Everything is coming up roses for Gypsy

 

3 Stars

Lauren Maria Medina as Louise (Photos by Liz Lauren).

A musical fable comes to life at the Marriott’s fine production of GYPSY. Its all-star cast showcases the tale of the ultimate stage mother, Rose, who fights for her daughters’ successes while really wanting her own moment in the spotlight.

 Opening on Broadway in 1959, Arthur Laurents’ GYPSY was nominated for eight Tony awards and has been a beloved classic for generations.

 Taking her daughters across the country in search of that next big gig in the waning days of vaudeville, Rose continually dreams of seeing daughter June’s name in lights. A three-times divorced mamma, nothing will get in Rose’s way, not even a new suitor by the name of Herb, who is kind and loyal.

 Make no mistake, this is a woman’s show, empowering and emotionally problematic.

 When June tires of the act and runs off to get married, Rose channels her interest in her other daughter, Louise, to make her a star.

 The musical features Broadway star Lucia Spina as Rose whose loud, brassy, and booming voice perfectly captures the pushy stage mother. She belts out every song, reminiscent of Ethel Merman who played Rose on Broadway.

 Lucky for the audience, a warm welcome back to the Marriott stage is given to the Jefferson award-winning Nathaniel Stampley as suitor Herbie who is charming and authentic. But having seen Stampley in other Marriot roles like “Man of La Mancha” and “Ragtime,” his amazing talent seems somewhat wasted.    

Nathaniel Stampley (Herbie) and Lucia Spina (Rose )

 The audience watches as Lauren Maria Medina who plays Louise is transformed from a mousy little girl into a confident, successful burlesque superstar, the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee. Her voice is powerful and strong.

 With music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show boasts a memorable score including: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “Some People,” and “Together Wherever We Go.”

 Kudos to J’Kobe Wallace who plays Tulsa and an ensemble member for his outstanding dancing that took the house down.

 The Marriott production will likely feel different from other GYPSYs  because director Amanda Dehnert working with choreographer Stephanie Klemons and music director Jeff Award Winner Ryan T. Nelson emphasized its emotional toll and darker side. 

On a different note: Fans of Nathaniel Stampley will be happy to know he takes the stage in an intimate evening of solo songs and stories for one night only, October 15 at 7:30 p.m. In Songs & Stories: Nathaniel Stampley in Concert, Mr. Stampley traces his career from Milwaukee to Chicago, Broadway, London and beyond.

DETAILS: GYPSY is at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL through October 23, 2023. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information, visit www.marriotttheatre.com or call the Marriott Theatre Box Office: (847) 634-0200.

Myra Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Masterful ‘Cherry Orchard’ at Goodman Theatre

 

(L-R) Francis Guinan, Kate Fry and Christopher Donahue in Anton Chekhov’s 'The Cherry Orchard' Photos by Liz Lauren
:(L-R) Francis Guinan, Kate Fry and Christopher Donahue in Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’ Photos by Liz Lauren

Highly Recommended

Rich and masterful, “The Cherry Orchard” serves as a triumphant curtain for Robert Falls’ Goodman Theatre tenure.

If one had to choose a perfect ending for Robert Falls’ three-decade career as Artistic Director at the Goodman Theatre, his production of “The Cherry Orchard” would be it.

Anton Chekhov is Falls’ favorite playwright next to Shakespeare, and he purposely chose this play to close out his illustrious career.

“The Cherry Orchard” is Chekhov’s final play, written before his death in 1904. It deals with a failing Russian aristocracy, love, loss, and issues of class in society.

Make no mistake, “The Cherry Orchard” is billed as a comedy through witty dialogue, fall-down laughing antics, and squeaky boots.

Yet the audience is consumed with sadness throughout the production due to memories of painful loss from the generations who lived and died on that estate.

L-R) Matt DeCaro, Janet Ulrich Brooks, Kate Fry, Alejandra Escalante and Kareem Bandealy in Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard
L-R) Matt DeCaro, Janet Ulrich Brooks, Kate Fry, Alejandra Escalante and Kareem Bandealy in Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard

The plot revolves around widow Madame Lubov Ranevskaya who has just returned to her crumbling estate right before its auction to pay off her debts. She is lamenting the loss of her precious cherry orchard.

Her family surrounds her in support, yet they all have issues of their own.  

Chekhov’s strategic use of foreshadowing is evident in many places,  letting the viewers know that something bad is about to happen.

The ending is somewhat shocking, but enriches the story and its deeper meaning.

Kate Fry as Lubov Ranyevskaya is the perfect matriarch, showcasing a variety of emotions from frivolity and joy to deep melancholy and despair as to what the future holds.  She is exuberant.

Standouts also include Janet Ulrich Brooks as Carlotta, the governess who also has a few magic tricks up her sleeve, and Stephen Cefalu as perpetual student Petya Trofimov who represents the play’s moral compass of social justice.

Note the off-stage music played by the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band led by Alex Koffman, in their first collaboration with The Goodman. Their arrangements lend 19th-century authenticity and warmth to the production. 

Kudos to set designer Todd Rosenthal for his exquisite settings that move about the stage in absolute precision. Ana Kuzmanic’s costumes are gorgeous, colorful when need be with themes of red, black, and ivory. Memories of these costumes will stay with you long after the show.

For more background, attend Behind the Curtain (April 22 at 4:30pm)—led by Goodman’s resident dramaturg Neena Arndt. She will lead a conversation with former Goodman artistic director Robert Falls about his fresh take on the last of Chekhov’s four major plays. 

Details: The Cherry Orchard” is at Goodman Theatre through April 30, 2023 in the Albert Theatre.  Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and more information, go to GoodmanTheatre.org/Cherry or call (312) 443-3800.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Rumors abound at a Neil Simon party

 

'Rumors' cast at Skokie Theatre. (Photo by MadKap Productions)
‘Rumors’ cast at Skokie Theatre. (Photo by MadKap Productions)

Highly Recommended

 The “Rumors” Are True…Skokie Theatre’s Neil Simon Farce is a Smash Hit!

In the years before social media was a “thing,” local gossip was the way to go. How else could people gauge the real social order? Who was cheating on whom?  What was true and what was just a rumor?

Add in that when several people are also politically involved with something to lose if the truth gets out you’ve got real mayhem – or “Rumors,” a hilarious farce from the master of American comedy, Neil Simon.

Welcome to an upscale dinner party hosted by a wealthy New York couple who are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, the party goes terribly wrong.

Guests arrive to discover the host has been shot, the hostess is missing, and the servants have quit.

Produced in 1988, “Rumors” still holds the same caustic bite as when it first came out. The brilliant, fast-paced dialog gives all the actors a chance to shine.

The play stars Erin Renee Baumrucker, Landon Cally, Luke Coleman, Peter Goldsmith, Julie Peterson, Maddy Shilts, Nathan Dale Short, SarahAnn Sutter, Katherine Wettermann, and Lee Wichman.

Ken and_Chris: played by Nathan Sale Short and Erin Renee Baumrucker in Rumors. (Photo by Madcap Productions)
Ken and Chris: played by Nathan Sale Short and Erin Renee Baumrucker in Rumors. (Photo by MadKap Productions)

Standouts include Peterson as Claire Ganz who recently appeared as Ethel Merman in the “Book of Merman” at Skokie Theatre. She is a bubblehead with lots of great lines that keep the audience in stitches

Cally as Lenny Ganz plays a range of emotions. In his final monologue. he makes up an entire story of what really happened to the hosts, Charley and Myra and his performance is stellar.

Kudos to Police Officer Welch, played by Shilts, as no-nonsense in law enforcement as they come.

Directed by Wayne Mell and produced by Wendy Kaplan of MadKap Productions, “Rumors” takes the audience on a hysterical romp through a case of mistaken identity, the constant opening and closing of doors, and a little bit of slapstick thrown in. 

