Monthly Archives: April 2018

Acoustic Folk! Joe George opening for Frances Luke Accord at The Hideout (April 27, 2018)

Joe George is a singer-songwriter based in Chicago. Tonight is just him on an acoustic guitar for most of the set and on piano for a few songs. It’s a soft and beautiful folk sound that is similar to the music Michael Dorman plays on the Amazon show, Patriot. They both have great vocals and smooth guitar playing.

In the middle of the set, he assures us that if we get his record, it contains more singers and great vocal harmonies, which draws a laugh. He has a good stage presence and really connects with the audience.

For the closing song, “Take Me Away”, Joe invites the violin player, Katie, from Frances Luke Accord to join him on stage. She had only learned the song that right before he took the stage. This is very impressive as she does a fantastic job. It’s even more impressive when it turns out she hadn’t slept last night and had instead driven all the way to Chicago from Flint, Michigan.

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Joe is now in the midst of a project to release a new song and a new video every month. Check out his website here: http://www.joegeorgemusic.net/music/

Quinn Delaney

Also, Frances Luke Accord were excellent. See our past review of them here.

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Best of Chicago! Porchlight Music Theatre Presents Memphis at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts (April 25, 2018)

On October 19, 2009, Memphis opened on Broadway. In 2010, it won four Tony Awards including Best Musical. And now, on April 25, 2018, Porchlight Music Theatre opens it’s production at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

Huey Calhoun is a white man living in 1950s Memphis, Tennessee. He discovers the music of the black community there and he enthusiastically wants to share it with the world. Felicia Farrell is a black singer at the club who is hesitant to trust Huey. At the white radio station, Huey also runs into resistance.  But, he eventually wins them over. Many more struggles lie ahead as Huey and Felicia fight the institutional racism across Memphis and they begin to fall for each other.

The performances in this production are fantastic. First off, the singing by the entire cast is fantastic. Especially by Aeriel Williams (Felicia), who has an outstanding voice. The dancing by the entire cast is excellent with the choreography by Christopher Carter. Also, the comedic chops by James Earl Jones II as the janitor are top of the line. He has the entire audience cracking up with even the smallest actions. Lastly, the strong stage presence of Lorenzo Rush, Jr. is impressive as Felicia’s brother.

Just like their previous show, Billy Elliot, the show size is very impressive. There are 38 people in the cast and 6 musicians in the band. It’s of a Broadway worthy scale in the very intimate space of The Ruth Page Center for the Arts which only seats 218! This is Chicago theatre at its best!

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Get tickets now for Memphis through June 10th!

Quinn Delaney

Don’t Miss! Into The Ark opening for Tom Jones at the House of Blues Chicago (May 12-13, 2018)

Coming this May to the House of Blues is Into The Ark. The band consists of Dane Lloyd (26) and Taylor Jones (21) who are both from Blackwood in South Wales. Their style is Northern Soul.

In January of 2017, Into The Ark entered The Voice UK on ITV1 with the promise of regularly performing to a televised audience of millions too much to resist. Mentored and coached by Sir Tom Jones, their progress throughout the series was apparent for all to see, and fans were won over by their personalities as much as their music. They eventually finished as runners up, but the story didn’t end there. Sir Tom Jones subsequently invited them to open on his huge outdoor summer shows, and they͛ll join him in May/June of 2018 when they play nineteen shows in what will be their debut North American and Canadian tour.

Get tickets now for Into The Ark opening for Tom Jones at the House of Blues Chicago on Saturday May 12th or Sunday May 13th!

Quinn Delaney

Review: Firebrand Theatre Presents 9 to 5 The Musical at The Den Theatre (April 19, 2018)

The musical is based on the 1980 film of the same name starring Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin. In 2009, the musical opened on Broadway starring Allison Janney, Stephanie J. Block, Megan Hilty and Marc Kudisch. And now, in April 2018, Firebrand Theatre opens a production at The Den Theatre.

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Three female coworkers decide to kidnap their sexist boss and take over their office. There is the newcomer who is just trying to fit in. There is the woman who everyone assumes is having an affair with the boss. And then there is the long time employee who wants to run the company herself.

The show opens with the titular song and sets a great tone for the show. It’s greatly choreographed for the large cast. There are 12 actors and a four piece band.

“Heart To Hart” is a very funny piece. It features one of the secretaries singing about what she could get her hands on the boss.

