A peek at the next theater season

 

Ford Oriental Theatre in the foreground and Cadillac Palace Theatre in the background are two Broadway in Chicago venues. (Broadway in Chicago photo)
Ford Oriental Theatre in the foreground and Cadillac Palace Theatre in the background are two Broadway in Chicago venues. (Broadway in Chicago photo)

Chicago is blessed with a terrific pool of actors, directors, choreographers and theater technicians and a community of theater-goers who really appreciate a good production. But it is still amazing that the Greater Chicago area has 250 theater companies. They share venues throughout the city and suburbs. Thus, there are lots of choices of where to go and what to see. (BTW, some of them like to spell theater as theatre. That’s OK.)

Because there are so many companies it is arguably hard to keep track of what everyone is doing so we’ll look at the 2018-2019 season by area starting with downtown from the Broadway Playhouse to Lookingglass Theatre and more.

First off, the expensive ticket shows seen in New York are brought to the Cadillac Palace, CIBC, Ford Oriental, Broadway Playhouse and sometimes  Auditorium, by Broadway in Chicago. Here is what to expect so far at those venues during the 2018-2019 season.

Broadway Playhouse

Located at 175 E. Chestnut St.at Water Tower Place, it has “Heartbreak Hotel” through Sep 9, 2018.

Cadillac Palace Theatre

The theatre, 151 W. Randolph St. has the pre-Broadway world premier of “Tootsie” beginning Sept. 11 followed by “Miss Saigon” on Nov. 13 and “Fiddler On The Roof” Dec. 18. Then “Kinky Boots” opens on Jan 22, 2019 followed by “Dear Evan Hansen” on Feb. 12, “Come From Away” opens on July 30 and “The Band’s Visit opens next fall on Sept. 10.

CIBC Theatre

At18 W. Monroe, the theatre still has “Hamilton” which is expected to go through Jan. 20, 2019.

Ford Oriental Theatre

Located at 24 W. Randolph St., the theatre has ” Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” coming Oct. 2, followed by “Hello, Dolly” Oct. 23, then “The Book of Mormon” Nov. 20 and “The Play That Goes Wrong,” Dec. 4. Starting off 2019 is “The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson Musical” opening Jan. 8, followed by “A Bronx Tale” Mar. 12, “Anastasia” Mar. 26, then “Falsettos” May 28 and “Cats” on July 16.

For tickets and other information visit Broadway in Chicago and call (800) 775-2000.

 

 

The Yard is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier
The Yard is at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Situated on Navy Piere at 800 E. Grand Ave. (On Navy Pier), CST currently has “Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure” through Aug. 19.

Coming this fall are “Big Mouth” Sept 12, “Nell Gwynn” opening Sept. 20, Circolombia’s “Acelere” on Oct. 23, “Fight Night,” also on Oct. 23, “Q Brothers Christmas Carol” on Nov. 20 and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on Dec. 6.

The season continues with “Us/Them” opening Jan. 22, 2019, “L’Apres Midi D’un Foehn” on Jan. 23, then “Short Shakespeare Macbeth” opens Feb. 16 and “An Inspector Call’s opens Feb. 19, “Two Pints” starts Mar. 6, “Hamlet” opens Apr. 17 and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” on May 30.

For tickets and more information visit Chicago Shakes and call (312) 595-5600.

 

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An outstanding adventure awaits in ’20,000 Leagues’ at Lookingglass

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L to R, Walter Briggs, Kasey Foster and Lanise Antoine Shelley. (Photos by Liz Lauren)
L to R, Walter Briggs, Kasey Foster and Lanise Antoine Shelley. (Photos by Liz Lauren)

French author Jules Verne’s farsighted (1870) Nautilus submarine takes readers on a voyage below the oceans’ surface where Captain Nemo encounters sea creatures and destroys ships in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: A Tour of the Underwater World.” BTW twenty thousand depicts the journey’s length not ocean depth.

Disney productions saw wonderful, pictorial possibilities  so came out with a fine adventure film in 1954 that starred Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas and Peter Lorre.

Now Lookinglass Theatre, known for creatively depicting such stories enjoyed by youngsters and adults, alike, as “Alice” from Lewis Carroll’s stories, Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick,” has brought the Verne adventure to life on stage with David Kersnar and Althos Low’s adaption and Kersnar’s direction in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas.” (Yes, the play say Seas).Read More

Lookingglass beautifully translates difficult Dickens tale

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Take the just-the-facts “ma’am” of Utilitarianism, compare it to the artistic joy of the circus, throw in dispiriting working conditions typical of mid 1800’s to early 1900’s mill towns, then people it with some victims and some typically villainous and greedy Dickensian characters and you have Charles Dickens’ 1854 story, ‘Hard Times for These Times.’

