‘Something in the Game’ wins big on Northwestern stage

Highly Recommended

 

Knute and Fighting Irish in Something in the Game
Knute and Fighting Irish in Something in the Game (Photos by Justin Barbin)

Get ready to cheer! Based on the life of legendary Notre Dame football coach, Knute Rockne, “Something in the Game – An All-American Musical” kicks off with all the excitement of a season opener.

Featuring a cast of 23 professional and student actors, this dynamic musical enthralls the audience with an inspiring story, high-energy dancing and memorable music.

On the football field, Knute Rockne is regarded as one of the greatest football coaches of all time winning more than 100 games, three national championships and five undefeated seasons. But at what cost?

As he chased fame and glory for his Fighting Irish as well as his own personal success, he left his family on the sidelines. Using football as a metaphor for the “game of life,” the musical traces one man’s journey to discover what’s really important before it’s too late.

Stef Tovar as Knute recreates his 2008 role from the production of the show at Theater at the Center. He does an excellent job as an ambitious man looking to capture the American Dream. Adrian Aguilar as George Gipp, the promising young star who lets his demons destroy him, is captivating.

Jimmy the Goat, Thelma and ensemble in Something in the Game
(James Earl Jone II (Jimmy the Goat), Rashada Dawan (Thelma) and ensemble in Something in the Game

But it’s the women who command the stage. Dara Cameron as wife, Bonnie, is a standout with a voice so strong and pure, it practically melts your heart.  Rashada Dawan belts it out as Thelma, hostess of Jimmy the Goat’s place, with non-stop energy.

The production, put on by the American Music Theatre Project and Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, is presented by special arrangement with Coaches, LLC, John Girardi and Greg Schaffert.

With book by Buddy Farmer, music by Michael Mahler and lyrics by David H. Bell and Michael Mahler, the show is expertly directed and choreographed by Jefferson Award-winner Bell.

Mention must be made of the outstanding choreography that simply takes your breath away. It is fast-paced, innovative and imaginative. Coupled with the gorgeous costumes by Robert S. Kuhn, the entire production creates an unforgettable visual feast!

For those who’ve heard the battle cry, “Win one for the Gipper,” you’ll come away with a new understanding of where this came from.

“Something in the Game: An All-American Musical” is at the Josephine Louis Theatre, 29 Arts Circle Drive, on the Northwestern University Evanston campus through Aug. 5, 2018. Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. For tickets and other information, call( 847) 491-7282 and visit Wirtz Center.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Madcap ‘Murder for Two’ fits summer breezes

Jason Grimm, l, and Noel Carey in Murder for Two at Marriott Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)
Jason Grimm, l, and Noel Carey in Murder for Two at Marriott Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)

RECOMMENDED

“Murder for Two,” creatively staged and directed by Scott Weinstein at Marriott Theatre, will delight audiences seeking light, hilarious comedy. A fast-paced musical with book and lyrics by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, the show revolves around which guest at a surprise birthday party shot the guest of honor, a successful novelist.

The kicker is that it is a two-actor show where one person plays the suspects and the other is a policeman who wants to nail the perpetrator so he can be promoted to detective status.

As to motivation, it turns out that most of the suspects used the same psychiatrist and he fed the novelist with patients’ secrets for each of best sellers.

What makes this show fun is the breathless pace of Jason Grimm as he transforms himself into female and male suspects while alternatively playing the piano with Noel Carey, the investigating cop, Marcus Moscowicz. Then there is Scott Davis’ item-jammed, rotating stage which is almost a character in itself.

The first hour is a laugh-a-minute hoot, let the puns and rhymes fall where they may. By the last 15 minutes of this 90-minute farce, audiences may be excused if they don’t care who shot the novelist. Probably it doesn’t matter anyway because this isn’t “Murder She Wrote.” It’s a hilarious theatrical bit that is perfect for summer and that shows off the amazing talents of Carey and Grimm.

“Murder for Two,” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, through Aug. 26, 2018. Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Popular ‘Haymarket’ extends run and moves to new venue

Haymarket at the Den moves to theater Wit. (Michael Brosilow photo)
Haymarket at the Den moves to theater Wit. (Michael Brosilow photo)

Underscore Theatre Company in association with Theater Wit is moving “Haymarket” from the Den Theatre to Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont Ave, Chicago to extend the run from Aug. 3 to Sept. 2, 2018.

