La Cage Aux Folles a glorious spectacle of sight and sound

 

Ginger Minj and Jason Richards in Music Theater Works La Cage (Photo by Brett Beiner)
 Jason Richards and Ginger Minj in Music Theater Works La Cage (Photo by Brett Beiner)

Four Stars

Prepare for great music, lots of Laughs and gorgeous costumes as Music Theater Works takes you to the swanky nightclub of La Cage Aux Folles in St. Tropez.

Winner of six Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, La Cage brings an outstanding night of musical theatre to the Performing Arts Center in Skokie with a few surprises throw in!

Based on the hit French farce that also inspired Hollywood’s “The Birdcage,” this Broadway smash features a hilarious book by Harvey Fierstein and a score by the king of show tunes, Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly! and Mame).

From the moment you enter the theatre, you’ll be immediately transported to La Cage’s elegant St Tropez nightclub, complete with “women” in cages welcoming you, an onstage bar and tables surrounding the stage.

Opening on Broadway in 1983, La Cage broke barriers by becoming the first hit Broadway musical centered on a gay relationship.

Society has come very far from the times when this play opened.  Today, gender roles have never been a more contemporary issue.

The plot centers around Georges, the owner of “La Cage,” and his long-time lover, “Zaza.” When their son, Jean- Michel, announces his engagement to Anne, the trouble begins, especially when they find out her father is a very conservative government official, running for office.

Ginger Minj as Zaza in Music Theater Works La Cage. (Photo by Brett Beiner)
Ginger Minj as Zaza in Music Theater Works La Cage. (Photo by Brett Beiner)

With plenty of audience interaction, the musical is filled with not one, but two show-stopping hits you’ll be humming as you leave the show.

“I Am What I Am” is the perfect anthem for everyone – live your own life and do not make excuses for being true to yourself. The cast belts it out loud and clear. “The Best of Times” is another powerful ballad that will leave you breathless.

The production stars RuPaul’s Drag Race headliner, Ginger Minj, as Albin, and he/she is beyond fabulous. She sings, acts and creates a great performance with a touch of whimsy.   And oh, those exquisite wigs designed by David Ian Grant!

Jason Richards makes his Music Theater Works debut as Georges. He’s got a great voice and excellent stage presence as both the emcee of his club and his role as husband to Zaza. He demonstrates a sense of vulnerability, afraid to hurt his lover.

Standouts also include Dane Strange as Jacob who keeps the audience in stitches with his antics and Caron Buinis, with her strong operatic voice.

(Top row, L to R) Daniel Hurst, Brian Selcik, Jordan Taylor and Gabe Kohlbeck (Photo by Brett Beiner)
(Top row, L to R) Daniel Hurst, Brian Selcik, Jordan Taylor and Gabe Kohlbeck (Photo by Brett Beiner)

Kudos to project runway designer Justin LeBlanc for his costumes that are over-the-top sparkly, flashy and gorgeous. And to choreographer, Christopher Carter, whose dance moves especially for male bodies, is fabulous. Artistic director Kyle Dougan directs the show with passion and purpose.

As with many shows of this type, the dancers are so graceful it’s hard to believe their gender.

This is the first show of the season for Music Theater Works. The rest of the season includes “The Little Mermaid (March 10 – April 3) Zorro (August 11 -21), Camelot (October 20 – November 13) and White Christmas (December 15 – January 1.)

DETAILS: “La Cage” is playing at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie through April 3, 2022. Runtime: 2 hours and 40 minutes with intermission. For Tickets, go to musictheaterworks.com/la-cage-aux-folles/.

Important Notice: All guests will be required to wear face masks regardless of vaccination status and show their vaccination cards.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

‘Come From Away’ reaches beyond the skies

 

Marika Aubrey leads a group of female pilots in “Come from Away.” (Photo by Matthew Murphy.)
Marika Aubrey leads a group of female pilots in “Come from Away.” (Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

4 Stars

Based on true events, this Tony award-winning musical tells the story of 7,000 airline passengers from 38 planes that were stranded in the town of Gander, Newfoundland, Canada after Sept. 11, 2001.

The people of the small town stepped up to the plate to house, feed, clothe and care for these frightened international travelers who had no idea when they’d be going home.

Written by Tony® nominees Irene Sankoff and David Hein, and directed by Tony-winning Best Director, Christopher Ashley, this uplifting, high-energy musical goes straight to the heart. Many of the original Broadway cast have reprised their inspiring roles in Chicago.

The audience watches as cultures clash and uneasy alliances grow into lasting relationships.  It is joyous in the face of tragedy.

Band performs front and center and behind the scenes in “Come from Away.” (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Band performs front and center and behind the scenes in “Come from Away.” (Photo by Matthew Murphy.)

The cast members all play a number of roles, while a talented band of musicians rotate in and out throughout the play, led by members of the original show. Together, they create a powerful, commanding presence of storytelling.

Kudos to Marika Aubrey who plays American Airlines captain, Beverly, and others who have the best song in the play, “Me and the Sky.” She captivates the audience with her journey when there were no women in the cockpit through the ranks to piloting an airplane and then becoming a flight instructor.  She is outstanding with strong vocals and believable character portrayals.

Stand outs also include Julie Johnson as Gander resident, Beulah, and Julie Knitel as Gander broadcaster Janice.

Scenic design by Tony Award Winner Beowulf Boritt navigates around seats in an airplane to seats at a table to create an innovative setting.

Even more heartwarming was the response of the passengers, who upon finally getting to leave, contributed thousands of dollars to the community. When returning home, the grateful passengers continued to send money, flowers, food and gifts.

In the story, the impact worked both ways as Newfoundlanders discovered how empty their lives felt after the passengers went home.

Cast of “Come from Away” celebrates 10 years later. (Photo by Matthew Murphy.)
Cast of “Come from Away” celebrates 10 years later. (Photo by Matthew Murphy.)
Band performs front and center and behind the scenes in “Come from Away.” Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Ten years later, the crew and passengers reunite in Gander to celebrate the lifelong friendships and strong connections they created in spite of the terrorist attacks. As Claude the mayor professes, “Tonight we honor what was lost, but we also commemorate what we found.”

On opening night, the entire audience was on their feet for a standing, well- deserved ovation.

DETAILS: “Come from Away” is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, Chicago through March 6, 2022/ Run time: 100 minutes without intermission. For tickets, go to broadwayinchicago.com.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

‘Outside Mullingar’ proves it is never too late

 

 Left: Laura Leonardo Ownby (Rosemary), Right: Ross Frawley (Anthony). Photo by North Shore Camera Club.
Left: Laura Leonardo Ownby (Rosemary), Right: Ross Frawley (Anthony). Photo by North Shore Camera Club.

Left: Laura Leonardo Ownby (Rosemary), Right: Ross Frawley (Anthony). Photo by North Shore Camera Club.

3 Stars

When John Patrick Shanley’s play, “Outside Mullingar,” opened on Broadway, January 2014, it received accolades as a new kind of rom-com. For one thing, instead of young people, it featured older adults embarking on new relationships.

Thus is the play recreated at Citadel Theatre with four outstanding actors who bring the story to life. Set in Ireland, the play involves two families who own farms right next to each other.

Anthony and Rosemary have grown up together. Rosemary has been harboring unrequited feelings of love for Anthony her entire life.  Anthony, who is painfully shy and unaware, still lusts over Fiona who went screaming the other way when he revealed his true feelings for her.

The major issue in the show is whether or not Anthony should inherit his family’s farm upon the death of his father.  His cranky dad wants to leave the farm to his nephew Adam from New York City.

When I first read of the plot, it seemed vaguely familiar. That’s because the play had been turned into the 2020 movie, “Wild Mountain Thyme” starring Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan and Jon Hamm. The screenplay was written as well as directed by Shanley, based on his play.

