Imagine what can happen in a Cooney Farce

(Top l-r) Aimee Kleiman, Debra Rodkin, Declan Poll bottom David Whitlock and Tim Walsh) Photo by North Shore Camera Club


Instead of going the Dickens or Christmas Story route, Citadel Theatre is doing “It Runs in the Family,” a classic British farce by comedic playwright Ray Cooney of “Run For Your Wife” and “Funny Money” fame. 

Its setting is a London hospital right before Christmas where presents for children are hidden like a body beneath a covered gurney and references to a Christmas Panto (a nutty pantomime) give it the requisite holiday note.

But anyone familiar with farces know that what really is important is a fast-paced rhythm of entrances and exits, revelations, mistaken (or not) identities and flow of ribald, fat fanny and rear-end gags.

The Citadel cast is excellent but on the Sunday I went, the first half of the first act felt slow and the audience didn’t pick up the gags until later.

Timing and pace is everything in a farce. It finally picked up speed and the characters threw their lines out with gusto during the second half of the first act which the audience appreciated with loud snickers, guffaws and applause. 

All the action takes place in the doctors’ common room where Dr.  David Mortimore is trying to prepare for his important, possibly career-making, speech to a conference of neurologists- when.

The not-so-morally-good doctor, played by Tim Walsh, had lots of reasons to be overly anxious. Walsh is believable as Mortimore if this were a regular play and not a farce. It’s actually OK to overplay anxiety.  

Former nurse Jane Tate (Aimee Kleiman who also played her role as if it were a regular play) confronts Dr. Mortimore with the reason she had to quit 18 years and 9 months ago. Their illegitimate son, Leslie, is downstairs with a policeman because he drove drunk but wants to meet his father.

Mortimore’s wife, Rosemary Mortimore, portrayed by the consummate actress Ellen Phelps, shows up, is not supposed to know about the nurse or Leslie but sympathizes with all the tall tales her husband tells to cover up everything that is going on.

Matron, a terrific foil for all the goings on is perfectly played by Debra Rodkin as she is in and out with the gurney, holds a needle to subdue Leslie who has made his way upstairs to the doctors’ room, and she is yelling outside the window that she can’t hold on any longer while stopping Leslie from falling, entering or leaving.

Dr. Hubert Bonney, a good friend of Dr. Mortimore, well-portrayed by David Whitlock is also an excellent foil for the shenanigans and agrees to temporarily pretend he is Leslie’s father.

Leslie, the misbegotten reason for the action, is done by Declan Poll as a punk-rocker-style teenager who elicits sympathy because he just wants to meet his Dad.

Pompous Sir Willoughby Drake who wants to go over Dr. Mortimore’s speech, is well-handled by Ed Kufferft and elicits a fine chuckle when he sees Leslie bending in front of Mortimore.

Dr. Mike Connolly whom we meet early on when he tries on a tutu and other costume items for the Panto is delightfully portrayed by Philip J. Macaluso.

Police Sergeant. Don’t most farces need a policeman? Chris Bruzzini takes on that role but he could be played as more befuddled or with more personality than shown.

Scenic designer Eric Luchen makes full use of the small Citadel stage with two hospital-like doors, two regular doors and a window that is just right for some hilarious scenes.

Costume designer Elizabeth Monti had us believing we were in a hospital and Leslie was a nutty punk rocker.

Directed by Pat Murphy, the show is a nice change from the tear inducing Christmas dramas trying to make a statement this time of year.

DETAILS: “It Runs in the Family” is at Citadel Theatre, 300 South Waukegan Rd, Lake Forest, IL., through Dec. 18, 2022. For tickets and more information visit Citadel Theatre. Citadel Theatre or call (847) 735-8554.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

A delightful Christmas Story works well on Marriott stage


Leg lamp award dance sequence featguring Lorenzo R ush Jr at the Old Man (Photo courtesy of Mariott theatre)
Leg lamp award dance sequence featuring Lorenzo Rush Jr at the Old Man (Photo courtesy of Mariott theatre)

3 Stars Recommended

In a city filled with theater companies producing traditional holiday fare, Marriott Theatre has chosen a show usually seen as a film replayed on TV but seldom performed live.

First, what it’s not. “A Christmas Story Is not a moralistic Dickens’ style redemption piece that appeals to the whole family or a Jane Austen type upstairs, downstairs manners piece with sophisticated appeal.

Marriott Theatre’s “A Christmas Story: the Musical,” is a comedy that captures some of the frustrations and coping mechanisms of the middle-class, Midwestern Parker family, and particularly, those of its nine-year-old boy named Ralphie. Middle school aged kids and their parents would appreciate Ralphie’s and the Old Man’s challenges.

