Theater scene redux

 

'Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson at Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)
‘Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson at Goodman Theatre (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

For a while, 2021 did look like Chicago’s vibrant theater scene could pick up where it stopped or went to zoom after the first COVID outbreak. Footlights were back on at several venues from Goodman Theatre to the Lyric Opera.

Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire performers expressed the general feeling of optimism in their first fall show “The World Goes Round,” a terrific presentation of the “Songs of Kander & Ebb,” when they said, “We’re back.”

But as COVID variances spread, shows such as Goodman Theatre’s delightful “A Christmas Carol,” closed early. Notices from some venues went out that said shows supposed to open early in 2022 are re-scheduled.

Now the good news. Several theaters that have COVID protocols regarding masks and vaccinations to protect audiences and performers will have the lights on.

Among them are several Broadway in Chicago offerings.

“The Play that Goes Wrong,” the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, is being extended through April 3, 2022. On stage at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., tickets are available at Broadway in Chicago.

“I’m thrilled this cast of talented Chicago actors is bringing so much laughter and delight to our audience members,” said Broadway In Chicago President Lou Raizin. “Extending the run gives more Chicagoans a chance to enjoy this hilarious show and others a chance to see it again and again!”

“Frozen” will also continue in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through Jan. 22, followed by “Come From Away” Feb 22 through March 6 2022. “Oklahoma” will be at the CIBC Theatre for a short run Jan. 11-23, followed by “Hairspray” Feb. 1-13  2022. For tickets and more information visit Broadway in Chicago.

Mercury Theater will be doing “Women of Soul – With a special tribute to Aretha” Jan. 28 through March 6, 2022. Originally premiering at the Black Ensemble Theater in 2018, the show is written and directed by Daryl D. Brooks. It also pays tribute to Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, Janis Joplin, Donna Summer and Janet Jackson.

“This feel-good revue is being given an exciting new life and the chance to be seen by new audiences at Mercury Theater Chicago,” said Brooks. The Mercury Theater is at 3745 N. Southport Ave. For tickets and more information visit Mercury Theater Chicago.

Goodman Theatre will be back with “Gem of the Ocean,” by one of Chicago’s favorite playwrights, August Wilson. Playgoers familiar with Wilson know he often takes them to Pittsburgh’s Hill District. “Gem” is set in the difficult times of 1904 when a spiritual journey is needed. Directed by Chuck Smith, the play runs Jan. 22- Feb. 27, 2022 in Goodman’s Albert Theatre

In addition, “The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, adapted and directed by Mary Zimmerman, will be in Goodman’s Owen Theatre, Feb. 11 – March 20, 2022. For tickets and more information visit Goodman Theatre.

Porchlight Music Theatre has rescheduled “Blues in the Night” for Feb. 9-March 13 due to COVID concerns. Dates for its stage reading of “Clear” by Paul Oakley Stoval and the show, “Passing Strange,” will be announced. For more information visit Porchlight Music Theatre.

 

Jodie Jacobs

Five ideas to celebrate NYE

 

Brookfield Zoo Tunnel of Light sponsored by Xfinity. (Chicago Zoological Society photo)
Brookfield Zoo Tunnel of Light sponsored by Xfinity. (Chicago Zoological Society photo)

Lots of places from theaters and entertainment venues to zoos stay open on Dec. 31. Some are for kids, some for adults and some are for the whole family. Just know that reserved tickets and COVID protocols are in place.

Brookfield Zoo

See the zoo aglow with lights during Holiday Magic. A blaze with more than 2 million lights that includes, illuminated animal shapes and a tunnel of lights, Brookfield Zoo’s Holiday Magic includes New Year’s Eve. The gates open at 3 p.m. and close at 9 p.m., Dolphins play from 4 to 6 p.m. (x fees). Brookfield Zoo South Gate is at 3300 Golf Rd. North Gate is at 8400 31st Street, Brookfield. For more information visit Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo.

