Something is amiss in Camelot

 

Christine Mayland Perkins (Guenevere)) and cast in Music Theater Works' "Camelot" (Photo courtesy of Music Theater Works)
Christine Mayland Perkins (Guenevere)) and cast in Music Theater Works’ “Camelot” (Photo courtesy of Music Theater Works)

Recommended

 

The good part of “Camelot” now playing at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, is the beautiful voice of Christine Mayland Perkins as Guenevere and such wonderful Lerner and Loewe songs as “Camelot,” “How to Handle a Woman,” “If Ever I Would Leave You” “What Do the Simple Folk Do? and “I loved You Once in Silence.”

The problem this writer has with the show is that even though it is put on by Music Theater Works it has nothing like the scope and theatrical impact that the company’s productions had at Kahn Auditorium in Evanston which included a memorable “Mame” and “Pirates.” 

The current slim-down, post pandemic offering is held in the Performing Arts’ smallish North Theatre which works well for Northlight’s plays, but is likely to disappoint Music Theater Works longtime subscribers.

Ann Davis’ set worked well for the stage and small cast of nine but the production felt more like good community theater than the excellent full-scale musicals and operettas that gave Music Theater Works its reputation.

However, current audiences might look beyond scale and appreciated director Brianna Borger’s focus on ideals clashing with desires.

DETAILS: “Camelot” presented by Music Theater Works, runs now through Nov. 13, 2022 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL. Running time: 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets visit Musicaltgheaterworks/camelot or call (847) 673-6300.

Jodie Jacobs  

For more shows visit www.theatreinchicago.com

 

  

 

 

 

Theater Comings and Goings

 

Mayslake Peabody Mansion home to First Folio Theatre. (J Jacobs photo)
Mayslake Peabody Mansion home to First Folio Theatre. (J Jacobs photo)

Tis the season for a couple of major changes in suburban theaters.

Most everyone in Chicago’s theater community knows that Goodman Artistic Director Robert Falls had announced leaving in 2022 and that Anton Chekhov’s a “A Cherry Orchard” in Goodman’s 2022-23 season would be his last production. 

But word is out now that Writers Theatre in north suburban Glencoe has found its new artistic director and that the founding executive director of First Folio Theatre in west suburban Oakbrook is retiring.

First, take advantage of seeing a fine Equity production in an atmospheric estate before this not-for-profit theatre in the western suburbs closes in 2023.

With the retirement of Executive Director David Rice after 25 years, First Folio Theatre will be saying goodbye to the remarkable Mayslake Peabody Estate it calls home in Oakbrook.

It’s worth going to the show just to see the estate, but the acting is excellent and the 2022-23 season has four shows representative of the kind of theater experience that gives First Folio a top-notch reputation.

Its final season features Margaret Raether’s “Jeeves Intervenes,” Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” Ann Noble’s “And Neither do I Have Wings to Fly” and William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”

For tickets and more information visit www.firstfolio.org.

 

Writers Theatre in Glencoe. (Photo by J Jacobs)
Writers Theatre in Glencoe. (Photo by J Jacobs)

Now, expect even more new shows and projects than Writers Theatre has accomplished in the past. Seattle Repertory Theatre, the largest not-for profit theater in the Pacific Northwest and known for premiers, is losing Artistic Director Braden Abraham to WT in 2023.

He will be coming to town shortly after the late December 2022 closing of the premier of “Mr. Dickens and His Carol” by Samantha Silva that Abraham developed and is directing.  

Interim Artistic director Bobby Kennedy has been helming productions since WT co-founder Michael Halberstam resigned in July 2021.

Founded in 1992, WT has done more than 120 productions ranging from re- interpretations of classics to holding more than two dozen world premieres.

It also built a highly acclaimed theater complex designed by Jeanne Gang and her Studio Gang Architects.  

