Music of my soul is rock ’n roll

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Liam Quealy (L) as Huey Calhoun and Aeriel Williams as Felicia Farrell in 'Memphis at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Michael Courier photos)
Liam Quealy (L) as Huey Calhoun and Aeriel Williams as Felicia Farrell in ‘Memphis at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Michael Courier photos)

There’s a long list of reasons to see the wonderful musical, ‘Memphis,’ a story of rock ‘n roll in the 1950s at Porchlight Music Theatre.

The dancing is incredible. The singing is fantastic. The acting is superb. But wait . . . there’s so much more.

A Tony Award-winning Best Musical with lyrics and music by David Bryan and lyrics and book by Joe DiPietro, the story takes place in underground nightclubs in Memphis, TN.

The audience is swinging and swaying when the music begins playing but as the story continues many important issues are revealed.

Huey Calhoun, played by Liam Quealy, is loosely based on DJ Dewey Philips, a new white voice on Memphis radio in the 1950s.

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Super JCS production takes over Lyric stage

Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Opera (Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018)
Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Opera
(Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018)

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Experiencing ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock opera at the Lyric, is akin to attending a high-powered rock concert.

Amps are set on high much of the time so audiences really do need to already know the lyrics. The high intensity stage lighting designed by Lee Curran echoes those of Super Bowl half times.

The main tenors, Jesus Christ (Heath Saunders)  and Judas Iscariot (Ryan Shaw) mix singing with high-pitched, grating screams, and they, plus Pontius Pilate (Michael Cunio who is also a tenor) play their guitars on stage. In addition, the singers use mikes. Indeed, the mike handling is often a part of the choreography.

In other words, the Lyric production would gladden the hearts of today’s Millennial Generation.

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Powerful performance delves into Ferguson

Dael Orlandersmith in Until the Flood at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, NY. (Photo by Robert Altman)
Dael Orlandersmith in Until the Flood at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, NY. (Photo by Robert Altman)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Say Ferguson and you are likely to get a reaction on race conflicts and prejudice without even having to identify the place as a suburb of St. Louis

Some people may not even remember that it was the shooting of unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in 2014 that shot Ferguson into the national spotlight.

But to feel the event’s impact on people who live in the area, see playwright, actress Dael Orlandersmith’s stunning ‘Until the Flood.’

A one-person show, Orlandersmith presents with heartfelt-emotions, the reactions of eight characters ranging from teen-aged to middle age and older and from locals to other suburbanites to transplants with different careers and levels of education. Some are black. Others are white.

They are composites of people she interviewed after being commissioned by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis for a play regarding the event. It premiered there in 2016. BTW, Orlandersmith, a Goodman Artistic Associate and Alice Center Resident Artist, has a composite name. She was born Donna Dael Theresa Orlander Smith Brown.

Now, following its showing at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, the production is at the Goodman Theatre’s Owen Theatre space only through May 12. Unfortunately, that is way too short a time given the importance of Orlandersmith’s play and her superb portrayals of different character types.

At the April 29th opening night performance, the playwright certainly put across the different perspectives as the audience zoned in on each portrayal with laughter, gasps and sighs.

Directed by Neel Keller with explanatory projections by Nicholas Hussong, set design by Takeshi Kata and costume design by Kaye Voyce, ‘Until the Flood’ is a remarkable theater experience.

DETAILS: ‘Until the Flood’ is at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago through May 12, 2018. Running time: 70 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 443-3811 and visit Goodman Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Check into the Grand Hotel

Leryn Turlington and Jonathan Schwart with cast of Grand Hotel. (Evan Hanover photos)
Leryn Turlington and Jonathan Schwart with cast of Grand Hotel. (Evan Hanover photos)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

This classic, Tony-Award-nominated musical comes to life in the hands of Kokandy Productions in Theater Wit. The moment you enter, the elegant set creates a warm ambience and violin and percussion sounds welcome you.

Up above and off stage, you hear the sounds of a crowd. Then, once the narrator, the good Colonel Doctor begins, the production takes off like a shot.

With book by Luther Davis, music and lyrics by Robert Wright, George Forrest and Maury Yeston, ‘Grand Hotel’s 1989 Broadway production earned 12 Tony Award nominations and won five.

Based on the 1928 play/novel “Menschen im Hotel” (People in a Hotel) and the 1932 MGM movie, the musical focuses on life and death, success and failure, love and murder all told through music and dance.

People come and go through the revolving door, with everything happening in the Grand Hotel’s lobby during one defining weekend. Read More

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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‘South Pacific’ enchants the evening with romance and hi jinks

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Samatha Hill (Nellie), center, Rachel Osting, Erica Evans, Ashley Jane Lanyon, Kayla Boye, Allie Dandy Pizzo and Erica Stephan in 'South Pacific' at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner photo)
Samantha Hill (Nellie), center, Rachel Osting, Erica Evans, Ashley Jane Lanyon, Kayla Boye, Allie Dandy Pizzo and Erica Stephan in ‘South Pacific’ at Drury Lane Theatre. (Brett Beiner photo)

Nearly 70 years after winning 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, ‘South Pacific’ mostly wears well at the Drury Lane Oakbrook revival.

The entire cast is stellar, the beloved Rogers and Hammerstein standards are well-tuned and racial conflict remains a relevant issue.

The action centers around a naval base in the South Pacific island amid World War II. During a lull in the fighting, the players engage in merrymaking and fall in love.

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