Deck the Hallmark

If you second guess the endings to Hallmark’s movies you’ll laugh with the Second City crew’s Deck the Hallmark” parody. A two-0hour show with a 15 minute intermission, the New Year’s Eve productions are at 7 and 10 p.m. Packages can be general admission, drinks and food. The venue is at at the Up Comedy Club, 230 W, North Ave. For tickets and more information visit  Second City Deck the Hallmark.

Frozen

Disney’s Frozen, a critically acclaimed musical for its special effects, costumes, storyline and songs has two performances, 1 and 6:30 p.m. in Chicago on Dec. 31, 2021. Hosted by Broadway in Chicago, the production is at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago. For tickets and more information visit Disney’s Frozen | Broadway in Chicago

Magic

Make it a magical night with the Magic Lounge’s Signature Show at 7 p.m. or at 10 p.m. that adds an NYE celebration. Either way there’s magic at your table and on stage.  The Magic Lounge is back of a storefront  at 5050 N. Clark Street in the Blackstone Cabaret Theater. Patrons must be 21 to enter or age 16 with legal guardian. For more information and tickets visit Signature show at Chicago Magic Lounge and Calendar.

Teatro Zinzanni

Celebrate NYE with an unusual combo of circus, cabaret entertainment and food. It all happens in a jeweled, mirrored tent in the Cambria Hotel downtown Chicago at 32 W. Randolph St. For tickets and more information visit Teatro ZinZanni Chicago.

Have a happy and safe New Year

Jodie Jacobs

 

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

 

 

Around Town Part Three: Chicago stages are turning on the footlights

 

After a year of streaming performances, some of Chicago’s theaters are toe-testing the public’s comfort with live, indoor productions.

“Cooking with Bubbie,” a comedy presented by MadKap Productions is playing at the Skokie Theatre through Aug. 22 with Jan Slavin alternating performances with Carla Gordon. A historic theatre, the venue is at 7924 Lincoln Ave. Skokie

 

Goodman Theatre (Marquee photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)
Goodman Theatre (Marquee photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

Goodman Theatre is bringing back “School Girls – or the African Mean Girls Play” July 30 to Aug. 29, 2021 for its first 2021 in-person production in the Albert. It’s a  Chicago premiere that was set to open March 2020 before COVID shut the theaters down.

A comedy written by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Lili-Anne Brown, the story tells how a “reigning queen bee” of an exclusive Ghana boarding school aspires for the Miss Universe pageant.  It’s a comic look at global similarities and differences of teenage girl behavior.

See Patron Comfort & Well-Being guidelines. Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St. Chicago, IL

 

Music Theater Works has moved to the North shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.
Music Theater Works has moved to the North shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.

Music Theater Works, formerly based in Evanston, is welcoming audiences  with “Mamma Mia!” Aug 19-29  at its new indoor home, the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL

The season will continue with “Ragtime” Oct. 29-Nov. 7 followed by “Billy Elliot” Dec.  23, 2021 to Jan. 2, 2022.

Further north, Citadel Theatre  opens its indoor season with Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” Sept. 15-23, followed by “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” Nov. 17-20. The venue is in a school building at 300 Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, IL

 

 

The Nederlander Theatre is the former Oriental Theatre on Randolph Street
The Nederlander Theatre is the former Oriental Theatre on Randolph Street.

Broadway in Chicago is starting with “Rent” Oct. 5-10 at the CIBC Theatre at 18 W. Monroe St., followed by “What the Constitution Means to Me” at the Broadway Playhouse Oct. 26-Nov. 21, then “Beautiful – The Carol King Musical” Nov. 2-7 back at the CIBS Theatre.

Put the pre-Broadway premiere of the musical “Paradise Square” on the calendar. It plays Nov. 2-Dec. 5 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago. The show is a tale of differing perspectives during the Civil War plays out at a New York establishment called Paradise Square.

Tickets are already on sale for what is expected to be a blockbuster, Disney’s “Frozen,” which will be Nov 19, 2021 – Jan. 22, 2022. at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St.

Broadway in Chicago’s horn of plenty continues with “Pretty Woman – The Musical” Dec. 14-19 at CIBC. For more information, tickets and the 2022 show listings please visit Broadway in Chicago Shows.

 

Jodie Jacobs

 

Related:

Part One: Chicago now has three opera companies and seasons

Part Two: Art exhibits that are anything but boring

Around Town looks at now and then in Chicago theater

 

Steppenwolf Theatre in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. (Kyle Rubacker photo)
Steppenwolf Theatre in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. (Kyle Rubacker photo)

 

Now, brings an updated schedule of Broadway in Chicago play changes

Then, is a wonderful look back at the shows and people of the famed Chicago Steppenwolf ensemble.

 

Visit Steppenwolf Theatre Anniversary Video

Relive the shows or get to know the artists better in a video the company made for its 40th birthday. (So glad friends dragged us to their shows in a Highland Park church basement and then to their other venues when they moved to Chicago.)

 

 

Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower. (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)
Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower. (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)

Visit Broadway in Chicago for show and ticket information.

 

The following is current show information as of March 25, 2020.

“Keane- Cause and Effect Tour, Cadillac Palace Theatre, cancelled.

“My Fair Lady,” Cadillac Palace Theatre, moved to May 12-23, 2021

“What the Constitution Means to Me,” Broadway Playhouse, cancelled.

“Once Upon a One More Time,” James M. Nederlander Theatre, cancelled.

“The Choi of Man,” Broadway Playhouse, moved to Feb. 2-7, 2021.

“The Crown-Live,” Broadway Playhouse, moved to Feb. 23-28, 2021.

“The Office! A Musical Parody,” Broadway Playhouse, moved to Feb. 9-21, 2021.

“The Simon & Garfunkel Story,” CIBC Theatre, moved to Dec. 1-6, 2020.

“Waitress,” CIBC Theatre, moved to Feb. 16-21, 2021.

“Goshen,” Broadway Playhouse, cancelled.

Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards, Broadway Playhouse, cancelled but will take 2020 student submissions and will recognize students virtually and highlight their talent on a virtual stage in “Around Broadway in 80 Days.”

 

Jodie Jacobs

The ‘Queen of Disco’

‘Summer: The Donna Summer Musical’

The Donna Summer musical in Chicago (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)
The Donna Summer Musical in Chicago (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)

3 stars

They sound like a good idea on paper, and there have been dozens bouncing around Broadway and on National Tours over the years, but the jukebox musical isn’t much more than a concert with some narrative.

There are two formats in this style of musical theatre. There’s the show that creates an original story and characters, but instead of using new music to further the plot, the songs of one or more artists are featured instead.

Continue reading “The ‘Queen of Disco’”

Dancing near the river

 

Riverdance cast at Cadillac P:alace Theatre in Chicago (Jack Hartin Photo)
Riverdance cast at Cadillac P:alace Theatre in Chicago
(Jack Hartin Photo)

4 stars

“Riverdance” has played for a quarter of a century. Now appearing in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, the company is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Composed by Bill Whelan, produced by Moya Doherty and directed by John McColgan, Riverdance’s folk-driven exciting sounds and steps have been loved by people of all ages.

In 1995, the show’s premiere was in Dublin with Irish and international music and dance. Then it went to London followed by a hugely successful tour begn in New York in 1996.

During the next two decades, “Riverdance” toured North America, Asia, Europe, Oceania, South Africa, and South America. It has been a favorite Grammy Award-winning show all over the world!

Trading taps at the Riverdance show in Chicago. (Jack Hartin Photo)
Trading taps at the Riverdance show in Chicago. (Jack Hartin Photo)

The Riverdance Irish troupe was 24 dancers, with the six principals being Will Bryant, Maggie Darlington, Anna Mai Fitzpatrick, Patrick O’Mahony, Jason O’Neill, and Gianna Petracic.

The Riverdance tappers were Lamont Brown and Tyler Knowlin. And there were also additional dancers in the Russian folk dance troupe.

Not only was the audience thrilled with the dancing, but the singers, drums, saxophone, fiddles and whistles made the music fabulous. And the background showed many places, beginning with the river and continuing through many areas with spectacular lighting and beautiful costume designs.

DETAILS: “Riverdance” is at Broadway In Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre at 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago through Feb. 9 2020/. Running time: 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets and other information, call Broadway In Chicago at (800) 775-2000, or go visit Broadway in Chicago.

Francine Pappadis Friedman

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

A cautionary island tale

 

Cassondra James as 'Erzulie' Tamyra Gray as 'Papa Ge' (Photo by Joan Marcus
Cassondra James as ‘Erzulie’ Tamyra Gray as ‘Papa Ge’ (Photo by Joan Marcus)

‘Once on This Island’

4 Stars 

Walking in from the chilly lobby of the Cadillac Palace Theatre and getting my first glimpse of the stage on opening night made me immediately think that they were woefully behind getting the stage ready for the performance.

Strewn with an odd piece of corrugated metal, a shipping container, bits of lumber, a fifty gallon petroleum drum, some milk crates and what appeared to be a downed telephone pole all being adjusted and repositioned by people in a colorful array of mismatched clothing, I soon to realize that we were entering into a world created by set designer Dane Laffrey and costume designer Clint Ramos. They were depicting the everyday life of a small, remote village on an island in the French Antilles.

Continue reading “A cautionary island tale”

Top Chicago shows list for 2019

 

Of course, theater audiences want different things before going ahead to spend money and time on a show. Some folks prefer musicals, others like Shakespeare and some gravitate to shows that are different or particularly creative. Because opera is also dramatic theater that requires excellent acting, compelling story lines and fine voices, we include Lyric Opera productions when applicable.

Here is Chicago Theater and Arts reviewers’ list of favorite productions seen during 2019 which was designated by the City of Chicago and the League of Chicago Theatres as the Year of Chicago Theatre.

Jersey Boys at the Auditorium Theatre
Jersey Boys at the Auditorium Theatre

Francine Pappadis Friedman

Jersey Boys at the Auditorium Theatre in April, 2019. I headlined it: ‘Oh, what a night!” Amusing dialogue was interspersed with tremendous songs by four guys, the story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons who were living in New Jersey. Not only did their songs keep the audience laughing, but even younger audience members were swinging and swaying in their seats. And many of their songs sang about love!

Falsettos” at the James M. Nederlander Theatre in May/June 2019. I headlined it: “Let’s live life through music.” It was a fabulous musical taking place in New York in the 1970s, with a psychiatrist, gay men and women, and a little boy—one of the main characters—who was worried about his father’s sexuality when his parents got divorced. The story moved along with songs and the boy, whose father sang “Father to Son,” that said he’d always be there for him.

From L. Kyrie Courter (Natalie )Keely Vasquez (Diana) David Schlumpf (Dan) and Liam Oh (Gabe) in Next to Normal at Writers Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
From L. Kyrie Courter (Natalie )Keely Vasquez (Diana) David Schlumpf (Dan) and Liam Oh (Gabe) in Next to Normal at Writers Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Jodie Jacobs

“Next to Normal” at Writers Theatre, Glencoe in June. Writers Theatre unerringly brought to the stage what life is like in a home where a family member is mentally ill. Penned by Brian Yorkey who also did the lyrics and with music by Tom Kitt, the show took three Tony awards in 2009. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama because even though it has highly expressive musical numbers, it is not a feel-good musical.

“Oslo” a Timeline Theatre production at the Broadway Playhouse in October, brilliantly revealed the behind the scenes negotiations in Norway that led up to the famed handshake on the White House lawn between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat in 1993. What “Oslo,” the multi-award-winning play by J. T. Rogers does is introduce audiences to Mona Juul, superbly acted by Bri Sudia whose sensible but passionate portrayal of the Norwegian diplomat who initiated the behind the scenes action, glides from serious to charming to comic, and to Scott Parkinson who as facilitator Rød-Larsen has the difficult task of making all the players in the sensitive negotiations, look good.