Jodie Jacobs

 

 

Jeff Equity awards announced

Drury Lane, Oakbrook, hosted the Jeff Equity Awards ceremony and announcement for 2022. (Drury Lane photo)
Drury Lane, Oakbrook, hosted the Jeff Equity Awards ceremony and announcement for 2022. (Drury Lane photo)

The 54th Jeff Equity awards ceremony, hosted by Chicagoan E. Faye Butler and directed by Jim Corti with music direction by David Fiorello, announced 46 winners in artistic and technical categories at Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook, Oct. 17, 2022.

The evening was a celebration of in person theater after going dark following the 2019 COVID outbreak. This year, the ceremony featured several nominated productions.

Paramount Theatre walked off with six awards in various categories for its production of “Kinky Boots” and Goodman Theatre earned five awards for “Good Night, Oscar” plus an award for “Gem of the Ocean.”

Red Orchid Theatre took home five awards for “the Moors” and Porchlight Music Theatre received four awards for “Blues in the Night.”

“Short Run Productions” was added this year as a new category to acknowledge the value of shorter productions and also recognize theaters returning to in-person shows following COVID pandemic closures.

For more award listings go to Jeff Equity Awards.  

For acceptance speeches and special moments check the Jeff Awards YouTube channel.

Jodie Jacobs

A ‘Hart’ felt story of hidden love

 

From L: Sean M. G. Caron, Mandi Corrao, and Sean Michael Barrett (Photo MadKap Productions)
From L: Sean M. G. Caron, Mandi Corrao, and Sean Michael Barrett (Photo MadKap Productions)

Recommended

The duo of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were the genius songwriters behind several hit Broadway musicals with many of their numbers going on to become standards in the Great American Songbook.

This Madkap Production of “Falling for Make Believe” at the Skokie Theatre purports to be “The Real Story Behind the Music of Rodgers and Hart,” but might more accurately be called the real story behind the suffering of Lorenz Hart.

In recent years Hart has been widely known to be an alcoholic though this reality was skillfully avoided during his lifetime and at the time of his death, as alluded to in this version of events. His homosexuality was also a tabu topic in the mid-century “don’t ask don’t tell” era, but is front and center in this updated retelling of his life by Mark Saltzman.

It is notable to mention that Saltzman began his career writing for Muppets creator Jim Henson and in an interview caused a stir when he suggested that he had created the popular characters of Bert and Ernie as a gay couple. He has also written a number of successful movies, and he demonstrates in this well written production that he knows how to tell a story and handle dialog.

The story pivots around the character of a gay farm boy from Pennsylvania, Fletcher Mecklen (Nate Hall) and his on-again-off-again relationship with Lorenz Hart (Sean Michael Barrett), known as Larry to his friends.

: Sean Michael Barrett, Nate Hall, Mandi Corrao, and Donaldson Cardenas (Photo MadKap Productions)
: Sean Michael Barrett, Nate Hall, Mandi Corrao, and Donaldson Cardenas (Photo MadKap Productions)

I could not find any reference online to an actual Fletcher Mecklen and therefore assume he is a vehicle for representing the more private, and indeed, hidden side of Hart’s life.

The story suggests that this secret pressure and his inability to openly receive love is perhaps the seminal reason behind Hart’s psychological turmoil.

It is likely a potential factor in his alcoholism, as well as possible drug addiction which is suggested here through the character of Doc Bender (Donaldson Cardenas), a sometimes talent agent and former dentist who tells us that he keeps his license up to date in order to keep his prescription pad valid.

Sean Caron portrays the long-suffering business partner Richard Rodgers who works tirelessly to keep Larry on the straight and narrow in order to keep him working but also to protect his reputation and later his legacy.

Mandi Corrao as Vivienne Segal is basically their on-call chanteuse. Cheryl Szucsits rounds out the cast playing three minor roles but is given the honor of singing “Falling in Love with Love” which features the title lyric “Falling for make believe.”

The production features a number of notable Rodgers and Hart tunes such as” Bewitched” (a/k/a Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered), “The Lady is a Tramp, ” “I Could Write a Book” and “Where or When.”

