Reagan and Gorbachev meet in a play appropriate for our times


It will likely be hard for audiences of ‘Blind Date,’ now at Goodman Theatre, to not think about how current US President Donald Trump is dealing with Russia.

It is also interesting how the matter of spreading Soviet influence enters the conversation as the protagonists in the play, President Ronald Reagan and his USSR counterpart, Mikhaile Gorbachev who held the title USSR General Secretary of the Communist Party and also Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, meet to discuss nuclear armament colored by Soviet Union attempts to indoctrinate third world countries.

The play, written by Rogelio Martinez, also refers to how a nuclear war could be started by the accidental press of a button. Hmm. Hawaii’s mistake hadn’t even happened when this was written.

Rob Riley (Ronald Reagan) and William Dick (Mikhail Gorbachev) in 'Blind Date' by Rogelio Martinez, directed by Robert Falls at Goodman Theatre
Rob Riley (Ronald Reagan) and William Dick (Mikhail Gorbachev) in ‘Blind Date’ by Rogelio Martinez, directed by Robert Falls at Goodman Theatre. Liz Loren photo

Martinez also stuck a few lines in for Gorbachev to comment on democracy, voting and the concept that voters are often less than intelligent.

The “date” in the title refers to the summit in Geneva when the two world leaders first met face to face. However, the audience doesn’t see Reagan and Gorbachev or their wives until the last moment of Act I.

The first act is all about Secretary of State  George Shultz (Jim Ortlieb) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Shevardnadze (Steve Pickering) paving the way for the monumental get together. Their acting and portrayals are suburb.

Their discussions are as much a “dance” as what Reagan and Gorbachev will do later on. The planners have to set parameters and learn to trust each other.

Then there is Act II in which audiences see Rob Riley as President Ronald Reagan and William Dick as Mikhail Gorbachev. The two leaders present their views on nuclear weapons and defense but those summit discussions are colored by Reagan’s view of the world expressed through quotes from films he loved, acted in or characters he admired.

Audiences also meet their wives. Deanna Dunagan is outstanding as Nancy Reagan as is Mary Beth Fisher as Raisa Gorbachev.

Mary Beth Fisher (Raisa Gorbachev) and Deanna Dunagan (Nancy Reagan). Coodman Theatre
Mary Beth Fisher (Raisa Gorbachev) and Deanna Dunagan (Nancy Reagan). Liz Loren photo

The fun part is the sparing between the world leaders and also between the wives in their determination not to be one upped.

It’s also interesting and fun to watch Michael Milligan as Press Secretary Larry Speaks. Reagan warns that Speaks, a native Mississippian, can be as dangerous and wily as a catfish. The media, presented as similar to the current Washington press corps, emphasize Martinez’s observations on several levels that little has changed.

Gorbachev poo poos the idea of a free press explaining that with one paper, the public knows that what it prints are lies. “The people aren’t stupid,” he says.

The Russian leader goes on to say that with many more newspapers, the public wouldn’t know who to believe and what are lies.

Because this summit is supposed to be about nuclear capability, the other two characters are Torrey Hanson as Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger and his counterpart, Gregory Linington as Vyacheslav Zaitsev.

The person arguably on stage the most when Reagan is also front and center is his biographer, Edmund Morris. Thomas J. Cox has the difficult job of portraying Morris, a person who has total access but is basically a fly on the wall.

11/19/1985 President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev at the first Summit in Geneva Switzerland. Photo from the Ronald Reagan Presidential archives>
11/19/1985 President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev at the first Summit in Geneva Switzerland. Photo from the Ronald Reagan Presidential archives.

Audiences may wonder at Morris’ constant query to Reagan about who he is. In fact, Morris had said in interviews after his book Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan,  came out in 1999, that he never felt he had full insight into Reagan the man. The book was also controversial because Morris wrote it as if it were from the standpoint of a fictional person who knew Reagan throughout his life.

This is a good show to either do some historical homework before going or arrive early enough to read the program which has excellent photos and good background on the meetings between Reagan and Gorbachev.

Directed by Robert Falls and thanks to the simple, effective set design by Riccardo Hernandez, ‘Blind Date’ moves seamlessly between the characters trying to set up the summit, the actions of the two world leaders, the concerns and behavior of their wives and the press conferences.

DETAILS: ‘Blind Date’ is at Goodman mTheatre, 170 N Dearborn Street Chicago, now through Feb. 25, 2018. Running time: 2 hrs, 30 minutes with one intermission. For other information and tickets call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago




‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ – a new and different kind of dream


The first thing to know about the ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ production at Drury Lane Oakbrook is this isn’t the Sunday School version. Unlike the customary fare from the west suburban playhouse, it’s not even family-friendly entertainment.

