Terrific songs, cast and staging should take ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ all the way to Broadway
If you loved the 1990 romantic comedy movie starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, directed and choreographed by Garry Marshall, you won’t be disappointed in the show turned into a musical. Pretty Woman: the Musical opened its world premiere at Broadway in Chicago’s Oriental Theatre, March 28, complete with red carpet, flashing lights and New York and LA industry VIPS.
But it was the magic on stage wrought by Samantha Barks as Vivian, a Hollywood Blvd. upwardly-mobile-dreaming prostitute who knows cars, Steve Kazee as Edward, a heartless take-over mogul, Orfeh as Vivian’s friend Kit and Eric Anderson as Mr. Thompson the friendly hotel manager of the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel (also plays Happy Man, a Hollywood Blvd. denizen) that captured the audience’s attention and got a well-deserved standing ovation.
Directed by Jerry Mitchell, the musical moves seamlessly through memorable film scenes from bathtub singing to Rodeo Drive shopping.
Blessed with a book by Garry Marshall and the movie’s screenwriter, J. F. Lawton, it closely follows the film, aping similar although not always the same lines.Read More
The musical, ‘A Taste of Things to Come,’ written by Debra Barsha and Hollye Levin, starts out in 1957 with four women living in Winnetka who meet once a week to prepare for an upcoming Betty Crocker cooking contest that they hope to win.
Sharing recipes is how their gatherings begin. While they chop, mix, and measure ingredients, they also read current articles in popular magazines, many of which lead their conversations down a non-culinary path of female frustrations, shared worries, and confidential secrets.
Joan Smith (played by Cortney Wolfson) is the weekly hostess to her three friends: Connie Olsen (Libby Servais), Agnes Crookshank (Linedy Genao) and Dottie O’Farrell (Marissa Rosen).
Joan changed her last name to Smith so that her neighbors won’t care about her real religion. Connie is pregnant and worries that her baby might not be born with her husband’s looks—especially when she reveals to her three friends that she had an affair.
Agnes is a single woman who discovers that her background is more diverse than the suburb where she was raised. And Dottie, a mother of many children, is overweight and takes numerous pills—before and after eating everything in sight—to try to shed pounds.
When Joan introduces them to a different piece of writing, the Kinsey report, they interact in more engaging conversations regarding the sexual revolution.
In the first act, rock ’n roll is ever-present with wonderful voices and fabulous dancing by the four friends to the production’s live music provided by a talented all-female orchestra.
Joan states that “lots of things bubble up in the kitchen.” That comment comes to life when racial, political, and other issues begin to surface as the women try to understand how to address them along with their personal needs.
The second act takes place ten years later in 1967, All but Dottie are hardly recognizable.
Joan, Connie, and Agnes are dressed like models and hippies and have taken on lives and professions of their own. This causes Dottie to feel sad and separated from them.
But when she describes how her “profession” is a mother to all of her children no matter what their ages are along with being president of the school’s PTA, not only do her three friends support her, the audience breaks into wild applause.
‘A Taste of Things to Come,’ directed and choreographed by Lorin Latarro, is a fantastic musical comedy that pays tribute to generations of females who paved the way for the important lives that many women currently embrace, along with the adventuresome and creative journeys that other women are pursuing.
DETAILS: ‘A Taste of Things to Come’ is at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago, through April 29, 2018. Running time: two hours with one intermission. For tickets and other information, cal (800) 775-2000 or visit Broadway in Chicago.
Gloria and Emilio Estefan are Cuban-American singer-songwriters and superstar entertainers who have inspired conga lines worldwide. But the 100 million-plus records sold and dozens of industry awards earned are only part of their story.
“On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical,” now playing for Broadway in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, is a high-spirited, glitzy production that weaves biographical events and global hits. It tracks the couple’s early struggles and discrimination, their rise to global success, the bus crash that nearly took it all away, and their incredible comeback.
If that all sounds familiar, there’s good reason. The musical originated in Chicago in 2015 with its pre-Broadway engagement.
On the national tour, playing the titular roles are Christie Prades as the adult Gloria and Mauricio Martinez as Emilio.
Prades, born in Miami of Cuban parents, has previously played multiple parts in the New York production. The real Gloria Estefan asked Prades to lead the tour. Martinez is a Mexican actor and recording artist making his Broadway debut.
The duo has palpable chemistry, and you find yourself rooting for them and the love connection that drives their music. Prades’ vocals are strong and steady throughout the show. Martinez seems to be more at home with a faster beat, but his rendition of “Don’t Wanna Lose You,” as Gloria recovers from surgery, flows straight from the heart and into the far reaches of the theater. He’s the comedian of the family, and Gloria loves him all the more for it.
Two more actors of note are Nancy Ticotin and Debra Cardona. Ticotin plays Gloria Fajardo, Gloria’s mother, whose own singing career was cut short by grown-up responsibilities and who disapproves of her daughter’s choices. Cardona plays Consuelo, Gloria’s supportive grandmother, who lands several well-placed comedic punches. Happily, both have opportunity to showcase their talents as soloists in this production.
The song-and-dance ensemble numbers, especially the finales, are hand-clapping good fun. At the end of Act I, the audience is engaged in a conga line down the aisles. The Act II finale is a medley of Estefan signatures.
