Of course audiences going to Marriott Theatre’s ‘Oklahoma’ will hear and love Rogers and Hammerstein’s highly singable “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,” “Kansas City,” “I Can’t Say No,” “People Will Say We’re in Love” and “Oklahoma.”
Some folks were singing those popular, ingrained –in-American-culture songs as they left the theatre Wednesday night after the show’s official opening.
Audiences can enjoy the musical ‘Ragtime’ with its book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty without knowing where its theme and main rhythm were born. The tales are compelling as are the show’s superb voices.
But knowledge of the times portrayed from the early 1900s to 1917, a time rife with prejudice and important movements for women’s rights and better labor conditions, is helpful to appreciating the messages of the musical’s origin, novelist E.L. Doctorow’s famed 1975 novel, Ragtime.
It is appropriately named after the syncopated “rags” music popular with African Americans in the 1890s up to the First World War.
When translated into the musical, first appearing in Toronto in 1996 and opened on Broadway in 1998, the prominent background and piece tinkled on the keys by Doctorow’s character, Harlem musician Coalhouse Walker, Jr., was “Maple Leaf Rag.”
Written by African American composer Scott Joplin, the piece became the “face” of a sound arguably first written by another African American composer, Ernest Hogan, who called his pieces “rags.”
Doctorow’s novel, and later a film and the musical, follows the fictional fortunes of a wealthy white suburban New York family, an African American couple and a Jewish immigrant and his daughter. They served as a way to zoom in on prejudices against Negros, the term used at the time, and bigotry towards immigrants.
The tales are intermingled with actual historical figures such as Harry Houdini, Henry Ford, Booker T. Washington, J.P. Morgan, Emma Goldman, Evelyn Nesbit, Standford White, Harry Kendall Thaw and Admiral Peary.
You know the period is the early 1900s by the terrific costumes designed by Sarah Laux and by the story’s historical figures. However, similar to the many Shakespearean plays now set in other years, ‘Ragtime’ could be moved to now, more than a century later, and still have a similar impact.
The joy of seeing the Marriott show is listening to Kathy Voytko as Mother, the wealthy, caring mom in New Rochelle, and Katherine Thomas as Sarah, Coalhouse Walker, Jr.’s abandoned lover whom he wants to reclaim.
It is also the excellent acting of Nathaniel Stampley as Coalhouse and Benjamin Magnuson as Tateh, a Jewish artist immigrant.
Indeed, directed by Nick Bowling, the entire cast, a large one at 29 players, is excellent.
However special kudos go to Patrick Scott McDermott as Mother’s The Little Boy who has a fairly large role innocently reflecting the thoughts and terms he hear, and Paula Hlava as Tateh’s daughter, The Little Girl who heightens the plight of immigrant’s conditions.
The only problem I had with the production was that at 2 hours, 40 minutes, it became too long to appreciate all the fine singing and dancing.
DETAILS: ‘Ragtime- the Musical” is at Marriott Theatre , 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, now through March 18, 2018. Running time 2 hours, 40 minutes with one 15 minute intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.
Note: Ragtime contains strong language and content relating to race. It is recommended for ages 13 and older.
‘Sleeping Beauty’ at Marriott Theatre, a charmer for all ages, is Marc Robin’s non-traditional adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
Princess Amber, beautifully sung and interpreted by Elizabeth Telford, does prick her finger on the deadly spinning wheel but she’s a figure that today’s young girls should love because she‘s adventurous instead of prim and proper.
And instead of just another handsome guy to the rescue, Prince Hunter, played with humor by Garrett Lutz, has to overcome allergies and insecurities in order to come to Amber’s aid. He does so with “you can do it” audience help reminiscent of Peter Pan’s “do you believe in fairies.”
As to the three good fairies who bestow good personality traits, they are the very colorful Ruby (Danni Smith), Periwinkle (Cassie Slater) and Marigold (Sharrissee Hamilton).
The supposedly wicked Magenta (Meghan Murphy) casts the death spell as revenge for being snubbed by the father of current King Lapis, played as a nice but foolish man by Steven Strafford.
The characters’ helper is the elf, Topaz, interpreted with a few Spanish phrases thrown in by William Angulo.
Names are important to the show because this is the kingdom of Colors which had made the fairy, Magenta, and purple illegal. In the end, King Lapis changes the law so that all colors are welcome.
Directed and choreographed by Scott Weinstein, the is a nice, low key message that is a perfect as a conversation starter now at holiday time and throughout the year.
DETAILS: ‘Sleeping Beauty is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire through Dec. 30, 2017. Running time: 1 hour plus a Q and A period after the show. For tickets and information call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.
‘Honeymoon in Vegas,’ a really nutty, crazily-wonderful musical now at Marriott Theatre, is so clever that it bears comparison to the 1950 Frank Loesser musical, ‘Guys and Dolls.’
The music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown will not go down in the American Song Book like Loesser’s “I’ll Know” or If I Were a Bell” but the lyrics are so outrageous that they bear careful listening to or descriptions will be missed because the music sounds so romantic and sentimental.
Imagine telling girls to dress up to their “molars” (to rhyme with high stake rollers) or characterizing an overly tanned female skin as “saddle bags.”
Set “Guys and Dolls” down in Vegas but minus the “Save-A Soul Mission”. Then fly the gal that the gambler pursues to Hawaii with him for the weekend instead of Cuba. Have him ply her with rum drinks and then have them fly back to Vegas.
However, the twist in the hilarious ‘Honeynmoon in Vegas,’ is that the guy who has trouble making a commitment is not the professional gambler or a friend like Nathan Detroit, but an ordinary Brooklyn “Joe,” Jack Singer. The problem is that Jack has trouble proposing and sealing the deal at the altar because he says his dead mother put a curse on him so he would never marry.
But Jack agrees to fly to Vegas where gambler Tommy Korman sees Jack’s girlfriend, Betsy Nolan, at the hotel where he hangs out and cons suckers. Tommy thinks she is a double for his dead wife and plots how to marry her.
Betsy is like Nathan’s Adelaid who wants a commitment. But she really wants it from Jack whom she loves so when it comes to succumbing to Tommy wiles, she reverts to a Sarah like character.
What Chicago audiences are getting from this regional premiere at Marriott is basically the Broadway show.
The musical’s book is by Andrew Bergman who wrote and directed the original film. It is insightfully helmed by Gary Griffin who directed the show on Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre. Marriott’s amazing choreography is by Denis Jones who did the New York show.
Kudos also to Brian Hemesath, costume designer for the Broadway production, for his terrific Elvis grouping and the Tiki style forms in the Garden of disappointed Mothers.
Add to that sterling background, the excellent interpretation of Jack by the multi-talented Chicago veteran actor/composer Michael Mahler, a nicely nuanced portrayal of Betsy by Marriott regular (Eva Peron, et al.) Samantha Pauly, and the perfect depiction of Tommy by Broadway veteran Sean Allan Krill and you have a memorable Marriott production.
Other notable cast members are Cole Burden as Buddy Rocky leading the entertainment at the hotel and as Roy Bacon, the Elvis leader, Steven Strafford as Tommy’s sidekick Johnny Sandwich and Christine Bunuan as Mahi whom Tommy had divert Jack from pursuing Betsy.
Some of the highlights of the show are whenever Marya Grandy appears as Jack’s funnily scary mom, Bea Singer, who keeps haunting him, and the “Flying Elvises” who help Jack return to Vegas from Hawaii.
A quick vignette of Jack flying to Hawaii in a middle seat crowded by clowning passengers is so true to life. The scene where flight desk attendants try to redirect him back to Vegas through Atlanta is a riot but hits on another too-true problem with flying anywhere.
‘Honeymoon in Vegas’ is at Marriott theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire, now through Oct. 15, 2017. For tickets and more information call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.
More tickets to Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit musical, ‘Hamilton,’ will become available beginning at 10 a.m. Aug. 29, 2017, according to producer Jeffrey Seller.
Announced in conjunction with Broadway in Chicago, he noted that a 16 week block of tickets can be purchased from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The PrivateBank Theatre’s box office, 18 W. Monroe St., online at BroadwayinChicago and by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000.
The new block of tickets extends the run to April 29, 2018. The box office had been selling tickets only through Jan 7 of next year.
Tickets range in cost from $65 to $190. However, the online lottery for $10 seats will continue.
The lottery can be entered through a new app at HamiltonBroadway and at BroadwayinChicago. Access to the new lottery is 11 a.m. (Central Time) two days before the performance and through 9 a.m. the day before the performance.
The show is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. More on the musical can be found at “Hamilton is worth the hype.”
Jeff Equity Nominations
Check the list to see if a theater production you saw and liked made the Jefferson Committee’s equity nomination list. Nominations fall into 33 categories.
Shows had to be running between Aug.1, 2016 and July 31, 2017. The 49th Annual Equity Jeff Awards ceremony will be held Nov. 6 at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace.
Drury Lane Productions took the most nominations at 19 followed by Paramount and Writers Theatres with 15, Goodman Theatre at 14, Porchlight Music Theatre with 13, Court Theatre at 11 and Marriott Theatre with 10.
Here is a list of nominees in the plays and musicals categories for the show, director, actor and actress.
Chicago theatres and entertainment venues have a terrific line-up of shows for the 2017-18 season. Now is a good time to plan what to see with season tickets or dropping hints for birthday or holiday presents.
Don’t just consider plays. There’s also one-and two-nighters of top entertainers at a couple of venues. With so many places to go for a night out the Chicago theatre scene has to be broken into different areas. Not everything to see is downtown or Near North. So, try some of the theatres and other venues north of the city.
When Francesca, the central female character in “The Bridges of Madison County,” wonders aloud how Robert, a National Geographic photographer, came to her doorstep in Winterset, Iowa, she answers herself with the wonderful line, “The patron saint of Iowa housewives sent you to me.”
And so, it might explain how and why a woman whose husband and two kids are off to snag a prized-steer award at a neighboring state fair might seriously consider an extramarital affair and even consider leaving home for a new-found love.
Francesca, who winds up on an Iowa farm after leaving Italy with an American soldier, is brilliantly portrayed by Broadway and Jeff-Award winning actress, Kathy Voytko.
Well-directed by Nick Bowling at Marriott Theatre, the show is a heartbreaking romance that uncovers buried emotional needs.
Voytko’s face and body movements are so expressive it is easy to empathize with this housewife who suddenly feels appreciated as a woman and is fascinated by someone who travels the world for work.
What also helps are Marsha Norman’s script (book) and Jason Robert Brown’s thoughtful and moving music and lyrics.
There is “What Do You Call a Man Like That?” which Voyko beautifully sings on the covered Roseman Bridge she helped Robert locate. It alerts the audience that more than a casual relationship will develop.
Then there is the terrific, first-act ending “Falling into You,” the beautifully sensual duet Voyko sings with Robert, insightfully played by Nathaniel Stampley.
Although based on the novel by Robert James Waller, the musical is not a reproduction of it or the 1995 Clint Eastwood film that won Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination. (Voytko’s performance ought to bring her a Jeff Award nomination). The musical’s ending is different though won’t be revealed here.
Francesca’s family which is periodically interjected into the action includes husband Bud, maybe deliberately understated by Bart Shatto to promote the contrast between farmer and lover, daughter Carolyn played with spirited angst by Brooks MacDougal and son Michael who does not want to become a farmer as explained by Tanner Hake. An older Carolyn in Act II is Allyson Graves.
Their neighbors are Marge interpreted with sympathy by Wydetta Carter (she also sings “Get closer”) and her husband, Charlie, nicely played by Terry Hamilton.
Emily Berman does a fine memory-style interlude with a guitar when she sings “Another Life” as Marian, Robert’s ex-wife.
The Iowa scenery is well captured by Anthony Churchill’s projections on the theatre’s walls. Set design by Jeffry D. Kmiec features the bridge, a masterful centerpiece.
Details: “The Bridges of Madison County” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr, Lincolnshire, IL through Aug. 13, 2017. For tickets and other information call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.
With so many reality, edgy plays pricking the conscience of today’s highly news-aware theater-goers, an old-fashioned, enchanting boy-girl attraction can become a refreshing change.
Luckily, Marriott Lead Artistic director Aaron Thielen recognized the need by bringing composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick’s and writer Joe Masteroff’s delightful 1963 musical, ‘She Loves Me,’ to this Lincolnshire theatre.
The plot: two people fall in love with each other through letters and later find out that their correspondents are people they know and don’t think they like.
That story line has been too good not to repeat in different forms over the years. Think “The Shop Around the Corner,” “In the Good Old Summertime” and more recently, “You’ve Got Mail.” Read More
It doesn’t matter if you have seen’ Mamma Mia’ before. As an audience member sitting next to me at the Marriott Theatre said, “I saw it on Broadway. This is better.”
A jukebox musical based on the songs of ABBA, the Marriott production has it all: terrific solos, great dance numbers, fine staging and a perfect combo of light and sound that brings back the 1970s disco era. A Swedish group, ABBA was performing, basically from 1972 to 1982. Read More
A charming and fun adaptation of The Nutcracker’ is at Marriott Theatre now through Dec. 20, 2016. As part of Marriott’s Theatre for Young Audiences series, the Mouse King is comic rather than scary but with deft direction and choreography by Matt Raftery, the show will delight all ages.