Ron Funches, aka Shelly on NBC’s Undateable, is a funny guy, seriously. While he is on stage, he talks to the audience like they are all old friends. “I’m rich!” he proclaims. “Not rich enough to buy a house, but I’ve got Amazon Prime.” He hopes he will be able to buy a house eventually with comedy money. He looks forward to meeting the neighbors after moving in. He would ask them what they do for a living and most likely respond “Wow, that sucks!” Then he would respond that his job is to get stoned and then mumble into a microphone for an hour. The audience is loving it. Someone near the front says to their friend, “he’s funny!” He responds, “Yes, I’m funny. Were you expecting me to be serious?!” After saying this, he smiles and giggles, which is common for them and a bit unexpected at first from a large black man. He enjoys performing and cracking himself up so much that it’s a pleasure to watch him perform. He’ll have that house money in no time!
See our previous review of Ron Funches here.
Georgia Engel stars as Dorothy, the leader of the seniors dance group scheduled to perform at NBA halftime shows. You may recognize her as Mamie from Hot In Cleveland. As in that TV show, this performance is mostly geared towards an older audience. There are a lot of puns such as naming the group RUN DM-Seniors. There are many scenes of the seniors giving life advice to the youth. Also, most of the music is of style from the 50’s.
The best part of the show is when Engel leads the dancers as her alter-ego, Dottie. Hip-Hop dancing and music are right up her alley. She even raps with grace. Even though seniors dancing is the basis of the show, it still seems only sprinkled throughout the two and half hour performance. Instead of focusing on the drama between the dancers, it would be much more interesting to see the drama of learning to dance a modern style late in life.
Gotta Dance at the Bank of America Theatre through Jan. 17th
This is not your typical holiday party. Everyone at Smith and Associates is instructed to take an envelope and are informed that the company is making cuts. Therefore, whoever has a pink slip in their envelope, well… you’re fired! The crowd is aghast! Later on, they get a visit from the executive upstairs, Mr. Associates! “Smith, I heard about your plan with the envelopes and the pink slip.” The audience prepares for severe consequences for this rash behavior. However, Mr. Associates responds with “I think it’s great!” The actor who plays Mr. Associates seemed to be reprising his role as J. Peterman in Zombie Seinfeld. Just as before, his performance was hilarious.
Santa Claus is going through some rough times. Poor Santa found out Mrs. Claus is sleeping with the three wise men and now they are getting divorced. Santa can’t keep up his merry persona and is doing a terrible job trying to be jolly at the mall in Toledo, Ohio. The boss knows he is the real St. Nick, but he has to fire him anyway. The story line is very comical as it displays the all too human side of this cherished character and his dealings with life’s tough issues.
This was the final performance by EEK! Theatre at the Gorilla Tango Theatre. Follow their Facebook page to find out where they will be next!
This is the final year of Robert Joffrey’s version of The Nutcracker. Next year the company will present new choreography. Improving on this grand spectacle will be an enormous responsibility. The stage is completely filled with dancers of all ages in step with the music. From children in costumes such as a gingerbread man to adults dressed as wind up toys. All the sets are stunning and elaborate. For example, the Land of Snow scene is incredible. The snow falls continually and looks amazing in the lights as the dancers move gracefully across the stage. The 15 minute intermission is necessary just to clean the stage!
Tchaikovsky’s score, performed by the Chicago Philharmonic, is fantastic and complements the lavish ballet perfectly. Many of the melodies are instantly recognizable and bring smiles to the audience. Don’t miss this beloved holiday tradition at the Auditorium Theatre now until December 27th.
Francis Guinan is playing Scrooge in Twist your Dickens. Across the hall, the traditional version of A Christmas Carol is also being performed. I would dare to say you could interchange the character of Scrooge as Francis Guinan’s performance is near perfection. It is his exact replication of Scrooge that makes it so funny to see him interact with the Second City actors. When this miserable character is called out on his stinginess, Scrooge responds as only a Scrooge can. When poor George Bailey, from It’s A Wonderful Life, asks him for money, Scrooge draws him a map to the nearest bridge and tells him to go jump. This act alone has the audience thinking that perhaps this Scrooge is even meaner than the original! To add to the satire, someone stands up at the back of the theatre to complain on the lack of accuracy to the original Dickens tale. He notes that vertical filing cabinets were not invented until AFTER 1843! Hilarious! Many other inaccuracies are pointed out which continue delight the audience.
In one scene, a group of orphans are on strike. The orphans have several demands, not just more food (think Oliver). The fist orphan Annie, wishes for all children to be adopted by millionaires! Also present is Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and Batman. Batman wishes to enact violent revenge on those who killed his parents! This wish shocks the other orphans, so Batman decides to reconsider and decides to just ask for better wages.
Additional fun and delightful scenes include parodies of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. The number of different characters in this performance is quite impressive. See the 647 costume changes now in Twist Your Dickens through December 27th!
