The movie and other plays aside, having just seen Broadway actor Alexander Gemignani (Carousel, Les Miserable, Sweeny Todd) as Edward Bloom at Marriott Theatre, it is now arguably hard to see anyone else playing the pivotal character role in “Big Fish.”
In the hands of Director Henry Godinez, (Goodman Theatre’s Resident Artistic Associate), backed by a talented cast, Bloom’s seemingly fantastical journey through life is delightful. His character is likely to have audiences relating to dad jokes and dad’s experience stories.
But in the end the theme really is about father-son relationships. The audience is challenged to empathize with his son, Will Bloom, played by Michael Kurowski who appears uncomfortable in the role.
A shoutout has to go to Heidi Kettenring, a favorite Marriott and Chicago theater community actress/singer, who as Edward’s wife, Sandra, has no trouble understanding and appreciating him.
“Big Fish” is based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel and the 2003 (in theaters early 2004) Columbia Motion Picture by John August directed by Tim Burton. The play’s book is by John August with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa.
Details: “Big Fish” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire, IL now through March 19, 2023. Run time: 2 hours, 30 minutes with one intermission. For information and tickets visit Marriott Theatre.
Many Chicago area theater companies operate on a fall through spring/early summer season so look for check January and February offerings to start 2023 with fun and fascinating entertainment.
” The Golden Girls” is opening at the Mercury Theatre, 1745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, this weekend. A new, original show, it has the fabulous girls we’ve come to know and love. The show runs Jan. 13 through Feb. 12, 2023. For tickets and info visit THE GOLDEN GALS LIVE! — Mercury Theater Chicago.
Among other interesting shows on the docket is MadKap Productions: “The Book of Merman” (That’s not a typo). It is coming to the Skokie Theatre 7924 Lincoln Ave., Skokie, Feb. 3- 26, 2023. “The Book of Merman” starring Julie Peterson as Ethel Merman is about a visit by two Mormon missionaries. For tickets and more info call (847) 677-7761 or visit https://www.skokietheatre.org/.
And check out “Andy Warhol in Iran” at Northlight Theatre. The artist goes to Tehran to take photos of the Shah’s wife but learns more. The show runs Jan. 19-Feb. 19. Northlight is in the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts at 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. For tickets and more information visit Northlight Theatre | Andy Warhol in Iran.
Another show to catch is “Big Fish” at Marriott Theater, Lincolnshire. A family-friendly musical adventure by John August and Andrew Lippa, previews start Jan. 25 with the run going from Feb.1 through March 19, 2023. Based on the film screenplay by August and novelist Daniel Wallace the story couples an adult and his childhood timeline with his relationship with his son, Will. For tickets visit Tickets.MarriottTheatre.com. For more information see MarriottTheatre.com.
Raven Theatre is doing the Chicago premiere of “Right To Be Forgotten”, bySharyn Rothstein. Directed by Sarah Gitenstein, the story is a timely plot about human forgiveness in the age of the internet “Right to be forgotten runs Feb. 9 – March 26, 2023 in Raven’s 85-seat East Stage, 6157 N. Clark St. (at Granville), Chicago. For tickets and more information visit raventheatre.com or call (773) 338-2177.
There is a wide selection of winter shows, some of which you might miss in 2022, depending on your usual theater subscriptions and play going habits, So, here are a half-dozen to add to your list with some theaters in Chicago and some in the suburbs.
“Groundhog Day: The Musical” opens at Paramount Theatre at 23 E. Galena Blvd, Aurora on Jan. 26. Visit Paramount Theatre. Based on the Bill Murray comedy, the book was written by Danny Rubin with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin.
“Agatha Christie’s Secret Council, a world premiere by David Rice featuring Christie’s sleuths, Tommy and Tuppence,” opens Jan. 29. at First Folio at the Mayslake Peabody Estate 31st St. & Rt. 83, Oakbrook.
“Gem of the Ocean” by August Wilson, opened Jan.22 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St. Chicago.
“West Side Story” opens at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, Feb. 2.
“When There Are Nine,” a play featuring Ruth Bader Ginsburg, opens at Pride Arts’ Broadway Theater, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago Feb. 10.
“Outside Mullingar,” by John Patrick Shanley opens at Citadel theatre 300 Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, Feb. 11. Citadel Theatre
When you need a break from working at home, catching up with spring cleaning because you’re at home, or dashing to the grocery store for comfort food, go to a portal to one of Chicago’s arts organization.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Marriott Theatre and Second City are among those places reaching out with fascinating info, lively videos and home classes.
The cast of “Kiss Me, Kate, Marriott Theatre’s next show in Lincolnshire, has taped interviews and videos. Visit this youtube channel to see and hear from the artists but also go to the videos on the site that have segments from such recent shows as”Grease.”
Maybe you know that past students of The Second City Training Center include Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. But even if you don’t aspire to the national comedy limelight, a Second City class would liven up the stay at home experience.
Starting today, March 23, 2020, the Training Center has online classes at different price points and lengths.
“As social distancing separates us physically, we’ve had to improvise the ways we hang out and remain connected. The Second City Training Center immediately rose to the challenge in pioneering new ways, andsays Second City Hollywood Artistic Director Joshua Funk.
Joshua Funk, Second City’s Hollywood Artistic Director, announced that the entire curriculum has been adapted for online compatibility. “Turns out, improv works online! If we all need to hunker down for a while, it’s essential that we are still able to spend time together and laugh,” Funk said.
The faculty in Chicago, Toronto, and Hollywood and over 100 students beta tested the new classes over the last week, according to Abby Wagner, Training Center Vice President. “They’ve proven to be both educational and a true lifeline of communication in these strange and isolating times,” Wagner said.
Classes require Internet and web camera access. Pajamas are optional. Classes ranges from one-time drop-in to 4 weeks and 8 weeks and are for all ages. For more information visit Second City From Your Couch.
Director Scott Weinstein has chosen a cast that works together beautifully in Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s hit musical, “Grease,” a two-hour snapshot of late 1950’s Chicago-area (William Howard Taft High School) teenagers dealing with peer pressure, physical attraction and values.
Named after youth who called themselves greasers, the musical looks in on the lives of two groups at fictional Rydell High School, the Burger Palace Boys who sport leather jackets and their girl friends, the Pink Ladies. Nerds, cheerleaders and teachers also put in appearances.
Marriott Theatre’s “Oliver!” is among the best productions of a Charles Dickens-based show that, unlike “A Christmas Carol,” has few redeeming factors.
Lionel Bart’s 1960 musical based on Dickens’ Oliver Twist, an 1838-39 novel revealing England’s brutal underbelly at the time, contains the excellent “Where is Love?” “As Long as He Needs Me” and “Consider Yourself (one of us)” musical numbers.
The story features Fagin, an aging thief characterized by Dickens as a Jew who teaches youngsters how to pick pockets. However, Marriott has dropped stereotyping the character which is well-portrayed by William Brown as an elderly, caring person who now depends on his possessions and on others to take care of him in his old age.
But its sub-theme of domestic violence has Bill Sikes (Dan Waller), a dangerous adult thief, beating (later murdering) his girlfriend, Nancy, a sympathetic character delightfully interpreted by Lucy Godinez.
It also portrays how Oliver, the son of a high-born, unwed mother fares in an unforgiving society.
The star/s of Marriott’s production are the two young boys who alternately portray Oliver, Kai Edgar and Kayden Koshelev. It doesn’t matter whom you see when you go, they are both outstanding.
A fine, atmospheric mist and Sally Dolembo’s period costumes transports audiences to mid-19th century London.
Directed by Nick Bowling, the acting is on the mark. My problem is not the cast but the musical, itself.
“Oliver!” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire, IL, through Dec. 29, 2019. Running time: 2 hrs, 20 min. with one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Marriott Theatre.
Theater critics tend to return to the same places before covering a show. They are not usually the upscale places gone to for a special occasion or the newest eatery with a gourmet menu or “in” vibe. They have good food and are convenient to the venues.
Here are my recommendations based on experience for two downtown theaters ( I use theater spelled er) and two places in the northern suburbs. More areas later.
When going to the Goodman Theatre 170 N Dearborn St. or James M Nederlander Theatre, a Broadway in Chicago venue at 24 W. Randolph St., I reserve a table in the bar at Petterinos (312-422-0150, 150 N. Dearborn St.) at the corner of Dearborn and Randolph Streets.
The bartenders here are terrific. They serve their patrons quickly when they know they have a show. And I like the fried calamari when looking for something light and the amazing chicken pot pie when cold weather calls for a dish to warm the insides.
The restaurant is literally next door to Goodman and just a few steps across Dearborn to the Nederlander (former Oriental). I take public transportation but Petterinos has a valet service for customers who want to park there and see a show.
Downtown – Mag Mile
There are lots of places to dine on and near the Magnificent Mile. But when reviewing a show at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N Michigan Ave. in the historic Water Tower Water Works on the east side of the Water Tower campus or at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., I reserve a table at Mity-Nice Grill on the Mezzanine Level of Water Tower Place (835 N. Michigan Ave., 312.335.4745).
