Scathing and honest are interchangeable with ‘Traitor’

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The World Premiere of ‘Traitor’ at A Red Orchid Theatre is an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s ‘An Enemy of the People. Red Orchid ensemble member and playwright, Brett Neveu, adapted Ibsen’s drama and placed it in a fictional northern suburb of Illinois called East Lake.

Directed by Michael Shannon who is also an ensemble member, a founding member of A Red Orchid Theatre and a Tony Award-nominated and Oscar-nominated actor, ‘Traitor ‘is filled with one dozen inter-related characters whose different opinions and goals lead to heated discussions, sudden humor, angry arguments, profanity, and physical fights.

Dr. Tom Stock (Guy Van Swearingen) is the play’s lead, a science teacher who was raised in East Lake, moved away, and returned to his hometown many years later to help establish a new charter school to revitalize the small suburb of East Lake and bring others to the suburb.

Frank Nall, Guy Van Swearingen in 'Traitor' at A Red Orchid Theatre. Michael Brosilow photo
Frank Nall, Guy Van Swearingen in ‘Traitor’ at A Red Orchid Theatre. Michael Brosilow photo

His wife, Karla (Dado), is a book editor.  Their two children, Molly (Missi Davis) is a first-grade teacher and Randal (Nation Henrikson), is a student at the new charter school.

While teaching at the charter school Tom notices the sluggishness and apathy of some of his students. That leads him to send samples of the school’s area soil to another scientist who finds it contaminated with dangerous levels of lead.

Tom is adamant to bring this severe problem to the town’s attention. He is convinced that with many of his contacts he will be successful.

His outspoken sister, Patty Stock (Kirsten Fitzgerald), is the town’s mayor.  A close friend of his is Walter Hove (Larry Grimm), a newspaper editor.  Madison Bills (Kristin Ellis) is an associate editor.

Most of the play’s scenes take place in Tom and Karla’s home where their friends and family are constantly coming in and out to visit, share meals, have drinks, and smoke.

But when Tom learns that many local investors in the charter school, including his father-in-law, Howard Kihl (Frank Nall, do not want to expose the school’s lead contamination, he realizes that he alone must release the truth.

Tom is reminded by his wife that many people in his past didn’t like his energy, especially when he stood up for what he believed in, regardless of others’ opinions.

Tom’s retort compares “scathing with honesty” and calls them “interchangeable,” as he devotes every minute to exposing the soil’s contamination.

Following intermission, the audience is led from Red Orchid Theatre to an empty storefront a few doors down. It is set up as the location for East Lake’s town council meeting which grows from verbal arguments over the school’s lead contamination to physical violence.

After feeling like town residents attending the council’s meeting, the audience is led back to their seats at the Red Orchid Theatre for the final scene which focuses on Tom’s goal to convince the East Lake residents to face their town’s serious health issue.

Tom’s wife, Karla, finally sides with her husband when their son, Randal, is rushed to the hospital with lead poisoning.

The rest of the very talented cast includes Jenn Sheffer (Natalie West), a shop owner and council member. The other council members are Fran Wysocki (Mary Jo Bolduc), Bill Strand (Stephen Walker) and Eric Rhyde (Jacob Alexander).

DETAILS: ‘Traitor’ is at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 North Wells Street, Chicago, through February 25, 2018. Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes. For tickets and other information, call (312)943-8722, or visit A Red Orchid Theatre.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago

 

‘Nevermore’ musical delves into the life of Poe

 

HIGHLY RECOMMEND

If you are a fan of macabre humor you will love this insight into Poe offered by Black Button Eyes Productions’ talented ensemble.

Cast of 'Nevermore' at The Edge Theater. The show runs through Jan. 28, 2018. Photo by Cole Simon.
Cast of ‘Nevermore’ at The Edge Theater. The show runs through Jan. 28, 2018. Photo by Cole Simon.

A musical written by Jonathan Christenson (book, music and lyrics), it investigates the life of one of America’s favorite poets and novelists purported to be the father of the modern detective mystery as well as a talented spinner of tales of horror and suspense.

Act One covers separation and death in the young boy’s life as well as his proximity to mental illness which together with an active imagination combined to create horrific visions and fantasies.

