’s writer/director, David Catlin, about the route traveled to write the script, what his research uncovered and what audiences can expect when the show premieres in 2019.

Lookingglass Theatre writer/director David Caitlin. (Lookingglass photo)
Lookingglass Theatre writer/director David Catlin. (Lookingglass photo)

“Heidi (Stillman, ensemble member and artistic director) had an existing script. I looked at it and read it but it was not grabbing me as I thought it should. So she said we’ll commission you to do an adaptation.

“I’m sure the points were present in the script but they not stick out so I went back to the book. I had missed reading it in high school and didn’t get it in college,” said Catlin.

He did more than read the book. Catlin also researched its author.

“I was amazed this could get out of an 18 year-old and a woman in that time period when women were not encouraged. It was a powerful piece.”Read More

Dance and music, art and spoken expression fill Millennium Park

 

Little Kids Rock Band will perform at YAS Fest
Little Kids Rock Band will perform at YAS Fest

An unusual free festival marks the end of summer in and around Millennium Park Sept. 22, 2018. It’s the YAS Fest, an all-day music, dance, art and theater event that showcases the arts talents of Chicago’s young people in the final weeks of “The Year of Creative Youth.”

“The Year of Creative Youth provides an incredible opportunity to support the creativity and growth of artistic children across Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This festival is our city’s largest showcase of youth artists, featuring the creative works of hundreds of young people from arts organizations in neighborhoods across the city. We celebrate their talents and the mentors who inspire them.”

YAS Fest has several performances and participatory events taking place from 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. with some events extending to 7 p.m., held throughout the  Millennium Park area from the Pritzker Pavilion, Chase Promenades and Cloud Gate Plaza to the Chicago Cultural Center across Michigan Avenue and the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing across from the park at Monroe and Michigan.

There are even kinetic sculptures a block west of Michigan Avenue on Wabash between Washington and Randolph Streets.

“When young people believe in themselves and are encouraged to bring their ideas forward, we know they’ll create the kind of society that uplifts us all,” said Vicky Dinges, Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility at Allstate.

Ensemble Espanol performs at YAS Fest in Millennium Park September 22 (Photos from City of Chicago)
Ensemble Espanol performs at YAS Fest in Millennium Park September 22 (Photos from City of Chicago)

“That’s why Allstate is focused on empowering our next generation of leaders by investing in programs like the arts that help young people build critical social and emotional skills. We care about the future of Chicago and our youth and are proud to recognize them as problem solvers, change agents and artists,” said Dinges whose company is a prime sponsor of the festival.

For a complete list of performances, workshops and programs and where and when they happen visit City of Chicago Festival Info.

Jodie Jacobs

 

‘Radio Golf’ is a Hole-in-One

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

From left: Allen Gilmore, James T Alfred and James Vincent Meredith. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
From left: Allen Gilmore, James T Alfred and James Vincent Meredith. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

A Pittsburgh real estate developer with aspirations of becoming mayor finds himself at odds with his wife and his business partner after encountering a couple of guys from his old neighborhood who bring him closer to his own history and the roots of his community.

This is a story about the quest for success, what is legal, what is fair and ultimately, what is right and what is wrong.

These concepts are not just black and white. They are usually very muddy and predicated on each individual’s point-of-view. On some level this story tries to indicate that there is a clear distinction.

Read More

Good song and dance numbers sweeten Marriott’s ‘Charity’

The cast of 'Sweet Charity' goes into the 'Big Spender' song and dance number. (Photo by Justin Barbin)
The cast of ‘Sweet Charity’ goes into the ‘Big Spender’ song and dance number. (Photo by Justin Barbin)

RECOMMENDED

When Charity Hope Valentine is asked why she believes in love, she replies, “You have to have some religion.”  In “Sweet Charity,” a show replete with good lines, after all Neil Simon wrote the musical’s book, this expression lies at the heart of the story.

However, audiences who have seen the 1969 movie and are seeing the show now at Marriott Theatre, will also catch that the theme that frames the show is Charity’s middle name, Hope.

