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Nostalgic! Broadway in Chicago Presents Cheers Live On Stage at the Broadway Playhouse in Water Tower Place (September 21, 2016)

Cheers Live on Stage is based on the first season of the Emmy Award Winning show. To introduce you to the characters, a lot is pulled from the pilot. So, don’t watch it ahead of time if you don’t want to know what happens. They did an excellent job recreating the set. It looks just like the show. One of the best parts of the live experience is seeing each character enter the stage for the first time. Just like in the show, the audience cheers when a main character enters for the first time.

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The nostalgia itch is definitely scratched by this show. The actors do a great job recreating the characters. The interactions between Sam and Diane build up the great “will they or won’t they” tension. More recent TV couples surely drew from this relationships, such as Jim and Pam or Ross and Rachel. When the show ended, the audience was left wanting more. There are 10 more seasons to draw from, therefore, many sequels are possible!

So come on down where everybody knows your name and see Cheers Live on Stage through October 23, 2016!

Quinn Delaney

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Enjoyed By Humans! Barrel of Monkeys Presents That’s Weird, Grandma at the Neofuturanium (September 19, 2016)

That’s Weird, Grandma is an ever changing collection of stories written by CPS students and then performed by their teachers. One of the best plays tonight was called The Darkness. Here is an excerpt from the story: “The bear scratched Donald Trump’s face off. And then ate his bones. And then he ate the blood and skin for dinner. Then Donald Trump has his death.” They turned this into a dark horror play which had everyone laughing.

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Another story was titled U Can’t Win. Again, here is an excerpt: “D: How many shoes? H: What is the rest of the question? D: That is the question. H: OK, 7. D: Sorry, the answer is 9 because U Can’t Win! (Audience Cheering)”. The questions and contests just get more silly from here. They actors all play cartoon sized characters to the audience’s delight. They definitely captured the intent of the students writing and it resulted in a hilariously bizarre play.

Catch That’s Weird, Grandma every Monday at the Neo-Futurarium! Get tickets here.

Quinn Delaney

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Swedish Comedy! Akvavit Theatre Presents Hand in Hand at The Den Theatre (September 15, 2016)

Hand in Hand is a play about six people living in Sweden looking for love, money, and a place to live. The first scene begins with Nina kicking Alan out of her apartment. “We broke up a year ago!” she says. It’s a hilarious scene as he searches for excuses to stay.  “It’s snowing outside!” Later on, she brings back a new guy, Aaron. When they start fooling around, the phone rings. She insists they should just ignore it. “The neighbor’s phone is really loud and it sounds like it’s mine.” Aaron insists that she answer it. Shortly afterward, there is a knock at the door. Again, Nina insists they ignore it but Aaron doesn’t agree. It’s Alan and he’s back because he can’t find anywhere to stay! Another hilarious scene takes place as Nina tries to kick out Alan again while keeping Aaron from leaving.

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The show incorporates a lot of great music including music by Lower Dens, The Beatles, and Lana Del Ray. An especially fun scene is when they all gather around the piano to sing “Take A Chance On Me” by ABBA, the most successful Swedish band of all time. Listen to the complete soundtrack here. On a funny note, right in-between scenes, a beer bottle slowly rolled accidentally down the stairs in the audience. During a dramatic show, this could have ruined the atmosphere. But during this comedy, it just had everyone laughing!

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Take a chance on this show and get tickets for Hand In Hand at the Den Theater now through October 16th!

Quinn Delaney

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Broadway Worthy! Porchlight Music Theatre Presents In the Heights at Stage 773 (September 13, 2016)

In the Heights is the Tony Award-Winning Musical (Best New Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography, and more) created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star and creator of Hamilton. It takes place in Washington Heights, a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Upper Manhattan.  The characters are instantly likable. They work hard and play hard.  It is easy to connect with the actors as they display a wide range of human emotion. The themes of the play are universal: struggling to make a living; trying to create a better life for one’s children; falling in and out of love; and navigating the complexities of the human experience. It a completely engrossing story that takes you deep into the lives of the people in the community.

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Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of this play is impressive and Broadway worthy! The set is two levels with the second level extending behind part of the audience. This adds to the intimacy of the show which takes place in the Thrust Theatre at Stage 773, which only has 147 seats. Especially during the full ensemble songs, it feels like a Broadway show that could be taking place in any of the large theatres downtown. The live band (out of sight) is also fantastic.

The cast is incredible.  They flawlessly belt out song after song with powerful voices.  The dancing and choreography is also top of the line. The audience was completely engaged throughout the performance, hooting and cheering at times with delight. All fans of Hamilton and of musical theatre will enjoy this show immensely.

Get your tickets now for In The Heights through November 19th!

Quinn Delaney

About 5% of the dialog is in Spanish. You don’t need to know Spanish to understand the story, but there are some phrases that you may not understand. Here are some translations to help:

¿Qué pasó? – What happened?
Paciencia Y Fe – Patience And Faith
Inutil – Useless
No Me Diga – Don’t Tell Me
Carnaval Del Barrio – Neighborhood carnival (party)
Siempre – Always
Abuela – Grandmother
Te Adoro, Te Quiero – I adore you, I love you
Coje la salida quince – Take Exit 15
acamelo de aqui y metemelo aquí – take it out of here and put it here
¿Como esta? – How are you?
Piragua – a Puerto Rican shaved ice dessert
Sigue andando el camino por toda su vida. Respira. – Keep walking down the road for all your life. Breathe.
Y si pierdas mis huellas que te dios bendiga – And if you lose my directions, God bless you.

ALL PHOTOS BY GRETCHEN KELLEY

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Excellent! The California Honeydrops at Lincoln Hall (September 10, 2016)

The California Honeydrops don’t just play their instruments on stage, they put on a party. Tonight’s party was with a sold out crowd at their largest Chicago show to date. Early on in their first set, they play a Wilson Pickett cover, “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You”. “It may be greener on the other side now baby, but right here in my arms is where you belong.” They make this song their own and turn it into a slow groove party starter. The audience can’t help but start swaying back and forth and singing along. It also matches a common theme in their songs about relationships. It goes very well with the first set closer, “When It Was Wrong”. “Do you remember when we were hiding out? Just a sneaking out, a little making out? Now that you’re here to stay you know the thrill is gone.” They jam on this song for over 10 minutes and they could have gone on much longer. It’s a fantastically fun song that gets better the more you hear it.

In the second set, they play “Long Way”. “I know we’ve come a long way, still got a long way to go.” It’s about the fight for equal rights for everyone and it’s another example of the great lyrics of their songs matched with a great melody. Later on, they play “Pumpkin Pie” in the style they used to play at BART stations, with the drummer on a washboard and everyone standing close together at the front of the stage. “If they ask you for a slice, well you can give them beans and rice!” It’s a sweet tune to sing along and dance with. It was also specifically requested by the audience.

To close out the night, they come into the audience in their “mobile” mode and play instrumental surrounded by their adoring fans. The show started at 9pm and it’s now well past midnight. “We keep playing till they kick us off,” the lead singer says. When they finally do finish, everyone has a giant smile on their face. This band is definitely on the way up and they sure know how to party!

Quinn Delaney

 

 

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Fantastic! Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins and The Cactus Blossoms at the Chicago Theatre (September 8. 2016)

As part of the Rabbit Fur Coat Anniversary tour, Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins played the entire 10 year old album.  The concert began with the three vocalists walking down the middle aisle from the back of the theatre up on to the stage singing “Run Devil Run”. The set ended with the trio walking out using the same aisle singing “Happy (Reprise)”. It was a really cool way to bookend the set.  

For the second set, the band played songs that highlighted Jenny Lewis’ career.  When the first few chords of “Just One of The Guys” were played, the crowd cheered. “No matter how I try, to be just one of the guys, there’s a little something inside that won’t me!” It’s such a fun song to dance and sing along to and ultimately puts a smile on everyone’s face. Later on, Jenny invited the opening band, Cactus Blossoms, to join her to play “Handle with Care” by the Traveling Wilburys. The stage filled with talented musicians who alternated singing the verses of this exuberant and happy song.

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To close out the night, the band played “She’s Not Me” from The Voyager album. “All those times we were making love, I never thought we’d be breaking up.” It’s such a heart breaking song about being jealous of an ex’s new lover. Tonight, the bridge was extended to give each member of the band a solo. The two guitarists had been rocking all night long and fantastic solos were played in this final song.  It was a perfect finale to a great night of music at The Chicago Theatre.

Quinn Delaney

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Dramatic and Humorous! Chimera Ensemble Presents Sister Cities at The Den Theatre (August 26, 2016)

Sister Cities is the story of four half-sisters who come home after their mother’s death.  They are named after the cities they were born in: Austin, Baltimore, Dallas, and Carolina. Mary, the mother, admits Carolina is a state.  “Carolina on My Mind” by James Taylor was “on her mind”. “I think that’s why she always felt a little bit left out,” she says in a flashback scene. The story is a bit reminiscent of The Big Chill, in which a bunch of college friends return to their college town after a friend passes away. In both stories, the characters return to a group they had mostly left behind and the emotions are strong.

Sister Cities deals with some heavy issues very tastefully. Topics such as abortion and assisted suicide. These deep dramatic discussions are mixed in with humor among the sisters who used to be very close. It’s a very intimate show with real characters portrayed fantastically by the actresses and it fits in well at the Den Theatre.  With Hang On To Your Shorts and this production, the Chimera Ensemble is quickly proving itself to be a strong theatre company with a solid foundation.

Get your tickets now through September 18th!

Quinn Delaney

See our review of Hang On To Your Shorts here.