Audience members will get caught up in the play from the very beginning as Irish music welcomes them into the theatre.

Left: Laura Leonardo Ownby (Rosemary), Susan Hofflander (Aoife). in Outside Mullingar at Citadel Theatre. (photo by North Shore Camera Club)
Left: Laura Leonardo Ownby (Rosemary), Susan Hofflander (Aoife). in Outside Mullingar at Citadel Theatre. (photo by North Shore Camera Club)

 

The four principals include: Susan Hofflander as widow Aoife Muldoon, Jack Hickey as widow Tony, Laura Leonardo Ownby as Rosemary and Ross Frawley as Anthony.

Hofflander is powerful and yet sympathetic as the widow Muldoon, while Hickey is a gruff, crabby old man who is filled with regret at some of his choices. Ownby shines as Rosemary and is the most animated character in the play. Frawley as Anthony plays his part with strong emotion and fervor. You’re rooting for both of them to finally break through.

What’s fascinating about the play is that you meet the parents and experience their interaction with their offspring. Then, it’s just the younger generation who must forge ahead.

Directed by Beth Wolf who was moved by the theme of loneliness in the play, “Outside Mullingar” really draws upon the idea of it’s never too late. Founder and artistic director of the free-Shakespeare-in-the park company Midsommer Flight, Wolf directed Citadel’s production of The Roommate two years ago.

Kudos to Eric Luchen for his innovative set design, flipping one farmhouse kitchen to another, without moving sets.

Outside Mullingar really gets inside its characters with sweetness and charm.

DETAILS: “Outside Mullingar” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, through March 13. Run Time: approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and more information visit Citadel Theatre.

State COVID restrictions in effect at the time will be enforced at Citadel’s 144-seat performing space.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

West Side Story still relevant

West Side Story at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire (Photo by Liz Lauren)
West Side Story at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire (Photo by Liz Lauren)

4 Stars

While “West Side Story” is based on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” the tale of the star-crossed lovers remains a contemporary look at rival gangs that’s just as timely as the daily news reports.

But Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire creates a dynamic new twist to this production with a fresh look and new talents who bring this story to life.

For those who haven’t seen Steven Spielberg’s award-winning recent redo of the 1961 classic movie, West Side Story takes place on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the 1950’s.

There’s tension in the hood between the Sharks and the Jets about who controls the turf. Hate, racism and violence rears its ugly head giving way to tragedy and sorrow on both sides of the fence.

West Side Story at Marriott Theatre (Photo by Liz Lauren)
West Side Story at Marriott Theatre (Photo by Liz Lauren)

This well-loved show features the brilliant music of Leonard Bernstein with such tunes as “Somewhere,” “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty,” and “America.”

Using the traditional choreography from Jerome Robbin’s original production, Marriott’s high energy cast delivers the dance with amazing precision and youthful energy. It will leave you breathless.

Based on the book by Tony Award-winner Arthur Laurents, music by Tony and Grammy Award-winner Leonard Bernstein and Lyrics by Tony, Grammy, Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winner Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story is a trifecta of creative excellence.

The production is directed by critically acclaimed, award-winning stage veteran Victor Malana Maog who beautifully captures the passion and power of the show.

Musical direction is by Jeff Award winner Ryan T. Nelson and choreography is by Jeff Award nominee, Alex Sanchez.

West Side Story at Marriott Theatre (Photo by Liz Lauren)

West Side Story at Marriott Theatre (Photo by Liz Lauren)Making her Marriott Theatre debut is Lauren Maria Medina who plays an exquisite “Maria.” She has the voice of an angel with pipes big enough to completely fill the stage.

Also making their debuts on the Marriott stage are Jake David Smith as “Tony” who wins our hearts and Vanessa Aurora Sierra as “Anita” who sings and dances her way into the stratosphere.

Mention must be made of Marisa Fee as “Anybodys” whose gender issues are much more realized in this production. Originally a “tomboy,” Fee appears with the rest of the girls in a ballet, wearing a gown, a strong departure from the original.

Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s set design makes great use of the in-the-round stage with realistic appearance of a fire escape and other urban settings to reflect the cold stark reality of the neighborhood.

Kudos to costume designer Amanda Vander Byl for her realistic 1950s costumes and of course, to musical supervisor Patti Garwood and her orchestra who play the haunting score to perfection.

Covid Protocols: Marriott Theatre guests are currently required to wear face coverings and present proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or an appropriate negative COVID-19 test to attend performances in the theatre. Details at MarriottTheatre.com

DETAILS: “West Side Story” is at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire through March 27. Run Time: 2.5 hours with a 15-minute intermission. For tickets and more information, call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or visit Marriott Theatre.

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Mira Temkin

‘Dishwasher Dreams’ captures immigrant trials and triumphs with humor and poignancy

 

).

Alaudin Ullah in Writers Theatre" 'Dishwasher Dreams'. (Photo by Amir Hamza)
Alaudin Ullah in Writers Theatre” ‘Dishwasher Dreams’. (Photo by Amir Hamza).

3.5 Stars

Closed for two years due to COIVD-19, Writers Theatre has reopened its 2021/2022 season with “Dishwasher Dreams.” A one-man show written and performed by Alaudin Ullah, it highlights the immigrant experience through the eyes of a father and son.

The show opens with and is accompanied by tabla percussionist Avirodh Sharma who adds a sense of cultural authenticity to the performance.  Sharma is considered one of today’s leading exponents of the tabla, carrying on the tradition of percussion rhythm that originated in India.

Ullah is a stand-up comedian whose family came from a very small town in Bangladesh. He grew up in New York City but is in L.A. auditioning for a major film role that could change the course of his career. Unfortunately, a family crisis hurls him back to New York and puts his own dreams on hold.

He takes the audience on a hilarious journey through his family’s history from colonial India in the 1930s to Spanish Harlem in the 1970s to present-day Hollywood.

This exhilarating trek will have you laughing and crying at the same time as Ullah shares his experiences of immigration, the Yankees and the pursuit of the American Dream.

At heart, Ullah is a storyteller dedicated to changing the misperceptions of South Asians and Muslims in our society. His performance covers a range of emotions dealing with prejudice and racism on stage as he tries to become a successful American.

For both father and son, there is more to life than being an undocumented worker with little opportunity for advancement. Ullah shows us with humor and commitment how he overcame this!

A playwright and performer with several TV and film acting credits, Ullah was one of the first South Asian comedians featured nationally on HBO, MTV, BET, PBS and Comedy Central.  He is currently working on a documentary of his book, “Bengali Harlem,” to be out next year.

The show is directed by Chay Yew, (formerly of Victory Gardens Theater) in association with Hartford Stage. Writers Theatre which recently changed leadership, is helmed by Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma and Interim Artistic Director Bobby Kennedy.

DETAILS: Dishwasher Dreams is at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, through January 16, 2022. Run Time: Approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and more information, visit writerstheatre.org. (Visitors must show a valid Covid vaccination card and must be masked through the entire presentation.)

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

 

 

 

Grab a handful of Peanuts

 

On the bus from l to r. Tuesdai B. Perry, Marcellus Burt, Alley Ellis, Sierro White, Jimmy Hogan, Neil Stratman (Citadel Theatre's You're a good man Charlie Brown.
On the bus from l to r. Tuesdai B. Perry, Marcellus Burt, Alley Ellis, Sierro White, Jimmy Hogan, Neil Stratman (Citadel Theatre’s You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.

3 stars

“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” continues to delight audiences.

Can an off-Broadway musical based on cartoonist Charles M. Schulz’s well-loved “Peanuts” comic strip characters that is more than 50 years old still be relevant?

The answer is Yes!

With music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, the musical opened off-Broadway in 1967 and ran for almost four years.

Popular with regional theaters, a new version directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening and Thoroughly Modern Millie) featuring additional songs by Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family) ran on Broadway in 1999. It won the Drama Desk Award for “Outstanding Revival of a Musical.”

