Monthly Archives: December 2016

Top Ten Moments of Cirque Dreams Holidaze at The Eccles Theatre (December 29, 2016)

10. Walking in to the brand new building which just opened in October. It’s a modern work of art and a world class theatre.

9.  Walking into the warm building. It’s incredibly cold outside now!

8.   A man balances on a series of balls, cylinders, and boards. It’s amazing he didn’t fall.

7.   A contortionist bends in ways seemingly impossible with grace. Everyone watches with their mouths gaping open.

6.   A man and a  woman do ice skating tricks with a twist. They are on roller skates and they are on a small circular platform. The man spins in a circle holding onto the woman in many varying positions of her spinning further out than the platform.

spinning-around

5.   Then, using a small rope of hoops around their necks, he spins her hands free around the platform while she simultaneously spins around the rope. It makes the crowd dizzy just watching it!

4.   A male and female aerialist ascend on a hula hoop over 20 feet in the air. The man hangs from the hoop and the woman moves around him and hangs from him just using her legs. This is all while the hoop is spinning.

3.   Then, using the rope of hoops around their necks, he spins her hands free. It’s a fantastic sight to see.

2.   An adult lays on his back with his legs up and a child lies on his feet, Superman style. Then the adult flips and catches the kid using his feet.

1.   He then proceeds to flip him repeatedly with one foot at a time. The audience is stunned. It’s incredibly impressive and unique.

All in all, it’s a well put together show with fantastic costumes and smooth transitions from act to act. Get your tickets now for the last two show tonight and tomorrow!

Quinn Delaney

Street Funk! Lowdown Brass Band at Chop Shop Chicago (December 23, 2016)

All the members of the Lowdown Brass Band start at the front door and march through the restaurant to the area in front of the stage at the back of Chop Shop. This is all while playing an instrumental holiday song. It’s a fantastic entrance that gets the audience excited and ready for a rock show. Then, they take the stage and play Christmas in Hollis by Run-D.M.C.  It showcases the unique lineup of this band: a rapper surround by brass instruments and a drummer. It is also the perfect time for a holiday show, 2 days before Christmas.

The band continues mixing in original songs with fantastic covers. The Next Episode by Snoop Dogg with live brass instruments sounds amazing. Even Snoop himself would be impressed. From their 2011 holiday album, “It’s a Lowdown Christmas”, comes Chicago’s Where I Wanna Be. It’s the perfect combination of holiday, brass, and local flavor and it has everyone happily dancing along.  The chorus is fantastically catchy and makes for a great singalong.

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The show started soon after 11pm and it is just before 1am when they return for their encore. Everyone sings along together, “Let’s Go Get Stoned”. It’s a great close to an excellent night of New Orleans’s style Street Funk. Another dance party successful thrown!

Quinn Delaney

Topical and Hilarious! The Winner… of Our Discontent at The Second City (December 18, 2016)

In the opening scene, two groups are gathered to watch historical events. One is watching Game 7 of the World Series and the other is watching the Presidential Election results. They both start off very hopeful and as the outcomes become more clear, the laughs come. This immediately sets the stage for a very topical night of comedy.

Second City Mainstage. The Winner of our Discontent

© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016

In a later scene, Kelsey Kinney announces: “Welcome to the new reality show, ‘Who wants to be President?’ Because, I guess anyone can be President. I’m Hillary Clinton.” The next contestant is a duo who will be twice as smart as any previous President, because there are two of them. They are going to do an interpretive dance to the audience’s suggestion, Creed. Soon, their 1999 hit, Higher, begins playing, starting at the pre chorus and the actors begin dancing around. “Can you take me higher?” sings Scott Stapp as they put their hands together and kneel to pray. Then, on the next chorus, one of them stands on a chair and puts his hands out to his sides as if on a cross. The entire time the audience is laughing hysterically.

In another scene, they are watering their lawns. “Mine has a bunch of WASPS in it!” Then, from an audience suggestion of rowing, Jamison Webb goes on a rant about the sport of crew. He talks about its history and about the frequency of the crew practice in the reservoir in Lincoln Park during the summer. He speaks very quickly and for a surprisingly long length of time which has the crowd cracking up. Paul Jurewicz then responds, “Well, that’s where you and I differ!” Next, from the audience suggestion of Aleppo, Jamison does another impressive rant about Syrian refugees and the differing political stances of the United States government in handling this issue. Once again, Paul responds, “Well, that’s where you and I differ!”

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In the silliest scene, a man recovering from surgery is entertained by The Bass Man. This one is just too funny to give any spoilers about it. This and other non-political sketches are some of the best of the night. The entire cast does an excellent job and this performance expertly showcases their comedy chops proving once again that Second City is the best comedy theatre in Chicago!

Get tickets now for The Winner… of Our Discontent!

Quinn Delaney

Review: Irish Theatre of Chicago Presents The Weir at the Den Theatre (December 16, 2016)

The Weir is about a group of regulars at a bar telling stories to a new woman who just moved to town. One by one, they tell long haunting stories about the town’s history to a newcomer. It’s a regular old night at the pub and a slow burn of a play.

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Theatre is at its best when it shows a story instead of just tells one. An hour and a half of fictional characters just telling stories is a test of an audience’s attention span, especially with the thick Irish accents used. It’s also just one long scene. It would be much more interesting if each time a story begins, they cut to a separate part of the stage and the story is acted out.

