A musical deals with teen identity crises and peer behaviors

RECOMMENDED

‘Trevor, the musical,’ now in its world premier at Writers Theatre, is based on the story behind the Oscar winning short film that led to the Trevor Project, a suicide prevention/crisis intervention initiative for youngsters in the LGBTQ community.

Trevor (Eli Tokash) and classmates in 'Trevor, the musical' at Writers theatre. Michael Brosilow photo
Trevor (Eli Tokash) and classmates in ‘Trevor, the musical’ at Writers Theatre. Michael Brosilow photo

Set in 1981, it reflects the attitudes of the times but just as important, it reflects the kind of general adolescent bullying, cruelty, peer pressure and even parental inattentiveness and misunderstandings that still exists today.

That said, ‘Trevor, the musical’ showcases the amazing talent of Eli Tokash, a young Broadway (‘Finding Neverland, ‘Pippin’) actor who performs with the grace and style of Fred Astaire,

Tokash as Trevor, wants to be writing, directing, choreographing and playing in musical theater in 10 years. But his current goal as a 13-year-old in his last year of a suburban junior high, he wants to perform in the school’s annual talent show or direct the eighth grade football team in a dance number he devises.

It’s acceptable to Pinky, the team’s captain, perfectly portrayed by Declan Desmond as a guy who would rather dance a Fred Astaire type number than parade around in a pink tutu that past teams had to wear for the show.

While working with Pinky, Trevor realizes he has a crush on the football star. Also, while trying to prove he likes girls, he goes to a smooching spot with Cathy, delightfully played, glasses, braces rubber bands and all, by Tori Whaples.

As they try to kiss, Trevor realizes he isn’t interested even though Cathy is.

The kicker that throws his life into suicide mode comes when his best friend, Walter, nicely acted by Matthew Uzarrage, gives Trevor’s journal to Mary (Eloise Lushina). She reads Trevor’s notes about Pinky to her friends and gives the journal to the football team.

Trevor fantasizes about his funeral. He wants Diana Ross’ “Endless Love” to be playing.

Although not really a jukebox musical because many of the songs are by Wick Davis (music) and Dan Collins (book and lyrics), the show spotlights Trevor’s adoration for Ross’ music and philosophy.

Performed beautifully by the talented Salisha Thomas (‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,’  vocalist for Disney) she sings many Ross hits  throughout the show beginning with “Do You Know?”

“Beautiful” director Marc Bruni has brought his seamless touch to this production which has aspirations of moving on to Broadway. Expertly choreographed by Josh Prince (also “Beautiful”) it likely will get there.

However, given the seriousness of its theme, at a mere two hours and 10 minuets, there is room to expand the tension surrounding the teens, adults and anyone who doesn’t fit the attitudes and models of the times.

‘Trevor’ is at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, now through Sept. 17, 2017. For tickets and other information call  (847) 242-6000) and visit Writers 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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Good outdoor art shows to see in July and August

Part of the fun of summer is walking around outdoor art fairs to see what a favorite artist is doing now, visit a suburb or neighborhood on the to do list and get the bod moving without having to exert the same muscles used for sports.

Outdoor art fairs are a chance to enjoy art and visit the host towns and neighborhoods. Jacobs photo
Outdoor art fairs are a chance to enjoy art and visit the host towns and neighborhoods. Jacobs photo

 

July 7-9 Downtown Chicago

After visiting the “Bean” in Millennium park, walk a couple blocks north on Michigan Avenue where you will spy the telltale white tents of an art show. About 130 artists will be there through 5 p.m. July 9. It’s the 9th annual Millennium Art Festival. For other information visit AmdurProductions.

 

July 15 & 16 Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood

The 4th Annual Southport Art Festival, held in the Lakeview Nieighborhood, features about 130 artists on Southport Avenue from Waveland to Byron. It is hosted by the Southport Neighbor’s Association to  benefits local causes. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit AmdurPrioductions.

 

July 22 & 23 Geneva

The Geneva Fine Arts Fair is a good chance to visit the charming town of Geneva, IL west of Chicago. The fair of approximately 175 exhibitors spreads out downtown from at 8 S. Third St. on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit  EMEvents

 

July 29 & 30 Glencoe

About 130 artists set up booths downtown north suburban Glencoe the last weekend of July for the Annual Glencoe Festival of Art. The fair center is Park and Vernon Avenues. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. BTW the interesting structure on Tudor Court a block north of Park Avenue is Writers Theatre designed by Jeanne Gang’s  Studio Gang Architects.  More information: Amdur Productions.

 

Aug. 5 & 6 Glenview

Art at the Glen features 185 arts in The Glen  Tower Center, a section of Glenview, IL that used to hold the Glenview Naval Base that now has a mix of housing and commercial properties plus the Kohl Children’s Museum. Fair hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For other information visit Amdur Productions.

 

Aug. 19 & 20 Oakbrook

The Oak Brook Fine Art Festival is a chance to mix art and fall apparel shopping.It’s held at the  Oakbrook Center Oakbrook Shopping Center, 100 Oakbrook Center. Hours are Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.. For more information visit Amdur Productions .

 

Aug. 26 & 27 Oak Park

The suburb of Oak Park, just west of Chicago is holding its Oak Park Avenue-Lake Arts Crafts Show in Scoville Park at Oak Park Ave and Lake Street. Operated by the American Society of Artists, the hours are Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tip: You might want to look up Frank Lloyd wright’s Oak Park designed structures before you go so you know where to look on the way to or from the art fair. For more information visit the American Society of Artists. For other information visit American Society of Artists.