Get tickets now for 9 to 5 The Musical through May 20th!

Quinn Delaney

Theatre/Concert: Our Great Tchaikovsky featuring Hershey Felder at Steppenwolf Theatre (April 18, 2018)

This is Hershey Felder’s eighth part of a nine part series of taking on famous composers. The seventh one was Irving Berlin and his final one will be Claude Debussy. And for this one, Pyotr Ill’yich Tchaikovsky is his subject. The show is promoted as theatre, but it feels more like a classical concert. Between songs, Felder becomes the composer telling his story. It begins with his parents discouraging him from music because it is “for girls” and it ends with his mysterious death. Along the way, his many struggles and triumphs are detailed that provide a great context to the music.

Hershey Felder is absolutely an amazing piano player. His hands seem to just glide across the keyboard and create beautiful notes. He also has a great charm and love of storytelling that comes across in between songs. It’s no wonder that this nine part series has been so successful for him.

The playlist includes a medley of songs from The Nutcracker. Many of the melodies are instantly recognizable and bring smiles to the audience. It also instantly brings to mind the Joffrey Ballet’s annual performance of this piece each December. Also, this year, the Joffrey will perform Swan Lake, which is also part of tonight’s setlist.

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Get tickets now for Our Great Tchaikovsky through May 13th!

Quinn Delaney

Hilarious! The Doppelgänger (an international farce) at Steppenwolf Theatre (April 17, 2018)

Thomas (played by Rainn Wilson) is a wealthy British businessman who has organized an international resource political meeting. In addition to the business leaders visiting his house, he has also invited Jimmy (also played by Wilson), his doppelgänger and Rosie, a revolutionary posing as a maid. When Thomas accidentally poisons himself, Rosie convinces Jimmy to pretend to be Thomas in order to get her worker’s rights resolution passed. Hilarity and drama ensue.

There are a lot of laughs in this play. There are many instances of slapstick comedy as they try to hide Thomas’ body from the guests. There is also funny dialog such as when Jimmy says, “Haven’t I been acting funny?” One of the guests responds, “Well, comedy is so subjective.” But also, there are some very serious moments mixed in about conflict minerals, greed, and war. The jokes are the sugar to help this medicine go down.

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Rainn Wilson is fantastic in this production. As Thomas, he plays it straight, which makes his performance as the goofy Jimmy all the more funny. His comedic chops which he honed on The Office are on full display. Celeste M. Cooper (previously at Steppenwolf in BLKS) is also fantastic as Rosie.  She’s constantly running around the stage trying to keep up the whole ruse.

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There are many similarities in this production to Steppenwolf’s production at the end of last year, The Minutes. They are both about politics, and the backroom deals underlying them. They are also both very funny and end with a big dramatic scene that leave the audience stunned. And lastly, they are both great examples of the world class fresh new productions for which this theatre is known.

Get tickets now for The Doppelgänger (an international farce) through May 27th!

Quinn Delaney

Wonderful! Company at Mercury Theatre (April 14, 2018)

In 1970, Company first premiered on April 26th. That year it won six Tony Awards. In 2011, a star studded cast performed the show and it was released as a film. The cast included Neil Patrick Harris, Jon Cryer, Stephen Colbert, Christina Hendricks, and many more. And now, in April of 2018, it opens at Mercury Theatre.

 

It’s Bobby’s 35th birthday party in New York City. All his friends are married, and he definitely feels the pressure to do the same. However, he doesn’t seem ready to be married, or even able to maintain a long term relationship with any of the women he dates. Thus, he seeks female “company” from his married friends. The story builds and builds to the fantastic final song, “Being Alive”.

This show marks the grand opening of the Venus Cabaret Theatre. It’s a fantastic space filled with tables at varying heights and a full bar. It perfectly matches the setting of the play as a great place for a party. Also, appetizers and cake are served to the audience giving the production a very immersive feel.

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The entire cast sings fantastically and it sounds great in the intimate space. Allison Sill is absolutely hilarious as April, the flight attendant. It’s reminiscent of her great performance as Ulla in The Producers. In both roles, she is so charming and completely steals the scenes she is in. Also, Heather Townsend is great as the mysterious Joanne. She gives the role a great complexity.

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Get tickets now to Company through June 3rd!

Quinn Delaney