Citadel Theatre, in Lake Forest s playing this updated, fast-paced and high-energy award-winning version, now through Dec. 23, 2021.

The play features a series of vignettes, almost like a cartoon strip, that chronicles the trials and tribulations of childhood.

Fifty years later, the characters have the same insecurities, the same issues about friendship, sports and their own failures.

Charlie Brown continues to have a crush on sweet little red-headed girl whom he discovers chews her pencil, too.

He is the eternal optimist, but he never gets a break. He is still the same blockhead.

In this updated production, the audience will encounter some references to present-day items such as “bit coin.”

Pictured left to right: Alley Ellis, Jimmy Hogan, Marcellus Burt, Tuesdai B. Perry, Neil Stratman, and Sierra White in ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’ at Citadel Theatre

Directed by Joe Lehman and choreographed by Jake Ganzer with music direction by David Zizic, memorable music includes the title song, “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “Happiness,” a piece that highlights enjoying the little things in life.

The cast, top-rated with hapless Charlie Brown played by Neil Stratman and Lucy played by Actor Equity member Sierra White, also includes Jimmy Hogan (from Citadel’s “Annie) as Schroeder; Marcellus Burt (of Griffin’s Ragtime) as Linus and Alley Ellis as Sally. Tuesdai B. Perry is Snoopy. It’s hard enough to play a role, much more so, that of a pup.

Kudos to Sally and Schroeder whose tap dance knocks it out of the park.

Mention must be made of the incredible, colorful lighting design by Samuel Stephen that almost takes on a role by itself. Flashing emotions help showcase the feelings of the cast.

Also, the props design by Jonathan Berg Einhorn are larger-than-life, adorable and infinitely better than using the real things.

DETAILS: “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, through Dec. 23, 2021. Run Time: approximately 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission. For tickets and more information visit Citadel Theatre.

State COVID restrictions in effect at the time will be enforced at Citadel’s 144-seat performing space. The show is suitable for general audiences aged 5 and older.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

A meaningful and timely play

 

Heidi Schreck and Cassie Beck in “What the Constitution Means to Me” from Broadway in Chicago. Photo by Joan Marcus.)
Heidi Schreck and Cassie Beck in “What the Constitution Means to Me” from Broadway in Chicago. Photo by Joan Marcus.)

4 stars

Based on a true story by playwright Heidi Schreck, “What the Constitution Means to Me” focuses on 15-year Schrenk’s experiences participating in debates across the country for the American Legion to earn money for college tuition. The truth is, she earned enough money from the debates to pay for her entire college education.

The audience participates in the show as well, creating powerful theatre about the relevancy of the U.S. Constitution. This interactive play questions whether our 230-year-old document is still applicable today and for future generations of America. After experiencing this powerful show, theatregoers will have a new appreciation for this historic document.

The play goes from hilarity to tragedy. As Heidi goes back in time, she traces the intimate connection of four generations with the founding document that shaped their lives.

The U.S. Constitution and amendments were drafted to protect its citizens, but unfortunately, not everyone.

Women, immigrants and people of color are left out, not included in police, voting and civil rights laws. She raises the question of what would have happened if the Equal Rights Amendment had passed in 1982?

Cassie Beck in “What the Constitution Means to Me” from Broadway in Chicago. Photo by Joan Marcus.
Cassie Beck in “What the Constitution Means to Me” from Broadway in Chicago. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Cassie Beck plays Heidi Schreck, who vacillates between a teenager and an adult, displaying a wide range of emotions. She handles the role with precision, humor and class. Mike Iveson, who originated the part of the Legionnaire on Broadway, moderates the debate as one of “those old men.”

Suddenly, the show moves into a different direction, creating an actual debate between the adult Schreck and a high-school student from L.A. about whether or not the Constitution should be abolished or kept. Everyone listens to the debate and one audience member decides the verdict.