The women’s costumes, headed by custom designer Wendy Kaplan and wardrobe mistress Patti Halajian, are exquisite and elegant. How lucky, the actresses get to wear them all night long.

Details:  Rumors is playing at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Avenue in Downtown Skokie through April 23. Running time: 2 and a half hours with one 15-minute intermission. For tickets, go to skokietheatre.org or call 847-677-7761. The 2023-24 season starts in June with “Hair.”

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Find a rainbow of fun at the Color Factory

 

Inspired by the city’s St. Patricks’s Day traditions as well as notable sites and sights like Chicago’s Lakefront Trail, baseball fields and the oldest L line , our custom green ball pit is a joy whether you’re 2 or 200. (IPhoto courtesy of the Color Factory)

 

What is the Color Factory?  Is it an art museum, a place to learn, or an interactive experience? Actually, it’s all three. It’s experiential.

Located in downtown Chicago’s Willis Tower, the Color Factory is more than 25,000 sq. ft. of interactive rooms and activities designed to stimulate your imagination. 

The third permanent installation in the U.S., the company has other locations in New York and Houston.  Each Color Factory embraces its city with a unique color palette and provides a multi-sensory interactive art experience with multi-sensory installations, immersive rooms, and carefully curated moments.

This joy of color celebrates artists, art institutions, nonprofits, and brand partners to bring more art and color to the world.

Working in partnership with photographer and South Side native, Akilah Townsend, the palette celebrates some of Chicago’s most iconic elements and neighborhoods.

Colors from Chicago’s exclusive Rainbow Cone (think ice cream), the dyed Chicago River (St. Patrick’s Day celebration), Lake Michigan, and the beloved Chicago flag are the stars.

It’s called the 36Chicago Color Palette and you’ll find these colors infused throughout the museum. Mirrors create layers of images in multi-sensory rooms to get lost in.

 

At the color Factory in Willis Tower see Artist Camille Walala’s 1,500 square foot maze that with patterns inspired by Chicago architecture. ( Photo courtesy of the Color Factory)
At the Color Factory in Willis Tower see Artist Camille Walala’s 1,500 square foot maze with patterns inspired by Chicago architecture.  (Photo courtesy of the Color Factory)

 

If you go: 

Get your brain wired for a color explosion as you enter the multi-hued walkway.  Check out more than a dozen immersive spaces that tap into all five senses – taste, touch, sight, scent, and sound. Enjoy sweet treats along the way, like delicious (and colorful) macaroons revolving out of a conveyer belt or a green Kurimu honeydew ice cream cone.

 Taste and identify different flavors of “pop rocks.” Take lots of selfies, free with your QR code in each of the rooms. Touch the lightweight colorful balloons and watch them move through space. There was even a chance to quietly sit and draw the person sitting across from you.

The mint green ball pit was a fan- favorite!  The Color Factory is great for kids, teens, and adults. There are enough activities with more sophisticated options to keep everyone happy. Plan to spend around 90 minutes enjoying the Color Factory fully.

DETAILS: The Color Factory is at Willis Tower, 233 S. Wacker Drive, Chicago as an open run.

 For more information, go to ColorFactory.  To receive further updates on Color Factory Chicago, sign up at ColorFactoryChicago.

Mira Temkin

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

 

 

Thirteen Days on the verge of World War III

 

 Left to right: Shawna Tucker, Delia Ford, Andrea Conway-Diaz, Julia Kessler, Cameron Feagin, Sheila Willis, Maggie Cain, Noelle Klyce, Kat Evans in City Lit Theater's Thirteen Days. (Photos by Steve Graue)
Left to right: Shawna Tucker, Delia Ford, Andrea Conway-Diaz, Julia Kessler, Cameron Feagin, Sheila Willis, Maggie Cain, Noelle Klyce, Kat Evans in City Lit Theater’s Thirteen Days. (Photos by Steve Graue)

4 Stars

In 2020, the world premiere adaptation of Robert F. Kennedy’s “Thirteen Days” was in rehearsals and set to open in March. Due to the pandemic, it was forced to shutter. Fast forward to September of 2021 and the show has finally opened.

“Thirteen Days, presented by City Lit Theatre,” tells the suspenseful story of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Based on a memoir by Robert F. Kennedy, who served as the Attorney General under his brother, President John F. Kennedy, the story is authentic and presented as a cat and mouse game played on the world stage.

On October 16, 1962, long-range Soviet missiles carrying nuclear warheads aimed at the United States were discovered in Cuba. For the next 13 days all eyes were on the White House as President John Kennedy and his team maneuvered around this international crisis.

Communications were conflicting, confusing and constantly changing during the stand down with Nikita Khrushchev and Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin.

President Kennedy did not want to make another mistake like he did in the “Bay of Pigs.” His cabinet could not agree on the best strategy and military response. One wrong move could cause World War III.

 Kat Evans as Robert Kennedy in City Lit Theater's 'Thirteen Days.'
Kat Evans as Robert Kennedy in City Lit Theater’s ‘Thirteen Days.’

Adapted for the theatre and directed by Brian Pastor, City Lit’s Resident Director, this production features a cast totally comprised of women. While all of the characters in the book are white males, this ambitious twist creates a unique reflection of gender issues in the body politic.

The show’s cast includes Cameron Feagin (President John F. Kennedy), Kat Evans (Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy), Sheila Willis (Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara), Julia Kessler (Secretary of State Dean Rusk), Maggie Cain (Director of Central Intelligence John A. McCone and Soviet U.N. Ambassador Valerian Zorin), Andrea Conway-Diaz (McGeorge Bundy), Delia Ford (Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Maxwell D. Taylor), Noelle Klyce (Ted Sorenson), Kim Fukawa (Arthur C. Lundahl, the aerial photography expert who detected missile installations in Cuba and Soviet Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Dobrynin), Shawna Tucker (National Security Council member Llewellyn “Tommy” Thompson and Anne Wrider (Adlai Stevenson, United State Ambassador to the United Nations).

On the production team are Liz Cooper (lighting design), Jeremy Hollis (set designer) and Satoe Schechner (costume designer.)  Kudos to Schechner for dressing the women in business suits, ties, and shoes that make them look powerful and professional.

Cameron Feagin as JFK knows when to be tough and how to react to the building pressure. Kat Evans as Bobby Kennedy narrates this nerve-wracking drama, creating real tension until the final showdown.  Both of these lead actors bear an uncanny physical resemblance to the Kennedy family, adding to the performance.

Covid protocols include masks and proof of vaccination for entrance. The theatre will also be following CDC ventilation guidelines to ensure a complete exchange of air in the theatre between performances.

“Thirteen Days” runs through Oct. 24, 2021 at the Edgewater Presbyterian Church, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago. Run time:  90 minutes with no intermission.

For tickets and other information visit citylit.org or call (773) 293-3682.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

 

‘Sophisticated Ladies’ sparkles like New Year’s Eve for the Duke

 

(L to R) Chuckie Benson, Terri K. Woodall, Joey Stone, Madison Piner and Tristan Bruns in Rockin’ in Rhythm in Sophisticated Ladies at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo courtesy of PMT)
(L to R) Chuckie Benson, Terri K. Woodall, Joey Stone, Madison Piner and Tristan Bruns in Rockin’ in Rhythm in Sophisticated Ladies at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo courtesy of PMT)

 4 stars

A “Salute to the Duke” with concept by Donald McKayle, direction and choreography by Brenda Didier and Florence Walker Harris, “Sophisticated Ladies” celebrates  Porchlight’s 25th Anniversary Mainstage season by taking the big jazz band era of the Duke to new heights.