Based on a 1983 movie by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark and Shepherd’s collection of vignettes published in 1966 as “In God we trust: All others pay cash,” the musical version has a book by Joseph Robinette with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

The songs, such as “The Genius on Cleveland Street” and “When You’re a Wimp,” are insightful instead of memorable and hummable. 

Playing during the holiday season through Jan. 1, 2023, the show introduces another generation to Shepherd’s famed, sexy “Leg Lamp” that sits in the Parker family’s front window in Homan, IN.

Actually, filmed in Cleveland, OH in an old yellow house that has since been turned into a museum, the “Lamp” is still there and can be seen despite having supposedly been broken and buried during the play.

Won by “the Old Man,” the Parker family dad who means well, works hard, battles neighbors’ dogs and is not as smart as his wife, he is excited to receive the lamp as a “Major Award” for a contest he entered and won. To the Old Man, the lamp award redeems his self-worth.

The Parker family, in A Christmas story the Musical at Marriott Theatre (Photo courtesy of Marriott)
The Parker family, in A Christmas story the Musical at Marriott Theatre (Photo courtesy of Marriott)

More importantly, Marriott has introduced another generation to nine-year-old Ralphie who desperately wants a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Made by the Daisy company, it is named for a heroic comic strip cowboy.

Ralphie fantasizes how he can stop the terrorizing by bullies Scut Farkus and Grover Dill of him, friends, Flick (of tongue stuck on icy pole fame) and Schwartz and classmates if he had a bb gun that looks like a Winchester rifle.

Set about the early 1940s, warnings by his mom, teacher and the Santa at Higbee’s Department Store that you’ll “shoot your eye out,” would have been a sufficient talking point.

However, given today’s anti-gun legislation and school shootings attributed to bullying, families seeing the show may either object to a bb gun that looks like a rifle or want to take the discussion several steps further. 

Directed perfectly by Scott Weinstein as both entertaining and perceptive of family and school dynamics, “A Christmas Story: the Musical” has several funny incidents, excellent character portrayals, terrific dance sequences and wonderful vocals.

Kavon Newman who has appeared on TV and New York’s Radio City stage, is amazing as Ralphie

 Local theater veteran Sara Reinecke is the can-do mother the Parker family needs and has a terrific voice. Her role is well matched with that of the Old Man, delightfully portrayed by another local veteran, Lorenzo Ruch, Jr.

Levi Merlo who has a string of TV credits, is adorable as Ralphie’s young brother, Randy. He will likely be remembered by audiences as the kid who couldn’t move his arms or get up because of his ballooning-style snowsuit.

The fun, over-the-top character of teacher Miss Shields was deftly handled by local veteran Jenna Coker-Jones.

Narrator Kevin McKillip as Jean Shepherd (Marriott photo)
Narrator Kevin McKillip as Jean Shepherd (Marriott photo)

A “Christmas Story” is narrated by Kevin McKillip who as Jean Shepherd, reminisces as he somewhat relates to each scene and experience as a much older, adult Ralphie.

After seeing a very strong Marriott production of “Sound of Music” with a terrific cast of child actors, I was not surprised by the high quality of the “Kids” ensemble that appeared in several sequences.

Which brings us to Tiffany Krause’s choreography. Marriott typically has superb dance numbers. But they are usually performed by the main characters backed by a dance ensemble. In “a Christmas Story,” it’s the talented Kids and Ralphie who primarily take center stage.

That is except for Rush, Jr’s exuberant dance celebration of “A Major Award” and talented song and dance actor Jackson Evans delights audiences in the second act as the Higbee’s department stores’ disgruntled  Santa Clause in “Up on Santa’s Lap.”

A shout out has to go to costume designer Izumi Inaba for setting the period and mood.

Details: “A Christmas Story: the Musical,” is at Marriott Theatre at 10 Marriott Dr. Lincolnshire, off Milwaukee Avenue just south of Rt. 22, through Jan. 1, 2023. For tickets and more information visit or call (847)- 634-0200.

Note: A Christmas Story Christmas begins streaming Nov. 17 on HBO Max with Peter Billingsley reprising his Ralphie, who is now an adult, a struggling writer and the head of the Parker household.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Xanadu is a relaxing trip to nowhere.


Xanadu an audio play by Theater in the Dark
Xanadu an audio play by Theater in the

Somewhat Recommended

2 Stars

Skillfully presented, this streaming audio play “A murder in the court of Xanadu” presented by A Theater in the Dark is a jumble of characters and events that in the end I simply did not care about.

I truthfully cannot give you a synopsis of this play. I enjoyed listening to it but ultimately do not understand anyone’s motivation for doing whatever they did and am not sure why it was interesting or important.

It was kind of like listening to a Chinese opera. I do not speak Chinese but I might walk away understanding that someone was rich, someone was a conniving trusted advisor, someone got killed, and in the end, someone got something of value that maybe was surprising and undeserved. But I could not catch the details. In the meantime, it was oddly enjoyable to listen to because the vocal tones and rhythm of the presentation with its evocative incidental music was pleasing.

The place of Xanadu is known to most of us a symbol of utopian excess perhaps best remembered from the Samuel Coleridge poem of the same name. In fact, as a result of a recent Jeopardy question on the popular TV game show, I was able to immediately recall the opening words “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,” though I have no recollection of ever reading the entire poem.

We might also be familiar with “Xanadu” as the name of the mansion in the well know movie “Citizen Kane.” In this case I can tell you that Kane was a Khan-like business ruler with a strong desire for beauty and excessive wealth. I know this because I learned as much through the storyline. The story of Citizen Kane challenges us to try to understand the motivation behind the main character’s actions.

In “A murder in the court of Xanadu” we are basically told, though a narrator, who the characters are rather than have them reveal themselves to us. There is no discernible mystery to unravel and no reason to be interested in the fates of a number of greedy self-centered individuals who do not seem to have derived their wealth or status through any particular talent or ability of their own.

The standout performance for me was Erin Lin as Marla who acts as a kind of narrator. Her voice was clear, expressive and well modulated with a kind of musical quality. I would be happy to listen to her read or recite virtually anything.

The theater’s website suggests that the character of Marla is inspired by Marco Polo who incidentally provided the earliest description of the Khan’s pleasure retreat. However, this relationship is totally lost to the uninformed listener, and one or two periodic allusions to Venice in my mind only added to the confusion. I feel strongly that a theatergoer should not have to bring any previous knowledge to the experience in order to understand the action.

Nessa Amherst as Marigold provided nearly all of the much needed auditory contrast, providing a kind of comic quality and strong characterization.

I felt that all of the male actors including Robinson J. Cyprian (Kane), Van Ferro (An Actor Who Plays Many Parts), and Gabriel Fries (Ahmad) understood what they were saying (even if I did not), delivering their lines with conviction. I would have enjoyed more vocal variety between the three of them and a little more resonance from Cyprian who I remember gave us more vocal depth in his performance of Ahab in the company’s performance of “Moby Dick.”

If there is any fault to be assigned it belongs to the author Cory Bradberry who has demonstrated through his previous works a real ability and commitment to this genre. That said, this is not a disaster but rather a miss. Perhaps with a bit more work and revision he can overcome whatever it is that is lacking.

Bradberry does partially cover his tracks through his exceptional direction. The performance does have an overall lyrical quality and pleasing tone that is enhanced through just enough foley work to provide some needed ambiance with a very enjoyable use of an original musical score by Paul Sottnik.

DETAILS: “A murder in the court of Xanadu” presented by A Theater in the Dark is available for streaming beginning November 3, 2022 at Runtime is about 90 minutes.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


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)



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






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)


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 or by calling (847) 677-7761.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


‘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 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)


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


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

Spend the night in good company with Pearl!


Felicia P. Fields and band. (Photo courtesy of Writers Theatre)
Felicia P. Fields and band. (Photo courtesy of Writers Theatre)

4 Stars

Closing out their 2021-2022 season at the Writers Theatre in Glencoe is Pearl’s Rollin’ with the Blues: A Night with Felicia P. Fields now through July 24, 2022.

Singing the blues is what Tony Award nominee Felicia P. Fields does best and boy, does she belt. With the help of her mighty talented 5-piece band, she takes the audience on a road trip through the blues.

Created by Fields and Ron OJ Parson who collaborated on WT’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, they celebrate the pioneers of the past including Big Mama Thornton, Son House, Howlin’ Wolf and other blues greats.

They tell stories, engage with the audience and throw everything up for grabs as people listen in amazement.

Look out if you’re sitting at a table as no subject is taboo. But it’s all in good fun and laughs.

On a more serious side, Fields shares her journey about transferring to a high school on the north side of Chicago and the racism she encountered there.

Pearl’s Rollin’ with the Blues is a joyful concert celebration featuring Fields with music director Chic Street on guitar, Ricardo Jimenez on horn and harp, Frank Menzies at the keyboard, Harold Morrison on drums and Julie Poncé on base.

This show, an original and nothing like you’ve ever seen before, takes the blues to new heights.

(Writers Theatre is helmed by Executive Director Kathryn M. Lipuma and Interim Artistic Director Bobby Kennedy).

DETAILS: “Pearls Rolling in the Blues” is at Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe, through July 24,2022. Runtime: 90 minutes, no intermission. For tickets and more information visit Writers Theatre.

(Writers Theatre requires all seated patrons to wear a mask during performances. If you attend without a mask, Writers Theatre will provide one for you. Visit for details).

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Mira Temkin