No matter how often she is disappointed, Charity, a dance-hall hostess, rebounds. Instead of following the typical “and they lived happily ever after,” in “Sweet Charity” she moves forward, “hopefully.”

Read More

New entertainment venue to open downtown Chicago

 

Aerial artists Duo Rose (Photo by John Cornicello)
Aerial artists Duo Rose
(Photo by John Cornicello)

Imagine walking into the Camabria Hotel next to the Oriental Theatre on Randolph, being transported up to the 14th floor, stepping out into a dark, cavernous space not knowing what to expect. And then, offered buffet breakfast tidbits by The Goddess and Grocer and treated to an incredible acrobatic act.

That was what several folks in the entertainment business experienced Sept. 12, 2018. The event introduced the opening of Teatro ZinZanni, a combination cabaret, cirque, dining theater founded by Norman Langill in Seattle in 1998.

Gazing around what looks like a huge, maybe more than four-story high and equally wide, unfinished, abandoned building shell, it’s hard to imagine this space will be magically transformed by April 2019 when Teatro ZinZanni expects to premiere “Love, Chaos & Dinner.”

The key, Langill explained during Wednesday’s announcement, is the Spiegeltent, a large, wood and canvas traveling structure that looks like the tent it is on the outside but will look like a marvelous brick, wood, mirrored and stained glass entertainment venue inside.

Just as fascinating is how its thousands of pieces will get into the space.  Because some are too large to fit in a freight elevator or through a window, some pieces will be dropped by helicopter through a hole in the roof.

So, Chicagoans can expect to see some fascinating maneuvers outside in the theater district before the venue opens inside.

And given that Teatro ZinZanni has a reputation for showcasing excellent aerial trapeze artists such as Duo Rose who performed Wednesday, along with known comedians, singers and magicians, “Love, Chaos & Dinner” will likely add fascinating entertainment inside.

“It the nightclub of your dreams,” said Langill.

DETAILS: “Love, Chaos & Dinner” opens in the Spiegeltent ZaZou in the Cambria Hotel, 32 W. Randolph St., April 5, 2019. For Broadway In Chicago Subscription and Groups Sales  tickets (includes 4-course meal), call (312) 977 -1710 and visit Broadway In Chicago.  For individual tickets visit ZinZanni.com/Chicago. Presale tickets beginNov. 26, 2018 and general tickets start Dec. 7, 2018.

Jodie Jacobs

‘A Shayna Maidel’ packs powerful punch for Holocaust Remembrance

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Lusia (Emily Berman) left, and Rose (Bri Sudia) are two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the Holocaust. (Photo by Lara Goetsch)
Lusia (Emily Berman) left, and Rose (Bri Sudia) are two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the Holocaust. (Photo by Lara Goetsch)

 

What is family? Can it be created or reborn? “A Shayna Maidel” answers these  thoughtful questions in a most profound way. Written in 1984 by Barbara Lebow and now performed as a revival by TimeLine Theatre, the play confronts the horrors and aftermath of the Holocaust.

Two sisters and their father, reunited after years of separation, are now forced to examine their roles, responsibilities and guilt.

Daughter Rose and father Mordechai Weiss were fortunate to escape from Poland before the war. Not so lucky were daughter Lusia, who had scarlet fever and their mother who were left behind. Read More

‘Vietgone’ translates love and war into a romcom

Matthew C. Yee and Aurora Adachi-Winter are the leads in 'Vietgone' at Writers Theatre, Glencoe. (Michael Brosilow Photo)
Matthew C. Yee and Aurora Adachi-Winter are the leads in ‘Vietgone’ at Writers Theatre, Glencoe. (Michael Brosilow Photo)

RECOMMENDED

Qui Nguyen’s “Vietgone” at Writers Theatre offers a fascinating  perspective on immigration that shatters stereotypes while basically telling a love and adventure story that is funny (think rom-com).

It also is a musical but instead of sentimental arias as in “Madam Butterfly” or ballads as in “South Pacific” you have the leads Quang (Matthew C. Yee) and Tong (Aurora Adachi-Winter) rap and sing to Gabriel Ruiz’s music. Read More