 That’s because director Alan Souza has boldly re-imagined the beloved Old Testament tale as a campy, Las Vegas-style spectacle complete with feather-clad showgirls, drag queens and celebrity impersonators.

The main action has been moved from pyramid-dotted Egypt to the pyramid-shaped Luxor Hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard. 

Christina Bianco (top), Evan Alexander Smith (center) and Joseph's brothers. Photo by Brett Beiner.
Christina Bianco (top), Evan
Alexander Smith (center) and Joseph’s brothers. Photo by Brett Beiner.


 Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music and Tim Rice’s lyrics, however, are largely preserved.

You’ll find the production either heretical or heap big fun. We choose the latter.

 The musical begins with modern-day, travel-weary Joe, played by Evan Alexander Smith, arriving at his hotel room and climbing into bed for sleep.

A series of dreams reveals the story of the biblical Jacob and his 12 sons. Most notable of the dozen is the favored Joseph, to whom he gives a colorful coat. Thus launches a well-known biblical odyssey.

In Souza’s re-telling, past and present legends of the Strip, including Siegfried and Roy and their white tigers, appear along the way.

 Joe’s dreams are narrated by songstress Christina Bianco and acted out by a talented cast. Bianco is an international YouTube sensation with more than 24 million views. Her vocal impersonations of the world’s greatest divas show astounding versatility and range.

She’s the production’s powerhouse, but Smith holds his own in solo numbers “Any Dream Will Do” and “Close Every Door.”

 Colte Julian captures the room with his portrayal of the Pharaoh a la Jerry Lee Lewis at a sparkly silver grand piano. It’s understandable. He performed the role of Lewis for five years with national and Chicago productions of ‘Million Dollar Quartet.’ At Drury Lane, he is accompanied by the dancing brothers, who are attired in black sequined pants.

 As a troupe, the brothers are highly adaptable. Their dance routines are high-spirited and precise, and their vocal rendition of “Those Canaan Days” is soulful.

 Special mention must be given to choreographer Grady McLeod Bowman. A highlight of the show is the Act One finale: “Go Go Go Joseph,” a song-and-dance ensemble number that is sure to delight mature audiences.

 In addition to Souza and Bowman, the creative team includes scenic designer Kevin Depinet, costume designer Ryan Park and lighting director Lee Fiskness. The Drury Lane Orchestra is led by conductor and keyboardist Alan Bukowiecki.

NOTE: This production is recommended for audiences age 13 and over as it includes adult content. Children under age 6 will not be admitted.

 DETAILS: ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ is at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, through March 25, 2018. Running time: 2 hours. For tickets and other information, call (630) 530-0111 or visit Drury Lane Theatre.

 Pamela Dittmer McKuen

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago



Scathing and honest are interchangeable with ‘Traitor’



The World Premiere of ‘Traitor’ at A Red Orchid Theatre is an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s ‘An Enemy of the People. Red Orchid ensemble member and playwright, Brett Neveu, adapted Ibsen’s drama and placed it in a fictional northern suburb of Illinois called East Lake.

Directed by Michael Shannon who is also an ensemble member, a founding member of A Red Orchid Theatre and a Tony Award-nominated and Oscar-nominated actor, ‘Traitor ‘is filled with one dozen inter-related characters whose different opinions and goals lead to heated discussions, sudden humor, angry arguments, profanity, and physical fights.

Dr. Tom Stock (Guy Van Swearingen) is the play’s lead, a science teacher who was raised in East Lake, moved away, and returned to his hometown many years later to help establish a new charter school to revitalize the small suburb of East Lake and bring others to the suburb.

Frank Nall, Guy Van Swearingen in 'Traitor' at A Red Orchid Theatre. Michael Brosilow photo
Frank Nall, Guy Van Swearingen in ‘Traitor’ at A Red Orchid Theatre. Michael Brosilow photo

His wife, Karla (Dado), is a book editor.  Their two children, Molly (Missi Davis) is a first-grade teacher and Randal (Nation Henrikson), is a student at the new charter school.

While teaching at the charter school Tom notices the sluggishness and apathy of some of his students. That leads him to send samples of the school’s area soil to another scientist who finds it contaminated with dangerous levels of lead.

Tom is adamant to bring this severe problem to the town’s attention. He is convinced that with many of his contacts he will be successful.