DETAILS: “Falling for Make Believe” is at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave in Downtown Skokie through Oct 16, 2022. Running time is about 90 minutes including a short intermission. Tickets can be purchased online at SkokieTheatre.org or by calling (847) 677-7761.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

Around Town early to mid-October

 

 

American Craft Expo features high quality items ranging from wood and ceramics to leather and glass.J Jacobs 2014 photo)
American Craft Expo features high quality items ranging from wood and ceramics to leather and glass. (J Jacobs 2014 photo)

t is easy to miss events when September ends on a Friday and October starts on a weekend. Plus, a COVID break of events for two years changed when some events are re-appearing.

American Craft Expo

Sept. 30 through Oct. 2

Usually held earlier in the year, ACE, as the art exposition is known, will be at the Chicago Botanic Garden again but runs this weekend on the cusp of September/October. A top-notch show of works from100 juried-in artisans, ACE is sponsored by the Auxiliary of NorthShore University HealthSystem and is a fundraiser for NorthShore research and care.

Hours: Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe. For more information visit Chicago Botanic Garden and American Craft Expo. Chicago Botanic Garden, CBG/ACE and American Craft Expo.

 

World Music Festival Chicago (Photo courtesy of Dept. of Cultural Affairs and special Events)
The all-night Ragamala concert of Indian classical music in Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center, September 2018.

 World Music Festival Chicago

Sept 30 through Oct. 9

The festival has free band concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and locations across the city from restaurants and bars to the University of Chicago. Its artists and ensembles represent 22 countries and areas. A special feature is Ragamala, the largest all-night long presentation of live Indian classical music in the United States. For more information visit World Music Festival Chicago. For the bands and locations visit Schedule.

Lyric curtain before lecture on Fiddler. (J Jacobs photo)
Lyric curtain before lecture on Fiddler. (J Jacobs photo)

Fiddler on the Roof

Oct. 2 through Oct. 7

Opera director Berrie Kosky premiered his “Fiddler on the Roof” at Komische Oper Berlin in 2017. Now it has been adapted by the Lyric Opera of Chicago for its US premiere, but it leaves soon.

Both Grand, with the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus and powerful with fine acting and exceptional dances, “Fiddler” visits the village of Anatevka in 1905 in what became Ukraine (and in 2022 is a war zone.) Lectures on operas and shows are one hour before curtain time.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago is at 20 N. Wacker Dr. For tickets and more information visi. Lyric Opera and call (312) 332-2244.

 

 

‘Fiddler’ goes grand at the Lyric Opera House

 

L Tevye (Steven Skybell,and young violinist (Drake Wunderlich) in “Fiddler on the Roof.” 9 Photo by Todd Rosenberg Photography)
L Tevye (Steven Skybell and young violinist (Drake Wunderlich) in “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Photo by Todd Rosenberg Photography)

3 stars (Recommended)

That the US premiere of Komische Oper Berlin’s “Fiddler on the Roof” that opened in 2017, is on stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago now through early October.

It does more than merely fit this productions’ large-scale scenery and cast. Judging by comments heard during intermission, audience members who had not attended an opera here were dazzled by the size and make-up of the hall and building. Maybe, they will return for an opera.

Lyric’s production, directed by Barrie Kosky, definitely takes advantage of an operatic stage with its large chorus of villagers, remarkable dancers, its many main cast members and enough other actors to fill the shtetl of Anatevka in the Pale of Settlement in Imperial Russia.

Of course, when talking as writer Sholem Aleichem (the pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich) did in stories about the challenges dairyman Tevye had with his many daughters and life in a Russian village (Tevye and his Daughters) what became ‘Fiddler on the Roof” could seem operatic in nature.

The voices of the main characters and chorus and the dances choreographed by Silvarno Marraffa, particularly the spectacular “Bottle Dance,” are worth the visit to the Lyric for the show.

“Fiddler on the Roof” at the Lyric Opera House. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)
“Fiddler on the Roof” at the Lyric Opera House. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

What bothered me was that by going grand, the production, at least for me, lost the small-scale, intimate, Dickens-like peeking in the window that gave “Fiddler” the folk-tale, dream sense Jewish Russian artist Marc Chagall pictured in his works about Jewish life and his painting of the “Green Violinist” used on the program’s cover.

