‘Miss Saigon’s’ heat is on!

Anthony Festa (Chris) and Emily Bautista (Kim) in Miss Saigon at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. (Matthew Murphy photo)
Anthony Festa (Chris) and Emily Bautista (Kim) in Miss Saigon at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. (Matthew Murphy photos)

4 stars

After its 25th anniversary revival on Broadway in 2017, “Miss Saigon” is reappearing this year on a national tour.  Directed by Laurence Connor, the music is by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr.

Loosely based on Puccini’s opera, “Madame Butterfly,”  “Miss Saigon” follows the final days of the Vietnam War.

The first lead character that opens the show is The Engineer played by Red Concepcion. The Engineer runs Dreamland, a steamy bar and brothel in Saigon that’s packed with beautiful Vietnamese women whom he has lined up for American soldiers.

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Love’s Labour’s Lost – A timeless tale

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

L-R: Amber Cartwright, Katherine Duffy, Rachael Soglin, Raina Lynn (Photos by Brian McConkey Photography
L-R: Amber Cartwright, Katherine Duffy, Rachael Soglin, Raina Lynn
(Photos by Brian McConkey Photography

This delightful Invictus Theatre experience proves once again that little has changed since Shakespeare penned this early comedy about the powerful drive of the passions of youth.

The young Ferdinand King of Navarre (Chad Bay) challenges his three besties  Berowne (Charles Askenaizer), Longaville (Taylor Glowac) and Dumain (Sam Cheeseman) to forsake romance and other distractions of the flesh such as eating for the purpose of devoting themselves fully to their studies for three years.

The pact does not last long due to the hunger of youth and the arrival of a young French Princess (Raina Lynn) and her posse of eligible young maids in waiting Rosaline (Rachael Soglin), Katherine (Amber Cartwright) and Maria (Katherine Duffy). Conveniently there is the requisite number of each sex for the two respective royal crews to square off.

The young men have soon forsaken their fasting and studies and have instead turned their hand to verses of love, while the ladies delight in disguising themselves and otherwise confounding their suitors for sport.

As with most of The Bard’s theatricals there are a few side trips not the least of which is a Spanish Lord Don Armado (Martin Diaz-Valdes) and doltish slave Costard (Johnny Kalita) pursuing the same country wench Jaquenetta (Daniela Martinez); and the play-within- a-play featuring the self-important teacher Holofernes (Alisha Fabbi) and his sycophant the curate Nathaniel (Jack Morsovillo).Read More

Stories of Chicago in Music

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Baiocchi performance (Reno Lovison photo)
Baiocchi performance (Reno Lovison photo)

Created as part of the Bach+Beethoven Experience, “Chicago Stories: Book 2” challenges local composers to write a musical suite that utilizes baroque instruments to tell a story about Chicago.

One of the hallmarks of Bach+Beethoven Experience is to create a casual relaxed atmosphere to enjoy music of vintage instruments. There is nothing stuffy about this experience and I venture to say it can be enjoyed by virtually anyone regardless of musical tastes or preferred musical genre.

The premiere performance was presented Sept. 29, 2018 in the Sky Room at the Loyola Park Field House in Rogers Park overlooking Lake Michigan.

The first suite, “Stories of the Bloomingdale Trail” by Ronnie Kuller, was created to evoke memories of the trail’s past as part of an industrial corridor and rail line that contrasted with the present sounds of the walkers, runners, and bicyclists who enjoy the narrow elevated green space. The trail cuts a nearly three-mile path parallel to North Avenue from Ashland on the east to roughly Central Park on the west.Read More

‘A Shayna Maidel’ packs powerful punch for Holocaust Remembrance

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Lusia (Emily Berman) left, and Rose (Bri Sudia) are two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the Holocaust. (Photo by Lara Goetsch)
Lusia (Emily Berman) left, and Rose (Bri Sudia) are two sisters trying to reconnect after years of separation brought on by the Holocaust. (Photo by Lara Goetsch)

 

What is family? Can it be created or reborn? “A Shayna Maidel” answers these  thoughtful questions in a most profound way. Written in 1984 by Barbara Lebow and now performed as a revival by TimeLine Theatre, the play confronts the horrors and aftermath of the Holocaust.

