As anyone who attended Music Theater Works’ Frank Loesser’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” recently learned, company co-founder and general manager Bridget McDonough and artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller announced they are making this 39th season their last one at the rudder.
They also introduced producing artistic director designate Kyle Dougan who will step into a new position that combines their two job descriptions so that audiences know Music Theater Works will continue when they step down.
The bouncy overture winds down, the curtain rises and we find a young man in coveralls descending from above in the Music Theater Work’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
J. Pierrepont Finch, an ambitious young window washer, is discovered reading Shepherd Mead’s tongue-in-cheek instructional book of the same name, while dangling from scaffolding above Madison Avenue.
Narrated for this production by NPR news quiz host, Peter Sagal, the book progresses chapter-by-chapter, charting the recommended course for Ponty’s rise to power in the business world.
Now, bear in mind that this how-to manual, a 1952 best-seller by Shepherd Mead, subtitled “The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune,” was written as a parody of the popular self-help books of that era. Between this book’s unfailing advice and Finch’s pluck and pizzazz, this likable kid is undoubtedly destined to rise to the top…or is he?
It’s hard to believe that this show which set a new standard for musical comedy satire, is almost 60 years old now. The hummable score by Frank Loesser (“Guys & Dolls,” “Most Happy Fellow”) features a libretto by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, adapted from Mead’s humorous book of the same name.
The musical has a field day lampooning the seeming ease with which an entry level employee can rise to the top of the corporate ladder. A film preserving the performances of most of the original cast was released in 1967. This 1962 Pulitzer Prize and eight-time Tony Award winner has been successfully revived twice on Broadway, earning additional Tony Award nominations and wins.
Throughout the play, whenever it seems the darkest, the young, eager beaver aligns with precisely the right people to learn from and suck up to, as well as the easiest loopholes to infiltrate, in order to reach the top. And when all those elements are out of reach, Ponty employs his considerable boyish charm, ultimately helping him to achieve success.
Music Theater Works in Evanston has put together a visually stunning production of Stephen Sondheim’s fairy-tale musical mashup, “Into the Woods.”
The opening tableau is like the first page of a richly illustrated children’s picture book that literally sets the stage for the primary characters.
Stage right is Cinderella (Kelly Britt) tending to the fire; center stage is the Baker (Daniel Tatar) and his wife (Alexis Armstrong) in their kitchen; and stage left is Jack (Christopher Ratliff) of beanstalk fame with his mother (Anne Marie Lewis) and cow Milky White (Milky White).
Behind the vignettes are the slightly ominous birch tree “woods” accented against a deep blue twilight sky hung with the words “Once Upon a Time.” But of course, this is not your child’s version of the stories presented.
Certainly Joffrey Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” Goodman Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” and Macy’s State Street holiday windows are on many folks’ traditional “do” list. But there are also other good shows to see and fun places to go as December 2018 turns into January 2019.
“Into the Woods,” Stephen Sondheim’s “not happily ever after” take on traditional fairy tales, is at Music Theater Works at Cahn Auditorium on Sheridan Road in Evanston Dec. 22-31. Music Theater Works was formerly called Light Opera Works.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is about magic, love, and in this production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, is backed by a mash-up of rock, jazz, blues and doo-wop., Dec. 6, 2018 -Jan 27, 2019.
“La Ruta” world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Dec. 13-Jan. 27. At U.S.-owned factories in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, La Ruta is just a bus. But to the women who live, work and often disappear along the route, it’s much more.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass plays numbers from Holst to Tchaikovsky, 8 p.,. Dec. 19, at Chicago Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave. and the CSO does Handel’s “Messiah” at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Symphony Center.
Ice skate free in Millennium Park if you bring your skates, skate rental is $13 weekdays and $15 Friday-Sunday and holidays. Skating rink is street level on Michigan Avenue below Cloud Gate (The Bean) between Washington and Madison Streets. Hours and more information at Millennium Park.
Take a “Holiday Lights, City Lights’ bus tour with the Chicago Architecture Center, 111 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago and then check out CAC’s diorama on the main floor and skyscraper exhibit upstairs.
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.)
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.
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.
If you can leave the theater singing; not one, not two, but three songs from a show that’s been around for more than 80 years, that’s a grand night of theatre! That’s just what “Anything Goes” delivers, now playing at Music Theater Works.
Accompanied by a live orchestra under the fine direction of Roger Bingaman, the show will have you humming along to such Porter classics as “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “It’s De-Lovely.”
