Warm our blustery April weather with glorious music

When February weather sticks around for early April then warm up with good music. Go to the Lyric to hear some of the Ryan Opera Center members who sang this season. Or let Rogers and Hammerstein’s lyrical Broadway hits bring back memories. Or turn to Haydn and Beethoven to forget that Mother Nature’s Ap[ril Fool’s day joke has continued through the weekend.

Rising Stars in Concert

Singers with the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center Ensemble perform works by Tchaikovsky, Bernstein, Puccini and other masters, April 7, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. The program is backed by a pianist and members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Edwin Outwater. For tickets and more information visit Lyric Opera. The Lyric Opera of Chicago is at 20 N. Wacker Drive.

The Sound of Their Music: 75 Years of Rogers and Hammerstein on Stage

Hosted by Daryl Nitz and Laura Freeman with music direction by Andrew Blendermann, the program is at the Skokie Theatre April 7 and April 8 at 7:30 p.m. It features artists Ken Baker, Cynthia Clarey, Sophie Grimm, and Tom Olickal performing songs from eight shows. Tickets are $35. For tickets and other information visit Skokie Theatre.   Skokie Theatre is at 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie.

MASTERWORKS 4: Haydn and Beethoven

The Lake Forest Symphony with Conductor Vladimir Kulenovic are doing Haydn’s Symphony No. 4, Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 featuring Cellist Jay Campbell and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 April 7 at 8 p.m. and April 8 at 2 p.m. The Saturday concert is at the Cressey center for the Arts at Lake forest Academy. 1500 West Kennedy Road
Lake Forest. Sunday’s concert is at the James Lumber Center of the college of Lake County19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake. For tickets and other information visit Lake Forest Symphony.

 

Roaring Twenties musical parody works as a comedy within a show

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Audiences know that when the lights go off the show will start after actors take their places on stage. But in ‘The Drowsy Chaperone,’ a multi-Tony Award winning musical at Skokie Theatre, the lights stay off while a voice is heard moving closer to the stage.

Cast of 'The Drowsy Chaperone' at Skokie Theatre. MadKap Productions photo
Cast of ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ at Skokie Theatre.
MadKap Productions photo

“I hate theater,” says a man’s voice. As he approaches the stage he explains that what he wants is a short show of about two hours. “Three hours is too much,” he says.

He notes that he wants the show to take him to another place so he can escape from the horrors of the real world. He wants to be entertained.

After the stage lights come on and he sits down in an old chair next to a record player, he asks the audience if they mind if he puts on one of his favorite musicals, ‘The Drowsy Chaperone.’ Of course, the audience agrees.

And so, James Spangler who is perfect as The Man in the Chair, has broken down that fourth wall of the stage as he addresses the audience throughout the show.

And yes, the musical that he asks the audience to imagine coming to life while he plays his record, is short. Running time is two hours, including a 15 minute intermission. But as The Man in the Chair requested, the show entertains.

A spoof of 1920s musicals populated by predictable characters, it has a Broadway producer and his ditsy girlfriend, gangsters, a talented musical star who will leave show business for love, her wealthy boyfriend, a Latin lover, an alcoholic dame and an aviatrix.

Across his sparse, care-worn flat, the first characters to appear are Mrs. Tottendale (Debby Shellard), owner of the mansion where the action takes place and Underling (Mark Anderson), a butler who caters to her whims. After wondering why she has on a fancy dress, he explains they are hosting a wedding.

Groom Robert Martin (Christopher Johnson) enters saying he may be getting “cold feet.” When followed by best man, George (Joe Lewis) the two do a terrific “Cold Feet” tap dance number.

The plot, as is appropriate for spoofs, thickens. Broadway producer Feldzieg (Bob Sandders) is confronted by The Tall Brothers gangsters (Zeke Dolezalek and Connor Hernandez), who pose as bakers and say their boss, a backer, seriously doesn’t want the show‘s star to wed and leave the production.

Feldzieg’s girlfriend, Kitty (Abby Boegh), says she’s ready to step in with a different kind of act when the star and bride-to-be, Janet Van De Graff (Rachel Whyte) leaves to marry.

Asked if she is serious bout leaving show business, Whyte brings down the house with her “Show Off” song and dance, full-company number. While showing off everything she can do including splits  she insists she doesn’t want to “show off” anymore.

Beautifully choreographed by Julie Salk and performed with acrobatic agility by Whyte, the surprise it that the number can be performed on the Skokie Theatre’s small stage.

Convinced his star does mean what she says, Feldzieg plots to change her mind by bringing in Adolpho, nicely overacted with the right amount of flamboyancy and vanity by Sean Barett.

Adolpho is sent to the bride’s room where he finds The Drowsy Chaperone, interpreted with zestful fun and sophistication by Mani Corrao.

Meanwhile, the bride tests the groom to see if he really loves her.

Act II brings resolution. It also brngs Trix the Aviatrix, played with pizzazz by the Sabrina Edwards, down to ground to perform a quadruple wedding.

As The Man in the Chair says, “Everything always works out in musical.”

Along the way, the audience is reminded that they are merely seeing a musical as explained by the Man in the Chair when he pauses the record player needle and the actors stop mid-movement, or when he has to correct the needle when it sticks. Yep, picture it.

Patty Halajian’s costumes add nostalgic charm. Directed by Stephen M. Genovese with musical direction by Aaron Kaplan, the Skokie Theatre’s The Drowsy Chaperone, offers a delightful, high-quality, tongue-in-cheek view of 1920s musicals.

First shown in 1998 in Toronto, then opening on Broadway in 2006, ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ is a musical comedy with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg  Morrison

DETAILS: ‘The Drowsy Chaperone’ is a MadKap Productions show at Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, now through Oct 7, 2017. For tickets and other information call (847) 677-7761 and visit Skokie Theatre.

 

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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This weekend on the entertainment scene

Chicago Tap Theatre presents "Tidings of Tap"
Chicago Tap Theatre presents “Tidings of Tap”

 

Sometimes we forget how vast the Chicago entertainment scene is. We know about some of the traditional holiday productions but there are many more venues that deserve to be added to the “I wonder what’s at the….” list.

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Theater: Fall shows to put on the calendar

'Wonderful Life ' revival comes to Goodman Theatre this fall
‘Wonderful Town ‘ revival comes to Goodman Theatre this fall

With more than 200 theater companies in Metropolitan Chicago there’s no lack of choices in all price ranges, genres and locations. Here is a small sampling of a half-dozen shows that will be in area theaters this fall. Of course you know that ‘Hamilton,’ the mega Tony-Award winning rap musical, opens Sept. 27. But it’s an open run so you might want to check availability later in the year or 2017.

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