Monthly Archives: July 2018

Hilarious! Avenue Q at Mercury Theatre (Through September 9, 2018)

In 2004, Avenue Q won the Tony “Triple Crown” for Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book. In 2014, it premiered at the Mercury Theatre. And now, in 2018, it returns to the Mercury with original cast members Jackson Evans and Leah Morrow.

This is a coming of age tale about Princeton, a recent college graduate moving to New York City. His search for a place to live leads him to Avenue Q, where Gary Coleman rents him an apartment.  His upstairs neighbor is Trekkie Monster. He also meets Kate Monster, no relation, and starts a relationship with her. He struggles to find his purpose in life and a job with his degree in English.

Mercury's Avenue Q '18 (Brett A. Beiner) - Leah Morrow, Christian Siebert, David S. Robbins, Dan Smeriglio, Matthew Miles

Even though puppets are used, this isn’t a kids show. The sign outside cautions, “Warning, Puppet Nudity!” Just like in Hand of God, the puppet sex scene is hilarious. Hand of God is definitely raunchier. Both of these shows do a great job making the puppets come to life.

The cast is superb. Jackson Evans (Bunny Bunny) is so friendly and likable as Princeton. The same can be said for Leah Morrow (The Producers) as Kate Monster. It’s no surprise they were both invited to reprise their roles from 2014. David S. Robbins is so funny as Gary Coleman. His impersonation is spot on. Christian Siebert (Strangest Things) is hilarious as Rod. His performance is reminiscent of Christian Clemenson as Jerry on Boston Legal. Both of them are quirky and delightful. Jonah D. Winston (Jesus Christ Superstar, Machinal, Longer! Louder! Wagner) is such a strong presence as Trekkie Monster. Everyone was lining up to get a picture with him after the show!

Mercury's Avenue Q '18 (Brett A. Beiner) - Christian Siebert (Rod), Jonah D. Winston and Dan Smeriglio (Nicky)

Get tickets for Avenue Q now through September 9! See how the Mercury Theatre continues to put on the best musical comedies!

Quinn Delaney

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Epic! Foreigner at Hunting Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island (July 11, 2018)

In 1976, Foreigner was founded in New York City. From 2004 to 2008, Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham) was the drummer for Foreigner. And now, in their 41st year, the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience and Whitesnake are opening!

For their second song, Foreigner plays “Double Vision”, which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for two weeks in 1978. From there, song after song is a huge hit. Everyone there, from young to old, knows almost every word and happily sings along. They have installed their own custom lighting above the stage. It moves up and down and the lights go on and off perfectly with the songs.

Mick Jones, the founder and the leader of the band, is introduced by the lead singer, Kelly Hansen. He steps up and says “I guess it’s time for me to sing one. I thought the first album needed a spacey song, so I added this one.” He goes on to play “Starrider” to the crowd’s delight.

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After a strong keyboard and drum solo, they play a very familiar melody. It’s “Juke Box Hero”. The rest of the band enters the stage and the singing starts. “Standing in the rain, with his head hung low. Couldn’t get a ticket, it was a sold out show.” But where is the lead singer? Finally, he is spotted, on a 25 feet tall podium high above the crowd in the back. It’s a fantastic touch and further proof these guys know how to put on a fricking rock show!

For the encore, the Lane Tech High School choir from Chicago joins the band on stage for “I Want To Know What Love Is”. It’s an epic moment as the audience decides to abandon their seats and crowd in front of the stage as they scream along to every single word and dance while embracing those around them. “I want to know what love is! I want you to show me! I want to feel what love is! I know you can show me!” They really should have ended the show with this song. Instead, they play one more, “Hot Blooded”. It’s a great song, but after they had a FULL CHORUS on stage, it’s a bit of a comedown. Put this song  first in the encore and you’d have a perfect show. Either way, this was an incredible night of music by one of the world’s greatest bands at a world class venue on a beautiful night in Chicago with everyone in attendance singing all the songs in their heads for weeks to come.

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See the full setlist here.