There are also a few surprises thrown in that make the play even more fun and meaningful.

Directed by Oliver Butler, the show became a hit on Broadway with two Tony Award® nominations, a Pulitzer Prize for Drama nomination and broadcast on Amazon Prime Video.

“What the Constitution Means to Me” will have you thinking about the Constitution and your own government long after the final bow.

Details: “What the Constitution Means to Me” is at the Broadway Playhouse Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut in Chicago through Nov. 21, 2021 Running time: 100 minutes without intermission.

All audience members are required to wear masks throughout the play and must show proof of vaccination with ID card. For those with exemptions, proof of a negative COVID 19 test is required. For tickets go to BroadwayinChicago.com.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

Brighton Beach Memoirs captures family life on brink of WWII

 

Brighton Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre L-R: Siah Berlatsky, Ron Quade, Shaya Harris (back to camera), Abby Lee, Juliana Liscio, Danny Mulae (face obscured), and Monica Castle (Photos by North Shore Camera Club))
Brighton Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre L-R: Siah Berlatsky, Ron Quade, Shaya Harris (back to camera), Abby Lee, Juliana Liscio, Danny Mulae (face obscured), and Monica Castle
(Photos by North Shore Camera Club)

4 Stars

 

Live theatre is now alive and well at the Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest!

Opening their season after the pandemic is playwright Neil Simon’s warm and wonderful, “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

“Brighton Beach Memoirs” tells the story of Eugene Jerome, a young man who desires to be a writer and starts with what he knows best, his own downtrodden family. The time is 1937 in Brooklyn and undertones of the brewing war in Europe are laced throughout the play. America is well aware of the news, but wants no part of it.

Eugene, who also serves as the narrator and talks to the audience about his plight, has his own issues of teenage angst while dreaming of being a baseball player and lusting after his older cousin.

The trials and tribulations of not having enough money for his two parents, brother Stanley, widowed Aunt Blanche and her two daughters who live with them — loom large. Unemployment, gambling, sickness are all part of daily life.

Yet in typical Neil Simon fashion, you’ll laugh and you’ll cry, all within a few minutes.

Siah Berlatsky as Eugene has just the right amount of high energy and pathos to light up every scene. The audience really sympathizes with him and at the same time, recognizes his bright, successful future ahead.

Siah Berlatsky as EugeneBrighton in Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre.
Siah Berlatsky as EugeneBrighton in Beach Memoirs at Citadel Theatre.

Standouts include his put-upon mother Kate, played by Monica Castle, who carries the weight of everyone’s problems and must convey a range of raw emotions. She does so with great style. Ron Quade as patriarch Jack, who everyone relies on, plays his role with power, heart and a little bit of vulnerability

The cast also includes Abby Lee (Blanche), Danny Mulae (Stanley), Shaya Harris (Laurie), and Juliana Liscio (Nora) who work together to create a realistic family group and share their challenges.  You’ll cheer them on and hope for the best.

Citadel Theatre Artistic Director Scott Phelps and director of the production makes great use of the theatre space. Having the dining room table where much of the dialogue takes place creates a very intimate stage, making the audience feel like they are right there.

Also on the production team are Jeff award-winner Eric Luchen (Set Design), Colin Meyer (Costume Design) and Samuel Stephen (Lighting Design).

DETAILS: “Brighton Beach Memoirs” runs through October 17, 2021 at Citadel Theatre, 300 S. Waukegan, Lake Forest. Run time:  Approximately 2 hours with one intermission.  Seating is limited and masks are required.

For tickets and other information visit  Citadel Theatre or call (847) 735-8554, ext. 1.

Mira Temkin

(For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago)

Goodman Theatre reopens with ‘African Mean Girls Play’

 

Mean girls Play at Goodman Theatre. : (L to R) Adhana Reid (Ama), Tiffany Renee Johnson (Mercy), Adia Alli (Gifty), Ashley Crowe (Nana) and Tania Richard (Headmistress Francis). (Photo by Flint Chaney).
Mean girls Play at Goodman Theatre. : (L to R) Adhana Reid (Ama), Tiffany Renee Johnson (Mercy), Adia Alli (Gifty), Ashley Crowe (Nana) and Tania Richard (Headmistress Francis). (Photo by Flint Chaney).