Act Two continues to explore the impact of his youthful experiences on his life and his work culminating in a suggestion of mystery surrounding his abrupt and unexplained demise.

Though the material is dark it is skillfully balanced by a lighthearted tongue-in-cheek humor that keeps it entertaining and fun.

The production is brilliantly cast. Each of the seven performers Kevin Webb as Edgar Allan Poe with Megan DeLay, Jessica Lauren Fisher, Ryan Lanning, Matt McNabb, Maiko Terazawa and Jeremy Trager could not be more perfect for their respective roles.

There is no competition on stage or mugging for the spotlight. Director, Ed Rutherford seems to have a clear vision that is well executed including important lighting (Liz Cooper) and sound effects (Robert Hornbostel). The surprise treatment of Poe’s great love “Sissy” is charming.

Music Director Nick Sula with the aid of his three piece band including synthesizer does an outstanding job setting and maintaining the fast pace that keeps the action moving.

If you are familiar with the works of Poe you cannot help but anticipate what they will do with his famous poem the “The Raven” which does not disappoint.

If you are a fan of vocal harmony you will love this score. Though lacking a real breakout number, Christenson’s music is very sophisticated and has a modern but slightly nostalgic feel that lends itself perfectly to the historic storyline.

Every performer has a beautiful voice – so much so that I would be willing to watch this as a concert without the splendid costumes of Beth Laske-Miller and campy choreography of Derek Van Barham.

The venue is super comfy with great sightlines and sound system operated by Kirstin Johnson was well modulated making the rapid musical dialogue easy to hear and understand.

This is a short run so get tickets before it can be seen “nevermore.”

DETAILS: Nevermore:  The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe, is at The Edge Theater, 5451 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago through Jan. 28, 2018. For tickets and other information visit Black Button Eyes Productions.

Reno Lovison

Guest reviewer Reno Lovison is a proud alum of the Egdar Alan Poe Elementary School (K-5) in Chicago’s historic Pullman neighborhood.

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.

 

Classic ‘Peter Pan’ delights a whole new generation

RECOMMENDED

Every child who hears the words from the song, “I won’t grow up” can relate to Peter Pan who runs away from home so he doesn’t have to grow up.

Originally produced on Broadway in 1954, ‘Peter Pan’ has been a traditional favorite in its many incarnations on TV and the live stage throughout the years.

Peter Pan flies high at Music Theater Works in Evanston. Rich Foreman Phaotos
Peter Pan flies high at Music Theater Works in Evanston.
Rich Foreman Photos

Bring your children as well as your inner child to the Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) to see this wonderful production of ‘Peter Pan,’ now through Jan. 1, 2018.

This family classic includes the songs “I Gotta Crow,” “I Won’t Grow Up,” “I’m Flying” and “Neverland” accompanied by a full orchestra.

‘Peter Pan’ is directed by Music Theater Works artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller, conducted by music director Roger L. Bingaman and choreographed by Clayton Cross.

The sets are purely magical and depict the wonderful imagination of Adam Veness (scenic) and Robert S. Kuhn (costumes).

Aubrey Adams as Peter can sing, dance and keep up with the Lost Boys. She brings high energy and excitement to the role.

The remarkable Larry Adams shines in his role as irrepressible Mr. Darling/Captain Hook, especially as Captain Hook who lives in fear for the time-ticking crocodile.

Captain Hook and Peter Pan
Captain Hook and Peter Pan

Stand outs include Elizabeth Stenholt (Wendy Darling/Jane) with her beautiful, sweet voice, Anna Marie Abbate (Tiger Lily) and Cary Lovett (Smee).

The children in the audience were completely mesmerized by Peter and the Darling children as they flew through the air. I heard one child say, “Are they really flying?”

The antics of the Lion, Kangaroo, Ostrich and of course, Nana the dog, brought gales of laughter from the children.

Bring your family and share the ‘Peter Pan’ you loved as a child with your own youngsters.

‘Peter Pan’ is Music Theater Works’ final production of 2017. The 2018 season will begin with ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ (June 9-17), and continues with ‘Anything Goes’  (Aug. 18-26), the concert performance ‘Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine ‘starring Angela Ingersoll (Oct. 5-14) and ‘Into the Woods’  (Dec. 22-31).

