‘White Christmas’ sings and dances into your heart

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

First a caveat, This critic loved Paramount’s 1954 movie and the musical’s theme’s of romance and military camaraderie and caring, so the show, now touring with a stellar cast of Broadway and tour veteran actors, singers and dancers, seems to this writer to be a perfect holiday ornament.

'White Christmas' at Cadillac Palace has a great "Snow" scene. Photo: Jeremy Daniel
‘White Christmas’ at Cadillac Palace has a great “Snow” scene. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

Based on the book by David Ives and Paul Blake, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, the musical has some fun songs such as “Snow” sung on a train ride from New York up to Vermont, some dated but fun pieces such as “What Can You Do With a General,” sung about the post-army job market, and some famous ones that still are popular when the holidays roll around such as, “Happy Holidays,”  “I’ve got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” and of course, “White Christmas.”

The story pairs Bob Wallace(Sean Montgomery) and Phil Davis (Jeremy Benton) , two very successful male entertainers who served in the same unit in WWII, with Betty Kerry Conte) and Judy (Kelly Sheenan) Haynes who have a sister act.

They’re all headed to a holiday gig at a Vermont ski resort where there is supposed to be snow. The gig turns out to be an effort to keep the resort, an inn owned by General Henry Waverly (Conrad John Schuck), from going bankrupt.

"Blue Skies" is a fun, Fosse-style dance number in White Christmas. Photo: Jeremy Daniel
“Blue Skies” is a fun, Fosse-style dance number in White Christmas. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

How they pull it off and the general’s reaction still brings tears to my eyes.

Along the way you meet inn receptionist Martha Watson Kaen Ziemba) a former Martha Rayestyle entertainer who also is too nosy for anyone’s good.

Plus there is inn employee Ezekiel who is also the train’s snoring man (Cliff Bemis who has a great voice and originated the Broadway role), Gen. Waverly’s granddaughter Susan (delightfully played in the opening by Makayla Joy Connolly) Stage Manager Mike Nulty (Aaron Galligan-Stierle who is also the Ed Sullivan and Regency Room announcer), and Davis and Wallace promoter Ralph Sheldrake (Gil Brady who always has a “million dollar proposition”).

The musical is also a showcase for exceptional dance numbers including to “Ble Skies”. Kudos to Director/ Choreographer Randy Skinner. In addition, Anna Louizos’ creative scenic design really helps tell the story.

Cast of "White Christmas" at Cadillac Palace Theatre.
Cast of “White Christmas” at Cadillac Palace Theatre.

DETAILS: ‘White Christmas’ is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre , 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago, through Dec. 3, 2017. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes. For tickets and other information call (800) 775-2000 and  visit  Broadway in Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

Escape to Margaritaville is Paradise Lost

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

Dressed in a never been worn Hawaiian shirt and accompanied by one of the biggest Jimmy Buffett fans I know we were ready to “Escape to Margaritaville” and party. Unfortunately this ship barely left port. In fact it will be moored at the Oriental Theatre on State and Randolph Streets in Chicago through December 2, 2017.

Cast of Escape to Margaritaville. Mathew Murphy photo
Cast of Escape to Margaritaville. Mathew Murphy photo

A new musical that premiered at the LaJolla Playhouse near San Diego, CA in May 2017, “Escape to Margaritaville” is based on popular favorites and some new songs of singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett.

Essentially, two young women embark on a paradise bound, girls pre-nuptial buddy trip. Rachel (Alison Luff) hopes to distract her best friend Tammy (Lisa Howard) away from her fat shaming fiancé Chad (Ian Michael Stuart) while also gathering volcanic soil samples for her super potato battery invention. Yes that’s right.

Soon after their arrival at the “not as described in the brochure” Margaritaville Resort the two become entangled with Tully (Paul Alexander Nolan) the house acoustic guitar strumming musician and his sidekick Brick (Eric Petersen) the beach side bartender.

The predictable and sophomoric story line suffers in a valiant attempt to humorously weave elements of various Jimmy Buffett lyrics into the plot. The sitcom inspired dialogue by Greg Garcia and Mike O’Malley is not all that funny, though the performance of aging beach bum J.D. (Don Sparks) and his perpetual search for salt was cringingly amusing.

