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.”

Read More

‘Vietgone’ translates love and war into a romcom

Matthew C. Yee and Aurora Adachi-Winter are the leads in 'Vietgone' at Writers Theatre, Glencoe. (Michael Brosilow Photo)
Matthew C. Yee and Aurora Adachi-Winter are the leads in ‘Vietgone’ at Writers Theatre, Glencoe. (Michael Brosilow Photo)

RECOMMENDED

Qui Nguyen’s “Vietgone” at Writers Theatre offers a fascinating  perspective on immigration that shatters stereotypes while basically telling a love and adventure story that is funny (think rom-com).

It also is a musical but instead of sentimental arias as in “Madam Butterfly” or ballads as in “South Pacific” you have the leads Quang (Matthew C. Yee) and Tong (Aurora Adachi-Winter) rap and sing to Gabriel Ruiz’s music. Read More

‘Heartbreak House’ provides exellent reason to visit American Players Theatre

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Tracy Michelle Arnold, Jonathan Smoots & Jim DeVita, Heartbreak House. (Photo by Liz Lauren.)
Tracy Michelle Arnold, Jonathan Smoots & Jim DeVita, Heartbreak House. (Photo by Liz Lauren.)

Watching “Heartbreak House” at American Players Theatre in Spring Green, WI, I am wondering what George Bernard Shaw would make of today’s world and most of all, the U.S’s current political scene.

With the subtitle “A Fantasia in the Russian Manner on English Themes,” “Heartbreak” proclaims the writer’s admiration for Anton Chekhov. However, though Chekhov appears to present his characters’ flaws and inability to do much about them as in “Cherry Orchard,” he still seems to have a fondness for them and likes them as if they should be tolerated as one does family members.

Shaw has a more critical attitude. He not only populates the English home of Captain Shotover with characters who sound as if they mean well but are so into their own little worlds that they do little to change anything, he also paints them as caricatures in a society that that won’t accept responsibility for its country’s problems.

Read More

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

Elvis is back

Heartbreak Hotel playing now at Broadway PLayhouse at Water Tower Place (Photos by Brett Beiner)
Heartbreak Hotel playing now at Broadway PLayhouse at Water Tower Place (Photos by Brett Beiner)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Chicago audiences may remember how in “Million Dollar Quartet,” a musical about an historic moment in recording history, Elvis Presley was unhappy with his agent and RCA Victor. He wanted to be back in the understanding arms of Sun Records’ Sam Phillips.

We don’t see everything that led up to that notable time, an unexpected jam session of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins in December 1956, but we do learn about some of the problems he faced in “Heartbreak Hotel,” the prequel to that million dollar jukebox musical.

No question it’s hard to recapture the magic of seeing amazingly talented pianists play Jerry Lee and wonderful vocalists echo “I Walk the Line,” ”Blue Suede Shoes,” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

But written and directed by Floyd Mutrux who co-wrote “Million Dollar Quartet” with Colin Escott and had co-directed the show in Chicago with Eric Schaeffer, his “Heartbreak Hotel” has enough talent on stage and background videos as scenery to keep audiences enthralled.Read More

‘Waitress’ makes a tasty Chicago pie

RECOMMENDED

L to R, Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the national tour of Waitress The Musical now at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago (Photos by Joan Marcus)
L to R, Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the national tour of Waitress The Musical now at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Chicago (Photos by Joan Marcus).

It would have been a terrific add-on when “Waitress” opened at the Cadillac Palace Theatre July 3 to have had some of Jenna’s recipes along with the pocket pies now traditionally sold during the shows national tour.

Because when waitress/cum/pie expert Jennna  (Desi Oakly) encounters an obstacle or interesting situation she tailors a pie to match with ingredients ranging from luscious dark chocolate and exotic spices to strange vegetables and items likely not found in a grocery store.

At small-town Joe’s Diner where she bakes and waits tables, there are plenty of pie-inspiring people and situations from what to enter in a pie contest and what to make for her ob-gyn appointments with Dr. Pomatter (Bryan Fenkhart) to what will de-stress her when dealing with her abusive husband Earl (Nick Bailey).