His outspoken sister, Patty Stock (Kirsten Fitzgerald), is the town’s mayor.  A close friend of his is Walter Hove (Larry Grimm), a newspaper editor.  Madison Bills (Kristin Ellis) is an associate editor.

Most of the play’s scenes take place in Tom and Karla’s home where their friends and family are constantly coming in and out to visit, share meals, have drinks, and smoke.

But when Tom learns that many local investors in the charter school, including his father-in-law, Howard Kihl (Frank Nall, do not want to expose the school’s lead contamination, he realizes that he alone must release the truth.

Tom is reminded by his wife that many people in his past didn’t like his energy, especially when he stood up for what he believed in, regardless of others’ opinions.

Tom’s retort compares “scathing with honesty” and calls them “interchangeable,” as he devotes every minute to exposing the soil’s contamination.

Following intermission, the audience is led from Red Orchid Theatre to an empty storefront a few doors down. It is set up as the location for East Lake’s town council meeting which grows from verbal arguments over the school’s lead contamination to physical violence.

After feeling like town residents attending the council’s meeting, the audience is led back to their seats at the Red Orchid Theatre for the final scene which focuses on Tom’s goal to convince the East Lake residents to face their town’s serious health issue.

Tom’s wife, Karla, finally sides with her husband when their son, Randal, is rushed to the hospital with lead poisoning.

The rest of the very talented cast includes Jenn Sheffer (Natalie West), a shop owner and council member. The other council members are Fran Wysocki (Mary Jo Bolduc), Bill Strand (Stephen Walker) and Eric Rhyde (Jacob Alexander).

DETAILS: ‘Traitor’ is at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 North Wells Street, Chicago, through February 25, 2018. Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes. For tickets and other information, call (312)943-8722, or visit A Red Orchid Theatre.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago


Four Chicago shows to see before they close

With so many shows in Chicago it is easy to miss one you really meant to see. So here is a reminder of really fine productions that end this month of January, 2018.

‘Turandot,’  Puccini’s glorious fantasy musical portrayal of a cold-hearted princess in ancient China is at the Lyric Opera for just two more performances: Jan. 21 and Jan. 28. For tickets and more information visit Lyric Turandot and Lyric Opera.

 Amber Wagner, Stefano La Colla and Maria Agresta in Turandot. Todd Rosenberg photo.

Amber Wagner, Stefano La Colla and Maria Agresta in Turandot. © Todd Rosenberg Photography

‘Wicked,’ that musical story about the two witches of OZ, closes at the Oriental Theatre, Jan. 21. For more information and tickets visit Broadway in Chicago Wicked.

‘BLKS,’ a play that tells about a day in the life of four young black women in New York City is at Steppenwolf just through Jan. 21. For more information and tickets visit Steppenwolf.

‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’ has its final performance at the Cadillac Palace Theatre  Jan. 28. For more information and tickets visit Broadway in Chicago Beautiful.

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.



‘Nevermore’ musical delves into the life of Poe



If you are a fan of macabre humor you will love this insight into Poe offered by Black Button Eyes Productions’ talented ensemble.

Cast of 'Nevermore' at The Edge Theater. The show runs through Jan. 28, 2018. Photo by Cole Simon.
Cast of ‘Nevermore’ at The Edge Theater. The show runs through Jan. 28, 2018. Photo by Cole Simon.

A musical written by Jonathan Christenson (book, music and lyrics), it investigates the life of one of America’s favorite poets and novelists purported to be the father of the modern detective mystery as well as a talented spinner of tales of horror and suspense.

Act One covers separation and death in the young boy’s life as well as his proximity to mental illness which together with an active imagination combined to create horrific visions and fantasies.

Act Two continues to explore the impact of his youthful experiences on his life and his work culminating in a suggestion of mystery surrounding his abrupt and unexplained demise.

Though the material is dark it is skillfully balanced by a lighthearted tongue-in-cheek humor that keeps it entertaining and fun.

The production is brilliantly cast. Each of the seven performers Kevin Webb as Edgar Allan Poe with Megan DeLay, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Ryan Lanning, Matt McNabb, Maiko Terazawa and Jeremy Trager could not be more perfect for their respective roles.

There is no competition on stage or mugging for the spotlight. Director, Ed Rutherford seems to have a clear vision that is well executed including important lighting (Liz Cooper) and sound effects (Robert Hornbostel). The surprise treatment of Poe’s great love “Sissy” is charming.

Music Director Nick Sula with the aid of his three piece band including synthesizer does an outstanding job setting and maintaining the fast pace that keeps the action moving.

