‘Kate’ battles Shakespeare and ex at Marriott

 

Susan Moniz and Larry Adams battle it out in Kiss Me Kate at Marriott Theatre.( Liz Lauren photo)
Susan Moniz and Larry Adams battle it out in Kiss Me Kate at Marriott Theatre.( Liz Lauren photo)

 

Three stars

In a season overflowing with feel-good holiday fare, the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire has chosen to balance the offerings with the controversial “Kiss Me Kate.”

Go for this production’s superb vocals, comedic moments and excellent dance numbers. But beware, the 1948 musical written by Bella and Samuel Spewack with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, is based on William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

What you see is a show within a show presented by a traveling troupe as its stars battle on stage and off in a mirror image of the plot.

No matter how good the production is of the Shakespearean version (and I have seen good ones, including at Chicago Shakespeare), it still is misogynistic.

So, if bothered by the theme, blame Shakespeare.

If out for a night at the theater, sit back and enjoy director Johanna McKenzie Miller’s clever staging, Alex Sanchez’s choreography and the outstanding voices of Susan Moniz as leading lady Lilli Vanessi who plays Katharine (supposedly as a shrew) and Larry Adams, Lilli”s ex-husband, Fred Graham, who plays Petruchio (shrew tamer) and who is also directing the troupe.

Also dance shout-outs to Alexandra Palkovic who is Lois Lane, Kate’s overly-sweet little sister, Bianca, and to Jonathan Butler-Duplessis who leads the showstopping “Too Darn Hot” number.

You get to hear such familiar songs as “Wunderbar,” So in Love,” “Always True to You in My Fashion,” and “From this Moment On.” To audiences who have missed the theater due to COVID, the opening number “Another Op’nin’, Another Show,” offers a hopeful note.

DETAILS: “Kiss Me Kate” at Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire, is on now through Jan 16, 2022. Run time:  2 hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission. For tickets and more information visit Marriott Theare.  (Check Covid safety protocols.)

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

An overly exuberant new holiday nusical

‘The Land of Forgotten Toys’

Mary-Margaret Roberts and Bre Jacobs in "Land of Forgotten Toys" at Greenhouse Theater. (Zeke Dolezalek photo)
Mary-Margaret Roberts and Bre Jacobs in “Land of Forgotten Toys” at Greenhouse Theater (Zeke Dolezalek photos)

 

2 ½ stars

Amidst a growing crop of holiday productions, Chicago is being treated to yet another new family friendly show. Chirpy, relentlessly over-exuberant and with very few moments of reflection or subtlety, this new holiday musical could really use some layers and a bit of variety. As it now plays in its world premiere, the production is a little overpowering. It’s a little like sitting in the front row of an IMAX theatre: there’s no escape.

Created by the writing team of twins Jennifer and Jaclyn Enchin, the plot of this new play is fresh and fun, although vaguely familiar. The songs are a different matter.

Continue reading “An overly exuberant new holiday nusical”

‘Burning Bluebeard’ a tragic Christmas story

Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo Michael Courier)
Burning Bluebeard at Porchlight Music Theatre. (Photo Michael Courier)

3 stars

 “Burning Bluebeard” literally comes alive in front of a scorched proscenium arch on a ruined stage depicting the aftermath of an inferno that destroyed the Iroquois Theater in Chicago (set design by Jeff Kmiec based on the original design of Lizzie Bracken).

The Ruffians with director Halena Kays and choreographer Ariel Triunfo have devised a clever way to tell this story based on an actual 1903, tragic event that claimed the lives of 600 theater patrons, many of them children and their mothers, attending a Christmastime performance of a popular Broadway blockbuster entitled “Mr. Bluebeard.”

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Renee Fleming shines a light in ‘Piazza’

 

Solea Pfeiffer and Renée Fleming in LThe Light in the Piazza. (Liz Lauren photo)
Solea Pfeiffer and Renée Fleming in The Light in the Piazza. (Liz Lauren photo)

 

3stars

No question that soprano Renée Fleming, an opera superstar who has sung leading ladies from Donna Elvira in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” to Nettie Fowler in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel” is a fine fit as Margaret Johnson in Adam Guettel and Craig Lucas’ “The Light in the Piazza.”