“It was just one time,” claims Bill, played expertly by Tom Irwin. While he was with a hired prostitute, she accidentally fell down (or was she pushed?). She hit her head hard and fell into a coma. He calls 911 and then his life begins to unravel. Before the trial, his defense attorney reveals to his wife the list of free kinky websites he has visited as he sits silently. “I see a pattern with these websites” says Bill’s wife as the audience laughs. Then, the topic of the credit card transactions arises and Bill gets more uncomfortable. It’s a joy to watch him react without saying a single word. His facial expressions and body language alone speak volumes. The details of the hotel rooms come out and Bill turns away as his wife becomes more enraged. Amazingly, Irwin manages to make Bill likeable even after all the details of his indiscretions are revealed.
The scenes about Bill’s sex scandal are spliced with a presentation about the sexual mysteries of the animal kingdom by his adopted daughter. She reads from index cards as images of the animals are displayed on a large screen behind her. She describes the triplewart seadevil, an anglerfish, in which the female is 10 times the size of the male. The parasitic male permanently attaches himself to the lower hind of the female. He basically becomes an appendage from which the female can draw nutrients and sperm if needed. The crowd is laughing as each new detail is revealed. The speech by itself would be interesting alone, but within the context of a politician’s sex scandal, it’s hilarious.
The entire show is fantastically written and professionally performed. It’s dramatic, hilarious, profound, exciting, and real. Can human males be domesticated? Find out now at Steppenwolf through February 7th.
The Heard open up the night with some serious funk. The band consists of drums, guitar, bass, trumpet, trombone, and keyboard. Towards the end of their set, they play Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of” and the crowd goes nuts. The Heard is becoming a Chicago Funk institution.
The Main Squeeze have already reached that status. Their expertly crafted songs, highlighted by incredible guitar solos and passionate vocals, have earned them a large following. Also, they have their own RATM cover up their sleeve. They play “Bulls on Parade” and the crowd is again delighted. Before playing the final song of the set, the lead singer, Corey Frye, says they are moving to Los Angeles to explore a vibrant new scene. The warm weather probably helps too. So, this is a farewell show of sorts. However, it’s clear they will often return to Chicago, the city that supported them and allowed them to play venues as big as Concord Music Hall.
For the encore, they play a fantastic version of Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose”. The entire crowd sings along as the band makes the song their own. It’s a perfect close to a fantastic night of music.
While not overly seasonal, the concert did manage to put you in the holiday mood by evoking the spirit of a festive cocktail party. With 4 acts in as many hours, attendees were treated to variety of appetizer like sets designed to tempt your pallet while still leaving room for a main course. Elle King began the evening like a pop of champagne: bubbly and fun and helping to lubricate the crowd for the remainder of the acts.
Third Eye Blind delivered a pig in a blanket of a performance – classic and familiar, with a new twist as they played a few tracks from their album, Dopamine. The band is very proud of the new music which they worked extensively on. According to the lead singer, 2015 was the best year they have ever had in their 18 year career and they are looking forward to many more years as a band.
George Ezra was the unexpected delicious treat that you chase after the waiter for – hoping for just one more bite. Personally this blogger can’t wait for the next time he is in Chicago for a full sit down dinner. The evening concluded with some unexpected spice from Nico and Vinz. Not everyone in the crowd could handle the heat but for those who stayed, it proved an enjoyable ending.
Daphna is extremely hostile and confrontational. This aggressive character attacks everyone and refers to them as“Bad Jews”. Daphna takes it to heart that she is one of the “Chosen People” and takes great pride that “22 percent of all Nobel Awards go to Jews!” Her rants are long and combative and they don’t allow anyone else get a word in. It is uncomfortable to watch her as she completely dominates the stage. Thus, it is an absolute joy when her cousin, Liam, steps up and puts her down. His tirade is hilarious and a giant relief from her constant bickering. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop her and she continues doing most of the talking. Her character is so completely one sided that the audience hopes for some redeeming quality which unfortunately never comes.
A story line about their grandfather’s holocaust experience is extremely powerful and leads to the play ending with a very quiet dramatic scene. However, the ending is abruptly followed by loud Jewish rap music. It ruined the final scene by not allowing the action to sink in. The audience felt like they were being suddenly kicked out of the theatre instead of given a minute to process their emotions. Silence would have been a much better choice.
If the Daphna character were more likable and the ending less abrupt, this would be a fantastic and powerful play. As it stands, the good only slightly outweighs the bad. Bad Jews is playing through December 27 at the Royal George Theatre.
Ivan Amodei is a master of illusion. Over the course of 90 minutes, he performs a constant string of tricks that leaves the audience dazzled. How did he do that? I had no idea that was going to happen! Did that really just happen? Along the way, he talks to the audience charmingly about other famous magicians. He mentions Houdini, who was a master of escape. He describes how Houdini would swallow a lock pick, which he would regurgitate and then use to escape prisons. Amodei one-ups him by swallowing a whole shot glass full of colored needles and then pulling them out in the color order requested by the audience. There weren’t any points in the show where it seemed like he was cheating or trying to hide something. It’s an expertly crafted show which all fans of magic should see!