The performers’ moves are amplified by the work of costume designer Emilio Sosa who sure knows how to make a razzle-dazzle party dress.
Based on an original book by Alexander Dinelaris, the musical is directed by Jerry Mitchell and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. The creative team also includes scenic designer David Rockwell and lighting designer Kenneth Posner.
Playing in the orchestra are several veterans of the Estefans’ Miami Sound Machine, including the production’s musical director Clay Ostwald.
DETAILS: “On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical” is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., through April 8. For tickets and other information, call (800) 775-2000 and visit Broadway In Chicago.
You are not likely to walk away unaffected If you join playwright Stephen Karam’s Blake family dinner table in ‘The Humans.’
As you sit through 95 minutes of its members’ litany of problems you may wish you were somewhere else. Or you may care so much about the family you may wish for a sequel to this beautifully acted play so you see if they can surmount their issues.
At times funny, at times heartbreaking, the play has Scranton, PA dad Erik Blake (Richard Thomas) and wife Dierdre (Pamela Reed), accompanied by their wheelchair-bound, dementia-disabled mom, Fiona “Momo” Blake (Lauren Klein), visiting their New York City daughters for Thanksgiving dinner.
The action takes place in Brigid Blake’s (Daisy Eagan) rundown Chinatown duplex she shares with boyfriend, Richard Saad (Luis Vega). Their other daughter, Aimee Blake, a New York attorney, joins the family dinner.
First, don’t expect a family that is dysfunctional in their relationships with each other. Karam injects the play with a familial feeling of warmth and love that overshadows typical parental comments about marriage, apartment conditions and careers.
The problems revealed during the play are individual matters of illness, love and career disappointments, and finally, an uncertain chilling feeling that follows Erik’s admission of wrong doing and future poverty. The admission explains his somewhat distracted air during most of the play.
The acting is so exceptional that you really care about these people.
You unhappily listen in on Aimee’s difficult phone conversation with her former lover and that unhappiness grows as she tries to explain to her family that she is about to lose her job because of prolonged illness.
It’s disturbing and believable to hear how Momo’s dementia is difficult for the Blakes to handle financially and emotionally. It’s also understandable though dismaying that Brigid, a former music composition major, can’t find appropriately related work so has taken on two bar-tending jobs to try to pay her student loans.
You learn that long-time office manager Dierdre works hard for very little pay and, eventually, you find out that her husband, Erik, is losing his job at a private school.
Richard has his problems too. Serious bouts with depression had led him to drop out of school so that at age 38 he is still working to complete his social worker degree.
Indeed, the entire picture that Karam paints is one of societal ills and poverty balanced by such traditional trappings of, in this case, Irish songs and religion.
Joe Mantello (‘Wicked’) directs the show with such empathy that you hate what’s happening to these characters.
A problem I have with “Humans’ is that though the issues are real today, I felt that assigning them to each character in a single play felt a bit contrived.
DETAILS: ‘The Humans’ is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W Randolph St, Chicago, now through Feb. 11, 2018. Running time is 95 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and other information call (800) 775-2000 or visit Broadway In Chicago.
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.
‘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.
Listen up if you haven’t yet snagged tickets to ‘Hamilton.’ Yeah that mega hit show whose seats are still hard to get, is now extending performances through Sept. 2, 2018, Producer Jeffrey Seller announced Dec 1, 2017.
That means a new, 18 week block of tickets, are now available.
The new tickets go on sale, 10 a.m. Dec. 5, 2017 at its venue, CIBC Theatre, 18 W. Monroe, according to Broadway in Chicago officials.
Tickets will also be sold at the Chicago Ticket Line (800) 775-2000 and on line at Broadway In Chicago.
Prices go from $75 to $195 for regular performances. Some premium seats are available for all performances. The online lottery of 44 seats at $10 will continue.
The maximum number of tickets per household from May 1 through Sept. 2 is 12 for seats.
Tip: Don’t be fooled by non official ticket offers. Best plan is to buy through one of the authorized outlets mentioned above.
In case your kids haven’t been singing the lyrics to ‘Hamilton’ and haven’t now shown more interest in the history of the United States of America’s founding, you should know the show is tells that story as put to hip-hop, rap, jazz, pop, R&B beats by Lin-Manuel Miranda, based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton.
BTW, Hamilton was an immigrant from the West Indies who then served George Washington and became the the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury.
First a caveat, this critic loved Paramount’s 1954 movie and the musical’s theme’s of romance and military camaraderie and caring so was prepared to also love the show, now touring with a stellar cast of Broadway and tour veteran actors, singers and dancers. It didn’t disappoint. Instead, it seemed to this writer to be a perfect holiday ornament.
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.
There are also some dated but fun pieces such as “What Can You Do With a General,” sung about the post-army job market for high-ranking officers.
But it’s the famous ones that audiences will likely be humming as they leave such as “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.
The gals are headed to a holiday gig at a Vermont ski resort where there is supposed to be snow. Davis tricks Wallace into joining them.
When they arrive, the gig turns into an effort to keep the resort, an inn owned by General Henry Waverly (Conrad John Schuck), from going bankrupt.
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 (Karen Ziemba), a former Martha Raye style 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 “Blue Skies.” Kudos to Director/ Choreographer Randy Skinner. In addition, Anna Louizos’ creative scenic design really helps tell the story.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.’
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.