The Diner’s trio of waitresses, Jenna, gospel-singer-style Becky (Charity Angél Dawson) and shy, nervous Dawn (Lenne Klingaman)  carry the show with their personalities, the unexpected ways they each tie up with a lover and the songs and ways they support each other. Read More

“Support Group For Men” makes a good onetime sitcom

RECOMMENDED

A yoga style exercise helps the guys in Support Group For Men at Goodman Theatre. )Photo by Liz Lauren)
A yoga style exercise helps the guys in Support Group For Men at Goodman Theatre. )Photo by Liz Lauren)

Whether you like “Support Group for Men,” a new play by Ellen Fairey, author of the highly successful “Graceland” and “Girl 20,”may depend on how you feel about comical TV sitcoms that are funny because they reveal underlying insecurities. No stranger to television, Fairey was a writer/producer on “Nurse Jackie and is executive co-producer of “The Sinner.”

Fairey’s play artificially brings together four ethnically and culturally diverse guys who encourage each other to reveal their problems and thoughts during their weekly Thursday night get together. Some of them are finding it hard to keep up with or adjust to all the changing movements and attitudes.

The facilitators are a fraternity-like ritual with supposedly American Indian tribal overtones and a bat they call a stick covered with supposedly native-American decorations.

Read More

Taking on a roommate can be life changing

RECOMMENDED

Sandra Marquez (Sharon) l, and Ora Jones (Robyn) in The Roommate st Steppenwolf (Photos by Michael Brosilow)
Sandra Marquez (Sharon) l, and Ora Jones (Robyn) in The Roommate st Steppenwolf (Photos by Michael Brosilow)

What can happen when a lonely, middle-aged woman takes in a roommate for companionship and to share expenses?

In playwright Jen Silverman’s “The Roommate,” now at Steppenwolf Theatre, the answers are surprising and problematic.

Adeptly directed by Phylicia Rashad to achieve the highest impact possible during the 90 minute show, “The Roommate” transforms Sharon, an uptight, judgmental, highly moral, 50-something, empty-nester into an amoral woman willing to try anything.

The setting, perfectly depicted by scenic designer John Lacovelli, is Sharon’s kitchen in her large, old Iowa City home.

The catalyst for change is Robyn, another 50-something empty-nester from the Bronx, who, in photography terms, turns out to be the negative of Sharon.

Read More

Delightful Cher musical almost ready for Broadway

 

RECOMMENDED

Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. block and Micaela Diamond in The Cher Show at Broadway inCchicago's Oriental theatre. (Photo by Joan Marchus)
Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. block and Micaela Diamond in The Cher Show at Broadway inCchicago’s Oriental theatre. (Photo by Joan Marchus)

Cher, born Cherilyn Sarkisian on May 20, 1946 to Georgia Holt and John Sarkisian, also carries the names La Piere (step dad) Bono (husband) Allman (husband). Theater audiences will understand that those names are important in her life when they see “The Cher Show,” a new musical now at the Oriental Theatre.

Sarkisian left after she was born but his genes gave Cher her distinctive coloring and facial features. Her mom was fair skinned and blond.

Sonny Bono gave Cher stage presence and love when she was a teenager, several of her songs,  son Chaz Bono and pushed her into television. Gregg Allman gave her companionship and unconditional love and son Elijah blue.

However, what audiences learn as “The Cher Show” plays out in its pre-Broadway tryout, is that mom was always there for her, that Bono, while married to Cher, totally took charge of her career, made a lot of money from it and left her with nothing. They also learn that she had a rocky marriage to Allman, a famed singer, song-writer, musician.

Read More

Blue collar history and bluegrass music

 

Cast of Hayarket, tUnderscore Theatre Company and The den Theatre's new musical. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
Cast of Haymarket, Underscore Theatre Company and The Den Theatre’s new musical. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

HIGHLY RECOMMEND

Chicago has long been known as a city of industry and labor. As Carl Sandburg said, “Hog Butcher for the  World….Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders.” It is against the post-civil-war backdrop of this version of Chicago that “Haymarket” presented by Underscore Theatre Company at The Den Theatre plays out.

The energetic cast of twelve talented actor/musicians, tell the story of four ill-fated so called “anarchists” and their wives through approximately 19 bluegrass/folk songs with limited dialogue.

The “co-conspirators” were nascent labor activists fighting for among other things an eight hour work day, which we, of course, take for granted with little thought of those who fought and died to make this and other fair labor practices a reality.

Read More