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

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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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Stunning ‘Phantom’ perfect for the holidays

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Magnificent voices, dramatic set design and fabulous costumes match Andrew Lloyd Webber’s brilliant score of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ in a new production now playing in Chicago.

The company of The 'Phantom of the Opera' in 'Masquerade' Photo by Alastair Muir
The company of The ‘Phantom of the Opera’ in ‘Masquerade’ Photo by Alastair Muir

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Hamilton Tickets Alert

Hamilton Company at Private Bank Theatre Photo by Joan Marcus
Hamilton Company at Private Bank Theatre Photo by Joan Marcus

Heads up ‘Hamilton’ ticket hopefuls.

According to Producer Jeffrey Seller and the Broadway In Chicago group, there will be a live (you have to be there) lottery for $10 tickets, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016.

It takes place at the PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St. where the show is currently playing.

What you need to do:  Go to the theatre Saturday morning to enter the lottery. Entries are accepted beginning at 11:30 a.m.

What happens: Individuals whose names are drawn at noon can buy one or two $10 tickets (cash only) for the 2 p.m. matinee. One entry per person allowed. A valid ID is required to purchase the ticket.

In addition, some cast members will entertain the crowd before the drawing so hope for decent weather.

There will be the usual digital, day-of-show lottery for the evening performance.

For other Hamilton information visit Broadway In Chicago.

To see a show review and more information click here.

 

‘Finding Neverland’ seeks story behind Peter Pan

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Take the creative minds of children and a Scottish playwright who wants to change from churning out formula plays for the London stage to recapturing his youthful imagination in order to write an amazing play, and you will understand ‘Finding Neverland.’

Kevin Kern (J.M. B arrie) and Tom Hewitt (Capt. Hood) cast in 'Finding Neverland' Photo by Carol Rosegg
Kevin Kern (J.M. B arrie) and Tom Hewitt (Capt. Hook)  and cast in ‘Finding Neverland’ Photo by Carol Rosegg

A touring Broadway musical in Chicago now through Dec. 4, 2016, the production reveals how J.M. Barrie came up with his world-famous, beloved ‘Peter Pan’ stories.

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“Annie” will have you smiling

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“Annie” at Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre now through Nov. 13, 2016, is a pre-Thanksgiving family treat.

Cast of "Annie" now at the Cadillac Palace Theatre
Cast of “Annie” now at the Cadillac Palace Theatre

The current touring production feels so fresh that even if you have seen past “Annies” you will be glad to be back watching Miss Hannigan’s orphans prance across the stage and a pugnacious Annie change everyone’s outlook on life and business from Oliver Warbucks to FDR.

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‘Fun Home’ tries to understand family truths and appearances

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‘Fun Home’ is an unforgettable show that just came to Chicago after winning five Tony Awards in 2015. Unfortunately, it is only at the Oriental Theatre now through Nov. 13, 2016.

"Fun Home" at Oriental Theatre with Kate Shindle (Adult Alison) l, Abby Corrigan (Middle Alison) and Alessandra Baldacchino (Small Alison) Photo by Joan Marcus
“Fun Home” at Oriental Theatre with Kate Shindle (Adult Alison) l, Abby Corrigan (Middle Alison) and Alessandra Baldacchino (Small Alison). Photo by Joan Marcus

An intimate, questioning look back at a father and family life from a daughter’s view during youth, college years and in mid-40s, the show probably deserves an intimate space.Read More

“Hamilton” is worth the hype

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

At “Hamilton’s”  opening night in Chicago ( Oct. 19, 2016), its nearly three hours of rhythmic story-telling and exceptional choreography made it quite clear why lyricist, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s show about a Founding Father won several Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Miguel Cervantes (Hamilton) points up amid the cast of "Hamilton". Photo by Joan Marcus
Miguel Cervantes (Hamilton) points up amid the cast of “Hamilton”. Photo by Joan Marcus

Right, often overlooked, brilliant immigrant Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father. So, there should also be an Educational Hook Award added to the list.

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Review: “Disney’s Newsies”

"Newsies at Cadillac Palace Theatre thru Aug. 7
“Newsies” at Cadillac Palace Theatre thru Aug. 7

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

“Newsies” fight publishing tycoons with sling-shot headlines

The touring company of “Newsies” is as exciting as the headlines that sell papers. The lead actors who battle Joseph Pulitzer on his unfair practices are terrific, but it is the high energy of the company’s talented dancers and singers who will likely have you recommending this Tony Award winning musical.

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