‘Waitress’ makes a tasty Chicago pie

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

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

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

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

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

Delightful Cher musical almost ready for Broadway

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read More

‘The Cher Show’ joins list of Broadway shows to first try out Chicago audiences

Stars of The Cher Show pose before rehearsal at the Oriental Theatre. (Jodie Jacobs photos)
Stars of The Cher Show pose before rehearsal at the Oriental Theatre. (Jodie Jacobs photos)

Stephanie J. Block (“Falsettos,” ” Wicked”), Teal Wicks (“Wicked,” “Finding Neverland”), and Micaela Diamond (NBC’s recent “Jesus Christ Superstar”) are all currently in Chicago.

So are Jarrod Spector (“Beautiful, “Jersey Boys”), Michael Berresse (“Kiss Me Kate;” “A Chorus Line”), Michael Campavno, (“Wicked”) Matthew Hydzik (“It Shoulda Been You,” “Side Show”) and Emily Skinner (“Prince of Broadway” “Side Show”).

They are in town for their new starring roles in “The Cher Show,” a new musical by producers Jeffrey Seller and Flody Suarez who want to try out the show on Chicago audiences before taking it to Broadway.

As Seller explained during a recent press conference, presenting a show in Chicago to work out kinks before its Broadway debut “is a repetitive and great tradition for the past 10 plus years.”

(Audiences may remember that “Pretty Woman” was just here for its pre-Broadway premiere and “Kinky Boots” was here in 2012 before going to Broadway in 2013)

The Cher Show producers Jeffrey Seller, R. and Flody Suarez talk about why they are in Chicago
The Cher Show producers Jeffrey Seller, R,. and Flody Suarez talk about why they are in Chicago

After introducing Suarez and commenting that he was recently in Chicago to talk about the Hamilton Exhibition (going up this fall), Seller, producer of the block-buster “Hamilton,” said he was hopeful that the “The Cher Show” will “move people, affect people and delight people.”

A “jukebox musical” with a book by “Jersey Boys” Tony, Grammy and Oliver Award winner Rick Elice, the creative staff is no less star-studded.

What would a show about Cher be without Emmy Award winning costume designer Bob Mackie? He is not only on the team but his role in Cher’s life is played by by Tony nominee  Michael Berresse.

Also on the team are Tony Award winner set designer Christine Jones (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” “American Idiot”), sound designer Nevin Steinberg (“Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen”)  Tony Award lighting designer Kevin Adams (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) video designer Darrel Maloney (“On Your Feet”), and set designer Brett J. Banakis.

Block, Wicks and Diamond are playing Cher, an iconic pop star, rock star, Grammy Oscar, Golden Glove and Emmy winner with so many facets that each actress takes on a different part of her life.

As to the rest of the stars, Spector is Sonny Bono,  Campavno is Rob Camilletti, Hydzik is Gregg Allman and Skinner is Georgia Holt.

Of course the musical will feature such hits as “I Got You Babe,” “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Believe” and “If I Could Turn Back Time.”

“The Cher Show” will be at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago, June 12 through July 15. 2018.  It moves to Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre for previews Nov. 1 and officially opens there Dec. 3, 2018. For other information visit BroadwayInChicago.

 

Hamilton news

More tickets to “Hamilton” are going on sale and an exhibit devoted to the blockbuster musical will be coming to Chicago.

First, the tickets

Alexander Hamilton and cast. Joan Marcus photo
Alexander Hamilton and cast.  (Joan Marcus photo)

A 20-week block of tickets will be available beginning 10 a.m. May 8 for shows Sept. 4, 2018 through Jan. 20, 2019, according to producer Jeffrey Seller and Broadway in Chicago.

They can be bought at the CIBC Theatre box office where the show is on stage or on line at BroadwayInChicago.

There is a limit of 12 tickets per household for the extended dates. Tickets are $75-$205 with some premium choices.

The online lottery will continue  with 44 seats at $10 for the new ticket block. For lottery information visit BroadwayInChicago/lottery or get the Hamilton app at HamiltonBroadway.

BTW, don’t be fooled by spurious or expensive ticket offers. Best is to buy through Broadway In Chicago or at the box office.

 

Now, the exhibit

Hurricane backdrop at Hamilton the Exhibition (Photos by David Korins)
Hurricane backdrop at Hamilton the Exhibition (Photos by David Korins)

Hamilton: The Exhibition, will premiere in Chicago in November, 2018 before traveling to other cities, according to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the musical, “Hamilton” and Producer Jeffrey Seller.

