‘Hit Her With The Skates’ at Royal George

 

Hit Her With The skates (Press conference photo)
Hit Her With The skates (Press conference photo)

 

We were invited to attend a kick-off event and sneak preview for “Hit Her WithThe Skates” a new regionally inspired musical that will have its world premiere March 18, 2020, at the Royal George Theatre on North Halsted Street in Chicago.

The show is produced by Mary Beidler Gearen with book and lyrics by Lansing native and co-producer Christine Rea. The two met while working with the Bailiwick Repertory Company where Gearen earned five Jeff nominations. Continue reading “‘Hit Her With The Skates’ at Royal George”

‘Almost Heaven’ in Munster

 

"Almost Heaven: John Denver's America" at Theatre at the Center, Munster, IN. ( Photo by Guy Rhodes0
“Almost Heaven: John Denver’s America” at Theatre at the Center, Munster, IN. ( Photo by Guy Rhodes0

3  stars

Seeing “Almost Heaven,” will bring recollections of John Denver’s backstory.

Denver’s music was considered to be more or less middle-of-the-road if not downright conservative in the wake of rising stars like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

This issue is confronted early in the latest jukebox boomer music revival, “Almost Heaven-John Denver’s America,” at The Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN..

The popular singer/songwriter eventually emerged as the nascent voice of the environmental movement with songs like “Calypso” that championed the work of Jacques Cousteau, as well as “Rocky Mountain High,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Wild Montana Skies” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders.” They unabashedly and exuberantly celebrated the magnificence and simple beauty of nature.

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Charming update of classic fairytale

 

Ruth (Marielle Nada Issa) finds it hard to sleep in The Princess and the Pea. (Photo courtesy of Marriott Theatre)
Ruth (Marielle Nada Issa) finds it hard to sleep in The Princess and the Pea. (Photo courtesy of Marriott Theatre)

3 stars

Youngsters recently made up the majority of the “Princess and the Pea” audience, now at Marriott Theatre.  But their parents and grandparents were also in for a treat.

Although the show, a new musical, is part of Marriott’s series geared to the young set with  productions a mere hour long, followed by a Q and A, the cast is made-up of in-demand Chicago actors.

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The ‘Queen of Disco’

‘Summer: The Donna Summer Musical’

The Donna Summer musical in Chicago (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)
The Donna Summer Musical in Chicago (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)

3 stars

They sound like a good idea on paper, and there have been dozens bouncing around Broadway and on National Tours over the years, but the jukebox musical isn’t much more than a concert with some narrative.

There are two formats in this style of musical theatre. There’s the show that creates an original story and characters, but instead of using new music to further the plot, the songs of one or more artists are featured instead.

Continue reading “The ‘Queen of Disco’”

A musical bonbon

‘Emma’

Emma Woodhouse (Lora Lee Gayer) and Mr. Knightley (Brad Standley) in Emma at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Emma Woodhouse (Lora Lee Gayer) and Mr. Knightley (Brad Standley) in Emma at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

4 stars

In an age when social media has usurped our lives, it’s refreshing to visit a time when people actually spoke to each other, and with eloquence. As in all her stories, Jane Austen’s fourth novel is an 1815 comedy of manners set in Georgian-Regency England. The title character, however, is unlike Austen’s other heroines in that Emma is pretty, smart and rich, but also strong-minded, overindulged and rather full of herself.

Continue reading “A musical bonbon”

A witty and acerbic view of family dynamics and expectations

Latimore, Gerard, Bakari, Henning in Stick Fly at Writers Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)
Latimore, Gerard, Bakari, Henning in Stick Fly at Writers Theatre. (Michael Brosilow photo)

4 stars

“Stick Fly,’ Lydia R. Diamond’s intelligent dramedy now at Writers Theatre, has so many angles and thought-provoking lines that audiences are likely not to notice it runs somewhat more than two and a half hours (with an intermission).

Early on there is the realization that “wasps” don’t have a patent on upper-middle class expectations regarding their progeny’s careers or mates. The story presents the wealthy, highly educated African American LeVay family as they settle in for a relaxing weekend at their second home, a well-appointed “cottage” on Martha’s Vineyard.

Continue reading “A witty and acerbic view of family dynamics and expectations”

The way we were

The cast of The Boys in the Band at Windy City P:layhouse. (Michael Brosilow photo)
The cast of The Boys in the Band at Windy City P:layhouse. (Michael Brosilow photo)

 

‘The Boys in the Band’

4 stars

 

During the repressive 1960’s a gay man was forced to become very secretive about everything. Being “in the closet” was how most homosexuals survived being hassled or, quite often, brutally attacked for what was perceived as a perverted life style. A small percentage of men braved all the hostility and met their peers at the few underground gay bars and bath houses located primarily in certain large cities

Mart Crowley wrote his groundbreaking “Boys in the Band” in response to the prevalent oppressive social attitude of that time. The lives of every homosexual was threatened daily with violence and unfair laws. Gay men continually were the brunt of heterosexual jokes, degradation anger and, although claiming to not be an activist, Crowley felt the need to expose this oppressing milieu to the world through the theatre.

Continue reading “The way we were”

‘The Fantasticks’ becomes a delightful throwback at Citadel

Cast of The Fantasticks at Citadel Theatre. (North Shore Camera Club photo)
Cast of The Fantasticks at Citadel Theatre. (North Shore Camera Club photo)

3 stars

There is a lot of leeway when staging the 1960 Harvey Schmiidt (music) Tom Jones (lyrics) “The Fantasticks.” The show, now at the intimate Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest, is among the best productions I’ve seen of a play that normally makes my “least favorite” list. I’ve seen it overly long and boring and overly clever and gimmicky.

However, under the direction of Pat Murphy (“A Christmas Carol,” Deathtrap”) Citadel’s show charmingly mixes old-timey, unsophisticated character portrayals with humorous, burlesque-style staging, set design and movement.

Continue reading “‘The Fantasticks’ becomes a delightful throwback at Citadel”

Annual Orchid Show goes modern and brilliant

Chicago botanic Garden Orchid show focuses on color. (J Jacobs photo)
Chicago botanic Garden Orchid show focuses on color. (J Jacobs photo)

 

The Chicago Botanic Garden’s annual Orchid Show takes on another dimension in 2020.

“We’ve done destinations. This time it’s more modern,” said Visitor Events and Programs Coordinator Sara.Harlow.

Titled “Brilliance,” the show also calls attention to orchids’ colors. “Color is important because it is part of the survival strategies of wild orchids so they can reproduce,” Harlow said, referring to how color attracts pollinators.

When visitors walk in to the exhibit in the Garden’s Regenstein Center, they will see towers of colorful orchids in the Nichols Hall, gorgeous groupings with bromeliads at their base and interesting pipe ensembles above and around them in the area leading to the greenhouses. The bromeliads add even more color.

The exhibit continues around to the left in a semi-circle of greenhouses. On the way to each greenhouse, the corridor’s walls tell stories about the importance of color and offer more orchid information. The greenhouse walls along the corridor display charming metallic circle planters filled with artistically arranged orchids.

Orchid Show at Chicago botanic Garden goes modern with lights. (J Jacobs photo)
Orchid Show at Chicago botanic Garden goes modern with lights. (J Jacobs photo)

What visitors will see during the day are sun-lit orchids seemingly planted along colored stones, orchids filling towering frames and orchids hanging from the ceiling between colorful tubes of light.

However, those rivulets of stones really cover lighting circuitry that will create a different dimension during special evening hours, according to Harlow.

“Visitors should also try to come at night We are doing After Hours Thursdays. It will look different,” she said.

To learn more about the orchids in the show from Cattleya to Cypripedium visit Chicago Botanic/Orchid Species.

The Orchid Show is at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe (just east of Edens Expressway) through March 24. General hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. After Hours goes until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Feb. 14. For tickets, parking and more information visit Chicago Botanic/Orchid.

Jodie Jacobs

A Gershwin of a Show

 

An American in Paris at Drury Lane Theatre. (Photo by Brett Beiner)
An American in Paris at Drury Lane Theatre. (Photo by Brett Beiner)

An American in Paris

4 stars

Five years ago this highly-anticipated stage version of the 1951 Gene Kelly/Leslie Caron musical film classic burst upon Broadway. After playing Paris, New York and the West End, and launching a two-year National Tour that played Chicago, we finally have our own regional production.

It is truly magnificent. It’s elegant, romantic, gorgeously produced and beautifully danced and sung. For anyone who adores those classic movie musicals and big, old-fashioned, splashy theatrical productions, this is the show for you.

Continue reading “A Gershwin of a Show”