Some very fine performances and productions were honored at the 50th anniversary of the Jeff Awards Oct. 22 at Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace.
As an example, American Blues Theater’s “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” received the most awards: Production – Musical -Midsize, Director Lili-Anne Brown, Principal Performer in a Musical Zachary Stevenson, Music Director Michael Mahler,and Ensemble – Musical or Revue.
But think about it. When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences name the Oscar winners each year, movie goers who haven’t seen the award-winning shows still can catch them on DVD, Netflix and other film distributes.
There are arguably many people who would still like to see the American Blues Theater’s production.Read More
Sometimes it’s nice to know what a theater company you like is doing for its next season and the dates to put on your calendar. The “Sneak Peak” series does just that, listing the companies by area .
Descriptions of shows will follow in the next series which will be by category such as world premier, classic, Halloween and holiday.
Meanwhile click on the venues in “Sneak Peak” for the theaters’ own details. BTW, some companies use theater and others use theatre, thus the differences written here are deliberate and not typos.
The venue is at 2936 N. Southport Ave. Black Button Eye Productions is doing “Nightmares and Nightcaps: The Stories of John Collier” here, Aug. 17 – Sep 15 in Studio Two. and Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop is doing “Alice and Wonderland Jr. Aug. 17- 18 on the Main Stage.
Studio One has “Bliss (Or Emily Post is Dead)” through Aug 25 and Studio Three has “Bus Stop” through Aug. 19, 2018.
“The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” is in Studio Three Nov. 22-Dec. 16 and “The Elder Son” is in Studio Two, Nov. 15-Dec. 22.
The theater is at 3745 N. Southport Ave. Currently, “Avenue Q” has been extended through Nov. 4, then “Pippin” is in the Venus Cabaret Theater, opening TBA followed by its annual “The Christmas Schooner, date also TBA.
For tickets and other information call (773) 325-1700and visit Mercury Theater.
A multi-theater venue, Stage 773 is at 1225 W. Belmont Ave.
American Blues Theater is doing “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” through Sept. 15, then “Flyin’ West” Oct. 5-Nov. 3 and its annual holiday show, “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago” Nov. 15, 2018-Jan 5, 2019.
Hell in a Handbag has “The Artificial Jungle” Sept. 23-Oct. 28. and “The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes” Oct. 13-Nov. 3.
The Degenerates are doing “Potty Talk” Sept. 3- Oct. 29.
Refresh your memory. How rock ‘n roll was changed by the guy with the big glasses from Lubbock, Texas is worth the trip back in time when taken there by the American Blues Theater’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.”
“Buddy” tells the tale of singer/songwriter Buddy Holly and the Crickets through an all too brief career ended by tragedy. Yet, some 50 years later, his music continues to be played and loved by a whole new generation.
Classic songs include: “That’ll be the Day,” “Maybe Baby,” “Peggy Sue,” “It’s so Easy to Fall in Love,” “The Big Bopper’s,” “Chantilly Lace,” “Ritchie Valens,” “La Bamba,” plus many more.
When performing the biography of a legend, how successful the show is depends on who plays the star. In this case, Zachary Stevenson who performed in Paramount’s “Million Dollar Quartet,” is spectacular.
Not only does he physically resemble Holly, but he exudes Holly’s dynamic energy and has all his dance moves down pat, such as hopping on one foot as he plays the guitar. Stevenson’s portrayal of Holly is a joy to watch.
But credit must be given to the entire ensemble whose amazing performances, both vocally and with a range of instruments, are stellar.
Piano, violins, bass, electric guitar and drums glide in and out throughout the show. Although they don’t appear until late in the second act, Cisco Lopez as Ritchie Valens and Vasily Denis as Big Bopper are outstanding.
“Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” an American Blues Theater revival is written by Alan Janes and directed with precision by Lili-Anne Brown. Musical direction is by ensemble member Michael Mahler and costume design is by Samantha C. Jones who must have a ball putting these 1950’s costumes together.
The first act is filled with lots of upbeat Holly music as his career ascends. But it’s a hard act to follow since the audience knows what’s going to happen
However, instead of ending on a downer the show explodes with more of Holly’s music as an enduring testament to his legacy. The audience never wanted it to end.
Prepare yourself for one fabulous night of theater!
DETAILS: The Buddy Holly Story is an American Blues Theater production at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, through May 26, 2018. For tickets and other information call (773) 327-5252 or visit American Blues Theater.
‘This Wonderful Life,’ and adaptation of Frank Capra’s 1946 classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” could have many other adjectives added to its title, such as “fabulous, extraordinary, unique and marvelous” to name just a few.
Playing at the American Blues Theater, it’s a one-man show written by Steve Murray, directed by Carmen Roman and starring James Leaming.
After doing the production across the country for the past ten years, Leaming has now brought the play to Chicago, garnering numerous awards along the way.
If familiar with the movie, you know the story encompasses several characters. Learning successfully portrays them all in eighty uninterrupted minutes.
He begins the play in a story-telling style as George Bailey, Mr. Potter, Clarence the angel, Uncle Billy, Mary Bailey and many more.
While the play is both touching and hilariously entertaining, he keeps it simple for the audience to follow with their imaginations.
In addition, the sparse but effective props and beautiful photos displayed as scenery contribute to one’s memories of the famous film.
Leaming accurately describes the play as a love story, especially when Clarence the angel shows George how different the small town of Bedford Falls would be if George had never been born.
He quotes Clarence who says “Each man’s life touches so many others” and “No man is a failure to his friends.”
When Leaming asked the audience members how many had seen the iconic film before the play began, 99% raised their hands. The movie has become a regular showing on television as the year-end holidays approach.
As with the film, the play, ‘This Wonderful Life,’ is a must-see production!
Leaming brings quite an impressive dramatic background to the production. He trained at American Conservatory Theater and Second City, and he has appeared at Steppenwolf, Northlight, Victory Gardens, Goodman, Drury Lane, Peninsula Players, and other venues. He also has many credits in films and television, and is a founding Ensemble member of the American Blues Theater.
DETAILS: ‘This Wonderful Life’ is at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway, Chicago through Nov. 26, 2017. Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and more information, call (773) 654-3103 or visit American Blues Theater.