Cast of 'Hard Times' at Lookingglass Theatre. Liz Lauren photos
Cast of ‘Hard Times’ at Lookingglass Theatre. Liz Lauren photos

What makes what would be a difficult-to-enjoy retelling of a sad story worth going to is the beautiful staging, exceptional acting and delightful Actors Gymnasium  acrobatics in a production recently opened at Lookingglass Theatre.

Originally adapted and directed by Heidi Stillman in 2001, the production returns to Lookingglass with gorgeous, dream-like circus sequences in the background. They emphasize the longing of its two main female characters: Louisa, the daughter of a utilitarian-style school superintendent, Mr. Gradgrind, and Sissy, who performed in a traveling circus until her father, a clown, left her so she could become educated.

Louisa is perfectly played as a dutiful, unhappy daughter by Cordelia Dewdney. Actress-Aerialist Audrey Anderson is just right as her friend, Sissy, former performer but now a student at the school and a member of the Gradgrind household.

Troy West is the odious mill owner, Mr. Bounderby who wants to marry Louisa even though he is 50 when she finishes her education at age 20. J.J. Philips is Tom, Louisa’s manipulative brother.

A secondary plot pits Stephen (David Catlin ) against the prevailing system. He’s a mill worker desperate to divorce his alcoholic wife but too poor to do so. He’s in love with the sweet-spirited Rachel (Louise Lamson).

Lauren Dewdney (Louisa) l, and Audrey Anderson (Sissy) in the foreground with Louise Lamson and Raymond Fox in the background.
Cordelia Dewdney (Louisa) l, and Audrey Anderson (Sissy) in the foreground with Louise Lamson and Raymond Fox in the background.

The entire cast is terrific with many of the actors playing more than one role.

Raymond Fox , excellent as Mr. Gradgrind, also plays Slackbridge. Catlin doubles as  circus owner Sleary. Nathan Hosner portrays Mr. Harthouse, a wealthy idler who is interested in Louisa, and also does Mr. M’Choakumchild and Kidderminster.

A special note has to be made of Amy J. Carle’s awesome performance as Mrs. Sparsit, Mr. Bounderby’s housekeeper and probable mistress.

Marilyn Dobbs Frank is so good as Mrs. Pegler, a lady who occasionally appears that you will likely guess who she really is.

Even though the mill conditions of “Hard Times” and prospects for women have changed, his character types are still present. So as with many Shakespearean plays, “Hard Times,”can be re-set in the present time.

DETAILS: ‘Hard Times – For These Times’ is  at  Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan, through Jan. 14, 2018. Running time 2 hours, 40 minutes, one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Lookingglass.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

Classic tale comes alive on stage

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

To get teenagers away from their cell phones for a while and interested in learning more about a classic novel or excited about going to a stage show, take them to ‘Moby Dick’ at Lookingglass Theatre.

Mattie Hawkinson, Kelly Abell, Javen Ulambayer and Cordelia Dewdney in 'Mob y Dick' at Lookingglass theatre. Ulambayar is Mungun. the three woman are the Fates and other roles. All photos are by Liz Lauren
Mattie Hawkinson, Kelly Abell, Javen Ulambayer and Cordelia Dewdney in ‘Moby Dick’ at Lookingglass theatre. Ulambayar is Mungun. the three woman are the Fates and other roles. All photos are by Liz Lauren

Following rave reviews on tour, the show is back in town where it first appeared and received four Jeff Awards in 2015. It’s now back home in Lookingglass’ black-box space in the historic Water Tower Water Works (a Chicago Fire survivor) through Sept. 3, 2017.

The way Lookingglass’ David Catlin has adapted and directs the Herman Melville seafaring epic, the story leaps off the pages with great physicality and graphic portrayals.

In addition to an exceptional ensemble, the production is done in association with The Actors Gynmnasium. They are aided and abetted by the fantastic, curving bone-like scenery that mimics the inside of a whale designed by Courtney O’Neill and the rigging designed b y Isaac Schoepp.

But the novel, and thus the show, is more than a tale about a fierce adventure surrounding a white whale called Moby Dick. As the crew of the Pequod find out after they’ve signed on, Captain Ahab who lost a leg to Moby Dick, wants vengeance in a manor reminiscent of Shakespearean tragedies. The story really is about obsession.

Anthony Fleming II, Nathan Hosner, Jamie Abelson and Cordelia Dewdney, Kelly Abell and Mattie Hawkinson in 'Moby Dick'
Anthony Fleming II, Nathan Hosner, Jamie Abelson and Cordelia Dewdney, Kelly Abell and Mattie Hawkinson in ‘Moby Dick’

Ahab, intensely interpreted  by Nathan Hosner, becomes madder to the point of not caring who dies as he pursues his goal.

The story is told by Ishmael, the only crew member who survives the pursuit. Jamie Abelson and Walter Owen Briggs alternate in the role.