J.D. hopes to reignite his relationship with Margaritaville proprietress Marley (Rema Webb) who seems to have been (through no fault of her own) left behind from a previous production of South Pacific.

The entire cast does an admirable job of wading through this low waterline script. But neither they nor the spectacular set designs of Walt Spangler could lift this vessel. One inspired moment was an all too brief swimming sequence compliments of “Flying by Foy” who provided the aerial expertise and apparatus.

The winsome secondary duo of Tammy and Brick shone the brightest.  Their singing and acting performances, together with the theme that Brick loves Tammy just as she is, seems timely and charming.

A peculiar highlight for me was Brick’s flashback induced dancing dead insurance salesman zombies.

I know that Jimmy Buffett fans are crazy about his music and love him as an entertainer but in this production the music never really pays off.

You’ll hear favorites like “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” “I Will Play for Gumbo,” “Why Don’t We Get Drunk” and of course the title number, “Margaritaville.”

At this performance the cast was joined at the curtain call by the man himself, Buffett, and the audience was thrilled. The excitement level rose tenfold.

The production should strike a chord with Jimmy Buffett fans and might play well in island resort venues but for general theater goers who are looking for a memorable experience I can only somewhat recommend..

DETAILS: Escape to Margaritaville’ is at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., through Dec. 2, 2017. For tickets and other information call (800) 775 2000 and visit Broadway in Chicago.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

Holiday shows that are here and coming soon

 

Chicago’s gift bag of holiday shows has something for everyone from Scrooge’s dreams  and dreaming of a white Christmas to Santa’s naughty and nice lists and his overgrown Elf.

Cast of 'A Christmas Carol' at Goodman Theatre. Liz Lauren photo
Cast of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Goodman Theatre. Liz Lauren photo

Already Playing

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,’ a Ken Ludwig’s Emerald City Theatre production, is at the Broadway Playhouse now through Dec. 31. The show is a a fun take on Santa’s list which mysteriously disappears and how it is recovered in time for his gift deliveries.At just 45 minutes long, the show is perfect for elementary age youngsters. The Broadway Playhouse  is at Water Tower Place 175 E. Chestnut. For tickets and other information visit Broadway in Chicago Twas.

‘Scrooge And The Ghostly Spirits,’ is a new musical for the entire family based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Written by Douglas Post, it is at Citadel Theatre Nov. 17 through Dec. 23. Citadel is in a Lake Forest School property at 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest. For tickets and other information call (847) 735-8554 or visit Citadel Theatre.

‘A Christmas Carol,’ a beloved Goodman Theatre creative but traditional holiday retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic, goes from Nov. 18 through Dec. 31. Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St., For tickets call (312) 443-3800 or visit Goodman Theatre

(The non-ballet) ‘Nutcracker,’ a House Theatre production is at the Chopin Theatre. It does use dance and songs to tell the story. The show runs now through Dec. 30 at The Chopin Theatre, 1543 W Division St. For tickets visit House Theatre.

Touring cast of 'White Christmas' Jeremy Daniel Photography
Touring cast of ‘White Christmas’
Jeremy Daniel Photography

 

Coming Thanksgiving week

‘White Christmas,’ Irving Berlin’s classic musical is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre Nov. 21 through Dec. 3. The Cadillac Palace is at 151 W. Randolph St. For tickets and other information visit Broadway In Chicago.

‘Q Brothers Christmas Carol,’ a very hip hop take on Dickens’ story is in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare  on Navy Pier,  Nov. 21- Dec. 31. For tickets visit ChicagoShakes.

‘Elf: The Musical,’ based on the 2003 Will Ferrell movie, is at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd, Aurora, Nov.  22, 2017 through Jan. 7, 2018. For tickets and other information call (630) 896-6666 or visit Paramount Aurora.

‘The Christmas Schooner,’ a moving, true-story musical that has become a Chicago tradition is at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Nov. 24 through Dec. 31. For tickets and other information call (773) 325-1700 and visit Mercury Theater.