But what brings “Fiddler” to life now is how it ends with the Jewish villagers forced to leave back in 1905. Consider how many of the residents of the region which later became part of Ukraine, are sadly part of a war-driven exodus in 2022.

What was meaningful to me and beautifully brought out in the musical’s book by Joseph Stein, music by Jetty Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick was the underlying theme of tradition vs change.  You hear it and think about it the song “Tradition” and “Sunrise Sunset” and in Tevye’s musings with G…d.

Note: I should explain that “Fiddler” is personal. My father’s family of several sons and daughters left that region for the United States. His father whom we called Zaidi, was a tailor and they were Orthodox Jews. My father talked about how horrible the Russian Cossacks were to the villagers.

Adam Kaplan and Austen Bohmer. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg.)
Adam Kaplan and Austen Bohmer. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg.)

The “Fiddler” family in the Lyric production are Steven Skybell who is a perfect Tevye, Debbie Gravitte who is excellent as his wife, Golde, and oldest daughters Maya Jacobson as Chava, Lauren Marcus as Tzeitel, Austen Bohmer as Hodel and younger daughters, Omi Lichtenstein as Bielke and Liliana Renteria as Shprintzel. It’s the older daughters who are changing the family’s traditions.

As to their chosen mates which definitely went against tradtion, they are Drew Redington as Mote), Adam Kaplan as Perchik and Michael Nigro as Fyedka.

Mention should also be made of Yente, the Matchmaker, nicely portrayed by Joy Hermalyn and the Fiddler, Drake Wunderflich, a fifth-grader who is a member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra. He starts out with a scooter he trades in the opening scene for a fiddle and is on the roof in most scenes, then appears again at the end.

“Fiddler on the Roof” is at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, now  through Oct. 7, 2022. Running time: 3 hours, 15 min. with one intermission. For tickets and more information visit lyricopera.org or call (312) 827-5600.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit  Theatre in Chicago

Horror musical about greed and power

 

Trio of Skid Row girls above watch the action with Little Shop of Horrors ledes (Photo courtesy Citadel Theatre and North Shore Camera Club)
Trio of Skid Row girls above watch the action with Little Shop of Horrors ledes (Photo courtesy Citadel Theatre and North Shore Camera Club)

Recommended

October, when you are asked to believe in the supernatural, is the perfect month to see Little Shop of Horrors at Citadel Theatre.

Director Matthew Silar, production manager Ellen Phelps and scenic designer Eric Luchen have magically figured out how to innovatively cram scenery that includes a skid row tenement stairway, a flower shop, dentist’s office and a growing-by-the-minute voracious plant with evil intentions into Citadel’s miniscule space.

Balancing the evil of the plant are the fun combo of rock and roll /doo-wop dances and songs by a trio of young skid row residents: Chiffon (Ania Martin) Crystal (Isis Elizabeth) and Ronnette (Sabrina Edwards).

The trio also move the scenery, changing an outside wall into the shop and other places as needed.

Ledes are Sam Shankman who wears well the persona of the nebbish shop employee/plant cultivator Seymour and his love interest, fellow shop employee Audrey, nicely portrayed by Dani Pike.

Unseen stars are puppet designer Matt McGee, puppeteer of the plant, Michael Dias, and Audrey II’s voice, Aaron Reese Boseman. Seymour named his plant Audrey II in honor of the girl he works with and really likes.

Secondary characters and the people the audience figure out early on will become Audrey II’s plant food, are shop owner Mr. Mushnik (Alan Ball) and Orin Serivello, D.D.C (Philip C. Matthews).

A horror musical-comedy with music by Alan Menken and lyrics and book by Howard Ashman, the story is based originally on a 1960 film noir titled “The Little Shop of Horrors.”  It was later remade into a 1986 film directed by Frank Oz.

I did see a young child in the audience but wouldn’t suggest the show for children below preteens or maybe middle schoolers who really like haunted houses.

Since nothing tried seemed to destroy Audrey II, the show is less allegorical than a statement or warning about greed and power. The characters who are originally OK with the plant’s choices in Act I have second thoughts about the plant in Act II.

DETAILS: “The Little Shop of Horrors” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 Waukegan Rd, Lake Forest, IL. now through Oct. 16, 2022.  Running time: 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and more information visit Citadel Theatre or call (847) 735-8554.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

‘Hello Dolly’ still very funny and heartfelt

 

Heidi Kettenring as Dolly at Marriott Theatre. Photos courtesy of Liz Loren)
Heidi Kettenring as Dolly at Marriott Theatre. (Photos courtesy of Liz Loren)

4 Stars

Of course, you will be leaving the Marriott Theatre production of Hello Dolly singing its famed theme song but what you are likely to be talking about is the shows fabulous choreography and fine acting.

What audience members who already had tickets for Sept. 15 might not know is that after previews, that date was the show’s new opening night. It came two weeks after the original opening Aug. 31 was canceled due to Covid among some cast members.

Possibly they might have noticed that the production didn’t include a staircase that Dolly Levi typically comes down for a grand entrance into her favorite café, Harmonia Gardens. A note with the program said there was a hydraulic problem.

The delay and staircase absence just didn’t matter. The production and performances received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Superbly directed and choreographed by Denis Jones, this old crowd-pleaser, a musical based on Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. is filled with wonderfully comic and heartfelt moments.

Left Alex Goodrich as Cornelius Hackl and right Spencer Davis Milford as Barnaby Tucker. in Hello Dolly at Marriott Theatre
Left Alex Goodrich as Cornelius Hackl and right Spencer Davis Milford as Barnaby Tucker. in Hello Dolly at Marriott Theatre

There is the delightful Act One scene in widow Irene Molloy’s (Rebecca Hurd) hat shop where Cornelius Hackl (Alex Goodrich) and Barnaby Tucker (Spencer Davis Milford), two young Yonkers lads in New York for a night on the town, try to hide from their employer, widower Horace Vandergelder (David C. Girolmo). He left Yonkers to meet a prospective wife with help from matchmaker Dolly Levi (Heidi Kettenring).

And, there is the hysterical moment played to the hilt by Kettenring near the end of Act II when she prolongs a hearing of before a judge that involves the show’s main characters. As everyone waits and waits, Dolly thoroughly enjoys a dinner she had started back at Harmonia Gardens and brought to the courtroom.

As to heartfelt, there is Hurd beautifully singing “Ribbons Down My Back” as she puts on one of her hat creations for her sudden date with Hackl.

There is also Kettenring bringing audience members close to tears with her rendition of “Before the Parade Passes By.”

And speaking of parades, there is a wonderful scene of New York’s  14th Street Association Parade that includes people marching with placards and banners for women’s rights.  Although set in the late 1800s, the show proves it is still relevant.

Originally directed and choreographed by Gower Champion you can expect several strong dance scenes. Marriott’s Hello Dolly delivers with Jones’ brilliant interpretations of the sentiments expressed in this Tony Award-Winning Musical with its book by Michael Stewart and music by Jerry Herman.  

Shoutouts also have to go to the Marriott Orchestra conducted by Brad Haak, to Music Director Ryan Nelson, Costume Designer Theresa Ham and to Co-Scenic Designers Jeffrey D. Kmiec and Milo Bue. They nailed the musical’s rhythms and time period.

Even though Hello Dolly opened on Broadway in 1964, matchmaking hopes are still alive today with online dating and the desire to participate in life “before the parade passes by,” is still a strong motivator.