DETAILS: ‘Peter Pan’ is a Music Theater Works production at Cahn Auditorium,  600 Emerson St., Evanston. Running time is 2 hours 30 minutes with two intermissions. For tickets or for more information, call  (847) 920-5360 or visit Music Theater Works.

Mira Temkin

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

 

 

A new twist on Dickens – ‘Scrooge and the Ghostly Spirits’

 

Recommended

Who says you can’t change tradition?  Certainly not Doug Post, who wrote this world premiere musical based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Cast of 'Scrooge and the Ghostly Spirits' Citadel Theatre. North Shore Camera Club photo
Cast of ‘Scrooge and the Ghostly Spirits’ at
Citadel Theatre.
North Shore Camera Club photo

‘Scrooge and the Ghostly Spirits,’ now playing at the Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest, is delightful family entertainment that is perfect for the holiday season.

Once again, Scrooge is the main character, but the ghostly spirits go deeper into why he’s grown into such a flawed soul.

When Scrooge sees what people really think of him and his actions, he takes steps to redemption, transforming from darkness and gloom to joy and love for humanity.

In between, the beautiful, haunting music played by three on-stage musicians, serves to uplift the characters and the story.

Veteran Chicago actor, Frank Farrell, leads the cast as Ebenezer Scrooge, mean and miserly as ever.  He previously played the role of Scrooge in Citadel’s 2011 non-musical production of “A Christmas Carol” and understands the role and its transformation.

The show is masterfully directed by Citadel Artistic Director Scott Phelps with music direction by Benjamin Nichols and choreography by Ann Delaney.

Post’s all-new musical score pays homage to 19th Century English songs in a highly theatrical way.  Post says, “The first song that came to me, and it practically wrote itself, is called ‘Mankind Was My Business.’ It’s Jacob Marley’s lament to Scrooge that in life, Marley neglected his “business” of concern for others.”

Stand outs include Coco Kasperowicz in multiple roles with a magnificent voice that beautifully interprets the score, and baritone Will Rogers, an affable delight every time he appears on stage.

DETAILS: ‘Scrooge and the Ghostly Spirits’ is at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, through Dec. 23, 2017. Running time: 90 minutes without intermission.For tickets and more information call(847) 735-8554 and visit Citadel Theatre.

Mira Temkin

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago

Windy City Winds American Originals

 

RECOMMENDED

The Windy City Winds recently celebrated their Third Season Fall Concert   at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Chicago, playing a selection of American Originals. The program covered a thoughtful selection of American music suitable for wind, brass and percussion.

Windy City Winds
Windy City Winds

Windy City Winds is a not-for-profit adult community concert band founded on the premise that many accomplished musicians who were music majors or played instruments in college have little opportunity to play seriously after graduation, particularly if they do not pursue musical careers.

The 55 talented volunteer players age twenty-one and over are all experienced playing at the college level.

Mark and Sarah Mosley co-founded Windy City Winds in September 2015 and serve together as Music Directors.

Mark Mosley is an articulate and engaging conductor. He enthusiastically opened the first half of the concert with the very familiar and playful “Overture to Candide” by Leonard Bernstein partly in homage to the composer’s upcoming 100th birthday being celebrated in 2018.

They continued with “Night Song” by Joliet native Ron Nelson featuring a rare euphonium solo by Eon G. Cooper. The rich basso instrument takes charge of the central theme and sings sweetly with a low lyrical line through the entire piece.

You almost can’t get more uniquely American than Charles Ives, in this case the “Fugue in C.” The program notes describe Ives as “nostalgically quoting popular, patriotic and church music from his youth, while boldly embracing dissonance and experimenting with polytonality, rhythmic complexity and tone clusters.”

Windy City Winds
Windy City Winds

The band concluded the first half with “Chester” based on the patriotic tune of William Billings which became the unofficial hymn of the Revolutionary War. This variation is composed by Pulitzer Prize winning American composer William Schuman who in 1961 became president of the NYC Lincoln Center for Performing Arts.

After a brief intermission Sarah Good Mosley conducted the six movement “Divertimento for Band, op. 42” by Vincent Persichetti described as “…distinctly urban and American – energetic, lonely, humorous, and nostalgic.”