Her remarkable voice, joyfully greeting  Florence  in the opening scene, heartbreaking in “Dividing Day” following a phone call back home when she realizes her own marriage lacks love, and later swelling with a renewed understanding of love versus risks in her final song, “Fable,” makes going to this production at Chicago’s Lyric Opera House worth attending.

Continue reading “Renee Fleming shines a light in ‘Piazza’”

Q Brothers take ‘A Christmas Carol’ to a hip ‘ad-rap-tation’ level

 

Q Brothers Christmas Carol at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier.
Q Brothers Christmas Carol at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier.

4 stars

Victorian author Charles Dickens might be surprised, and maybe a little proud, at how his story about one curmudgeon’s redemption has been adapted for the stage, film, opera and every other form of media.

This production, “Q Brothers Christmas Carol,” back by popular demand at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, has fast become one of the Windy City’s favorite holiday events, especially among younger, hipper audiences. It’s a terrific, cleverly-written and utterly captivating piece of theatre that deserves the high praise it’s received.

Continue reading “Q Brothers take ‘A Christmas Carol’ to a hip ‘ad-rap-tation’ level”

You Gotta Have Friends

Bette: Xmas at the Continental Baths

 

Cailin Jackson as Bette Midler at Mary's Attic. (Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios)
Cailin Jackson as Bette Midler at Mary’s Attic. (Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios)

3stars

Wrap that towel around you, settle back with a stiff one and get ready to enjoy The Divine Miss M, at her holiday best.

Once again it’s the early 1970’s, and we’re at Manhattan’s popular gay bathhouse where Bette Midler, portrayed at Mary’s Attic by the incomparably talented Caitlin Jackson, came to prominence.

Jackson, her tumbler filled with vodka, is cheerfully serving up an hour of some of  Midler’s best, most beloved tunes. She also treats the audience to a few of Bette Midler’s bawdy Sophie Tucker jokes.

Continue reading “You Gotta Have Friends”

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”

‘Twelfth Night’ revisited

 

Twelfth Night revisited as Midsommer Flight

3 stars

If I might borrow from Chicago’s city motto “Urbs in Orto” (translated as “City in a Garden”) this production of “Twelfth Night” can be described as “Theatrum in Orto” (“Theater in a Garden”) as Midsommer Flight presents their popular perennial production of one of Shakespeare’s silliest plays, energetically performed, amid the (house-plants run amok) tropical flora collection in the Lincoln Park Conservatory’s Show House Room.

Directed by Dylan S. Roberts the comedy is intimately staged more-or-less in-the-round, costumed in 20th Century modern dress.

Continue reading “‘Twelfth Night’ revisited”

‘The Christmas Foundling’ or five men and a baby

 

The Christmas Foundling at Buena Arts Center. (Photo courtesy of Pride Films and Plays)

3 Stars

 

Five men in a small mining camp circa 1850s California find the meaning of family with the addition of a baby boy.  It is an upbeat holiday story that explores the meaning of family and serves to illustrate the need for humans to band together forging family bonds in whatever circumstances they happen to be while also exploring the tug of bloodline ties.

This sentimental Pride Films & Plays (PFP) production directed by Danne W. Taylor will rival anything you might find on the Hallmark Channel this holiday season and may require an extra dose of insulin.

The well written script by Normal Allen is inspired by stories of 19th Century author Bret Harte and is best served by Michael D. Graham as Old Jake, the glue that keeps this production together. Graham seems to have the best grasp of the cadence and pace of the men of this period and circumstance.

Continue reading “‘The Christmas Foundling’ or five men and a baby”

Snarky Santaland Diaries Worthy of the Naughty List

 

Steven Strafford in the one-man-show of The Santaland Diaries at Goodman Theatre. (Cody Nieset photo)
Steven Strafford in the one-man-show of The Santaland Diaries at Goodman Theatre. (Cody Nieset photo)

3 stars

I still remember the first time I heard the caustic wit of David Sedaris as he performed his “The Santaland Diaries” monologue on NPR’s “This American Life.” I was gobsmacked. This snarky, irreverent essay quickly became a holiday staple in our house, revered as much as our other annual, if slightly less irreverent, family favorite, “A Christmas Story.”

Still, I had never seen the wickedly funny monologue on stage until this week when I headed to the Goodman’s Owen Theatre to spend an hour with Steven Strafford as the not-always-lovable elf named Crumpet. Continue reading “Snarky Santaland Diaries Worthy of the Naughty List”