Superb ‘Silent Sky’ reminds how gender matters

(L-R) Cameron Feagin, Anne Lentino, and Melissa Harlow (Photo by North Shore Camera Club

Highly recommended

First, I must reveal that Lauren Gunderson is my favorite contemporary playwright.  I loved her ATCA award-winning “The Book of Will,” a play about saving the works of William Shakespear and how they got published. She is among the most produced current American playwrights.

Gunderson often intertwines witty dialogue with historical matter while developing themes that have been overlooked. Such is “Silent Sky,” currently on stage at Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest.

A true story based on what Ratcliff grad and astronomer Henrietta Leavitt faced in 1900 when she left Wisconsin and family to join the Harvard University Observatory, (she used her dowry to move and get settled), the play follows her discoveries and interaction with female coworkers called “computers” and a male who is the boss’ assistant.

Now imagine what it must have been like to be told she couldn’t touch much less use the famed telescope there. Picture her working after hours to explore the universe through photos that she and coworkers used in an office space called “the Harem” (really).

Do you think much has changed since then? Did you see the true NASA-related movie, “Hidden Figures?”

Through Gunderson’s words, finely interpreted by Melissa Harlow, Henrietta comes to life in the beautifully done Citadel show. 

The entire production is well cast with Cameron Feagin and Anne Lentino, both of the Promethean Theatre Ensemble that did the excellent “Blue Stocking,” as fellow computers in the Harem and Adam Thatcher as Peter Shaw, the assistant boss. Thatcher just did Citadel’s “She Loves Me.”

Even though the theater space is small and the stage is tiny, Trevor Dotson’s set design includes a proper area for Henrietta’s Wisconsin’s home that includes her sister Margaret’s piano.

Margaret, now a young mother played by the very talented Laura Michele Erle (also the co-writer of “Three Sisters, Four Women”), is composing a symphony.

Pulling it all together is Director Beth Wolf, a Jeff award nominee for Citadel’s “Outside Mullingar” production.

Details: “Silent Sky is at Citadel Theatre, 300 S, Waukegan Rd, Lake Forest, (West Campus of Lake Forest School District) now through March 17, 2023. Run time is about 2 hours including one intermission. For tickets and other information visit or call 847-735-8554.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago





‘Heights brings hip hop and rap to Marriott Theatre


The cast of “In the Heights” at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

The cast of “In the Heights” at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. (Photo by Liz Lauren)


With “In the Heights” Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire takes on Lin-Manuel Miranda (music and lyrics) and Quiara Alegria Hudes (book) musical that is arguably very different from the longtime traditional shows presented there.

And audiences know that immediately when a street artist Graffiti Pete (Phillip Wood) opens the show by spray painting an awning outside a neighborhood store and performs hip-hop style. 

The musical goes on to tell about a distraught, mostly Domincan Latino community in Upper Manhattan’s NYC’s Washington Heights  neighborhood that s worried about family, work, rent and changing times.

It centers on Usnavi (Joseph Morales) who runs the community’s bodega (small grocery/convenience store) inherited from his parents.

 But it also deals with problems of love, parental approval and making it outside the community’s cultural boundaries.

If you go: Don’t expect “West Side Story” style songs and dances. “In the Heights” pulses to a very different beat. Think “Hamilton” which Miranda wrote and uses different rhythms.

“In the Heights” is at Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, through March 17u, 2024.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


Exciting Flyover ‘ride’ comes to Chicago


Navy Pier adds a three dimensional ride. Photo by J Jacobs)
Navy Pier adds a three-dimensional ride. Photo by J Jacobs)

See Chicago in a whole new way.

Flyover Chicago is part thrill ride and part immersive three-dimensional multi-sensory video experience that utilizes cutting edge drone technology featuring impressive aerial views allowing visitors to see Chicago in a whole new way.

Located in the former IMAX theater at Navy Pier.  The attraction’s designers say they immediately realized it was the perfect place to present the newest addition to their Flyover family that includes theater rides in Vancouver, Canada; Reykjavík, Iceland; and La Vegas.

Participants will sit in a moveable seat that pitches, rolls and articulates while viewing never been seen drone footage of Chicago on a 65 foot high domed theater screen. Flying towards, through and over buildings throughout Chicago in a way you have never seen them before. This means you will feel totally immersed in the Flyover experience.

There is no narration but rather a custom designed surround sound soundtrack of music that defines Chicago including rock, blues, gospel, jazz, hip hop, rap, house and more. Fragrances are included to complete your multisensory enjoyment.

Flyover Chicago will open March 1, 2024 at Navy Pier, 600 E Grand Ave, Chicago, IL The attraction opens at 11:00 AM Daily. Advance purchase tickets are available online at

Reno Lovison


Old romance conflict revived at Citadel Theatre



On the one hand it’s hard to review a show that is dated. At least, that is the feeling audience members may get watching “She Loves Me” at Citadel Theatre. The show is a Jerry Bock/Sheldon Harnick, Joe Masteroff muscial with award-winning revivals that started out in 1937 as “Perfumerie” by Hungarian playwright Miklos Laszlo.

It went on to become the film “The Shop Around the Corner” in 1940 then redone as “In the Good Old Summertime.”

The action takes place as the seasons change but mainly during the holidays. However, this is not a family Christmas show. (except for older teens who may appreciate the more risqué parts in a café and the excekkent choreography by Amanda Schmidt in the Perfumerie.)

By the end of the first act, and it is a long first act, minds can also be changed.

What started out as somewhat stilted workplace activities, conversations and rifts, developed into a romantic confrontation, resolution and possible workplace disasters.

Once we meet and get to know Amalia Balash well-played by Hannah Louise Fermandes and nicely done by Georg Nowack portrayed by Travis Ascione as the verbally dueling couple who start out on the wrong foot, the action, directed by Director Matthew Silar, grows on you until you care about their conflict resolution and those of other characters. Kudos also go to Jake Busse as the café waiter.

Considering how small Citadel’s stage is the scenic design by Eric Luchen is perfect.  It includes an excellent side balcony style space for a quintet led by keyboardist Rex Mayer.  

“She Loves Me” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, IL from  Nov. 17 through Dec. 17/   Running time 2 ½ hrs. For tickets and other information visit Citadel Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago



Beautiful tells how King classics came to be


(Kaitlyn Davis as Carole King in “Beautiful” at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire)

3 1/2 Stars

The audience at the Wednesday Marriott opening of “Beautiful: the Carole King Musical,” are likely familiar with such classic songs as “You’ve Got a Friend,” “So Far Away,” “Up on the Roof,” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”

But I wonder if they know that the person who wrote them started out as a teenage songwriting phenom who had skipped two grades in school and whose mom wanted her to continue her classical piano studies.

Or that she started out as a pop composer whose first husband, Gerry Gofin, did the lyrics while she wrote the music.

Or that the grand piano on stage at the show’s start would actually reappear at the show’s end in Carnegie Hall.

With terrific dance and song examples, “Beautiful’s” long Act I showed  how the music of the King-Gofin partnership was picked up and performed by well-known groups.

(“Beautiful” at Marriott shows how major performers adopted the King-Gofin songs) 

The shorter Act II is about that partnership’s on-off crises and split up that led King to going it alone and her concert at Carnegie Hall. The show could have an Act III about all her awards, more partnerships and more songs plus her award-winning “Tapestry” album.

However, King’s “Beautiful” journey as performed at the Marriott Theatre is in the wonderful, over-the-top hands of Kaitlyn Davis from the national tour of “Beautiful.” BTW, Davis is also an accomplished pianist and songwriter.

Her co-star, Andrew Mueller, who is the brother of the Mueller sisters who performed “Beautifu”l on Broadway and the national tour, has impressive credits in Chicago area theater. He does an excellent portrayal of Gofin.

(Song-writing rivals and friends, Cynthis Weil (Erica Stephan) and Barry Mann, (Justin Albinde) )

A good picture of the song business is the delightfully done inclusion of couple Cynthis Weil portrayed by Erica Stephan, and Barry Mann, played by Justin Albinder. 

Well directed by Jessica Fisch, “Beautiful” is basically a “jukebox” show that will bring back lots of musical memories.  

“Beautiful: the Carole King Musical” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, Il now through Dec. 31, 2023.

For tickets and more information visit Beautiful/MarriottTheatre

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago





Brigadoon has reappeared


(Conor Jordan and Zachery Linnert)

4 Stars

With such Lerner and Lowe songs as “Almost Like Bein’ in Love” and “Come to Me, Bend to Me,” it would be hard to not put on a fine musical. However, Brigadoon, now presented at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts by Music Theater Works, goes beyond merely “fine.”

Everything, from the voices and acting to dance numbers by Clayton Cross and costuming by Jazmin Aurora Medina, are spectacular. And that is happening, unlike the last Music Theater Works of “Springtime for Hitler” on the large stage. This production is crammed onto the small North Theatre stage.

But it works.

Directed by Sasha Gerritson and choreographed by Cross, the show features a sterling cast of ballet-style dancers and such exceptional singers in the lead as Conor Jordan as Tommy Albright and Sarah Obert as Fiona.

Albright and Fiona fall in love but the catch is the Scottish town of Brigadoon will disappear for one hundred years. Albright, an American who stumbled on it while exploring the country with his friend, Jeff (Zachery Linnert), returns with him to America and his somewhat jaded existence.

What happens next is that Love conquers all. 

As with “Springtime,” the show has a large supporting cast of singers, actors and dancers – Madison Kauffman, Luke Nowakowski, Stan Austin , Will Leonard, Bob Sanders, Susannah Harvey, Kent Joseph, Timothy Wolf, Adam Raso, Delaney Good, Isa Ramirez, Jimmy Hogan, Anna Marie Abbate, Emma Jean Eastlund, Theresa Egan, David Geinosky, Dee Kimpel, Olivia Russell, Alex Villasenor, Chad Gearig-Howe and Renee Dwyer.

Go see it before Brigadoon disappears. The production is at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd, Skokie, IL through Nov. 12, 2023. For more information and tickets visit Music Theater Works | Great Music. Great Theater. The Works.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago



Chrisite defines what is a mousetrap


Cast O Mousetrap at Citadel Theater. (North Shore Photography Club photo)
Cast O Mousetrap at Citadel Theater. (North Shore Photography Club photo)



If you have seen “The Mousetrap,” Agatha Christie’s 1952 murder mystery that is still alive on stage in London, don’t give away the “who done-it” part.

 With a reasonable run time of 2 hours, 20 minutes that includes a 15-minute intermission, the first act ends the play with you likely wondering, who is the next murder victim.

Directed by Scott Westerman who brilliantly presented Citadel’s award-winning “The Chrisians,” he has staged “Moustrap similar to a farce with characters moving in and out of doorways then appearing elsewhere.

 As to the cast, they are mostly projected as somewhat overblown stereotypical characters that fit the “farce” slant.

So ask yourself who are these people, really? All the audience knows is that they are guests in the newly opened Monkswell Manor operated by newlyweds Mollie Ralston (Mary Margaret McCormack) and husband Giles (Jack Sharkey).

Next on the scene is a young, overly hyper lad named for architect Christopher Wren played by Jesus Barajas.

He is followed by Kristie Berger as the old maidish, times-have-changed Mrs. Boyle and William Ryder as  the pleasant Major Metcalf.

Into the mix is Amy Stricker as Miss Casewell will drops hints that she had a difficult childhood.

The seemingly strangest character is Mr. Paravicini portrayed by Reginald Hemphill as an uninvited guest. He seems inordinately pleased with the guests’ makeup.

Last on stage is Detective Sergeant Trotter. Played by Sean Erik Wesslund, he first appears in the Inn’s big window on skis because the house is cut off by a persistent snowstorm.

Speaking of snow, the video created by cinematographer Ian Merritt adds drama to the show as does a strange mirror and other special effects.

So, don’t misread Westerman’s farcical handling of “Mousetrap.” Christie and Westerman are “dead” serious about the plot.

It supposedly was inspired by a real case about gravely mistreated children. It may lead some viewers to consider a case now in the news and the Illinois legal system.

 Originally called “Three Blind Mice,” the nursery rhyme’s song is played in the background and thus raising the questions who are the mice and is the inn acting as a mousetrap?

DETAILS:  Mousetrap is Sept. 15-Oct. 15 at Citadel Theatre Company, 300 S. Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, IL. For tickets and information call (847) 735-8554, x1, or visit Citadel Theatre.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

For the Love of Dance


(Maddy Shilts, Whitney Wolf, Ben Isabel, Ben Paynic,  Luis Del Valle, Elizabeth Bushell, Madelynn Oztas) 


Directed by Wayne Mell, this Madkap Production of “A Chorus Line” at the Skokie Theatre, is on pointe. It taps into the essence of love and dedication to the art of dance.

“A Chorus Line” is an anthology of songs and monologues bringing to light the collective motivations and inspirations that keep people involved in a mentally and physically demanding occupation.

Through the individual stories and seemingly endless rehearsals we are reminded of the hard work and athleticism required to make moving to music look artful and effortless. All of that requires intense dedication while offering only rare substantial successes.

Onerous choreographer Zach played by Sean M.G. Caron, cajoles a select group of hopeful chorus applicants into revealing some of their deepest secrets while continually drilling them on numerous dance routines. He is barking orders all the time to lift their chin, raise their arms and smile less while looking like they’re having fun.

From those who survive the ordeal only a handful will be selected.