Chicago Tap Theatre does 'Tidings of Tap' at North Shore Center for Performing Arts, Skokie
Chicago Tap Theatre does ‘Tidings of Tap’ at North Shore Center for Performing Arts, Skokie

 

On stage from the beginning of December

‘The Nutcracker,’ The Joffrey’s re-imagined production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon is at the Auditorium Theatre Dec 1-30. The Auditorium Theatre is in Roosevelt University at 50 E. Congress Parkway at Michigan Avenue. For tickets visit Joffrey.

 

Appearing later

‘Tidings of Tap’ presented by the Chicago Tap Theatre is at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts at 3 p.m. Dec. 10, only.  The venue is at 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie. For tickets and other information visit Tap.

‘Peter Pan’ is a delightful Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) musical based on J.M. Barrie’s play. It will run at cahn auditorium, 600 Emerson St., Evanston, Dec. 23, 2017 through Jan.1, 2018. For tickets call (847) 920-5360 or visit Music theater Works.

Enjoy the season!

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

 

School rocks when guitarist substitute takes charge

 

RECOMMENDED

Take playwright Mike White’s solution to how to turn an uptight middle-school class at a snooty private school into a group of fun-loving youngsters then add Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rousing music, Glenn Slater’s lyrics and book by Julian Fellowes and you have ‘School of Rock, the musical.’

Rob Colletti and cast in 'School of Rock the musical' at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Matthew Murphy photo
Rob Colletti and cast in ‘School of Rock the musical’ at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Matthew Murphy photo

Begun life as a high grossing musical comedy film by Paramount in 2003, the story morphed into a Broadway musical in 2015. Although not among the top musicals of all time, the show is a delightful reminder that there is more to school and life than gold-star rewards and meeting other people’s expectations.

Now on tour, the show is rocking the aisles of the Cadillac Palace Theatre with laughter and high-energy rhythm.

The catalyst for change is guitarist Dewey Finn, a debt-ridden, rock-star wannabe. Finn takes a call for a classroom substitute meant for his friend, Ned, as a way to make some money. The first impression is that he is totally wrong for the school, its parents and kids but…

As he works with the students on his strength which is the history, playing and love of rock music, they change.

There is also the first impression of the musical itself as it starts out with a “but” and even a “so what” as Finn is kicked out of “No Vacancy,” the band that he started. His problem is that the band is on its way to entering an important Battle of the Bands competition.

By intermission, audiences know that Finn is redeemed as his talented class is accepted into the band competition.

Directed by Laurence Connor, the touring company appears perfectly cast with Broadway actor Rob Colletti playing Dewey Finn, touring veteran Lexie Dorsett Sharp as school-head Rosalie Mullins, Broadway actor Matt Bittner as friend Ned Schneebly and Broadway’s ‘School of Rock’s’ Emily Borromeo as Patty Di Marco, Ned’s bossy, live-in girlfriend.

However, it wouldn’t work if not for the show’s very talented youngsters. They beautifully portray kids whose parents don’t listen to them or consider what they want and need. And yes, the kids really do play the instruments they use in the show.

DETAILS: ‘School of Rock, the musical’ is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago, through Nov. 19, 2017. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (800) 775-2000 or visit Broadway In Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

Festivals and shows plus happenings around town

 

So that in the coming weeks you don’t have to say “oops, I forgot” or “oh, I wish I had known,” here are some fun and interesting choices of what to do now through Nov. 5, 2017.

1000 jack-o'-lanterns light up Chicago Botanic Garden paths.
1000 jack-o’-lanterns light up Chicago Botanic Garden paths.

 

Short Story Theatre

Short story theatres are trending now in the Chicago area. (See StorySlam). Highwood, a tiny city between Highland Park and Lake Forest known for its restaurants, also hosts short story telling.

Its next time is Oct. 26 when the theme is Survival. Stories are likely to be about lost wives, geese, road trips or angels.

So come to Miramar Bistro at 301 Waukegan Ave. east of the North Line train tracks at 7:30 p.m. Or come earlier and eat there first. Just tell them when making a reservation that you are staying for the Short Story Theatre. Show tickets are $10 at the door, cash or check. Phone 847-433-1078.