Two sisters and their father, reunited after years of separation, are now forced to examine their roles, responsibilities and guilt.

Daughter Rose and father Mordechai Weiss were fortunate to escape from Poland before the war. Not so lucky were daughter Lusia, who had scarlet fever and their mother who were left behind. Read More

Good Chicago area art fairs fill the August and September calendar

You never know what you will see or find at a summer art fair. (Port Clinton-Jodie Jacobs photo)

Check out some suburban shopping areas and Chicago neighborhoods while the weather is still  warm and breezy. The reward may be a painting perfect for the hall, a sculpture just right for the yard or mantle, a silk print scarf or tie to wear to a concert or a piece of jewelry to hold onto until gift giving during the holidays.

Here are some art fairs that are a good excuse to get outdoors.

August

 4-5 Glenview

Art at the Glen features 185 artists in the Glen Tower Center. Hours: 10 am – 5 pm. For more info see Amdur Productions.

11-12  Lincolnshire

About 120 artists participate in the annual Lincolnshire Art Festival held on the Village Green in north suburban Lincolnshire. Hours are 10 am – 5 pm.  For more info see Amdur Productions.

 25-26 Oak Park

On the western edge of Chicago look for more than 130 exhibitors at  the annual Oak Park Avenue-Lake Arts & Crafts Show in Scoville Park at Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street. Hours: Saturday 11 am – 7 pm , Sunday 9 am – 5 pm. For more info see American Society of Artists.

25-26 Highland Park

The Port Clinton Art Festival, among the Midwest’s best art fairs, sprawls across First and Second Streets and the Port Clinton Plaza on Central Avenue as it showcases about 265 artists from across the globe. For more info see Amdur Productions.

25-26 Chicago

About 200 artists exhibit their works at the annual Bucktown Arts Fest held in Senior Citizens Memorial Park, 2300 N. Oakley Ave at 2300 W. Lyndale St. Hours: 11 am – 7 pm. For more info see Bucktownh Arts Fest. Read More

The Blues Man is the real deal

RECOMMENDED

 

Rick Stone is the Blues Man at Black EnsembleTheater.
Rick Stone is the Blues Man at Black EnsembleTheater.

“Rick Stone The Blues Man” at the Black Ensemble Theater is a nightclub style jukebox musical written and directed by Jackie Taylor that stars Rick Stone himself and a cadre of six seasoned blues singers backed up by an awesome house band.

The songs are classic blues led by the very talented BET musical director Robert Reddrick on drums who is joined by “young” Adam Sherrod (Keyboards), Gary Baker (Guitar) and Mark Miller (Bass).  Lamont D. Harris (Harmonica) is considered part of the vocal ensemble but holds his own adding his “blues harp” accompaniment to many of the tunes.

This production works hard to make you feel like you just happened to stroll into a vintage blues club. The cast wanders in, casually greeting individuals along the way. Ushers greet everyone by saying, “Welcome to Rick’s.” The stage has a small bar and few tables and chairs which incidentally are available to audience members as V.I.P. seating.Read More

The end of TV is largely light and shadow

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The End of TV at the Chopin Theatre. (Photo by Judy Sirota Rosenthal)
The End of TV at the Chopin Theatre. (Photo by Judy Sirota Rosenthal)

It seems fitting that The Chopin Theater which began as a local movie house and evolved into a live theater venue, should play host to “The End of TV,” a combination of live action and multimedia that comments so poignantly on the blurred reality between television and human interaction.

Simply speaking, the story-line centers around a chance encounter between a laid-off autoworker turned meals-on-wheels driver, Louise, (Aneisa Hicks) and a QVC home shopping obsessed elderly woman, Flo (Kara Davidson).

The time is the 1990s. The place is a post-industrial Rust Belt city. The action takes place amid advertising promises and commercial bombardment.

