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.

Read More

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.

 

Old-fashioned romance makes a nice break from serious messages

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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.

Georg Nowack (Alex Goodrich), Ladislav Sipos (James Earl Jones II) and Mr. Maraczek (Terry Hamilton) in "She Loves Me" at Marriott Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren
Georg Nowack (Alex Goodrich), Ladislav Sipos (James Earl Jones II) and Mr. Maraczek (Terry Hamilton) in “She Loves Me” at Marriott Theatre. Photo by Liz Lauren

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

‘Mamma Mia’ moves to a vibrant disco beat

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

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.”

Cassie Slater (Rosie) Danni Smith (Donna) and Meghan Murphy (Tanya) in 'Mamma Mia!' at Marriott Theatre. Photo by Justin Barbin
Cassie Slater (Rosie) Danni Smith (Donna) and Meghan Murphy (Tanya) in ‘Mamma Mia!’ at Marriott Theatre. Photo by Justin Barbin

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

Marriott young audience ‘Nutcracker’ good for all ages

RECOMMENDED

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.

Cast of 'The Nutcracker' Amy Boyle Photography
Cast of ‘The Nutcracker’
Amy Boyle Photography

Read More

Holiday fun times five

The signs of the season are there. Macy’s windows have come alive with moving characters, holiday market tents are going up in Daley Plaza, a giant evergreen is hoisted in Millennium Park and people are wondering if we should pray for cold to have good ice in the park or warm weather for good shopping.

The Nutckracker is at Marriott Theatre. Amy Boyle Photography
The Nutckracker is at Marriott Theatre. Amy Boyle Photography

No matter what the weather holds, here are a few of the jolly, holly ways to celebrate the season in the Chicago area.

Read More

At Marriott, ‘Singing in the Rain’ has a glorious feeling

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

While the Cubs spectacularly reigned Wednesday at the Indians’ Progressive Field, audiences were treated to a spectacular ‘Dancing in the Rain’ production at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire.

Danny Gardner as Don Lockwood in 'Singing in the Rain' at Marriott Theatre. Justin Barbin photo
Danny Gardner as Don Lockwood in ‘Singing in the Rain’ at Marriott Theatre. Justin Barbin photo

Mobile phones checked Cleveland during intermission while MGM’s 1953 hit musical that starred Gene Kelly was brought back to life in Lincolnshire.

Read More

Three things to blot out 2016 election static Nov. 3-6

Instead of subjecting oneself to all the election noise on TV and social media, try to feel good about the world, at least for a little while, by going to a fun event. An old fashioned musical opens this week.  See what creative folks are doing with functional art. Visit an outdoor destination that has an unusual indoor exhibit this weekend.

Danny Gardner as Don Lockwood in 'Singing in the Rain' at Marriott Theatre. Justin Barbin photo
Danny Gardner as Don Lockwood in ‘Singing in the Rain’ at Marriott Theatre. Justin Barbin photo

Read More

Review: ‘How to Succeed in Business’ is both dated and current

 

RECOMMENDED

To appreciate ‘How to Succeed in Business,’ now at Marriott Theatre, you have to go back in time to the 1950s when shirtwaist and little jacket dresses were in and large companies had a typing pool of secretaries who dreamed of marrying their boss.

Based on Shepherd Mead’s 1952 satirical book but adapted in 1961 into a Frank Loesser musical with book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, the show is dated. The boss is just as likely to be female.

The second part of Mead’s title is ‘The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune.” If you haven’t seen the 1967 movie starring Robert Morse, the book’s full title is a clue that the show reveals how some businesses hire and promote employees, back then and, horrors, even now.

Felicia Fields (Miss Jones), Ari Butler (J. Pierrepont Finch) and Terry Hamilton (J.B. Bigley) and company. Marriott Theatre photo
Felicia Fields (Miss Jones), Ari Butler (J. Pierrepont Finch) and Terry Hamilton (J.B. Bigley) and company. Marriott Theatre photo

Read More