 

Boo at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Hand-carved pumpkins line the paths Oct. 26-29 for Night of 10000 Jack-O-Lanterns. Tickets are date and time specific so get yours before you go to avoid disappointment. Times are from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, east of Edens Expressway. For tickets and other information call (847) 835-5440 or visit CBGHalloween.

 

Broadway in Chicago

At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, ‘Les Miserables, Cameron Mackintosh’s new production that is garnering rave reviews, closes Oct. 29. For tickets visit BroadwayinChicago.

Then, School of Rock’ an exuberant show with new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber opens Nov. 1. For tickets and other information visit Broadway Rock.

Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center and couriers in )Lyric Opera production of Verdi's Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center and couriers in Lyric Opera production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

 

Verdi and Wagner

If you enjoy opera at its best know that Lyric Opera of Chicago has  openings, closings and reviews similar to many downtown shows. Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ that also received rave reviews, has only three performances left: Oct. 26, Oct. 30 and Nov. 3. Wagner’s next Ring cycle opera, ‘Die Walküre,’ opens Nov. 1. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.

 

Sip and Stroll Festival

Visit more than restaurants and other businesses in Lincoln Square for the semi-annual Ravenswood Wine Stroll. Nov. 2 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are for one of five different routes: three in Lincoln Square and two in Ravenswood. For tickets and route information see Lincoln Square Wine Stroll.

 

Really old and last century modern

Winnetka Community House’s famed Antiques + Modernism show  runs Nov. 3-5 with an evening, first peek party Nov. 2. Because it’s a 60-year-old nationally known event, dealers bring their fine antiques and excellent mid-last-century modernism jewelry and furniture. For ticket and other information visit Winnetka Show.

SOFA shows off really fine pieces for the home and office. Jodie Jacobs photo
SOFA shows off really fine pieces for the home and office.
Jodie Jacobs photo

 

Where high-end art and superior design mix

Known as SOFA for bringing together Sculpture Objects Fine Art plus Design, the annual Chicago event is back at Navy Pier Nov. 2-5. Go upstairs to the Festival Hall to see what the international galleries say are trending now in the art world. For tickets and other information visit SOFA.

Jodie Jacobs

Beverly Hills zip code teens live on in musical

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

If from the generation that became addicted to the “Beverly Hills 90210” television series, you’ll appreciate the references and characterizations in the musical ‘90210’ now touring the United States.

Cast of '90210' now at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, Chicago.
Cast of ‘90210’ now at Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, Chicago.

Cobbled together by Bob and Tobly McSmith with music by Assaf Gleizner, the show is a parody and it is funny.

Songs proclaim the life-style of spoiled rich kids (and their parents) in LA’s iconic 90210 zip code.

The show deals with some of the drama, however without empathy for teenage problems.

And if looking for clever dialogue, forget it. The script relies on juvenile humor.

But if merely interested in what a popular teen series in the 90s looks like as a campy show, you’ll probably like it and for sure will laugh.

The best part of the show is the singing voice of Ana Maru as Brenda Walsh, a new girl in town from the Midwest.

DETAILS: ‘Bob and Tobly’s Beverly Hills 90210 The Musical (The unauthorized parody)’ is at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St. Chicago, Sept. 13 – 17, 2017. For tickets and other information call (800) 775 -2000 and visit BroadwayinChicago.

 

 

 

Shows coming to downtown Chicago

 

Late summer seems a time to get ready for back-to things such as school,a fall sport, workout classes if they stopped and volunteer activities. But August is also a good time to plan ahead to catch shows you’ll want to see. With about 250 theatre companies in the area the season can be overwhelming without checking out some of the offerings ahead of time.

The last two round-ups of what’s coming to area theatres were listings for the northern and western suburbs.

This one is for downtown Chicago. If you go you will find the venues have interesting, historic homes.

Next will be neighborhood Chicago theatres.  When you see how many shows are at each venue you’ll understand how easy it is to miss one you really want to catch.

 

Auditorium Theatre  

The Auditorium Theatre is worth seeing even when there isn't a show. Jodie Jacobs photo
The Auditorium Theatre is worth seeing even when there isn’t a show. Jodie Jacobs photo

 

Louis Sullivan’s iconic performing arts hall showcases productions by the Joffrey Ballet and other dance companies ranging from Shen Wei Dance Arts, Ensemble Espanol and Alvin Ailey to Les Ballets de Monte Carlos, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Ballet Nacional Cuba and Giordano Dance Chicago.