She followed next with ”October” by popular contemporary composer Eric Whitacre who is largely known for his choral music as the artist-in-residence at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. His composition “Sleep” inspired the work of Dutch born artist and current Wisconsin resident Anne Horjus ..

Mark Mosley closed the concert with “Chorale and Shaker Dance” by John Zdechlik. “The short chorale theme is original, while the Shaker melody ‘Simple Gifts’ is familiar to many.”

Windy City Winds will perform two concerts in 2018 at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, 2335 N. Orchard St.in Chicago: March 9, “Cityscapes” Winter Concert, and May 11, “Adventures” Spring Concert. Admission is free (donations welcome).  For more Information visit Windy City Winds.

Reno Lovison

Related:   Ann Horjus article.

 

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.

 

A look at Chicago Composer Regina Harris Baiocchi

Regina Harris Baiocchi
Regina Harris Baiocchi

It seems virtually every day there are fabulous artistic programs being offered all around Chicago, many of which no one ever hears about. These gallery exhibits, theatrical productions and musical performances are often presented by individuals of exceptional quality and sadly only have one presentation.

On Nov. 10, 2017 a concert of the music composed by Chicago native Regina Harris Baiocchi was one of those exceptional events at Sherwood Community Music School / Columbia College on South Michigan Avenue.

Baiocchi’s music has been performed by the Chicago and Detroit Symphony Orchestras and in concerts around the world. Her refined and sophisticated compositions are inspired by various musical genres and are often informed by the experiences of African Americans, women and poets.

A poet herself, her music is very lyrical but she likes to play with percussion and the dynamics of sound.

In the opening piece, “Miles per Hour” the lone trumpet of Edgar Campos is heard only offstage for a full minute or two before he slowly emerges from the wings.  Providing a sense of musical motion heard at first in the distance then moving toward you.

The impressionistic “Deborah” is inspired by a painting by Lillian Brulc has the most talented and versatile Dr. Jimmy Finnie, percussion chair at Indian State University, moving adroitly between marimba, vibes and drums accompanied by Beverly Simms, piano.

“Ask Him” is a page from the composer’s jazz book it has a sultry quality fully enhanced by the vocals of Dee Alexander with Dr. Thomas Wade Jefferson (North Park University & Sherwood Conservatory) on piano, accented by the saxophone of Edwin Daugherty.

Baiocchi returns to her “classical” sensibilities in a modern solo cello (Jill Kaeding)  performance “Miriam’s Muse” accompanied by Michael Keefe, piano.

“Farafina” described as a vocal jazz suite work in progress is translated as “Land of the Black Skin,” features an un-ornamented vocal by Cherresa Lawson giving it a haunting call and response quality, accompanied by Jimmy Finnie on marimba and David Bugher on vibraphone with an African style rhythm.

Flutist Nathalie Joachim performed “Praise Dance” unaccompanied and reminiscent of a shepherd on a hillside revisits the composers’ penchant to explore the way brass and wind instruments interact with the atmosphere and seemingly hang in the air.

“Hold Out for Joy” is from the opera “Gbeldahoven: No One’s Child” by Regina Harris Baiocchi based on the lives of Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes.  A soulful melody performed by Cherresa Lawson with vibraphone accompaniment (David Bugher).

Natalie Joachim (flute) returns with “Three Brevities” composed by Regina’s mentor Dr. Hale Smith providing some insight into her own musical inspiration.

“Nilisikia Sauti Kubwa” is a holiday choral music based on Swahili poetry arranged for tenor (Kameron Locke), trumpet (Edgar Campos), crotales (Jimmy Finnie) and piano (Michael Keefe). Once again with a beautiful lyrical melody Ms. Baiocchi allows the lone trumpet to sound like a voice in the distance as the tenor vocal rises slowly above the instrumental in this piece translated as “I Heard a Voice.”

The concerts concluded with two contemporary jazz songs, the cool “Lovers & Friends” and the upbeat “Dream Weaver” with Dee Alexander (vocal), Edwin Daugherty (saxophone) and Thomas Jefferson (piano).