Get tickets now for The Weir through January 22nd.

Quinn Delaney

Also see our review of Spinning by the Irish Theatre of Chicago.

Expert Production! The Christians at Steppenwolf (December 13, 2016)

Pastor Paul (played expertly by Tom Irwin) has spent twenty years building a megachurch and now that the debt is paid off, he is ready to make a radical change. He declares in his sermon that there is no hell and that everyone is saved by Jesus. This is drastically different than what he previously preached, and the congregation is deeply stirred by the announcement. The first person to speak up is Associate Pastor Joshua who argues passionately with Pastor Paul over this divisive issue. The audience watches as the church begins to split apart at the seam.  The future of the church is on unsteady ground.

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The set is a perfect recreation of a megachurch. All the chairs are in exactly the right position. The band is correctly positioned on the left. Two large screens on either side of the stage display visuals along with lyrics to the songs. The carpet is the correct shade of purple.  A giant cross hangs on the back wall. It’s amazing that all of this was built temporarily for this performance.

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The choir begins singing 10 minutes before show time as people are finding their seats.  They encourage everyone to sing and clap along to the songs which has the effect of transforming the audience into the congregation of the church. Then, when Pastor Paul takes the stage to deliver his sermon, he speaks directly to the crowd. He asks for everyone to bow their heads to pray, and many do because everything feels so real.

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Of all the plays at Steppenwolf this year, this one had the largest amount of people stay for the talk-back. One audience member, who grew up going to a megachurch, was very impressed with the recreation. Because it was so accurate, he noticed the smallest detail that was out of place. When the Associate Pastor read from the Bible a few different times, he was clearly not on the right page based on the order of the chapters. It was only because the entire production was so real, that this small discrepancy could even be perceived. It truly is an expertly executed performance.

Will the church survive the schism? Will Christianity itself survive or go the way of many other dead religions? Can you live with someone who has different core beliefs (religious or political) than you?

Get your tickets now for The Christians through January 29th!

Quinn Delaney

Also see our reviews of Domesticated with Tom Irwin and Hillary and Clinton written by the same playright, Lucas Hnath.

Muy Bien! La Gringa at UrbanTheatre Company (December 8, 2016)

La Gringa is the story of Maria, the child of Puerto Rican immigrants living in New York, where she is seen as a foreigner. She travels to Puerto Rico to explore her roots and feel like a local. However, they also treat her as a foreigner, a “Gringa”. She desperately wants to be accepted there. She is also learning Spanish during her trip and the audience will learn some Spanish too, if they don’t already know it. In the Spanish version of this play, which is the longest running Off-Broadway play in New York Latino Theatre history, they had to adjust this part of the story. In that version, Maria speaks Spanish, somewhat incorrectly, at the start, and then her Spanish improves to a basic, decent elementary level.

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While most of the story was in English, there is still a lot of Spanish in the performance. Most of the laughs seemed to come after someone said something in Spanish. Here is a list of translations to help out:

Atabey – Mother Earth

Coqui – A small frog-like animal, indigenous on to Puerto Rico

Guiro – A small percussive instrument

Jibaro – Farmer

Platano – Plantain

Yucca – an indigenous root

The UrbanTheatre is a very small space that only fits 70 seats for the audience. Six of these seats are even on the stage! This creates a very intimate environment for a story that rings very close to home for the Latin community in Chicago. Whether you are part of this community or if you want to learn more about it, this is a fantastic show for you.

Get tickets now for the extension of La Gringa through January 28th!

Quinn Delaney

Wow! Broadway in Chicago Presents The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at The Oriental Theatre (December 7, 2016)

Christopher is a 15 year old boy on a mission to solve the mystery of the neighbor’s murdered dog. During his search, he discovers another major mystery which intensifies his search for answers. Christopher has a very analytical mind that allows him to piece together the clues, but his social skills are strongly lacking. Everything is very dramatic to him, so it’s very dramatic to the audience too. This play is incredibly immersive. During the quiet emotional scenes, the entire theatre is perfectly silent and paying full attention.

Original tracks from the show composed by Adrian Sutton. Listen while reading the review.

The music for this production by Adrian Sutton is fantastic. At times, it creates a strong feeling of excitement and power which perfectly matches the tone of the scene. At other times, the music is eerie and mysterious and it completely draws the audience into the world of the play.

 

Les Liaisons Dangeruses
Booth Theatre

 

The scenic and lighting design by Bunny Christie and Paule Constable is incredible. Upon first entering the theatre, it just looks like a simple grid. However, as the play progresses, the set comes to life with the walls lighting up, secret compartments being opened , and the revelation that the walls and floor can be written on. The set then feels full of possibilities like the holodeck in the Star Trek universe. The London Underground subway scene is especially impressive.

 

During the play, Christopher is interrupted when he begins to explain a math problem to the crowd. He is promised that he can return after the curtain call and explain it to whomever wants to hear it.  Stick around after the show and hear Christopher’s explanation.  His use of the impressive set to answer the problem is a visual wonderment.

 

Get tickets now for this fantastically unique Tony Award winning show through December 24th!

 

Quinn Delaney