Izzy Bizu enters the stage wearing a robe. She sings in a jazzy seductive manner that immediately draws the crowd in. As she sings Circles, she dances around in a flirty manner. It’s impossible not to smile as she soulfully sings “It’s like trying get blood out of a stone. I’m just a vicious circle.” To close out her set, she plays the fantasticly peppy White Tiger, which whips the crowd into a dance party with its syncopated chords and strong bass line. Every girl in the audience wants to be her friend and every guy wants to take her out dancing. When her 30 minute set ends, the crowd is left wanting more. The future is looking good for Izzy Bizu.
The Fundamentals is the story of Millie, a housekeeper in New York luxury hotel. She was pre-med in college when she became pregnant and decided to drop out. After being a housekeeper for 9 years, she is more than ready to move into management. In order to advance, she needs to prove herself as a leader. She starts by reporting that one of the managers has been running a prostitution ring in the hotel. She is aware of many other rules being broken. How many other people will she throw under the bus to advance her career?
Alana Arenas’ performance as Millie is very impressive. She starts the play as the person everyone loves and is rooting for to succeed. However, as the story progresses, the choices she chooses makes it harder to be on her side. It’s very similar to Breaking Bad in this way where the audience has to decide after each choice if they are really still pulling for the main character and if their actions can be explained. Millie is faced with some very difficult situations and it’s hard to say if she chose correctly. Is it all fair in love and war AND career?
Get tickets now for The Fundamentals through December 23rd!
Lydia Loveless enters the stage wearing a big red Bloodshot Records sweatshirt. “I’m glad they gave me something to warm my tits. Fuck it’s cold here!” It’s this type of spunk that her audience loves. It matches Elle King, whom she should definitely tour with.
Towards the end of the set, her band leaves and she sings with just her acoustic guitar. She even threw in a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”. Her ability to go loud with a full band and soft alone showcases her range as a great singer.
When her band returns, she says “this is the encore. I hate when bands leave the stage and then come back.” However, after leaving the stage with her band, the audience demands more and she does come back to play an additional song. Many people had left already, so it results in a very intimate final song. It was a great finish to a solid night of music.
Greg Kot was thoroughly enjoying the show next to the sound booth. See his great review here.
During the balcony talk, an audience member asks “If you find yourself completely lost halfway through the performance, what should you do?” “If that is the case,” says the choreographer, “I have failed.” He goes on to explain that the dances tonight don’t have narratives like a play. Instead, they are abstract explorations of ideas and emotions. He encourages the audience to just lose themselves in the experience without searching for an exact meaning in the four pieces.
Falling Angels is the counterpart to Sarabande. It has all women dancing compared to Sarabande which is all men.
Sarabande is an intense experience. It’s dark, creepy, and scary like the depths of hell. Using electronically manipulated sound and the performers screams, an atmosphere of dark bizarreness is created. It’s a very artistic piece that leaves the audience aghast.
Terrain explores earthly landscapes through dance. It includes rolling hills, bumbling streams, and a tornado flying over them. It’s a very fluid performance.
Niebla is a Spanish word which translates to fog. On stage there is a plane of blue light highlighting a fog of smoke. At times the blue light is replaced by a string of white lights behind the dancers. Both of these lighting choices are very well done and create an artistic atmosphere through which the performers glide through.
Get your tickets now for today’s final performance!
There’s a reason they call it The Greatest Show on Earth. It will make you feel like a kid again with awe and excitement. Here are 10 of them:
- Contortionists bending in ways that seem impossible.
- Goats balancing on a spinning wheel.
- Lions standing on their two hind legs.
- Performers doing front flips off trampolines wearing ice skates.
- A tiger walking on its two hind legs.
- Dirt bikes circling around a steel sphere narrowly avoiding collisions.
- The perfect timing of trapeze artists flipping through the air and then being caught by another person swinging.
- Many impressive feats were done on horses as they run quickly around in a circle in the center of the floor. One lady does the splits while being held up by two men riding horses.
- The most impressive was a woman who went around the horse’s neck with a look of complete concentration on her face.
- She then immediately tops herself by going around by passing underneath the horse and risking being trampled.
Get your tickets now for the United Center shows through November 27th!
Apartment 3A is where Annie moves after a bad breakup. She works at a public television station where she gets in trouble during a pledge drive for saying Big Bird will die if they don’t get enough donations. Also, her older neighbor keeps wandering into her apartment uninvited. The neighbor has a lot of live and love advice for her.
A very interesting scene takes place where she is on a lunch date with her coworker and the audience sees her talking to her neighbor about it simultaneously. It leads to very funny moments as she reacts politely at the lunch, but then explains how she was really feeling to her neighbor. The acting here is very good. All the characters are very likeable and fun and a pleasure to watch.