Don Giovanni” at the Lyric Opera House in November and December is an 18th century Mozart opera in perfect tune with #MeToo times. If you knew before seeing Lyric’s outstanding production of “Don Giovanni” that (Il dissouto punita, ossia il Don Giovanni), translates as “The Rake Punished, namely Don Giovanni “ (also The Libertine Punished), you would have some idea that the opera was not about a lover but about a powerful man who felt entitled to take sexual liberties. However, directed by Robert Falls, artistic director at Goodman Theatre, the Lyric production skillfully makes the comic moments funnier, the sexual attempts more offensive, the violence more dramatic and the punishment more tumultuous.

 

Sean Higgins and Marie Weigle in International Falls.
Sean Higgins and Marie Weigle in International Falls. (Photo by Katie Reynolds)

Reno Lovison

“International Falls” by Agency Theater Collective and End of the Line Production at the Nox Arca in August. It was an intimate play with truthful dialog that was well acted.

“My Life as A Country Song” by New American Folk Theatre at Chief O’Neill’s in October. It had very good original music.

 

Huber Marionettes Gypsy Dancer. (Photo courtesy of Huber Marionettes)
Huber Marionettes Gypsy Dancer. (Photo courtesy of Huber Marionettes)

Pamela McKuen

My favorite is a theatrical event: the 3rd Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. More than 100 performances of 24 shows were given by professional puppeteers from 11 countries at 19 venues. I had the privilege of seeing “Ajijaak on Turtle Island,” the story of a young whopping crane who was accidentally separated from her parents during her first migration. Along the way to unification, she learned valuable life-lessons about herself and living in harmony with nature. Puppets of all sizes and styles, their handlers, musicians and dancers interacted seamlessly to present an engaging and unforgettable experience.

 

Matt Crowle and Rachel Klippel in Porchlight Music Theatre's "A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder." (Michael Courier photo)
Matt Crowle and Rachel Klippel in Porchlight Music Theatre’s “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder.” (Michael Courier photo)

Mira Temkin

Comedy Kills in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” at Porchlight Music Theatre” mid January to mid March. This was my favorite show of the year because of the fine acting of Jefferson- Award Winner Matt Crowle who plays multiple roles of both men and women. This hilarious musical comedy tells the story of Monty Navarro, a conniving, down-on-his-luck Englishman who finds out he stands to inherit the earldom of Highhurst and substantial wealth if only he could eliminate his eight pesky relatives who stand in his way. Quickly as you can imagine, things start to go awry. But Navarro must keep on his toes with both his mistress and his fiancée… and not get put in jail. And those darting eyes… hysterical!

 

Some theater venues around town. (J Jacobs photo

Well, even though the designation of Year of Chicago Theatre is about over, all of us at Chicago Theater and Arts think we’re lucky to have great theater on stages large and small throughout the Chicago area every year.

We know that the theater season doesn’t go by the calendar year at every venue but no matter how the season is divided, we are very much looking forward to seeing and reviewing the best of 2020.

We wish everyone an interesting theater experience in the new year.

 

Old fashioned musical fills Cadillac Palace Theatre with joy

 

(L-R) Kelly Sheehan and Jeremy Benton and company itap dancing to “I love a Piano” in Irving Berlin’s White Christams. (Jeremy Daniel Photography

4stars

It didn’t matter that outside temperatures were diving into the icy teens because inside the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Tuesday, “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” was warming the hearts of families and veterans with “Happy Holidays,” “Count Your Blessings” and “We’ll Follow the Old Man.”

But good as Berlin’s music and lyrics and David Ives and Paul Blakes’ book are, what makes the touring production now playing in Chicago worth its four stars is its talented cast and Randy Skinner’s excellent choreography and direction.

There are the perfectly executed dance numbers by a superb ensemble and the wonderful dancing of Kelly Sheehan as Judy Haynes and Jeremy Benton as Phil Davis. Plus, there is the beautiful voice of Kerry Conte as Betty Haynes  and the Martha Raye-style singing and acting of Lorna Luft as Martha Watson.

Continue reading “Old fashioned musical fills Cadillac Palace Theatre with joy”