DETAILS: Hello Dolly is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire, now through Oct. 16, 2022. Running time: about 2 ½ hours with one intermission. For tickets and more information visit Marriott Theatre

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Dracula

L-R Connor Brennan, Madeline Logan, Chris Jensen, Howard Raik. in Dracula at The Raven. (Photo: Joe Mazza)
L-R Connor Brennan, Madeline Logan, Chris Jensen, Howard Raik. in Dracula at The Raven. (Photo: Joe Mazza)

4 Stars

If your idea of summer fun included telling spooky tales around the campfire or listening to audiobooks during your cross-country road trip you might enjoy beginning the fall theater season with Brian McKnight’s “Dracula,” a Glass Apple Theatre production at the Raven. 

Based on Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula, the production is an exciting world premiere stage adaptation of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio drama “Dracula.” And it is just in time to prepare your mind for Halloween.

Adapted and directed by McKnight, the show weaves an ominous adventure of suspense centered around the identity and mysterious intentions of the pale skinned Transylvanian Count Dracula portrayed by Andrew Bosworth.

The mystery drives Johnathan Harker played by Chris Jensen, nearly insane and sends his wife, Mina (Madeline Logan), to the edge of her grave.

Meanwhile, Dr. Seward (Connor Brennan) reaches out to the more experienced Dr. Van Helsing (Howard Raik) in a desperate attempt to understand what malady affects the fragile Lucy Westenra (Katie O’Neill), who was Mina’s best friend and in the original story probably was the Count’s first victim.

There’s an eerie old castle, a graveyard, an endangered ship at sea and a number of strange boxes with their curious contents that all have to be puzzled out to save the country from the bloody curse of the undead.

This World Premiere hybrid radio-drama is performed in evocative 19th century period costumes by designer Tina Haglund Spitza (with assistance of Cheryl Snodgrass).

To add dimension to this narrated drama, it is performed in front of projected back wall imagery by scenic designer Lauren Nichols (with Alyssa Mohn).

DETAILS: Orson Welles’ Dracula is onstage at the Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL through September 25, 2022. Running time: 80 minutes with no intermission.  Ticket information is available at glassappletheatre.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

‘Hello Dolly’ still a favorite

 

Director/Choreographer Denis Jones (Photo courtesy of Denis Jones)
Director/Choreographer Denis Jones (Photo courtesy of Denis Jones)

 

The book by Michael Stewart and the lyrics and music by Jerry Herman will still enchant audiences when the regular (post previews) run of “Hello Dolly” opens Aug. 31, 2022 at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire, according to Director/Choreographer Denis Jones.

Based On playwright Thornton Wilder’s “The Matchmaker,” the musical won Tonys for Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score and Best Musical when it opened on Broadway back in 1964.

But Jones who has worked productions from the NY City Center and Kennedy Center to Goodman Theatre and the Lyric Opera, isn’t worried that the show, set in the late 1800’s, will be considered too dated by Marriott’s sophisticated suburban audience.

“Its appeal is enduring,” said Jones during a recent phone interview.

“It explores the human experience. It continues to be relevant,” he said.

“It’s about grief and there is the deep humanity of Dolly Gallagher Levi,” said Jones. “Dolly brings people together.”

He also liked that Wilder’s characters took “bold” steps that defied society in the late 1800s.

Originally a farce written in 1938 as the “Merchant of Yonkers,” Wilder revised the play at the urging of Shakespeare and theater authority Tyrone Guthrie. Renamed “The Matchmaker,” It opened in 1955 and won a Tony under Guthrie’s direction.

What might audiences expect under Jones’ direction?

“I’m honoring the Thornton Wilder experience of actors speaking to the audience,” said Jones who wanted to take advantage of Marriott’s “Theater in the Round” configuration and that shows there can use the aisles in their productions.

“I’m already seeing that working in the previews (started Aug. 24). I was delighted.” He added, “The characters commune with the audience. It feels intimate.”

In a spacer like the Marriott, I feel the audience is very much a part of the show – the audience is included.”

Jones also praised the Marriott cast and lead of Heidi Kettenring.  “I have a Dolly who will knock your socks off.”

Noting the musical’s iconic songs, he repeats the show’s enduring qualities and adds with an exclamation mark, “There’s the score!”

For more information visit Hello Dolly at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire.

Jodie Jacobs