Regina Harris Baiocchi is a thoughtful, versatile, and accomplished composer. Selected works can be heard at a concert of “6 Degrees Composers” 2:30 PM on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017 at Roosevelt University, Ganz Hall, 430 South Michigan Ave., Chicago.  Admission is Free.

Learn more at Baiocchi

Reno Lovison

(Guest reviewer Reno Lovison produced the video of the concert that will be seen in Chicago on CANTV in January 2018.)

 

 

 

Belle of Amherst Rings True

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

If what you remember of Emily Dickinson from high school literature is that she was a spinster recluse who wrote free verse poetry about death you will be happy to know that at the Court Theatre you will be spending time with a much different Dickinson. This one  imagined herself to be “The Belle of Amherst.”

Kate Fry is the Belle of Amherst at Court Theatre. Court Theatre photo
Kate Fry is the Belle of Amherst at Court Theatre. Court Theatre photo

Maybe you asked, how could anyone who in adulthood never traveled more than a few miles from home, avoided her neighbors and had few if any friends, be an interesting subject for a one actor play.

But, sharing insights into her writing process, familial relations, lost loves and admirers, Kate Fry portrays a much spunkier, wittier version of the poetess than most of us imagined.

Fry grabs our attention the moment she makes her entrance and keeps the audience captivated for the remainder of the two-act play.

Captivated – now there is a word I believe Emily Dickinson “could take her hat off to.” She speaks of her love of words, how they look, how they sound and what they mean.

We learn that Dickinson did not have a love of life as we traditionally think of it. Rather she had a love of living. She says that just having life is the greatest thing imaginable.

When her poems are rejected for publication she says that like a bird she does not sing for others, she sings because she must sing.  Likewise she lives because she must live and revels in the simple acts of living.

The action takes place on a visually stunning set designed by Arnel Sanciano – a kind of floating box within a box presented on an angle and a bit off center like the title subject.

The inner box is mostly monochrome with the only bright colors coming from glimpses of nature outside her windows and the numerous plants brought inside.

Sanciano’s set is perfectly complimented by the luminous effects of Lighting Designer Mike Durst who paints the monotone interior with wonderful shades of lavender and thoughtful shadows that augment the various moods of the many stories being told.

Since this is a play about words and a person who built her life around choosing just the right one, it is imperative that the dialogue can be heard distinctly and Sound Designers Andre Pluess and Christopher LaPorte do not disappoint us.

It may be a function of the excellent third row center seat I had but every word was clear as a bell (no pun intended) and did not have that artificial electronic sound.

My one minor criticism was the use of some background music that was periodically intended to enhance the mood. I found it more of a distraction particularly in one scene where it sounded like someone’s annoying cell phone melody.

Samantha Jones’ dresses for Fry were beautifully crafted, detailed and suited to the period.

A one performer play is indeed largely about the actor, who in this case was perfection but the overall production is all about the director.

In such a play the director is more important than ever because it is through him, in this case, Sean Graney that the performer gets all of her feedback.

It is up to the actor and the other crafts people to provide options and have the talent to execute ideas that emerge, but the director is truly the holder of the vision. He is the one who will decide what we all will see, and I like what I saw.

So in the end this is a true collaboration of stage craft. There is only one actor so the set, sound, and costumes are essential to help paint a fuller picture. Everything must be perfect and it really was.

DETAILS: ‘The Belle of Amherst’ by William Luce’ is at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. on the University of Chicago campus through Dec. 3, 2017. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information call (773) 753-4472 or visit Court Theatre.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

 

Give us back the earth . . .

 

RECOMMENDED

Many themes in the arts have universal relevance. ‘The Consul,’ currently in production by the Chicago Opera Theater, is a great example.

People from villages, cities, and countries all over the world can identify with this modern opera composed by Gian Carlo Menotti.  Based on immigrants and political refugees, the opera takes place in an anonymous totalitarian country.

Audrey Babcock (Secretary), Justin Ryan (John Sorel) and Patricia Racette (Magda Sorel) in 'The Consul', a Chicago Opera theater production. Liz Lauren photo
Audrey Babcock (Secretary), Justin Ryan (John Sorel) and Patricia Racette (Magda Sorel) in ‘The Consul’, a Chicago Opera theater production. Liz Lauren photo

‘The Consul’ debuted in 1950 and went on to win the New York Drama Critic Circle’s award as the Best Musical Play. Menotti also garnered a Pulitzer Prize. ‘The Consul’ was described by The New York Times as “an opera of eloquence . . . written from the heart.”  Andreas Mitisek, the director, reflected on his own experiences as an immigrant which drew him to this opera.