Housed in an all-weather, football field sized structure, the exhibition is slated to open Nov. 17 on Chicago’s Northerly Island.

Presented with Imagine Exhibitions, Inc which operates traveling museum exhibits, Hamilton: The Exhibition is being put together by Hamilton set designer David Korins, Miranda, Yale University Professor Joanne Freeman, Hamilton Director Thomas Kail and Seller with additional historical advice from Annette Gordon-Reed.

Miranda explains some of the thinking behind the exhibition. “Hamilton” is a musical. It’s as much of Alexander Hamilton’s life as we could wrestle into two and a half hours of musical theater, and it’s been incredible and surreal to see the renewed interest this has sparked in Alexander Hamilton’s life and times,” he said.

Miranda added, “I’m so thrilled with the work David Korins has done alongside eminent historians Joanne Freeman and Annette Gordon-Reed, who are experts in this arena.  With this exhibition, they’re creating an immersive companion piece for Hamilton” and a deep dive into the details and experiences of Hamilton’s story.”

Miranda will narrate the audio tour as the exhibition moves visitors into the life and times of Alexander Hamilton and illustrates the creation of the United States of America and the American Revolution.

St. Croix in Hamilton the Exhibition
St. Croix in Hamilton the Exhibition

Visitors will find the tales told with in-depth scenography, lighting, sound, multimedia and music as they experience Hamilton’s journey from St. Croix to his famed demise in a duel in Weehawken, N J. They will also learn of how what Hamilton did still impacts our lives.

“I hope to use this exhibition to answer some questions that the musical doesn’t address, like ‘What did Alexander actually do when he was a trader in St. Croix “ What did Hamilton’s Manhattan look like?  How did we win the battle of Yorktown?” said Seller.

“ In an environment that is visually stunning, aurally thrilling and ingeniously educational, we aim to give visitors yet another unique portal through the life of Alexander Hamilton into the American founding,” he said.

Tickets to HAMILTON:  THE EXHIBITION will be on sale at a later date, to be announced.

For more information and to sign up to be the first to receive news and ticket sales alerts,  please visit hamiltonexhibition.com

Another hit show debuts in Chicago

Terrific songs, cast and staging should take ‘Pretty Woman: The Musical’ all the way to Broadway

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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.

Samantha Barks (Vivian) and Steve Kazee (Edward) and Company in Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018
Samantha Barks (Vivian) and Steve Kazee (Edward) and Company in Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago
Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2018

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

An everlasting taste

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Courtney Wolfson (Joan Smith), Libby Servais (Connie Olsen), Marissa Rosen (Dottie O'Farrell) and Linedy Genao (Agnes Crookshank) in A Taste of Things to Come at the Broadway Playhouse. Photos by Brett Beiner
Courtney Wolfson (Joan Smith), Libby Servais (Connie Olsen), Marissa Rosen (Dottie O’Farrell) and Linedy Genao (Agnes Crookshank) in A Taste of Things to Come at the Broadway Playhouse. Photos by Brett Beiner

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.

Marissa Rosen (Dottie O'Farrell), Cortney Wolfson (Joan Smith), Libby Servais (Connie Olsen) and Linedy Genao (Agnes Crookshank) in A Taste of Things to Come.
Marissa Rosen (Dottie O’Farrell), Cortney Wolfson (Joan Smith), Libby Servais (Connie Olsen) and Linedy Genao (Agnes Crookshank) in A Taste of Things to Come.

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.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

The rhythm is gonna get you ‘On Your Feet!’

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Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan plus the company of On Your Feet! Matthew Murphy photo
Mauricio Martinez as Emilio Estefan and Christie Prades as Gloria Estefan plus the company of On Your Feet! Matthew Murphy photo

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.

Pamela Dittmer McKuen

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

 

 

 

Family secrets and problems on Thanksgiving dinner menu

 

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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.

Richard Thomas, Therese Plaehn, Pamela Reed, Lauren Klein, Daisy Eagan, Luis Vega. in 'The Humans' at Cadillac Palace Theatre. Photo by_Julieta Cervantes.
Richard Thomas, Therese Plaehn, Pamela Reed, Lauren Klein, Daisy Eagan, Luis Vega. in ‘The Humans’ at Cadillac Palace Theatre. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

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.

Jodie Jacobs

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.

 

 

More ‘Hamilton’ tickets become available

 

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.

Cast of 'Hamilton'. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Cast of ‘Hamilton’. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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.

For more lottery information visit Broadway in Chicago lottery.

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.

For more ‘Hamilton’ information visit Broadway in Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs