‘James and the Giant Peach’ is a sweet treat at Marriott Theatre

 

Cast of “James and the Giant Peach” at Marriott Theatre. (Photo by Liz Lauren)

 Recommended

Introducing young theatregoers to the delights of musical storytelling leaps off the page of the famous Roald Dahl novel at the Marriott Theatre for Young Audiences in Lincolnshire.

“James and the Giant Peach” is the perfect way to introduce young theatergoers to enjoying live musical theatre. The hour-long performance is suited for audiences of all ages as they watch the fantastical musical come to life. 

In traditional Roald Dahl fashion, James is an orphan forced to live with his two screechy aunts who are anything but nice to him. When he is sent to chop down their old fruit tree, he discovers a magic potion that turns an ordinary peach tree into a gigantic peach.

All of a sudden, he finds himself among a group of larger-than-life insects who quickly become the family he is missing. They go on adventures in the ocean ending up at the Empire State Building in New York City. Along the way they learn that they must work together to survive.

Humor, music, and comedic antics weave their way through this wonderful performance. The music by the Tony Award-nominated team of Pasek and Paul (La La LandDear Evan Hansen) is catchy and fun.

Starring is the always wonderful Alex Goodrich as Ladahlord. Lucy Godinez as Aunt Sponge and Leah Morrow as Aunt Spiker are hysterical with quirky costumes to match. The young James is played by the talented Kai Edgar.

The show is directed and choreographed by Tommy Rapley with music direction by Ryan T. Nelson. Kudos to costume designer Amanda Vander Byl for her amazing insect and character costumes.  They are colorful and fun.

Each performance is followed by a question-and-answer session with the cast.  The show plays most Wednesdays through Sundays at 10 am with select 12:30 pm performances and plenty of Spring Break performances. 

Also currently playing at the Marriott is Lin Manuel’s “In the Heights” now through March 17, 2024. Next up is The Music Man opening April 10.

“James and the Giant Peach” is the perfect way to introduce young theatergoers to enjoying live musical theatre.

Details:” James and the Giant Peach” runs through March 30 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire. For tickets, call Marriott Theatre Box Office at 847.634.0200 or visit   www.MarriottTheatre.com

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

Two diverse cultures wonderously offer support during an accidental overnight visit

 

Egyptian band members, Rom Barkhordar and Armand Akbari, hear Israeli cafe owner Dina’s (Sophie Madorsky) thoughts in “The Band Visit – The Musical” at Writers Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow).

Highly Recommended

When an Egyptian Police Unit’s professional band ends up in the desert Israeli town of Bet Hatikva overnight instead of at the cultural center in a large Israeli community due to the similarity in town names, both sides, the musicians and town residents, take away a better understanding of their own lives by dawn. That is the basic plot of “The Band’s Visit.”

I loved the show when it was simply a 2007 screenplay by Eran Kolirin because it delicately entered the life situations of the band members and of the residents.

Audience members of Writers Theatre in Glencoe where it is now appearing through March 17, will find the basic premise is still there but the production, now a 2018 multi-Tony Award-winning Broadway musical by composer David Yazbek and book writer Ithamar Moses, has drastically changed the show. I don’t think it is better or worse. It’s just different. There is even a roller-skating rink (with appropriate musical number) in this desert town.

Audiences who saw “Once” at WT will recognize and love the introductory musical number and closing number as similar in beat, musical instruments and choreography. Not sure why they were used here unless they somehow represent the music at the destination’s cultural center but they don’t change the story line.

Directed by Zi Alikhan, the characters present their situations with sensitivity and also compassion for each other.

Dina, a cafe owner interpreted by Sophie Madorsky, is both sensual and empathetic as she interacts with Tewfiq, the band’s leader played by Rom Barkhordar. They sing “Something Different.” By the story’s end you learn of  Tewfiq’s tragic family story.

During the show you watch other band members getting to know and interact with residents who are having relationship problems. However different the musical is from its original intent, ‘The Band’s Visit” is a heartwarming and beautiful short story of two cultures coming together with support for each other.

DETAILS: “The Band’s Visit” is at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, IL., now through March 17,2024. Run time: 95 minutes with no intermission. For tickets and more information call (847) 242-6000) or go to www.writerstheatre.org.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit www.theatreinchicago.com.

 

 

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 www.citadeltheatre.org or call 847-735-8554.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

 

 

 

 

Kokandy Productions leads Jeff awards announcement

 

The 2023 Chicago theater season’s Jeff Awards nominations for excellence among Non-Equity theaters were announced today, Feb. 6.

The Non-Equity awards considered 144 theater artists from 32 companies in 24 categories presented during the season from January 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023,

Four theater companies are recognized with more than 10 nominations each. Kokandy Productions garnered the most with 17 from two productions. Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre received 16 nominations, Invictus Theatre Company and Refracted Theatre Company each received 10. “Tambo & Bones” at Refracted Theatre Company drew the most nominations for a single production with 10.

Plus, the Jeff Awards recently expanded categories to recognize Short Run Productions of nine to 17 performances.

2024 Non-Equity Nominees:
PRODUCTION – PLAY
“Cat’s Cradle” – Lifeline Theatre
“The Crucible” – Invictus Theatre Company
“Dying For It” – The Artistic Home
“Indoor Cats” – Red Theater
“Right Now” – Facility Theatre
“Tambo & Bones” – Refracted Theatre Company
“We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, from the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884 – 1915” – Theatre Y

PRODUCTION – MUSICAL
“American Psycho” – Kokandy Productions
“Assassins” – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
“The SpongeBob Musical” – Kokandy Productions
“The Threepenny Opera” – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
“tick, tick… BOOM!” – BoHo Theatre

ENSEMBLE – PLAY
“Cat’s Cradle” – Lifeline Theatre
“The Crucible” – Invictus Theatre Company
“Jane: Abortion and the Underground” – Idle Muse Theatre Company
“Panther Women: An Army for the Liberation” – Prop Thtr (i/a/w Perceptions Theatre)
“The Pragmatists” – Trap Door Theatre
“Right Now” – Facility Theatre
“We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, from the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884 – 1915” – Theatre Y

ENSEMBLE – MUSICAL
“American Psycho” – Kokandy Productions
“Assassins” – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
“Promises, Promises” – Blank Theatre Company
“The SpongeBob Musical” – Kokandy Productions

NEW WORK
India Nicole Burton – “Panther Women: An Army for the Liberation” – Prop Thtr (i/a/w Perceptions Theatre)
Tina Fakhrid-Deen – “Dandelions” – MPAACT (Ma’at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theater)
Mora V. Harris – “Indoor Cats” – Red Theater
John Hildreth – “Cat’s Cradle” – Lifeline Theatre
Evan M. Jackson – “The Last Queen of Camelot” – Idle Muse Theatre Company
Shannon O’Neill – “The Kelly Girls” – The Factory Theater
Ed Rutherford & George Howe – “Murder, ReWrote” – Hell in a Handbag Productions
Micah Ariel Watson – “Alaiyo” – Definition Theatre

DIRECTOR – PLAY
Charles Askenaizer – “The Crucible” – Invictus Theatre Company
Mikael Burke – “Tambo & Bones” – Refracted Theatre Company
Heather Currie – “Cat’s Cradle” – Lifeline Theatre
Dado – “Right Now” – Facility Theatre
Wyatt Kent – “Indoor Cats” – Red Theater
Tyrone Phillips – “Fairview” – Definition Theatre
Kezia Waters – “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, from the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884 – 1915” – Theatre Y

DIRECTOR – MUSICAL
Fred Anzevino – “The Threepenny Opera” – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
Derek Van Barham – “American Psycho” – Kokandy Productions
Daryl D. Brooks – “Assassins” – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
Bo Frazier – “tick, tick… BOOM!” – BoHo Theatre