Performances of the show which tells the story of the infamous Haymarket riot will continue at
The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago through July 22. For tickets and more information and tickets call (773) 975-8150 and visit Underscoretheatre.

Related:  Blue collar history and bluegrass music.

Hemingway takes over Goodman stage via Stacy Keach

Stacy Keach is Ernest Hemingway in the world premiere of Pamplona at Goodman Theatre. (Liz Lauren Photo)
Stacy Keach is Ernest Hemingway in the world premiere of Pamplona at Goodman Theatre. (Liz Lauren Photo)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Stacy Keach is the consummate actor who totally wraps himself within the character he portrays so that audiences forget who the actor is and just see the character.Yes, actors are supposed to do that but so often when an actor portrays a celebrity you see an actor portraying a celebrity. In Pamplona at the Goodman Theatre you don’t see Keach, you see Ernest Hemingway.

The author is struggling with the words he wants to use to convey the feelings of the matador he is writing about for a Life Magazine article. But while trying to find  the right phrase, he relives moments in his life.

Projections of the “running of the bulls and the Paris of Gertrude Stein and Scott Fitzgerald flash across the walls of his hotel in Pamplona, Spain. You meet his first love, his wives, his parents through snapshots of people who influenced him and moved in and out of his life.

You learn a bit about what led to “The Sun Also Rises,” The Old Man and the Sea,” Farewell to Arms”, how he hated his mother and his regrets over how he treated his wives and his father.

Certainly, it is difficult to portray the life of “Papa” Hemingway in 90 minutes but by the time Stacy Keach takes his bow you feel you and this author from Oak Park, IL have become better acquainted.

There is a PS to this production. It was on the Goodman schedule more than a year ago and had an excellent preview. But during the official opening night, it became obvious to those of us in the audience that Keach was ill. Director Robert Falls stopped the performance. It turned out that Keach was suffering a minor heart attack. Following bypass surgery and a recovery period, Keach returned to his TV work and has now returned to continue Pamplona. Hemingway would have understood that kind of determination.

DETAILS: “Pamplona” by Jim McGrath and directed by Robert Falls is in Goodman Theatre’s Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago,  through Aug. 19, 2018. Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Elvis is back

Heartbreak Hotel playing now at Broadway PLayhouse at Water Tower Place (Photos by Brett Beiner)
Heartbreak Hotel playing now at Broadway PLayhouse at Water Tower Place (Photos by Brett Beiner)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Chicago audiences may remember how in “Million Dollar Quartet,” a musical about an historic moment in recording history, Elvis Presley was unhappy with his agent and RCA Victor. He wanted to be back in the understanding arms of Sun Records’ Sam Phillips.

We don’t see everything that led up to that notable time, an unexpected jam session of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins in December 1956, but we do learn about some of the problems he faced in “Heartbreak Hotel,” the prequel to that million dollar jukebox musical.

No question it’s hard to recapture the magic of seeing amazingly talented pianists play Jerry Lee and wonderful vocalists echo “I Walk the Line,” ”Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

But written and directed by Floyd Mutrux who co-wrote “Million Dollar Quartet” with Colin Escott and had co-directed the show in Chicago with Eric Schaeffer, his “Heartbreak Hotel” has enough talent on stage and background videos as scenery to keep audiences enthralled.Read More

Massive Leonard Bernstein ‘Mass’ comes to Ravinia

Ravinia Festival (Jodie Jacobs photo)
Ravinia Festival (Jodie Jacobs photo)

Several orchestral works by Leonard Bernstein, the composer popularly known in musical theater circles for “West Side Story” can be heard at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park as part of a world-wide celebration of the 100 birthday of this musical genius (Aug. 25-1918-Oct. 14, 1990).

On the Ravinia schedule is “Mass,”commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy for the 1971 opening of the Kennedy Center. The work will now be making its CSO and Ravinia debut with a star-studded cast, July 28, 2018.

When the Lyric Opera of Chicago celebrated Bernstein’s birthday with his one-act opera, “Trouble in Tahiti” plus other vocal works, March 10 this year, Lyric Dramaturg Roger Pines said during a phone interview, “I think it will be revelatory.”

The same will undoubtedly be true of “Mass.”

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‘Waitress’ makes a tasty Chicago pie

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L to R, Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the national tour of Waitress The Musical now at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago (Photos by Joan Marcus)
L to R, Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the national tour of Waitress The Musical now at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago (Photos by Joan Marcus).