If you are familiar with the works of Poe you cannot help but anticipate what they will do with his famous poem the “The Raven” which does not disappoint.

If you are a fan of vocal harmony you will love this score. Though lacking a real breakout number, Christenson’s music is very sophisticated and has a modern but slightly nostalgic feel that lends itself perfectly to the historic storyline.

Every performer has a beautiful voice – so much so that I would be willing to watch this as a concert without the splendid costumes of Beth Laske-Miller and campy choreography of Derek Van Barham.

The venue is super comfy with great sightlines and sound system operated by Kirstin Johnson was well modulated making the rapid musical dialogue easy to hear and understand.

This is a short run so get tickets before it can be seen “nevermore.”

DETAILS: Nevermore:  The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, is at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago through Jan. 28, 2018. For tickets and other information visit Black Button Eyes Productions.

Reno Lovison

Guest reviewer Reno Lovison is a proud alum of the Egdar Alan Poe Elementary School (K-5) in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood.

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.


Museums and celebrations offer quality ways to spend MLK Day

Many Chicago museums have free admission for MLK Day.
Many Chicago museums have free admission for MLK Day.

Fortunately when schools close for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, several Chicago museums answer the what-to-do question with free or discounted admission for Illinois residents. In addition, the Black Ensemble Theater and the Chicago Children’s Theatre also have programs.

Here are some places to spend quality time Jan. 15, 2018.



On Chicago’s Museum Campus, Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr., (312) 922-7827,  The Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., (312) 922-9410 and the Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake shore Dr., (312) 939-2438, all have free general admission to Illinois residents. (Not included: all access to special exhibits).

At the Art Institute of Chicago, the Ryan Learning Center (entrance at the Modern Wing, 159 East Monroe St. is doing “Say it Loud” program of  story telling, arts and discussions from 10 :30 a.m. to 3 p.m. No registration needed. However, admission to the museum is also free that day for all Illinois residents as part Free Winter Weekdays, January 8–February 15, 2018.

The Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S Lake Shore Dr., (773) 684-1414, also has free general admission on Jan. 15 and is celebrating Black Creativity Family Day with special programs and art.

Chicago History Museum, 1601 North Clark Street (312) 642-4600, has free programs all day with free general admission to Illinois residents on MLK Day.



Chicago Children’s Theatre, 100 S. Racine Ave. at Monroe, has a free Martin Luther King Birthday party from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Black Ensemble Theater at 4450 North Clark St., celebrates “And still we rise,”  from 6 to 9 p.m. with programs by the African American Arts Alliance. Tickets are $20 and includes a reception.




Great Chicago events brighten winter

Four Chicago doings, call them the ABCDs, are here to chase away January gloom.

Winifred Godfrey 'Flowers' show is at Beverly Art Center
Winifred Godfrey ‘Flowers’ show is at Beverly Art Center

A is for an amazing art show of the works of homegrown, internationally known artist, Winifred Godfrey. Running from Jan. 14 through Feb. 25, 2018 at the Beverly Art Center, 2407 W. 111th St., Chicago, the show brightens the indoor landscape with her famed flowers. The opening reception is Jan. 14 from 2 to 4 p.m.. For more information call (773) 445-3838 and visit Beverly Art Center Events.

Chicago Boat Show is on now with lots of fun activities
Chicago Boat Show is on now with lots of fun activities

B stands for boat show. The annual Chicago Boat, RV and Sail Show is back in town. Held now through Jan. 14, 2018 at McCormick Place, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, the show becomes a fun family day. There’s hands-on activities ranging from fishing and paddle sports to lessons, seminars and virtual reality experiences. For tickets and more information visit  Chicago Boat Show.

SketchFest is iStage 773's various spaces including the Pro. Stage 773 photo.
SketchFest is in Stage 773’s various spaces including the Pro. Stage 773 photo.

C banishes the doldrums with comedy. The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival returns to the city Jan. 11 through 21, 2018 at  Stage 773. The venue is a theater complex at 1225 W. Belmont Ave. What to expect: 130 shows by returning troupes and new artists. Among the highlights is “ The Future is Female: A discussion with women about the climate of Chicago comedy,” Jan. 20, 3 p.m. in the Thrust theater with panelists from The Second City, Susan Messing of Annoyance Theater and WGN Radio’s Patti Vasquez. For schedule, tickets and other information call (773) 327- 5252 and visit Chicago Sketch Fest.