Award-winning Metropolitan Opera Soprano Patricia Racette plays Magda Sorel, the wife of  John, played by Justin Ryan, a dissident who escapes from the police, hurries home and explains to his wife that she must apply for a visa in order to leave the country. John tells Magda to take their frail infant and his mother to the consulate and while they are awaiting their visas, he will hide at the border’s edge and join them once they’ve safely crossed over.

At the consul’s office, Magda fills out the paperwork and submits her application to the clerk and then joins the large group of refugees.   The secretary gains everyone’s attention and announces that she cannot guarantee that anyone will receive their visas.

While Magda’s child’s health is failing, she is approached by the police who want information about John, but she refuses to answer any of their questions.

The brilliant voices and beautiful music conducted by Kristof van Grysperre are what increases the emotional depth of this exceptional story. After both her child and mother-in-law pass away, Magda cannot bear to imagine any additional losses, as she descends into a morose state of depression.

‘The Consul’ remains relevant today, as Magda sings “Give us back the earth and make us free.”  Unfortunately, our world’s refugees do not have the libretto, arias, scenic design and beauty that this opera provides its audience.

In addition to Patricia Racette and Justin Ryan, the rest of the marvelous performers are Audrey Babcock, Victoria Livengood, Cedric Berry, Kyle Knapp, Vince Wallace, Kimberly E. Jones, Kira Dills-DeSurra, Zacharias Niedzwiecki, and Lani Stait.

DETAILS: ‘The Consul’is at the Studebaker Theater, 410 S. Michigan Ave. through Nov. 12, 2017. For tickets and more information, call (312) 704-8414 or visit Chicago Opera Theater.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

‘42nd Street’ — A glorious tap dancing feat

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

If you’re looking for a festive family outing this holiday season, ‘42nd Street’ delivers the goods along with lots of glitz. Now playing at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, the much-beloved musical is charged with perky tunes and high-energy dancing. Tap dancing, that is.

Cast of 42nd Street at Drury Lane Theatre. Photo by Brett Beiner
Cast of 42nd Street at Drury Lane Theatre. Photo by Brett Beiner

It’s a dreams-come-true story of a sweet, aspiring young chorus girl named Peggy Sawyer. She fumbles her first big audition and ultimately lands the starring role in a new Broadway production called “Pretty Lady.” Woven throughout are show-stopping song-and-dance numbers and subplots of love triangles and financial woes. All are wrapped up neatly by the end of the show.

Directed by Michael Heitzman, the Drury Lane production features a stellar cast of actors, singers and dancers. Kimberly Immanuel plays Peggy with both innocence and strength.

Suzzanne Douglas as the aging prima donna Dorothy Brock and Donica Lynn as songwriter Maggie Jones are powerhouse solo artists but in different ways. Douglas sings with crystal clarity while Lynn gets sultry and soulful. Gene Weygandt, who plays “Pretty Lady” director Julian Marsh, has a voice that is honest and heroic.

Special mention goes to the ensemble of tap dancers, whose work appears effortless and truly joyful, and to choreographer Jared Grimes who managed to incorporate dress racks and stock pots into dance numbers. The showiest, at the end of Act One, takes “We’re In The Money” literally.

The set design by Collette Pollard is more spartan than that of other Drury Lane productions, but it works. Most of the action takes place in a weary rehearsal hall, and the scenery is the dancers themselves.

Also on the creative team are costume designer Emilio Sosa and lighting designer Mike Baldassari. The ’42nd Street Orchestra’ is conducted by Chris Sargent, who also plays keyboard.

The original 1980 Broadway production won the Tony Award for Best Musical. It was produced by David Merrick and directed and choreographed by an ailing Gower Champion, who passed away only hours before opening night. The musical, however, lives on.

DETAILS: ’42nd Street’ is at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, through Jan. 7. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information, call (630) 530-0111 or visit Drury Lane Theatre.

Pamela Dittmer McKuen

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.