On another level, the story is also about men, such as Queequeg, played magnificently by Anthony Fleming III, who seek adventure in place of responsibility, and Starbuck (really, long before the coffee chain) who seeks income through whaling oil.

This is a show that teens and adults who appreciate a well-told, well-presented yarn will appreciate.

‘Moby Dick’ is at Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Works at 821 N. Michigan Ave. through Sept. 3, 2017. For tickets and other information call (312) 337-0665 and visit Lookingglass.

 

Beyond the daylight world

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The power of ‘Beyond Caring,’ now premiering in the US at Lookingglass Theatre, is how ordinary the characters and their circumstances seem.

J Nicole Bbrooks, Wendy Mateo and Caren Blackmore in 'Beyond Carin' at Lookingglass Theatre. Liz Lauren photo
J Nicole Brooks, Wendy Mateo and Caren Blackmore in ‘Beyond Caring’ at Lookingglass Theatre. Liz Lauren photo

They are three female temp workers, two blacks and one Hispanic, that are so desperate for work that they take the night cleaning shift in a sausage factory and put up with an alpha-male boss who seemingly doesn’t care about their problems.

A fourth worker is an intelligent, black male who also does the shift but has been there for about two years.

After 90 minutes (no intermission) of watching Caren Blackmore as rheumatoid arthritis worker Ebony-Grace, J. Nicole Brooks as strong-willed, single mother, Tracy and Wendy Mateo as Sonia, a penniless Hispanic woman who is likely homeless, plus Edwin Lee Gibson as Phil, their depression-wracked co-worker, you deplore what they have to go through to keep overseer Keith D. Gallagher (Ian) happy.

It gets even worse towards the end of the play when the already exhausted workers are requested to stay longer because of a new sausage trial so they have to clean previously used grinding and other machines.

It’s ugly. But sitting just to one side of the action as a fly on dirty, bare walls, it feels as if what is viewed is a normal way of life for people who have no other recourse.

 Edwin Lee Gibson and Caren Blackmore in 'Beyond Caring'. Liz Lauren photo

Edwin Lee Gibson and Caren Blackmore in ‘Beyond Caring’. Liz Lauren photo

The feeling of coming into an actual, barren workplace, carefully created by scenic designer Daniel Ostling, is enhanced by the audience having to walk into the set through heavy, see-through plastic panels that separate the work room from the lockers.

The only part of the experience that would have been helpful would have been stronger back story definition so the audience could better understand the three women’s circumstances.

Written and directed by Alexander Zeldin, the US premiere is his Americanized adaptation of the National Theatre production of his play that debuted in London. The Lookingglass play is a Dark Harbor Stories production by David Schwimmer and Tom Hodges.

Post –show conversations will be held following the 2 p.m. matinees on April 9, 16 and 23. In addition, Lookingglass is partnering with Chicago Worker’s Collaborative to bring people from Englewood, Elgin, Little Village and Waukegan to see the show at no cost, on April 9, 23, 30 and May 7.

Details: ‘Beyond Caring’ is at Lookingglass Theater in the Chicago Water Works building at  821 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, now through May 7. For tickets and other information call (312-) 337-0665 or visit Lookingglass Theatre.

‘Mr and Mrs. Pennyworth’ is a story worth telling

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A mysterious disappearance of the big bad wolf, a mainstay of some folk and fairy tales, leads traveling storytellers Mr. and Mrs. Pennyworth to quick stops with other famous characters such as the White Rabbit to find out if there are problems in their stories.

One of the three little pigs tells Lindsey Noel Whiting (Mrs. Pennyworth) and Samuel Taylor (Mr. Pennyworth) that the wolf has been murdered but not by a hunter. Photo by Liz Lauren
One of the three little pigs tells Lindsey Noel Whiting (Mrs. Pennyworth) and Samuel Taylor (Mr. Pennyworth) that the wolf has been murdered but not by a hunter. Photo by Liz Lauren

The journey to uncover the heart of the problem eventually takes them back to Norse mythology and the forces of Odin who was behind the Pennyworth’s travels.

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Chekhov’s ‘Uncle Vanya’ converted to a conversation piece

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In Lookingglass Theatre’s show bill, Aaron Posner explains that ‘Life Sucks” is his updated version of Anton Chekhov’s ‘Uncle Vanya.’

Eddie Jemison, Barbara Robertson, Jim Ortlieb and Chaon Cross in 'Life Sucks' at Lookingglass Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren
Eddie Jemison, Barbara Robertson, Jim Ortlieb and Chaon Cross in ‘Life Sucks’ at Lookingglass Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren

Chekhov’s classic tale, published in 1897 and premiered in 1899, is about life on a rural estate where inhabitants work hard but are bored and their thoughts are a mix of wishes and woes.

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