PERFORMER IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – PLAY
Brittney Brown (Regan Kelly) – “The Kelly Girls” – The Factory Theater
Laura Coover (The Woman) – “Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle” – Griffin Theatre Company
Ny’ajai Ellison (Camae) – “The Mountaintop” – Invictus Theatre Company
Julian Hester (Scratch) – “Witch” – The Artistic Home
Patrick Newson Jr. (Bones) – “Tambo & Bones” – Refracted Theatre Company
Felicia Oduh (Ariel) – “Alaiyo” – Definition Theatre
Aila Ayilam Peck (Layla) – “Hatefuck” – First Floor Theater
Soleil Pérez (Agnes) – “Agnes of God” – Redtwist Theatre
Mark Pracht (John Proctor) – “The Crucible” – Invictus Theatre Company
William Anthony Sebastian Rose II (Tambo) – “Tambo & Bones” – Refracted Theatre Company

PERFORMER IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – MUSICAL
Neala Barron (John Wilkes Booth) – “Assassins” – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
Frankie Leo Bennett (SpongeBob SquarePants) – “The SpongeBob Musical” – Kokandy Productions
Britain Gebhardt (Bessica Feltcher) – “Murder, ReWrote” – Hell in a Handbag Productions
Carl Herzog (Macheath) – “The Threepenny Opera” – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
Brandy Miller (Fran Kubelik) – “Promises, Promises” – Blank Theatre Company
Patrick O’Keefe (Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald) – “Assassins” – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
Kyle Patrick (Patrick Bateman) – “American Psycho” –
Kokandy Productions Alec Phan (Jonathan) – “tick, tick … BOOM!” – BoHo Theatre
Rory Schrobilgen (Chuck Baxter) – “Promises, Promises” – Blank Theatre Company

For more categories, and info about Jeff Awards visit www.jeffawards.org

Jodie Jacobs

Three holiday shows that change a personality

 

Writers Theatre, Glencoe does Manual Cinema Christmas Carol (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Lots of shows to choose from this holiday season. So if wondering how to whittle them down, here are a few recommendations all based on age appeal and the message of change.

 

For the whole family

 It doesn’t matter if you have seen Goodman Theatre’s production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” It’s always a little different each year but the story still is a feel-good message of what is important and that people can change. It’s also a tradition in many Chicago area households with all-age appeal.

The show runs from Nov. 18 to Dec. 31, 2023. For tickets and more information visit A Christmas Carol 2023 – Goodman Theatre

 

For adults and older teens who want something different

At Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Manual Cinema presents a different take on Scrooge and how to present the Christmas Carol story. First, Manual Cinema often uses shadow puppets to tell a story in a somewhat unusual way so give the action and production time to develop its theme. It’s not as chaotic as first appears. Secondly, by the show’s end, audiences realize the woman presenting the story starts out with a Scrooge-style personality.

The show runs Nov. 16 to Dec. 24, 2023. For tickets and more information visit  Manual Cinema’s Christmas Carol | Writers Theatre

 

For youngsters

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre is yet a third view of how a Scrooge-type character, this time called a Grinch,” developed that way and can change.

The show runs Dec. 19-Dec. 31, 2023. For tickets and more information visit Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical – Broadway In Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

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

 

 

Jeff Equity awards announced

 

Goodman Theatre tops Jeff Equity nominations (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)
Goodman Theatre tops Jeff Equity nominations (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

Chicago area theaters were recognized for their excellent productions this past year at the annual Jeff Awards Equity night, Oct. 2, 2023 .

Held at Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace, the celebration featured performances from several productions and presentation to 46 recipients. They were chosen from 214 nominees in a large number of artistic and technical categories ranging from individual and ensemble performances to lighting, sound, costumes, scenic design and choreography.

The Goodman Theatre topped the awards for a large theater with 12 built on “The Who’s Tommy” with its nine awards. Teatro Vista received the most awards in the mid-size category. 

Next in numbers are the American Blues Theater, Rivendell Theatre and Porchlight Music Theatre which each received three awards. 

For a complete list awards visit  www.jeffawards.org.

 

For the Love of Dance

 

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

Recommended

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 http://skokietheatre.org 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 www.marriotttheatre.com or call the Marriott Theatre Box Office: (847) 634-0200.

Myra Temkin

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago