Good song and dance numbers sweeten Marriott’s ‘Charity’

The cast of 'Sweet Charity' goes into the 'Big Spender' song and dance number. (Photo by Justin Barbin)
The cast of ‘Sweet Charity’ goes into the ‘Big Spender’ song and dance number. (Photo by Justin Barbin)

RECOMMENDED

When Charity Hope Valentine is asked why she believes in love, she replies, “You have to have some religion.”  In “Sweet Charity,” a show replete with good lines, after all Neil Simon wrote the musical’s book, this expression lies at the heart of the story.

However, audiences who have seen the 1969 movie and are seeing the show now at Marriott Theatre, will also catch that the theme that frames the show is Charity’s middle name, Hope.

No matter how often she is disappointed, Charity, a dance-hall hostess, rebounds. Instead of following the typical “and they lived happily ever after,” in “Sweet Charity” she moves forward, “hopefully.”

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Sneak Peak Part Six: Chicago suburban theater scene

Writers Theatre in Glencoe is interesting outside and on stage. (Jodie Jacobs photo)
Writers Theatre in Glencoe is interesting outside and on stage. (Jodie Jacobs photo)

Not all memorable theater is in the city. Chicago’s suburban theaters put on Jeff award-winning productions. But whether looking to the city or suburbs or both, one way to not miss a show you want to see is to save this Sneak Peak Series and mark productions for tickets or theaters for subscriptions. Enjoy! (Note: Some companies spell their work and space theater but others use theatre. Both are correct.)

North

 

Citadel Theatre

The theatre is in a school building at 300 S. Waukegan Rd. Lake Forest.

Citadel is doing “The Little Foxes, Sept. 28-Oct. 28 followed by Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”  Nov. 16-Dec. 23.  An early 2019 show is TBA but then “Sentimental Journey” is Apr. 26-May 26.

For tickets and other information call (847) 735-8554 and visit Citadel Theatre.

 

Marriott Theatre

The theatre does professional musical productions in the Marriott Resort at 10 Marriott Dr,. Lincohnshire.

The season continues with “Murder for Two” through Aug. 26 followed by Sweet Charity” Sept. 5-Oct. 28, “Shrek the Musical” (children’s show) Oct. 5-Dec 30 and concludes with “Holiday Inn” Nov. 7-Jan. 6.

In addition to the shows, the theatre is hosting  a fundraising concert in memory of director/choreographer Rachel Rockwell Sept. 17 called “We Three” featuring the stars of Marriott’s “Mama Mia,” Meghan Murphy, Cassie Slater and Danni Smith.

For show tickets call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.  To get tickets to “We Three” call the Marriott or order on line tickets at  Ticket Master.

 

Metropolis Performing Arts Center

The Center, at 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, is currently doing   “Beehine” through Aug. 25, then “Chorus Line” Sept. 20-Nov. 3 and “James and the Giant Peach Jr. Nov. 8-10. In 2019, productions continue with “Mouse Trap” Jan. 31-March 16 and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” May 16-June 29 and “Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story” July 18-Aug. 24.

For tickets and other information call (847) 577-2121 and visit Metropolis Performing Arts Center.

 

Music Theater Works

Productions are usually in Cahn Auditorium on Northwestern University’s campus at 600 Emerson St. at Sheridan Road, Evanston.

Currently “Anything Goes” continues through Aug. 25 then it’s “Judy Garland: Come Rain or Come Shine” Oct. 5-14 and “Into the Woods” Dec. 22-31 .

For tickets and other information call (847) 920-5360 and visit Music Theater Works.

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Madcap ‘Murder for Two’ fits summer breezes

Jason Grimm, l, and Noel Carey in Murder for Two at Marriott Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)
Jason Grimm, l, and Noel Carey in Murder for Two at Marriott Theatre. (Liz Loren photo)

RECOMMENDED

“Murder for Two,” creatively staged and directed by Scott Weinstein at Marriott Theatre, will delight audiences seeking light, hilarious comedy. A fast-paced musical with book and lyrics by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, the show revolves around which guest at a surprise birthday party shot the guest of honor, a successful novelist.

The kicker is that it is a two-actor show where one person plays the suspects and the other is a policeman who wants to nail the perpetrator so he can be promoted to detective status.

As to motivation, it turns out that most of the suspects used the same psychiatrist and he fed the novelist with patients’ secrets for each of best sellers.

What makes this show fun is the breathless pace of Jason Grimm as he transforms himself into female and male suspects while alternatively playing the piano with Noel Carey, the investigating cop, Marcus Moscowicz. Then there is Scott Davis’ item-jammed, rotating stage which is almost a character in itself.

The first hour is a laugh-a-minute hoot, let the puns and rhymes fall where they may. By the last 15 minutes of this 90-minute farce, audiences may be excused if they don’t care who shot the novelist. Probably it doesn’t matter anyway because this isn’t “Murder She Wrote.” It’s a hilarious theatrical bit that is perfect for summer and that shows off the amazing talents of Carey and Grimm.

“Murder for Two,” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, through Aug. 26, 2018. Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and other information call (847) 634-0200 and visit Marriott Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Marriott meshes veteran cast and outstanding dance numbers in ‘Oklahoma’

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Brandon Springman (Curly) and Jennie Sophia (Laurey) imagine riding on a surrey driven by snow-white horses in 'Oklahoma' at Marriott Theatre. (Photos by Liz Lauren)
Brandon Springman (Curly) and Jennie Sophia (Laurey) imagine riding on a surrey driven by snow-white horses in ‘Oklahoma’ at Marriott Theatre. (Photos by Liz Lauren)

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.

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Excellent cast and relevant story make Marriott production a must see

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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.

Cast of 'Ragtime' at Marriott Theatre. Liz Lauren photo
Cast of ‘Ragtime’ at Marriott Theatre. Liz Lauren photo

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.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago

 

Marriott Sleeping Beauty contains perfect holiday message

 

RECOMMENDED

‘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.

'Sleeping Beauty' at Marriott Theatre. Marriott Theatre photo
‘Sleeping Beauty’ at Marriott Theatre. Marriott Theatre photo

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.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

Hilarious antics and superb choreography make a marvelous Marriott night

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

‘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.’

Cast of 'Honeymoon in Vegas' at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire. Liz Lauren photo
Cast of ‘Honeymoon in Vegas’ at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire. Liz Lauren Photo

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.

Samantha Pauly (Betsy) and Michael Mahler (Jack) in 'Honeymoon in Vegas" Liz Lauren photo
Samantha Pauly (Betsy) and Michael Mahler (Jack) in ‘Honeymoon in Vegas” Liz Lauren photo

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.

Cast of 'Honeymoon in Vegas' at Marriott theatre. Liz Lauren photo
Cast of ‘Honeymoon in Vegas’ at Marriott theatre. Liz Lauren photo

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.

 

Hamilton tickets and Jeff nominations in the news

 

Hamilton

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.

Cast of Hamilton in Chicago Joan Marcus photo
Cast of Hamilton in Chicago
Joan Marcus photo

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.

 

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Great shows make up an exciting season north of Chicago

 

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.

Genesee Theatre north of Chicago in Waukegan features name entertainers. Photo courtesy of Genesee Theatre
Genesee Theatre north of Chicago in Waukegan features name entertainers. Photo courtesy of Genesee Theatre

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.

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A covered bridge uncovers hidden emotional needs

 

RECOMMENDED

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.”

Kathy Voytko and Nathaniel Stampley in 'Bridges of Madison County' at Marriott theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren
Kathy Voytko and Nathaniel Stampley in ‘Bridges of Madison County’ at Marriott Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren

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.