In the larger sense it is about isolation and the need for human connection.Read More

Dark ‘Color Purple’ rings true in revival

The Color Purple at the Auditorium Theatre. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
The Color Purple at the Auditorium Theatre. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

RECOMMENDED

After being told in Alice Walker’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize novel of what Celie Harris, a young African American girl, endured in the first half of the twentieth century and how she survived aided by two other females, her story was turned into a movie in 1985 and a musical that won several Tony nominations in 2006.

What is in now appearing at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre  through July 29, 2018, is the National Tour of the musical’s revival begun in London in 2013. It went on to Broadway to win Tony Awards in 2016 including Best Revival of a Musical.

Directed by Tony Award-winner John Doyle, the current tour features Adrianna Hicks as Celie, Carla R. Stewart as friend Shug Avery and Carrie Compere as friend Sofia. Read More

‘Something in the Game’ wins big on Northwestern stage

Highly Recommended

 

Knute and Fighting Irish in Something in the Game
Knute and Fighting Irish in Something in the Game (Photos by Justin Barbin)

Get ready to cheer! Based on the life of legendary Notre Dame football coach, Knute Rockne, “Something in the Game – An All-American Musical” kicks off with all the excitement of a season opener.

Featuring a cast of 23 professional and student actors, this dynamic musical enthralls the audience with an inspiring story, high-energy dancing and memorable music.

On the football field, Knute Rockne is regarded as one of the greatest football coaches of all time winning more than 100 games, three national championships and five undefeated seasons. But at what cost?

As he chased fame and glory for his Fighting Irish as well as his own personal success, he left his family on the sidelines. Using football as a metaphor for the “game of life,” the musical traces one man’s journey to discover what’s really important before it’s too late.

Stef Tovar as Knute recreates his 2008 role from the production of the show at Theater at the Center. He does an excellent job as an ambitious man looking to capture the American Dream. Adrian Aguilar as George Gipp, the promising young star who lets his demons destroy him, is captivating.

Jimmy the Goat, Thelma and ensemble in Something in the Game
(James Earl Jone II (Jimmy the Goat), Rashada Dawan (Thelma) and ensemble in Something in the Game

But it’s the women who command the stage. Dara Cameron as wife, Bonnie, is a standout with a voice so strong and pure, it practically melts your heart.  Rashada Dawan belts it out as Thelma, hostess of Jimmy the Goat’s place, with non-stop energy.

The production, put on by the American Music Theatre Project and Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, is presented by special arrangement with Coaches, LLC, John Girardi and Greg Schaffert.

With book by Buddy Farmer, music by Michael Mahler and lyrics by David H. Bell and Michael Mahler, the show is expertly directed and choreographed by Jefferson Award-winner Bell.

Mention must be made of the outstanding choreography that simply takes your breath away. It is fast-paced, innovative and imaginative. Coupled with the gorgeous costumes by Robert S. Kuhn, the entire production creates an unforgettable visual feast!

For those who’ve heard the battle cry, “Win one for the Gipper,” you’ll come away with a new understanding of where this came from.

“Something in the Game: An All-American Musical” is at the Josephine Louis Theatre, 29 Arts Circle Drive, on the Northwestern University Evanston campus through Aug. 5, 2018. Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. For tickets and other information, call( 847) 491-7282 and visit Wirtz Center.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Popular ‘Haymarket’ extends run and moves to new venue

Haymarket at the Den moves to theater Wit. (Michael Brosilow photo)
Haymarket at the Den moves to theater Wit. (Michael Brosilow photo)

Underscore Theatre Company in association with Theater Wit is moving “Haymarket” from the Den Theatre to Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont Ave, Chicago to extend the run from Aug. 3 to Sept. 2, 2018.

Performances of the show which tells the story of the infamous Haymarket riot will continue at
The Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago through July 22. For tickets and more information and tickets call (773) 975-8150 and visit Underscoretheatre.

Related:  Blue collar history and bluegrass music.