In the song “What I Did For Love,” (music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban) beautifully sung by Diana (Marcela Ossa Gomez), she says of the grueling work and unmet promises “We did what we had to do – – Won’t forget, can’t regret — What I did for love.” In this context it’s the love of the craft, the love of dance.

It may be a useful reminder that when first staged in in 1975, frank conversations about sexuality in general and homosexuality specifically were unusual and a bit shocking for theater goers. In “Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love” the ensemble shares stories of puberty, adolescence and sexual awakening.

But in “Dance 10: Looks 3” (a reference to her performance score) dancer Val (Lili Javorka) lightens the mood in a song more commonly referred to as “Tits and Ass” where she reveals that surgically enhancing those assets improved her career.

It cannot be overlooked that the intense, nearly nonstop two-hour score by Hamlisch is a workout for the production pianist, in this case, the extremely capable musical director Jeremy Ramey who must also be credited with the precision of the ensemble vocal numbers and that the musical subtleties and multi-voice harmonies within the songs were preserved and celebrated.

Though there were a few obvious “ringers” the vocal capabilities of the cast exceeded their dancing “chops.” But that does not detract from their earnest effort led by choreographer Susan Pritzker.

The production is a substantial aerobic workout that requires continual attention to complicated footwork and challenging movements, all while singing, talking or being otherwise engaged with what is happening on stage

The onstage leadership of dance captain Ben Paynic, echoed by his character of Larry, was amusing and quietly assuring. In a sense he represented the ideal that all of the rehearsal was supposed to finally achieve.

Set design by Scott Richardson could not be more minimal, consisting of a few mylar sheets as mirrors on the back wall flanking an opening that exposed the backstage area and pianist.

I get that this was supposed to be a rehearsal area and admittedly the Skokie Theatre stage is already a bit small for a show with a large dance ensemble. But when there were only one or two people in a scene, they seemed lost in space.

For instance, in the scene between Zach and Paul (Luis Del Valle) a simple chair might have grounded them and given them a reference point.  Likewise, the lighting was virtually nonexistent, being fully up most of the time. This made me as an audience member feel like I was watching a rehearsal and not in a good way

Again, in the previously mentioned scene or during Cassie’s (Sarah Sapperstein) solo dance, some isolating lighting might add to the intimacy of these moments.

Sadly, the costumes by Patti Halajian were overall a miss for me, in this show, where there is so much fun and interesting off-the-rack potential.

The biggest faux pas was the finale which aside from being generally ill-fitting was way too much bling for this small space. What’s important in the finale is that the chorus line be uniform and synchronized. Save the glitter for a larger venue.

Each individual cast member did an outstanding job on their spotlight performances. A standout for me was Emma Drazkowski as Maggie while my wife thought Whitney Marie Wolf as Judy “was the real deal.” I also thought Del Valle’s scene was very moving.

Aside from a few minor gaffs as mentioned this show was great fun and very enjoyable. The full house is a further indication that Madkap provides an important function in Skokie, offering competent entertaining live theater experiences to the Northshore communities in a convenient, comfortable, modern venue.

DETAILS: “A Chorus Line” is at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave, Skokie, IL through October 8, 2023. Running time is 2 hours with no intermission. For tickets and information visit or call (847)677-7761.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

Photo by MadKap Productions


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 or call the Marriott Theatre Box Office: (847) 634-0200.

Myra Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


Music Theater Works produces a fun time out



(Photo courtesy of Music Theater Works)

Highly recommended

The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts’ Center Theatre is the perfect space for Music Theater Works’ The Producers.

Unlike the company’s “Camelot” which was crammed into the small theater, it has the space for Producers director Walter Stearns,’ choreographer Darryl K. Clark’s’ and scenic designer Jonathan Berg-Einhorn’s interpretations of Mel Brooks Tony Award winning musical comedy. They need the space for their terrific dancers and talented cast.

With the excellent singer-actor Thomas M. Shea in the lead as Max Bialystock and David Geinosky as the nerdy accountant-turned producer sidekick, the show rollicks from a scheme to make millions with aBroadway flop to their unintentional, probably disastrous, success as a hit. Kelsey MacDonald as their Swedish bomb/secretary/receptionist Ulla, is a bonus.

The show, which would likely not appeal to conservative theater goers, is what anyone who attends should expect from Mel Brooks who rejoices in off-color dialogue, surprising topis and action. So blame him and co-book writer Thomas Meehan. The funny, rousing, music and lyrics are also by Brooks.

The Producers is a fun break in the theater season.

DETAILS: The Producers is at The North Shore Center for the Performing Arts” Center Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL through Aug. 20, 2023. Running time:2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit or call Music Theater Works Box Office: (847) 673-6300.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago