Magnificent! Joffrey Ballet Presents Anna Karenina at The Auditorium Theatre (Through February 24, 2019)

Anna Karenina has a void in her life. Her husband and son are not enough for her. She seeks a new love with Vronsky. Things don’t go smoothly for her on this journey in a snowy Russia.

The dancing in the production is fantastic. Amanda Assucena’s performance as Anna Akrenina is impressive. She is so emotionally expressive. It’s also a true feat of endurance as she is on stage for most of the scenes. Greig Matthews as Vronskey and Temur Suluashvili as Anna’s husband are excellent, especially in the scene where they are both dancing with Anna. It’s an expertly choreographed dance with the three of them moving as one.

Victoria Jaiani_Alberto Velazquez_Fabrice Calmels_Photo by Cheryl Mann

The original score was created by Ilya Demutsky specifically for this production. It is played magnificently by The Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra along with the operatic singing in Russian. Unfortunately, there aren’t surtitles translating it into English like they do at most operas. It could also be helpful to have surtitles describing the action taking place on stage. Or, maybe it’s best not to have them and not worry about the meaning of the words and just get swept up in the emotion.

Victoria Jaiani_Photo by Cheryl Mann

Get tickets now for Anna Karenina through February 24!

Quinn Delaney

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Mr. Wow! Cirque du Soleil Presents Volta in San Jose (Through March 24, 2019) and then in Chicago (May 18, 2019 – June 23, 2019)

Volta is a very entertaining show with many fantastic moments. Here are some of the best moments.

The trampoline scene with the two story wall in the middle: Can they add this to my local trampoline park?

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When Mr. Wow first appears on stage in his fantastic costume: Seriously, is this available for purchase as a Halloween costume?!

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For about half the crowd, when the unicycler removes his shirt: Has he ever eaten a carb?

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The double dutch: Holy cow, they move so fast it’s a blur!

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The washing machine scene: A great bit of clowning that is really funny!

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The woman being suspended by her hair: Wow, this in incredible!

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The BMX bikers: Watching them spin their handlebars and flip and then nailing the landing is like a shot of adrenaline!

Cost of a ticket: $70 and up (Note: There isn’t a bad seat in the house)
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Get tickets now for Volta in San Jose through March 24 and then in Chicago (May 18, 2019 – June 23, 2019).

Quinn Delaney

 

 

 

Amazing! Broadway in Chicago Presents Dear Evan Hansen at The James M. Nederlander Theatre (Through March 10, 2019 and July 7, 2020 through September 27, 2020)

“Dear Evan Hansen” was the darling of the 2017 Tonys, sweeping up a total of 6 awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, which went to the original Evan Hansen, Ben Platt.

Now the tour has reached Chicago with a new Evan/Ben, this time with Ben Levi Ross. And for those who worried that Platt’s shoes would be too big to fill, worry not.

I truly believe the show is best seen without a full summary of the plot (which you can surely find elsewhere), but to give the barest of an overview. The show is about Evan, an anxious high school student without any real friends. Quickly, he becomes entangled in a lie that grows bigger and bigger, with painful consequences. The story is about mental health, grief, the relationships between parents and their children, and the universal desire to matter, to be known, to be found.

2 - The Company of the First North American Tour of Dear Evan Hansen. Photo by Matthew Murphy. 2018

Ross fully inhabits the role, putting the character’s internal struggles and pain on full display. And his voice? You can hardly believe it’s coming out of a lean 21 year old. He sings with such emotion, such power and the highest notes in the show are comfortably within his range.

And with all of the praise for Ross, he is matched by the entire cast. Maggie McKenna presents a touching portrait of a character both guarded and vulnerable (not to mention the beautiful tone of her voice). Jessica Phillips and Christiane Noll, each playing a mother in the show, both grab your heart every single minute they are on stage.

Catch this tour of Dear Evan Hansen if you can through March 10th. And if not, the show returns next summer, July 7, 2020. Tickets to the return engagement will go on sale to the public February 19, 2019. Don’t miss it twice!

Quinn Delaney

Heartfelt! Spending the End of the World on Ok Cupid at Pear Theatre (Through February 17, 2019)

It’s the morning of the last day ever. The world is ending at midnight. Yesterday half of the population disappeared like in The Leftovers. Many people turn to Ok Cupid for one last chance at a connection. They are looking for someone to accompany them as they check off their bucket list. To have a $20 coffee at Black, to eat the Ten-Star Burger, to get a tattoo, or to just watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Will they find love? Will the world end?

 

 

The cast does an excellent job. They are confused and unsure how to spend their final day. Their search for meaning is evident on their faces and with their body language. It creates a very real and of the moment experience. It’s funny throughout and also emotionally touching. It made for a great Valentine’s Day night, and any date night for that matter.

 

Get tickets now for Spending the End of the World on Ok Cupid through February 17th!

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Cost of a ticket: $32

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

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Quinn Delaney

UK Rock! The Kooks at The Fox Theatre in Oakland (February 11, 2019)

It’s a Monday night in Oakland, California and the Fox Theatre is packed for The Kooks. It’s a very young crowd gathered to hear this band from the UK rock the roof off. They play one great song after another such as “All The Time” and “Sway”, keeping the energy level high throughout the evening. Before you realize it, an hour has passed and the show is almost over.

Then, the entire band except for the lead singer leaves the stage. He leads everyone in a giant singalong of “Seaside” on acoustic guitar. It manages to feel intimate despite the large size of the theatre. Following “Seaside”, the band returns and rocks through “Junk Of The Heart (Happy)” to close out the set. Nobody leaves as the crowd gets really loud demanding an encore. The Kooks happily oblige and return to play “No Pressure” and “Naïve”. They are two great songs that have the crowd jumping up and down so much that the floor bends. Also, the lead singer from Barns Courtney, one of the opening bands, is spotted in the crowd enjoying the fun atmosphere.

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Cost of a ticket: $35

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value –

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Hilarious! King of the Yees at the San Francisco Playhouse (Through March 2, 2019)

Lauren Yee is a 30 year old Chinese woman from San Francisco. Her father, Larry Yee, is a proud member of the Yee Family Association, a Chinese American men’s club. When he goes missing, Lauren must go on a quest through Chinatown to find him. It’s a wild journey that includes solving riddles, dancing, and speaking in Chinese.  The quest is reminiscent of Monty Python’s The Search for the Holy Grail with the riddles and the odd challenges presented to her. In addition, they are both very entertaining and fun.

The answer to the riddle in this video is a key component of the play.

The cast is absolutely fantastic. Francis Jue (Obie and Lucille Lortel Award Winner) is earnestly funny as Larry, who is so proud to be a Yee. Krystle Piamonte is great as Lauren, sharing this journey with the audience. Jomar Tagatac is absolutely hilarious as Shrimp Boy, the gangster who runs Chinatown. Will Dao is so funny as the Model Ancestor and as another character whose surprise is too great to spoil. Rinabeth Apostol is excellent as the Whiskey Seller and the female FBI officer.

The soundtrack for this show is great. It is especially enjoyable during the dance montage scene when clips from “Gangnam Style”, “Thriller”, and more are played. It really creates a fun atmosphere in the theatre.

Get tickets now for King of the Yees through March 2nd!

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Cost of a ticket: $25 – $85 (Go with the $55 tickets)
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

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Quinn Delaney

Violently Hilarious! Hand to God at Altarena Playhouse (Through February 10, 2019)

From Broadway to London’s West End and to Alameda’s Altarena Playhouse is Hand to God. It is the story about Jason and his hand puppet, Tyrone. His mother, Margery, teaches a puppet ministry class at the church. This is where we see that Jason is a quiet timid kid and Tyrone is a loud, obnoxious, and foul-mouthed puppet. In this production, the actors need to differentiate a bit more between their voice and their puppets voice. At times they would use a distinct tone, but at other times they would just use their own tone.

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The vulgarity of this play is similar to the style of South Park and Book of Mormon. Tyrone is able to be very offensive because he is just a puppet.  Hearing him say and do nasty things is hilarious. This relates to the cartoon children on South Park speaking foul language. Still, South Park is a TV show and couldn’t get away with the puppet sex scene that takes place. The entire theatre was simultaneously aghast and laughing hysterically during this raunchy scene. The expressions on the human’s faces during this scene made it even better.

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When Tyrone attacks, things get bloody. The audience is shocked by the sudden violence. But once again, they can’t help but laugh because it’s a puppet. There are so many funny scenes that must be seen, but not by children. The content is definitely R-rated. When the show ends after less than two hours, the crowd is left wanting more. This is a great sign of a show well done.

Get tickets now for Hand to God through Sunday!

 

Cost of a ticket: $30

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price +

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

 

Quinn Delaney