In addition, its season includes musical groups and singers such as Jonathan Lee, and the Jazz Gospel Messiah’s “Too Hot to Handel.”  In between are lectures, documentary presentations, comedians and tributes to pop and jazz stars.

Here is the Joffrey Ballet Schedule: Gisselle Oct. 18-29, Dec. 1-30, 2017, Modern Masters (George Balenchine, Myles Thatcher, Nicolas Blanc, Jerome Robbins) Feb. 7-18, 2018, Midsummer Night’s Dream April 25-May 6.

For other production dates and the full calendar click Auditorium. The  Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University is at 50 E. Congress Parkway, (312) 341.2300.

 

Broadway in Chicago

Touring Broadway shows are typically in four venues: Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph St., Oriental, 24 W. Randolph St.,  PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St. and Broadway Playhouse. Tickets are available at Broadway in Chicago and also Ticket Master by clicking on individual shows at Broadway Chicago and at the theatres’ box offices. Also call (800) 775-2000.

Of course everyone knows that the mega hit, “Hamilton” is still in town at The PrivateBank Theatre. Tickes are currently available through April 29, 2018.

At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Disney’s “Aladdin” is there now through Sept. 10 followed by “Motown the Musical” Oct. 3-8 and “Les Miserable”  Oct. 11-29. Then there is “School of Rock” Nov. 1-19 followed by Irving Berlin’s “White Chirstmas” Nov. 21-Dec. 3, 2017. “Beautiful – the Carole King Musical” returns to town, Dec. 5, 2017 and goes to Jan 28, 2018. The play, “The Humans,” comes Jan 30-Feb. 11 followed by ”Love Never Dies” Feb. 14-March 4. Then it’s “On Your Feet!” March 21-April “ followed by “Waitress,” July 3-22.

At the Oriental Theatre “Escape to Margaritaville” is Nov. 9-Dec. 2, 2017.  “Wicked” is there Dec. 6-Jan. 21 2018 and “The Color Purple” goes on July 17-29, 2018.

At the Broadway Playhouse, “90210: The Musical” will be there Sept. 13- Sept. 17 followed by Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” Nov. 11-Dec. 31. 2017. Also during that time is Gobsmacked” Dec. 5-10.

 

Chicago Shakespeare

The company has expanded its venue at Navy Pier to include The Yard so some of the shows are there and others in its regular hall. Check when buying tickets.

“The Taming of the Shrew is Sept.16 – Nov. 12 and James Thierrée’s “The Toad Knew” opens The Yard Sept. 19 – 23. “Amarillo” is Oct. 17 – 29, 2017 and “Red Velvet” is Dec 1, 2017 –Jan 21, 2018. “Short Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is Feb 3-March 10, “Macbeth” is April 25-June 24 and “Waiting for Godot” is May 23- June 3, 2018.

For details visit Chicago Shakes and call (312-595-5600. Chicago Shakespeare is at 800 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier, Chicago.

The Chicago Theatre hosts a variety of shows. Jacobs photo
The Chicago Theatre hosts a variety of shows. Jacobs photo

 

Chicago Theater

The historic venue has something going on every weekend but some of the seasons highlights are Fleet Foxes, Oct. 3-4,Steve Martin and Martin Short Oct. 6-7, Tori Amos, Oct. 27 Dream Theater in contcrt, Images, Words and Beyond Mov. 3 An evening with the Avett Brothers Nov. 9-11 Celtic thunder  Symphony Tour dec. 7 Joe Biden American Promise tour Dec. 11 For more information visit Chicago Theater. The Chicago Theater is at 175 N State St. For tickets call (800) 745- 3000 or go to Ticketmaster.com.

 

Goodman Theatre

The Goodman starts fall with Arthur Miller’s  “A View From the Bridge” Sept 9 – Oct 15 followed by Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Nov 18 – Dec 31, 2017. Rogelio Marinez’ “Blind Date” (Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev) is Jan 20- Feb. 25, 2018 followed by Henrik  Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” Mar. 10-Apr 15. Emily Mann’s “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” is May 5-June 10 and Ellen Fairey’s “Support Group for Men” is June 23-july 29.