Consider the times when Cole Porter wrote the music/lyrics in 1934. The depression was still running rapid. Those who could afford theater tickets wanted something funny to make them forget their problems.
Mix really funny song interpretations with fine operatic voices and you have the hilarious, wonderfully entertaining “The Pirates of Penzance” at Music Theater Works.
Director Rudy Hogenmiller and choreographer Clayton Cross have the not so ferocious Pirate King (Larry Adams) stretched out horizontally across his comrades in his name song. They have the daughters of the Major- General stumbling as they take-off shoes and stockings to wade then, hurriedly attempt to put them back on when pirate apprentice Frederic (Ben Barker) announces his presence.
After all, Frederic feels it’s his duty and the honorable thing to do to say he is watching. Similarly, if you listen to his lyrics, he doesn’t sugar coat his plea to the daughters for one of them to come with him, even if she is too pimply or plain to attract other beaus.Read More
Ladies in sparkly gowns and men in tuxes croon such tunes as “Satin Doll,” “Prelude to a Kiss” and “In My Solitude” in “Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits,” a Music Theater Works production.
The show includes songs popularized, written or arranged by one of the greatest jazz musicians of the 20th Century. Ellington defined sophisticated elegance and cool.
The performers have fun with the exotic melodies of “Caravan” and “Perdido,” and pick-up the rhythm with jazz classics “Take the A Train,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” as well as the sultry “Mood Indigo.”
Singers Justin Adair, Dawn Bless, Jar’Davion Brown, Caitlyn Glennon, Amanda Horvath, Evan Tyrone Martin, and Martin L. Woods move seamlessly from song to song delivering a steady stream of familiar hits.
Adair who performed Older Patrick in Music Theater Works’ recent production of “Mame,” surprised the audience by accompanying the ensemble on the guitar playing “In a Mellow Tone,” showing yet another of his many talents.
The three piece band with Christian Dillingham (bass) and Phillip Fornett (drums) is energetically directed by Joey Zymonas (piano).
This is an entertaining 90 minutes or so that celebrates the legacy of this great composer and entertainer but “Ain’t got” enough “swing.”
DETAILS: “Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits” is at Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, through Oct. 15, 2017. For tickets and other information call (847) 920-5360 and visit MusicTheaterWorks.
(Guest reviewer Reno Lovison is married to pianist Julie Lovison who is proud to say she kissed Duke Ellington on the cheek after one of his performances.)
Knowing how vaudeville acts had to move around to make a living or even how current performers continue to do so, it’s easy to understand they live what is thought of as a gypsy life.
But when hearing ‘Gypsy’ capitalized as in the 1959 Broadway hit by Jule Styne (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and Arthur Laurents (book), you are likely to think Ethel Merman as the indomitable stage mother of entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc.
In the Music Theater Works production of ‘Gypsy,’ Mary Robin Roth is so believable as Rose, an over-the-top stage mother, that her character is not easy to like. Indeed, a few theater-goers might equate how she directed her daughter’s lives with their own experience.
However this is the show Merman arguable made famous with her brash portrayal of Rose so, everyone can expect Roth to belt out commands and the show’s famed “Everything’s Coming up Roses.” They won’t be disappointed.
It’s also fun to watch the incredible transformation of Louise, the shy, unimposing elder sister of Baby June into the renowned burlesque entertainer, Gypsy Rose Lee, a sophisticated and striking strip tease vedette.
Along the way there is the charming voice of Sophie Kagi as the young Baby June, the boys who march with her in the early stage troupe and the talented young lads who accompany the older June (Rosie Jo Neddy) as an aging troupe. They’re featured in several fine dance numbers choreographed by Clayton Cross.
The evolution from young troupe to older was amazingly accomplished in a whirling, order-in-chaos dance scene thanks to Cross, stage director Rudy Hogenmiller and lighting designer Andrew H. Meyers.
In addition, Russell Alan Rowe is the long suffering Herbie who loves Rose, acts as the troupe’s agent and is sensitive to the needs of the boys and Louise.
The musical is based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee who was also an author and actress (“Stage Door Canteen” 1949).
‘Gypsy’ is at Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) now through Aug. 27, 2017. The show is in Northwestern University’s Cahn Auditorium at 600 Emerson St. at Sheridan Road. For tickets and other information visit the box office at 516 4th St., Wilmette, call (847) 920-5360 or visit Music Theater Works.