Writers Theatre in Glencoe Jodie Jacobs photo
Writers Theatre in Glencoe
Jodie Jacobs photo

D is for that important word “discount” because $10 and $15 or less tickets are now available for Chicago Theatre Week. The annual week when Chicago area production companies have tickets for their shows at special prices is Feb. 8 through Feb. 18, 2018. But tickets for shows that week went on sale Jan. 9 and they go quickly. To snag the show you want visit Chicago Theatre Week.  To see a list of all shows visit League of Chicago Theatres at Chicago Plays.


Jodie Jacobs

Top Chicago area shows of 2017


Theatergoers in the Chicago area are blessed with more good shows then can be seen given normal time schedules of work and play. And given that people’s interests are as varied as the offerings from the area’s approximately 250 companies, one person’s idea of paradise may be someone’s purgatory.

So it’s OK to write in the comment space your favorite show of 2017 whether our reviewers included it here in our Chicago Theater and Arts’ list or not.

The shows listed here are by no means the only great productions mounted in 2017 by Chicago’s talented theater community. The list could easily extend to the top 10 or 20 shows. It was hard for reviewers to pick just one but several factors were taken into consideration. Now, let’s hear your choice.



Ragtime – The Griffin Theatre Company, Chicago

Last summer’s production of ‘Ragtime’ by Griffin Theatre provided audiences with a new take on the Tony Award-winning musical. This spectacular production featured new orchestrations of the play performed with two pianos, a wind instrument and 20 actors. Created by director Scott Weinstein and music director Matt Deitchman, this All-American musical brought new perspectives on racism, immigration, social justice and other issues in a changing America, and literally, brought the house down!

Mira Temkin

'Silent Sky' at First Folio was a powerful play
‘Silent Sky’ at First Folio was a powerful play


Silent Sky – First Folio Theatre, Oak Brook

‘Silent Sky’ by Lauren Gunderson is a touching, true story of Henrietta Swan Leavitt, a historic but unsung astronomer at Harvard University’s observatory in the early 1900s who was never allowed to use a telescope. Leavitt was a “hidden figure” before the female African American human computers whose work made the early NASA space launches possible. In this production, both the cast and the faux sky sparkled brilliantly at First Folio Theatre on the Mayslake Peabody Estate. (The property is in a forest preserve in Oak Brook).

Pam McKuen

Sean Fortunato and Jacob Kaiser in 'Billy Elliott. Photo by Michael Courier
Sean Fortunato and Jacob Kaiser in ‘Billy Elliott. Photo by Michael Courier


Billy Elliot – Porchlight Theatre, Chicago

I love the story and music of ‘Billy Elliot’ and Porchlight really did
justice to it on a very intimate stage.

Reno Lovison


Fun Home –  Victory Gardens, Chicago

While I sat on the edge of my seat at the Victory Gardens Theater watching ‘Fun Home,’ I experienced a plethora of emotional family issues on several levels—from parent/child relationships and sibling interactions to growing up, coming out, and leaving one’s family.  That’s what set the stage for ‘Fun Home,’ a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s  2006 personal, graphic novel of the same name. It was presented on a sparse stage that easily allowed the audience to focus on the family’s characters. And the show’s music, especially its finale, “Flying Away,” brought the audience to its feet.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

Cast of 'Fun Home' at Victory Garden Theater. (Liz Lauren photo)
Cast of ‘Fun Home’ at Victory Garden Theater. (Liz Lauren photo)


The Book of Will –  Northlight Theatre, Skokie

In ‘The Book of Will,’ playwright Lauren Gunderson shows how an appreciation of William Shakespeare’s works by his players, friends and families likely led to the publication of the Bard’s works in the 1623 First Folio. Scholars and playgoers understand the importance of the First Folio but its significance is truly felt in the show’s last scene when brilliant staging brings it all together.

Jodie Jacobs


Classic ‘Peter Pan’ delights a whole new generation


Every child who hears the words from the song, “I won’t grow up” can relate to Peter Pan who runs away from home so he doesn’t have to grow up.

Originally produced on Broadway in 1954, ‘Peter Pan’ has been a traditional favorite in its many incarnations on TV and the live stage throughout the years.

Peter Pan flies high at Music Theater Works in Evanston. Rich Foreman Phaotos
Peter Pan flies high at Music Theater Works in Evanston.
Rich Foreman Photos

Bring your children as well as your inner child to the Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) to see this wonderful production of ‘Peter Pan,’ now through Jan. 1, 2018.

This family classic includes the songs “I Gotta Crow,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” “I’m Flying” and “Neverland” accompanied by a full orchestra.