In addition, Goodman’s Annual New Stages Festival is Sept 20-Oct. 8. The  Festival features new works by Christina Anderson, David Cale, Mikhael Tara Garver, Rebecca Gilman, Ike Holter, Jose Rivea, Mat Smart and Bess Wohl.

Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St. For for information visit Goodman. or call (312) 443-3800.

 

Harris Theatre for Music and Dance

October features Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists have announced an ambitious international tour, with concert performances of all three operas – L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, and L’incoronazione di Poppea – and Rennie Harris Puremovement and Arias a dn Barcarolle by Lincoln center chamber music society .

Nov.  has “Hot Sardines” comeing. Cec. Brandenburg concertos. By lincon chentr chambermusic society . Jan Brian Brooks dance Companyh, and lc chanmber doing Brahms and dvorak . Feb American Ballet and chamber doing Vienna to Hollywood

March is Mark Morris dance group with the Silk Road Ensemle and then Christian Scott aTude Adjuah May is chamber duoing Tempost in C Minor.

The Harris Theater is at the north end of Millennium park at 205 E. randolph St. For tickets and more events visit Harris and call (312) 334-7777.

Lookingglass is in the historic Water Works. Jacobs photo
Lookingglass is in the historic Water Works. Jacobs photo

 

Lookingglass

Lookingglass is in the historic Water Works across form Water Tower Place. The theatre company is known for artistic innovation and interpretation that often includes gymnastics.

Next season features “Hard Times” Oct. 4, 2017 – January 14, 2018, “Plantation” Feb. 21 – Apr. 22 ending with “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” May 23, Aug. 19, 2017.

Lookingglass Theatre is at 821 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611. For tickets and more information visit Lookingglass or call (312) 337-0665.

 

Take a look and enter it on the calendar so you don’t miss a great show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Superb acting and singing make Lincoln Center ‘King and I’ a must see production

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna) and Baylen Thomas (Louis) arrive in Siam in 'The King and I' now on stage at the Oriental Theatre. Photos courtesy of Broadway in Chicago,
Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna) and Baylen Thomas (Louis) arrive in Siam in ‘The King and I’ now on stage at the Oriental Theatre. Photos courtesy of Broadway in Chicago,

Just when you think you have seen as many fine interpretations of how Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic ‘King and I’ musical ought to be done, along comes director Bartlett Sher’s beautiful and insightful Lincoln Center production.

Not only are all the voices in the outstanding category (and how often can you say that), Sher’s direction has brought forth all the characters’ strong motivations.

The songs everyone has come to know and love such as “I Whistle a Happy Tune and Hello Young Lovers” are beautifully sung by Laura Michelle Kelly as governess Anna Leonowens.

Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao as doomed lovers in 'King and I.'
Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao as doomed lovers in ‘King and I.’

“We Kiss in the Shadow” and “I have Dreamed” take on an added coating of sadness and desire when exquisitely sung Manna Nichols and Kavin Panmeechao as doomed lovers Tuptim and Lun Tha.

But you also have Jose Llana who really makes you understand the crossroads where he’s at between Siam’s traditional views and the “westernization” of his court he thinks will keep his country from colonization. He not merely sings, but acts “A Puzzlement.”

Based on the real Anna Leonowens’ memoirs as told by Margaret Landon in the 1944 novel, “Anna and the King of Siam,” the musical depicts how two strong characters, the independent governess Leonowens, and the King, known as Mongkut who sees women as servants, move from strongly-held beliefs to mutual respect, admiration and caring.

Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang in 'King and I'
Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang in ‘King and I’

Then there is Joan Almedilla as Lady Thiang (First Wife) singing “Something Wonderful.” The song does more than describe her feelings towards her husband, the King.

Almedilla’s exceptional expression of the words seemed to speak to many of the wives in the audience.

As to the youngsters in the show,  “The March of Siamese Children” is charming and lighthearted but Graham Montgomery does a particularly fine job as Anna’s son, Louis, and Marcus Shane presented just the right amount of royal demeanor as Crown Prince Chulalongkorn when he stepped into a role opening night usually played by Anthony Chan.