The music choices are a bit out of place to end each act. “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye plays to end the first act. It sharply contrast the mood and just comes off as tacky. To end the play, a Goo Goo Dolls song plays that is also very unfitting. Other than these songs, the production is solid.
Get tickets now for Apartment 3A through December 18th!
Deer and the Lovers is the story of a couple taking a weekend getaway to a cabin in the woods. Their plans are interrupted when they discover a dead deer halfway inside the house. Things get further off track when the guy’s sister shows up uninvited with her husband.
There are some laughs in this production, but not enough for it to stand as a comedy. The characters are a bit flat and the audience doesn’t really care about them. Thus, even when developments occur, there is little reaction from the characters and the crowd as well. It seems like the story could make for a good play, but something is off in this version.
Deer and the Lovers is running through December 3rd.
“Most days of the week, this is a song of anticipation, but today, it is a song of regret.” This is Hiss Golden Messenger’s intro to Saturday’s Song. Perhaps he means that his Saturday didn’t quite live up to his expectations. The song did seem a bit lower key than when he performed it on a Saturday at the Hogs for the Cause festival last year in New Orleans (See the review here).
“This one is about coming home”, the lead singer, M.C. Taylor, says right before playing Mahogany Dread. This tune features a solid baseline and beat that everyone can’t help but tap their feet along to. On “Lucia”, he sings “She was beautiful” over and over. He could be singing about the song itself, as it is a beautiful track.
The Old Town School of Folk Music is a perfect venue for this blend of southern rock and folk. It’s a very intimate space with assigned seating. “I’m enjoying how quiet we all are together” says Taylor. Even between songs, the audience is completely silent so as not to miss anything the bands says or does.
Tift Merritt opened the show and she also joined the band for most of their set. She has a great voice and is also a talented guitar and keyboard player. It was definitely a bonus to have her join the band and make this a great night of music in a fantastic space.
HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER SETLIST
CHICAGO, IL – 11/6/16
AS THE CROW FLIES
DAY O DAY
HEART LIKE A LEVEE
TELL HER I’M JUST DANCING
LIKE A MIRROR LOVES A HAMMER
CALL HIM DAYLIGHT
RED ROSE NANTAHALA
O LITTLE LIGHT
SAY IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT
FLAGS AND BANNERS
(PHIL INCIDENTAL MUSIC / MIKE TUNING)
JOHN THE GUN
Chagrin Falls is a small town in Oklahoma where you can work at either the slaughterhouse or the prison where executions take place. Either way, your work involves death on a regular basis. The friendly residents try to keep happy, but it’s very difficult to avoid being ruined by this town. We learn about all the people living in Chagrin Falls along with a female graduate student in town to do a story on the man scheduled for execution. She gets a full picture of what it is like to live in this town along with learning a lot about herself. The definition of chagrin is a feeling of being frustrated or annoyed because of failure or disappointment which many of the characters have.
The production of this play is done fantastically by The Agency Theatre Collective. The casting is spot on as each actor fully embodies their character. Jennifer Cheung as Patrice greatly shows the eagerness of a journalist student trying to prove herself. Denise Hoeflich as Irene exemplifies the town mother as the owner of the hotel trying to take care of everyone. Robert Koon as Riley excellently portrays the recently retired man wrestling his demons. Joe Lino as Reverend Johnny does his best to bring joy and peace to everyone. Merrick Robison as Henry is absolutely delightful as the one resident able to keep a smile on his face. And finally, Cody Lucas as Thaddeus is extraordinary as he tries to keep himself together just long enough to escape this town.
Take a trip to Chagrin Falls now through December 11th!
Fun Home isn’t your typical big Broadway sing and dance production. Instead, it’s more intimate, emotional, and styled like a Steppenwolf play. Specifically, it shares a lot in common with Mary Page Marlowe. Both shows have multiple actresses playing the same character at different times in her life. Both jump around in time, both forwards and backwards. And finally, both are extremely well written and executed.
In Fun Home, which is short for funeral home, the children perform an imaginary advertisement for the funeral home called Come to the Fun Home. The choreography is so fun and hilarious. It shows off the talents perfectly of the child actors in the show. Everyone had a smile on their face after this funky jam.
Another amazing song is Changing My Major which Allison sings about being excited and joyful after having had sex with Joan. It’s such a fun song about teenage love and self-discovery. It showcases the singing and comedic talent of the actress playing college aged Allison.
For the best song of the show, the youngest Alison notices a butch delivery woman and feels an inexplicable kinship with her (Ring of Keys). The song sends shivers through the audience as she begins to discover herself in this woman. Also, the song sounds beautiful too as it just bursts with joy.
Catch this winner of five 2015 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, now through November 13th!