Quinn Delaney

Excellent! The Roommate at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through August 5, 2018)

Sharon is “retired from her marriage” and living in Iowa. She is lonely, so she decides to take in a roommate. In comes Robyn, who is moving from the Bronx. She hesitantly reveals that she is trying to escape her past and Sharon keeps pushing to find out more. Since Sharon doesn’t have much of an identity herself, she becomes somewhat obsessed with learning about Robyn and her dark past. They become fast friends, but perhaps they are too different for it to last.

Sandra Marquez (The Doppelgänger and Mary Page Marlowe) is excellent as Sharon. She plays her as an affectionate mother and roommate who is unaware when she is becoming too nosy. Ora Jones (The Doppelgänger) is perfect as Robyn. She is clearly stressed out about all the attention she is getting from Robyn. This was not what she was looking for when she decided to move to Iowa. Together they have great chemistry as their relationship continually shifts.

Music plays a big role in this production. Sharon says she doesn’t listen to any music except for the one mix CD that her son gave to her. On the other hand, Robyn loves music and happily introduces many different artists. The music really brings them together and strengthens their friendship. For example, Robyn puts on “Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monae and for the first time in the play, Sharon loosens up and starts to dance. They also dance to “Si tu vois ma mére” (If you see my mother) by Sidney Bechet in a key moment that is truly heightened by the music. On an interesting note, this song is also used in the opening in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.

The Soundtrack:

Song Title                                       Artist

My Stone                                        Chastity Brown

Drive Slow                                     Chastity Brown

Dancing for the Answers            Nick Mulvey

Transcendental Reunion            Mary Chapin Carpenter

Make Me Feel                                Janelle Monae

Pride and Vanity                           Ohio Players

Sing For You                                   Tracy Chapman

Agitation                                         Erykah Badu

Let You Win                                    Macy Gray

Sail On                                              Sharon Jones, The Dap Kings

When I Fall In Love                       Bill Evans

Fever To The Form                        Nick Mulvey

Si tu vois ma mére                         Sidney Bechet

I Said You Lied                                Gladys Knight

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Get tickets now for The Roommate through August 5th!

Quinn Delaney

Indie Rock: The Just Luckies Opening for Genevieve at the Beat Kitchen (July 6, 2018)

The Just Luckies are an indie rock band from Chicago. Their lineup includes KC Weldonon on guitar and vocals, Shea Briggs on percussion, Noam Greene on lead guitar, and Lucy Diavolo on bass.

“This is a public service announcement”, says the band. They go on to sing “White People” from their 2017 album, Lovesick Politics. “White People, cut your dreads!” It’s a poppy and fun song that puts a smile on everyone’s face.

They commented on how they returned from playing in 104 degree heat in Southern Ohio. Through their banter it is evident that the band has good repertoire with each other and this new band is off to a good start.

Also, Genevieve rocked. See our previous review here.

Quinn Delaney

 

So Funny! Broadway in Chicago Presents Waitress at Cadillac Palace Theatre (Through July 22, 2018)

Waitress is based on the 2007 film of the same name starring Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, and Jeremy Sisto. In 2016, it was nominated for four Tonys, including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The story is about Jenna, who is stuck in a bad marriage but dreams of winning a pie contest in order to have enough money to get away. With the help of her friends and a new love interest, her future begins to look bright. But the journey is not without its struggles.

The writing for this show is great. It all started with the great script for the movie by Adrienne Shelly. Then there is the book by Jessie Nelson and the music & lyrics by Sara Bareilles. It all comes together fantastically.

Waitress the Musical

Lenne Klingaman and Jeremy Morse in the National Tour of WAITRESS – Photo by Joan Marcus

The cast is excellent. Desi Oakley is excellent as Jenna. Her voice is so strong and her accent is perfect for the Southern small town setting. Nick Bailey has the tough task of playing the bad husband, and he does it with class. At the curtain call, he mouths, “I’m sorry.”  Lenne Klingaman is sweet and cute as Dawn. Jeremy Morse almost steals the show as Ogie. His performance of “Never Ever Getting Rid of Me” is delightfully over the top and receives a huge applause from the crowd. Ryan G. Dunkin as Cal and Charity Angel Dawson as Becky have a great chemistry together as they bicker in the diner. Also, the band sliding in and out is a great touch.