It would have been a terrific add-on when “Waitress” opened at the Cadillac Palace Theatre July 3 to have had some of Jenna’s recipes along with the pocket pies now traditionally sold during the shows national tour.

Because when waitress/cum/pie expert Jennna  (Desi Oakly) encounters an obstacle or interesting situation she tailors a pie to match with ingredients ranging from luscious dark chocolate and exotic spices to strange vegetables and items likely not found in a grocery store.

At small-town Joe’s Diner where she bakes and waits tables, there are plenty of pie-inspiring people and situations from what to enter in a pie contest and what to make for her ob-gyn appointments with Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkhart) to what will de-stress her when dealing with her abusive husband Earl (Nick Bailey).

The Diner’s trio of waitresses, Jenna, gospel-singer-style Becky (Charity Angél Dawson) and shy, nervous Dawn (Lenne Klingaman)  carry the show with their personalities, the unexpected ways they each tie up with a lover and the songs and ways they support each other. Read More

“Support Group For Men” makes a good onetime sitcom

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A yoga style exercise helps the guys in Support Group For Men at Goodman Theatre. )Photo by Liz Lauren)
A yoga style exercise helps the guys in Support Group For Men at Goodman Theatre. )Photo by Liz Lauren)

Whether you like “Support Group for Men,” a new play by Ellen Fairey, author of the highly successful “Graceland” and “Girl 20,”may depend on how you feel about comical TV sitcoms that are funny because they reveal underlying insecurities. No stranger to television, Fairey was a writer/producer on “Nurse Jackie and is executive co-producer of “The Sinner.”

Fairey’s play artificially brings together four ethnically and culturally diverse guys who encourage each other to reveal their problems and thoughts during their weekly Thursday night get together. Some of them are finding it hard to keep up with or adjust to all the changing movements and attitudes.

The facilitators are a fraternity-like ritual with supposedly American Indian tribal overtones and a bat they call a stick covered with supposedly native-American decorations.

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Taking on a roommate can be life changing

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Sandra Marquez (Sharon) l, and Ora Jones (Robyn) in The Roommate st Steppenwolf (Photos by Michael Brosilow)
Sandra Marquez (Sharon) l, and Ora Jones (Robyn) in The Roommate st Steppenwolf (Photos by Michael Brosilow)

What can happen when a lonely, middle-aged woman takes in a roommate for companionship and to share expenses?

In playwright Jen Silverman’s “The Roommate,” now at Steppenwolf Theatre, the answers are surprising and problematic.

Adeptly directed by Phylicia Rashad to achieve the highest impact possible during the 90 minute show, “The Roommate” transforms Sharon, an uptight, judgmental, highly moral, 50-something, empty-nester into an amoral woman willing to try anything.

The setting, perfectly depicted by scenic designer John Lacovelli, is Sharon’s kitchen in her large, old Iowa City home.

The catalyst for change is Robyn, another 50-something empty-nester from the Bronx, who, in photography terms, turns out to be the negative of Sharon.

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Delightful Cher musical almost ready for Broadway

 

RECOMMENDED

Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. block and Micaela Diamond in The Cher Show at Broadway inCchicago's Oriental theatre. (Photo by Joan Marchus)
Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. block and Micaela Diamond in The Cher Show at Broadway inCchicago’s Oriental theatre. (Photo by Joan Marchus)

Cher, born Cherilyn Sarkisian on May 20, 1946 to Georgia Holt and John Sarkisian, also carries the names La Piere (step dad) Bono (husband) Allman (husband). Theater audiences will understand that those names are important in her life when they see “The Cher Show,” a new musical now at the Oriental Theatre.

Sarkisian left after she was born but his genes gave Cher her distinctive coloring and facial features. Her mom was fair skinned and blond.

Sonny Bono gave Cher stage presence and love when she was a teenager, several of her songs,  son Chaz Bono and pushed her into television. Gregg Allman gave her companionship and unconditional love and son Elijah blue.

However, what audiences learn as “The Cher Show” plays out in its pre-Broadway tryout, is that mom was always there for her, that Bono, while married to Cher, totally took charge of her career, made a lot of money from it and left her with nothing. They also learn that she had a rocky marriage to Allman, a famed singer, song-writer, musician.

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