‘Peter Pan’ is directed by Music Theater Works artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller, conducted by music director Roger L. Bingaman and choreographed by Clayton Cross.

The sets are purely magical and depict the wonderful imagination of Adam Veness (scenic) and Robert S. Kuhn (costumes).

Aubrey Adams as Peter can sing, dance and keep up with the Lost Boys. She brings high energy and excitement to the role.

The remarkable Larry Adams shines in his role as irrepressible Mr. Darling/Captain Hook, especially as Captain Hook who lives in fear for the time-ticking crocodile.

Captain Hook and Peter Pan
Captain Hook and Peter Pan

Stand outs include Elizabeth Stenholt (Wendy Darling/Jane) with her beautiful, sweet voice, Anna Marie Abbate (Tiger Lily) and Cary Lovett (Smee).

The children in the audience were completely mesmerized by Peter and the Darling children as they flew through the air. I heard one child say, “Are they really flying?”

The antics of the Lion, Kangaroo, Ostrich and of course, Nana the dog, brought gales of laughter from the children.

Bring your family and share the ‘Peter Pan’ you loved as a child with your own youngsters.

‘Peter Pan’ is Music Theater Works’ final production of 2017. The 2018 season will begin with ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ (June 9-17), and continues with ‘Anything Goes’  (Aug. 18-26), the concert performance ‘Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine ‘starring Angela Ingersoll (Oct. 5-14) and ‘Into the Woods’  (Dec. 22-31).

DETAILS: ‘Peter Pan’ is a Music Theater Works production at Cahn Auditorium,  600 Emerson St., Evanston. Running time is 2 hours 30 minutes with two intermissions. For tickets or for more information, call  (847) 920-5360 or visit Music Theater Works.

Mira Temkin

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.





Sammy’s back at the Black Ensemble Theatre

Dwight Neal as Sammy Davis Jr Photo by Alan Davis
Dwight Neal as
Sammy Davis Jr
Photo by Alan Davis

Highly Recommended

Considered the world’s greatest entertainer, Sammy Davis Jr could do it all…sing, dance and act.

Through both dramatic interpretation and high-energy tap dancing, the Black Ensemble Theatre brings this star to life in ‘Sammy: A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.’ now through Jan. 21, 2018.

In this dynamic musical revue, the entire cast pays homage to the legendary talent as well as his commitment to fighting bigotry and racism.

Written and directed by Daryl D. Brooks, the show tells the story of Sammy Davis Jr. who started out dancing with his parents at age 2 in vaudeville, through his success in Las Vegas to his achievements on Broadway, films, television and record albums.

The outstanding on-stage hoofing was choreographed by Rueben Echoles, who also appears in the show. Featuring Michael Adkins, Kenny Davis, Dwight Neal, Nathan Cooper, Mark Yacullo, Trequon Tate, and Brian Boler, the cast sings and dances their way through Sammy’s greatest hits.

Not to be undone are the talented ladies who belt it out and narrate the story: Rhonda Preston, Emily Hawkins, Kylah Williams and Linnea Norwood.

Songs like “Birth of the Blues,” “Candy Man,” “Mr. Bojangles” and “I Gotta Be Me” infused with a contemporary beat brought back so many memories.

The performers were accompanied by a live 7-piece orchestra perched above the stage with musical direction by Robert Reddrick.

Kenny Davis and Michael Adkins salute Sammy Davis Jr Photo by Alan Davis
Kenny Davis & Michael Adkins salute Sammy Davis Jr
Photo by Alan Davis

The audience enjoyed seeing the Rat Pack on stage once again, mesmerized by the music of Ole Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra (Cooper) and the King of Cool, Dean Martin (Yacullo) who played their roles with suave sophistication. And they were saddened by Davis’ personal setbacks. Interspersed throughout the play were stories of Jim Crow laws, where Davis could perform at the Las Vegas hotel, but couldn’t stay there.

The show,  produced by Black Ensemble Theatre Founder and CEO, Jackie Taylor, is a wonderful tribute to an amazing artist and humanitarian.

DETAILS: Sammy – A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr is playing at the Black Ensemble Theatre, 4450 N. Clark St., Chicago through Jan. 21, 2018. Running time: Approximately 2 hours with intermission. For tickets, and other information, call 773-769-4451 or visit Blackensemble .

Look for the 2018 season to kick off with ‘Hail, Hail Chuck – A Tribute to Chuck Berry’ running February 17 – April 1, 2018.

Mira Temkin


For more shows, visit