Get tickets now for Waitress through July 22, 2018!

Quinn Delaney

Waitress the Musical

Desi Oakley, Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of WAITRESS – Photo by Joan Marcus

Fun aside: When the audience learns her husband’s name is Earl, some expect the song, “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks to appear. “Cause Earl had to die!” they sing!

Also see our review of The Spitfire Grill, another musical that takes place in a small town diner.

Needs Some Work: Broadway in Chicago Presents The Cher Show at The Oriental Theatre (Through July 15, 2018)

Regardless of your opinion on jukebox musicals, they are here to stay. But “The Cher Show” will need a major overhaul if it’s going to join the ranks of “Jersey Boys” and “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”

 

The story is told through the flimsy set-up of Cher filming a TV special about her life. The show begins with the intro to “Believe.” The dancers fill the stage, the trap door opens and the platform rises. . . with no Cher. “Where’s Cher? Cut!” yells a man in a headset. Just minutes into the hokey premise, you’re already tired of it. It interrupts the show throughout, adding nothing. Cher’s lengthy career and fascinating life story is by no means an easy one to condense into a simple narrative, but the book suffers from trying to jam too much in. The show-within-a-show device doesn’t work to smoothly move the story along, but instead highlights the jerky pacing.

The show is told by three Chers, portraying different periods of her life. All three are excellent (and often all on stage together), but none of them truly capture Cher. On the other hand, Sonny Bono’s first appearance is greeted with energetic applause as his impression is uncanny. The two other moments that drive the crowd wild are the parade of Bob Mackie designed gowns and costumes, as well as the breath-taking choreography during “Dark Lady.” None of the three highlights of the show belong to the three Chers, but rather to Sonny, Bob Mackie and Christopher Gattelli (the choreographer) / Ashley Blair (dancer).

To clarify, the problems with the book are major, but the issues with the Chers are minor. They each have flashes of pure Cher within them. Perhaps a few quick lessons from Chad Michaels could help? But regardless, spending a night listening to Stephanie J. Block, Teal Wicks and Micaela Diamond belt Cher’s top hits is still a night well-spent — not to mention the wonderful Emily Skinner, who plays Cher’s mother, Georgia Holt.

 

 

Plus, they even throw in “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from Burlesque, so really — how can you complain?

Get tickets now for The Cher Show through July 15th.

Quinn Delaney

 

 

 

A Blast of Fun! New Belgium Presents Tour de Fat featuring Best Coast at Humboldt Park (June 30, 2018)

Upon entering the festival, a small stage on wheels is instantly noticeable. On the stage is a performer doing a Yo-Yo Show. He does many different types of tricks. There is a sign on the stage that says “Camp AF”. They give a family friendly explanation for this abbreviation, but we all know what they mean. It’s a very goofy show that really is fun for all ages.

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A highlight of the tour every year is the bike pit. It is filled with strange unique bikes. There is one where pedaling backwards makes you go forward. Another one has the seat going up and down as you pedal. There is a tandem bike where the two people are right next to each other. This takes a lot of balance to get this one going. Another tandem bike has the two people back to back. Another bike has giant tractor tires. Suffice it to say, a lot of time can be spent here exploring all the options.

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Best Coast is the headliner of the day. The crowd squeezes up close to the stage to take advantage of the small amount of shade created by the stage. After all, it’s a sweltering 95 degrees. They also gather under canopies spaced throughout the area. Best Coast are from LA, and they like to sing about. “Why would you live anywhere else?” sings Bethany Cosentino on “The Only Place”. At the start of a later song, she forgets the words. So, she invites a bunch of fans onto the stage to sing it for her. They are beyond excited and it makes for a great moment.

Later on she says “I’ll never forget the words to this one” as they start “Boyfriend”.  They have such a great lo-fi party vibe that really captures the Southern California essence and they are a great fit for the Tour de Fat atmosphere!

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Quinn Delaney