Choreographer Christopher Gattelli’s “The Small House of Uncle  Thomas,” a ballet meant to entertain visiting English dignitaries but actually is a message from Tuptim that slavery is wrong, is well put across by dancers Lamae Caparas as Eliza, Amaya Braganza as Uncle Thomas, Yuki Ozeki as Topsy, Rommel Pierre O’Choa as Simon Legree, Michiko Takemasa as Little Eva and Nobutaka Mochimaru as the Angel/George.

Jose Llana (King of Siam) and Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna Leonowens) in 'The King and I.'
Jose Llana (King of Siam) and Laura Michelle Kelly (Anna Leonowens) in ‘The King and I.’

The set design by Michael Yeargan was a creative mix of an Asian style wall backdrop, pillars and Buddha that places more emphasis on the action than ornamentation. That said, the set immediately captures attention when the curtains open with a a life-size boat coming onto the stage carrying Anna and Louis Leonowens.

Catherine Zuber’s costumes perfectly place the show into Leonowen’s  period and location.

‘The King and I’ is at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago, now through July 2, 2017. For tickets and more information call (800) 775-2000 or visit Broadway in Chicago.

 

 

‘Aladdin’ has it all

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

If looking for a spectacular family show with fantastic music and dance numbers, eye-popping staging and costumes and an exotic fairy-tale style rags to riches, princess and palace story, then ‘Aladdin’ fulfills all those wishes.

'Aladdin' at the Cadillac Theatre. Deen vanMeer Photo
‘Aladdin’ at the Cadillac Theatre. Deen van Meer Photo

The Broadway musical, now at the Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre on its 2017 national tour,  is everything a show-goer would expect from Disney.

Although based on Disney’s 1992 movie, ‘Aladdin,’ the stage musical, has the type of fabulous dance numbers and costumes loved by Broadway impresario Flo Ziegfield.

Of course Tony Award winners are involved.  Casey Nicholaw from ‘The Book of Mormon’ is the director and choreographer and Gregg Barnes (‘The Drowsy Chaperone’) is the costume designer.

But families who loved the film will still have the score by Grammy and Academy Award winners Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice plus new numbers by Menken and Chad Beguelin who did the book

And there are the wonderfully familiar characters of the Genie, exquisitely interpreted by Anthony Murphy, Aladdin, delightfully portrayed by Adam Jacobs who played the title character on Broadway, and Princess Jasmine, the contemporary female role nailed by Isabelle McCalla.

Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) and Isabelle McCalla (Jasmine). Photo by Deen van Meer
Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) and Isabelle McCalla (Jasmine). Photo by Deen van Meer

Naturally, there is the diabolical Jafar played by Jonathan Weir with old-fashioned foiled-again style characterization and evil laughter who is joined in his quest for the sultan’s throne by the comic Iago (Reggie De Leon) who is human, not a parrot this time.

Aladdin’s three street pals are fun to watch in a skillfully done fight scene with palace guards. The trio are Zach Bencal as Babkak, Philippe Arroyo as Omar and Mike Longo as Kassim.

The whole story: an Arabian tale of poor boy meets titled girl, they fall in love, girl doesn’t want to have to marry a prince who will rule her or her kingdom, boy locates magic lamp whose genie turns him into a prince, girl and boy re-connect, are separated by an evil person and finally, wed, takes about 2 hours and 25 minutes including intermission.

Details: ‘Aladdin’ is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 West Randolph St., now through Sept. 10, 2017. For tickets and more information call (800) 775-2000 or visit Broadway in Chicago.

‘Circus 1903’ resurrects entertainment before TV and tech toys

RECOMMENDED

Circus 1903 brings back the old-fashioned kind of sideshow and acts that visited small towns years ago. Mark Turner Photo.
Circus 1903 brings back the old-fashioned kind of sideshow and acts that visited small towns years ago. Mark Turner Photo.

Ladies and gentlemen, step right up to a funny sideshow with a great contortionist, thrilling main acts of accomplished aerialist and high-wire performances, terrific juggler, fine acrobats and a ringmaster who beguiles kids and adults with patter that is both charming and insightful.

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