 

August 26 & 27 Highland Park

Among the top most popular art fairs, The Port Clinton Art Festival draws entries from all over the world and visitors from across the Midwest. About 265 artists’ booths take over the Port Clinton outdoor shopping square, Central Avenue and 1st and 2nd Streets. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For other information visit Amdur Productions.

 

August 26 & 27 Chicago’s Bucktown Neighborhood

The last weekend in August is also the Annual Bucktown Arts Fest. Approximately 200 artists will be in Senior Citizens Memorial Park, 2300 N. Oakley Ave & 2300 W. Lyndale St.11 am to 7 pm 200 Artists The Bucktown Arts Fest is a non-profit, all volunteer-run, neighbourhood celebration of the arts. The fair benefits arts education programming at Holstein Park and in the Bucktown/Wicker Park neighborhoods. For other information visit Bucktown Arts Fest.

 

‘Parade,’ a powerful story of injustice relevant today

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The Writers Theatre production of ‘Parade, a powerful, Tony Award-winning musical about the wrongful conviction and death of a Jewish factory manager, is so well acted and sung that many audience members seemed to have bought the false witnesses’ stories.

Patrick Andres and Brianna Borger in 'Parade' at writers theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Patrick Andres and Brianna Borger in ‘Parade’ at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

They must have believed the manager was guilty because there were gasps from the show’s opening night audience when in the second act the stories turned out to be no more than lies coached by a prosecutor with an eye on the governorship.

The story is a true tale of how Leo Frank, a Brooklyn Jew, is deliberately convicted and killed for the rape and death of a young Atlanta, GA factory girl in 1913.

Although married to a lass Georgia born and bred, Frank was a Yankee and a Jew. He appeared cold and unfriendly and didn’t appreciate his wife in the beginning.

 

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Characters represent ideas not real people in ‘Mystery of Love and Sex’

 

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

Playwright Batheseba Doran has placed opposite backgrounds and personalities into already trying circumstances in ‘The Mystery of Love & Sex,’ now at Writers Theatre in Glencoe.

Haley Burgess and Travis Turner in 'The Mystery of Love & Sex' at Writers Theatre. Michael Brosilow Photo
Haley Burgess and Travis Turner in ‘The Mystery of Love & Sex’ at Writers Theatre. Michael Brosilow Photo

The play opens with college students Charlotte (Haley Burgess) and Jonny (Travis Turner), inviting Charlotte’s parents, Howard (Keith Kupfere) and Lucinda (Lia Mortensen), over to Charlotte’s dorm room for dinner.

Charlotte had chosen the college, somewhere in the South over Yale to be near Jonny, her long-time neighbor and dear friend.

Howard and Lucinda want to know more about the kids’ relationship and are determined to be understanding if Jonny becomes part of their family.

Charlotte wants to see if she should be having a deeper relationship with Jonny even though she admits to being attracted to a female college student. Underlying her concern is an attempt to kill herself years ago when she was bullied after saying she thought another girl was attractive.

But the play is about more than exploring sexual propensities. Charlotte is white and Jewish while Jonny is a black Baptist who believes in having a traditional, Baptist family even though he later admits to affairs with other males.

Then there are the parents’ problems. Howard, a successful mystery writer is a New York Jew and Lucinda, an elegant woman who needs a cigarette during tense situations, is a born and bred Southern belle who converted when they married. Their marriage is experiencing mid-life angst.

The situations of exploring sexuality, midlife-crisis, mixed faith marriages and mixed race relationships are real. But throwing them all into the same play has given the dialogue and actions a  contrived feel. That is even with the exceptional acting of Burgess as Charlotte.

Turner, who was outstanding in Lookinglass’ “Thaddeus and Slocum” and Second City’s “Longer, Louder Wagner” at the Lyric, appeared uncomfortable with his clichéd dialogue as Jonny.

As good as actors Kupferer and Mortensen are, it felt as if you were watching them perform the dialogue of representative characters rather than becoming real people.

Details: ‘The Mystery of Love & Sex,’ written by Bathsheba Doran and directed by Marti Lyons, is at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, now through July 9, 2017. For tickets and other information call (847) 242-6000 and visit Writers Theatre.

 

Creative staging combine with fine acting and musicianship to tell dark folktale

SOMEWHAT RECOMMENDED

As  PigPen Theatre Co.’s ‘The Hunter and The Bear’ plays out at Writers Theatre you think you are watching a ghost story take shape. That is until the end when it becomes a dark folk story.

Cast of 'The Hunter and The Bear' at Writers theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Cast of ‘The Hunter and The Bear’ at Writers theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilowuntil the end when it becomes a dark, moralistic folktale.

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‘East Texas Hot Links’ looks back at the racial divide

RECOMMENDED

In East Texas Hot Links, Writers Theatre’s current show, the rhythmic speech of Adolph the “Professor,” the café setting, the discussions about work, life and death, and a sense of the economic futility of being black in a white man’s world, is somewhat reminiscent of playwright August Wilson’s Two Trains Running that ran at Goodman Theatre in 2015.

Cast of 'East Texas Hot Links' at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Broselow
Cast of ‘East Texas Hot Links’ at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Broselow

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‘Julius Caesar’ zooms along in shortened version

RECOMMENDED

Writers Theatre’s production of ‘Julius Caesar’ begs the question – what do you want to take away from Shakespeare’s play about politics and power.

Kareem Bandealy (Brutus) l, and Scott Parkinson (Cassius) r. in Julius Caesar at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow
Kareem Bandealy (Brutus) l, and Scott Parkinson (Cassius) r. in Julius Caesar at Writers Theatre. Photo by Michael Brosilow

If you want an overpowering sense that assassination of a powerful figure such as Julius Caesar could only call forth chaos whether in Rome or, more broadly, the world, then you will appreciate the WT’s technologically strong visual and sound effects.

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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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