Featuring music by jazz composer, pianist and band leader Duke Ellington who composed thousands of songs during his 50-year career, the Duke is recognized as one of the most important composers in American musical history.

The show, a Porchlight Theatre production, takes the audience through Duke’s legendary career  with a treasure trove of hits, that include “Mood Indigo,” “Take the “A” Train,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Satin Doll.”

Continue reading “‘Sophisticated Ladies’ sparkles like New Year’s Eve for the Duke”

‘Annie’ celebrates bright optimism at Citadel

 

Annie at Citadel Theatre (Photo courtesy of Citadel theatre)
Annie at Citadel Theatre
(Photo courtesy of Citadel theatre)

4 stars

One of the most popular comic strips of all time, “Little Orphan Annie” comes to life at the Citadel Theatre. recently extended until January 5, 2020.

Staged in a small, intimate space, the show features talented singers and dancers, a happy musical score, a delightful group of ragtag orphans and one adorable mutt, Sandy.

The plot revolves around poor Annie who lives in an orphanage, believing her parents are out there somewhere. She escapes her miserable life and tries to find them in New York City, without success. Continue reading “‘Annie’ celebrates bright optimism at Citadel”

‘Invisible’ reminds us of the power of bigotry and hate

 

L to R: Megan Kaminsky, Morgan Laurel Cohen, Barbara Roeder Harris, Richard Cotovsky. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
L to R: Megan Kaminsky, Morgan Laurel Cohen, Barbara Roeder Harris, Richard Cotovsky. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

4 stars

The year is 1925 in the deep South and the KKK is expanding its reach to include the women folk who will spread their doctrine of racism against African Americans, Jews, immigrants and Catholics in Mounds, Mississippi.

Making its world premiere at Her Story Theatre, “Invisible” is an imaginary tale of one woman who can’t rationalize her involvement in the Women’s Ku Klux Klan movement with her own moral compass and sense of decency.

Mabel Carson’s friends have convinced her that this is the path to take to make America great with the slogan, “America for Americans.”  Yet when a reporter from the Chicago Tribune arrives on the scene, Mabel begins to question their ideals, methodology and the nature of true friendship.

Continue reading “‘Invisible’ reminds us of the power of bigotry and hate”

‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ blends fun and fantasy

 

Cast of Peter and the Starcatcher at Citadel Theatre ( Photo by North Shore Camera Club)
Cast of Peter and the Starcatcher at Citadel Theatre ( Photo by North Shore Camera Club)

2 1/2 stars

It’s a show about finding your way home, no matter how lost you are. Now playing at The Citadel Theatre, “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a fantasy/comedy that one might call a prequel to the beloved story of Peter Pan. It imagines how Peter might have become one of the lost boys of Neverland.

The show, a winner of five Tony Awards, comes from the pen of Rick Elice (“Jersey Boys,” “The Adams Family,” The Cher Show”)

Under the fine direction of Jeremy Aluma, “Peter and the Starcatcher ncludes an ambitious cast of 17, all playing multiple roles. The show is filled with music, dancing and non-stop action plus lots of humor and antics that keep the audience laughing.

Stand outs include the lovely Mariah Copeland as Molly Aster who captures the heart of Peter and Jayson Lee as Boy/Peter who makes the audience see the longing in his innocent soul.

Adrian Danzig is a hoot as pirate Black Stache who becomes Captain Hook in Peter Pan and Rebecca Fletcher is excellent as the nanny to Molly, Mrs. Bumbrake.

Kudos to scenic designer Eric Luchen who has created a fascinating set and to director Aluma who makes great use of the intimate Citadel stage by incorporating the seats and doorways to expand the stage.

The problem with the show is the script which has too much madcap and mayhem going on. It was challenging to follow and some of the English accents were difficult to understand.

DETAILS: “Peter and the Starcatcher” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 Waukegan Rd.,  Lake Forest, through Sept. 29, 2019. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission.  For tickets and other information, visit Citadeltheatre.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago