‘Legends the Musical: A Civil Rights Movement Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow’
Jackie Taylor, the amiable creative heart and soul of Chicago’s beloved Black Ensemble Theater, has declared 2020 as the company’s Season of Change. She opens with this original, ambitious, musical battle cry, a movement against the injustice and bigotry that’s overtaking our country today thanks to an administration that has set our country back 200 years.
And this is just the beginning of Taylor’s aggressive theatrical approach to helping combat the racism that’s reared its ugly head in America.
Imagine what it was like in 1964 when Judy Garland and her daughter, 18-year-old Liza Minnelli, performed together for the first time at The Palladium Theatre in London. This was the only time these two superstars performed in a live concert together and it was electrifying.
Now, Chicago theatre-goers can experience the thrill of “Judy & Liza — Once in a Lifetime: The London Palladium Concert – A Tribute” at the Greenhouse Theater Center. The show is co-produced by Greenhouse and Nancy Hays Entertainment, Inc.
It is late summer 1905 and Mrs. Kitty Warren (Elaine Carlson), a seemingly wealthy woman with no known extended family, finally reveals to her curious adult daughter how she is able to support their comfortable lifestyle.
Julia may or may not be the perfect Mexican daughter but Karen Rodriguez may be the perfect person to play her. Rodriguez commanded the Steppenwolf stage from the moment the lights came up and did not let go for the next 90 minutes.
“Mlima’s Tale,” a Midwest Premiere by Griffin Theatre, is a sensitive and heartrending depiction of greed, and specifically, the corruption associated with the illegal sale of elephant ivory that results in the daily slaughter of approximately 100 of these endangered animals.
The production follows the life and death of Mlima, a roughly 45-year-old male African elephant. Described as a “big tusker,” he is killed by poachers while living in a protected refuge in Kenya.
Seeing “Almost Heaven,” will bring recollections of John Denver’s backstory.
Denver’s music was considered to be more or less middle-of-the-road if not downright conservative in the wake of rising stars like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
This issue is confronted early in the latest jukebox boomer music revival, “Almost Heaven-John Denver’s America,” at The Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN..
The popular singer/songwriter eventually emerged as the nascent voice of the environmental movement with songs like “Calypso” that championed the work of Jacques Cousteau, as well as “Rocky Mountain High,” “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Wild Montana Skies” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders.” They unabashedly and exuberantly celebrated the magnificence and simple beauty of nature.
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.
“Stick Fly,’ Lydia R. Diamond’s intelligent dramedy now at Writers Theatre, has so many angles and thought-provoking lines that audiences are likely not to notice it runs somewhat more than two and a half hours (with an intermission).
Early on there is the realization that “wasps” don’t have a patent on upper-middle class expectations regarding their progeny’s careers or mates. The story presents the wealthy, highly educated African American LeVay family as they settle in for a relaxing weekend at their second home, a well-appointed “cottage” on Martha’s Vineyard.