I like their veggie burger and their salads and that they bring tiny Yorkshire pudding bites to start the meal.
North Suburbs – Lincolnshire
I look forward to dining at the Three Embers Restaurant in the Marriott Resort, 10 Marriott Dr., when reviewing a show at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
Executive Chef Pierre Daval and Chef de Cuisine Jesus (Chuy) Medina are currently showcasing their Harvest Dinner. At Three Embers, diners get honey butter for their rolls that is a taste treat made with honey from Daval’s beehives on the property. I also love the Honey BBQ Brisket with smoked grits. But I’m thinking of trying the Sea Scallops dish with butternut squash and a maple glace when I go for the next show because squash and maple are too seasonal to pass up.
North Suburbs – Skokie
Across the road from Northlight Theatre at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, Skokie, is a small strip mall that contains the popular Bonefish Grill at 9310 Skokie Blvd. Yes, you need a reservation and tell the waitperson you are going to a show.
I like the restaurant’s bread and dipping oil, its Caesar Salad and any shrimp dish with a variety of sauces.
if you were an animal in a zoo, what would you would wish for as you blew out candles on your birthday cake?
Marty the zebra, charmingly portrayed by Ron King, wanted to leave New York’s Central Park Zoo to return to the wild. But he wasn’t the only one. A handful of like-minded penguins also pined for their icy climes.
And so, Marty, accompanied by his friends who don’t want him to go alone, Alex the lion, Gloria the hippo and Melman, a hypochondriac giraffe, head out of Manhattan to find paradise in the Marriott’ Children’s Theatre production of “Madagascar – A Musical Adventure.”
The penguins also seem to end up there.
Based on DreamWorks’ animated film, Marriott’s stage version zips along in an easy-for- youngsters, sit-through hour filled with zany, fantasy fun.
The show’s sub-theme, that friends stick together, is enhanced by George Noriega and Joel Somellian’s score for the stage musical.
Liam Quealy as Alex, king of the zoo, is terrific as he hungers for steak but his roar also comes in handy as he scares away dangerous creatures where they land on Lemur King Julien’s side of Madagascar.
Directed by Johanna McKenzie Miller, the Marriott show features Jesus Perez’ wonderfully creative costumes and Sarah E. Ross’ terrific puppets.
However, I wish the actors moving the penguins would remember they need to fade more into their puppets instead of the penguins fading into the actors. After all, kids love penguins.
Also, if ordering tickets, try not to sit where I did in the low number area of Section 2 because many of the characters will have their backs to you.
DETAILS: “Madagascar – A Musical Adventure” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, through Dec. 19, 2019. Running time: one hour. For tickets and other information visit Marriott Theatre.
It’s “Something Rotten,” the 2015 Tony nominated musical with witty lyrics by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick and unusual book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell that is now making its regional debut at Marriott Theatre.
In 1595 England, show manager/ director Nick Bottom and his brother, playwright/poet Nigel, aren’t worried that something is rotten in Denmark. As their acting troupe fails to put on a successful show, they worry about financing, finding an original play idea and their inability to compete with William Shakespeare.
To set the character of the era, the opening number has the Minstrel (Jonathan Butler Duplessis) gloriously sing out, “Welcome to the Renaissance,” joined by a large company of dancers and singers. The era is also well set by Theresa Ham’s costumes
In her Junie B Jones stories, children’s author Barbara Park found interesting solutions to problems youngsters face at school. Which means that “Junie B. Jones, The Musical,” put together by the “Dear Edwina” team of Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, is perfect for youngsters to see right before school starts this fall.
Now at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire just through Aug. 11, 2019, the show is for all elementary-middle school youngsters.
On the first day of school, Junie B encounters problems right away on the bus when her best friend from last year now has two other best friends so won’t sit with her.
Once at school, Junie B doesn’t understand why she can’t read words on the board. She’ll have to wear glasses but what will her classmates think and say.
And the problems keep happening.
Elizabeth Telfore is a terrific Junie B. Adam LaSalle is great as her piano-playing day (and teacher Mr. Scary and others). Rashada Dawan is perfect as mom, (and the cafeteria cook and others).
Marriott shows, whether for a general or young audience, always have excellent voices and choreography. “Junie B” is no exception.
But the reason to take youngsters to the show is for them to see that there are ways to work through things that sometimes go wrong at school.
DETAILS: “Junie b. Jones, the Musical,” is at Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Running time: 1 hour. For tickets and other information call (847) 634-0200 or visit Marriott Theatre.