In March of 2020, three days before “School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” was set to open, Goodman Theatre was forced to shut down due to COVID. It was thought the shutdown would be temporary.

When it wasn’t, the organization pivoted and turned to streaming. The play was viewed in 45 states, 13 countries and was seen by more than 1,600 Chicago Public School students.

“School Girls” is now back in session, live.

Deceptively funny with dark undertones, the play revolves around a group of high school girls at an exclusive boarding school in Ghana.

The reigning “Queen Bee” has her sights on the Miss Ghana beauty pageant to compete for “Miss Universe.” But then new girl, Ericka, enters the scene and it’s a game-changer for everyone.

Expect a laugh every few minutes as the girls engage in comedic banter about clothes, looks, and family background that showcase the similarities of teenage girls across the globe.

What was truly funny was their perception of American cultural icons like White Castle, Nike Shoes and Wal-Mart.

But bullying, blackmail and deception all come into view.

Starring Adia Alli (Gifty), Kyrie Courter (Ericka Boafo), Ashley Crowe (Nana), Ciera Dawn (Paulina Sarpong), Tiffany Renee Johnson (Mercy), Adhana Reid (Ama), Tania Richard (Headmistress Francis) and Lanise Antoine Shelley (Eloise Amponsah, the eight actors show powerful performances in a range of emotions from silly joy to deep frustration.

Mention must be made of Kyrie Courter’s amazing voice when she sings Whitney Houston’s, “The Greatest Love of All.”

The play was written by Ghanaian-American playwright Jocelyn Bioh, who was inspired by the 2011 beauty pageant in Ghana.

Directed by Lili-Anne Brown with quick precision and impeccable comedic timing, the ambience on the stage slowly turns into something more realistic, frightening and contemporary – as racism rears its ugly head.

Kudos to costume designer Samantha C. Jones for the girls’ beautiful gowns and elegant dress for Eloise Amponsah.

“School Girls” runs through August 29, 2021  in the Albert Theatre. Run time:  Approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. Seating is limited and masks are required.

Goodman theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago. For tickets and other information visit Goodman Theatre/Here.

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Mira Temkin

 

Get Gogh-ing to Chicago’s Immersive Van Gogh experience

 

Immersive Van Gogh in Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)
Immersive Van Gogh in Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)

4 stars

 

It’s sure to feel like spring is reawakening with glorious sunflowers when you visit the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit, now showing through September 6.

This visually spectacular digital art exhibition invites audiences to “step inside” the iconic works of post-Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh. It evokes his highly emotional and chaotic inner consciousness through art, light, music and movement.

With more than 50 projectors illuminating over 14,000 square-feet, visitors are   surrounded by Van Gogh’s brushstrokes and colors, including animated details from Self Portrait with Felt Hat (1888), The Bedroom in Arles (1889), Irises (1889) and The Starry Night 1889).

Immersive Van Gogh is a glorious experience that will envelop the visual and audio senses. Classical music, Edith Piaf’s “No Regrets” and other French songs stimulate the mind.

Stand in one of the circles on the main floor, then step up to the balcony to get a higher perspective.

Immersive Van Gogh in Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)
Immersive Van Gogh in Chicago (Michael Brosilow photo)

The 1-hour Van Gogh exhibit has been designed in accordance with the latest health and safety protocols. Capacity is limited and masks are required at all times. Digitally projected social distancing circles on the gallery floors ensure appropriate spacing.

Ticket prices start at $39.99 for adults ($24.99 for children 16 or younger) with untimed and flexible ticket options available.

Immersive Van Gogh is at the Lighthouse Art Space, 108 Germania Place, Chicago. For more information, visit vangoghchicago.com or call 844-307-4644.

Mira Temkin