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Broadway Worthy! Arizona Theatre Company Presents The Music Man at the Temple of Music and Art (Through January 27, 2019)

In 1957, The Music Man first opened on Broadway. In 1962, the film version was released starring Robert Preston, who originated the role on Broadway with 900 performances. The producers considered casting Frank Sinatra or Cary Grant, but they ultimately chose Preston who had perfected the role. And now, in December 2018, it opens at the Temple of Music and Art is Tucson, AZ.

Harold Hill is a con man. He travels from town to town promising to lead a youth band. He sells them all the instruments and uniforms and then promptly leaves town. But there’s something different about River City, Iowa. Can Hill change his ways?

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This production by the Arizona Theatre Company is impressive. Huge double story sets slide in and off the stage. The cast consists of 39 actors plus a high school marching band of about 12. Much of the cast are locals, but many of them have flown in from all over the country. Everyone’s singing voice is excellent and the choreography is fantastic. As on audience member from New York says, it is Broadway worthy!

The songs in this show are iconic from “Ya Got Trouble” to “Gary, Indiana”. And then the audience is blown away by “Till There Was You”. It’s no surprise this show is still going strong after 60 years.

Get tickets now for The Music Man in Tucson through December 30th and Phoenix through January 27th!

Cost of a ticket: $25 – $89

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It (Go with the $25 seats in the front row!)

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

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Superb: Rightlynd at Victory Gardens Theater (Through December 23, 2018)

Nina Esposito lives in Rightlynd, the 51st ward of Chicago. She is tired of the alderman only catering to the large Applewood development company. So, she decides to run herself to fight the gentrification and she wins. As she works to save the Rightlynd she knows from gentrification, it becomes clear that it’s not as easy as it seems. Her values are tested and she faces many challenges.

This play is the first chronologically of a seven part series by the playwright, Ike Holter. The last of these seven, “Lottery Day”, was part of the Goodman’s New Stages Festival. It is now part of their new season, premiering on March 29, 2019.

Within the main story is a romance tale between Nina and Pac. This provides much needed comic relief and fun within a very serious political piece. There is also a slow motion fight scene that is quite entertaining.

The cast is superb. Monica Orozco (Lottery Day, Six Corners) as Nina expertly portrays the growth of the character throughout the play with a great range of emotions. Eddie Martinez (Fade) is charming as Pac, the ex-con and love interest who is so very likeable. Robert Cornelius (Lottery Day, Wit) is a strong Chicago presence as Robinson. Lastly, Anish Jethmalani (In The Next Room) is solid as Benny, the writer for The Daily News.

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Get tickets now for Rightlynd through December 30th!

Cost of a ticket: $41 – $61

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It (Go with the $41 tickets)

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

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Quinn Delaney

An Amazing Night! John Butler Trio at The Chicago Theatre (November 29, 2018)

John Butler Trio’s latest album Home blends in perfectly with their current catalogue.  The night begins with “Wade in the Water” and “Tahitian Blue from the new album. Both songs feature fantastic melodies, skilled guitar playing, and smooth vocals.  The set continues with “Better Than” from the Grand National album. This popular upbeat tune is immediately recognized by the audience as one would expect with 16.5 million streams on Spotify. Everyone sings along “Life’s not about what’s better than!”

 

In the middle of his set, John dismisses the band to play an instrumental titled “Ocean”. With just his guitar, looping machine, and pedals he creates an exceedingly full sound. During a long extended jam, a couple gets engaged up near the stage. “She said yes!” yells the brand new fiancée.  The couple is quickly congratulated by the great community of the Trio’s fans.

Butler says that the album was inspired by the struggle that comes from being a musician. He is either touring, missing his family at home in Australia, or he is at home missing his fans and the joy of playing concerts. Through relentless touring, JBT have truly perfected their own unique sound and their live shows. It was an amazing night that just flew by.

Cost of a ticket: $75
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

 

 

Best Non-Musical Theatre in Chicago! Familiar at Steppenwolf Theatre (Through January 13, 2019)

A family all comes home to Minnesota for the marriage of one of the daughters. The parents immigrated from Zimbabwe. As a surprise, the bride invited her mother’s sister to fly in from Africa for the wedding. Her sister insists on performing the traditional ceremony, a Roora, where the families negotiate a payment for taking their daughter in marriage. The mother strongly opposes this tradition which leads to a lot of tension. The drama continues to build as some major family secrets are revealed.

This play tackles some very heavy issues for immigrants. A very strong one is how to balance keeping their culture alive while also becoming American. The decision whether or not to teach their children their native language is a difficult one. There is also the question of when to tell children about their history involving issues they wouldn’t understand when they are young.

This play is extremely well written by Danai Gurira. She was born in the US to Zimbabwean parents and raised in Zimbabwe. Thus, this is clearly a very personally relevant story for her. She is also a rising actor. She plays “General Okoye” in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War and Michonne on AMC’s The Walking Dead.

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The cast is absolutely fantastic. Celeste M. Cooper (BLKS, The Doppelganger) is excellent as the sister of the bride, the feng shui teacher. She has great chemistry with Luigi Sottile as the groom’s brother. Cheryl Lynn Bruce is so strong as Aunt Anne, the mother’s sister. It’s clear she isn’t going to let the Zim traditions be forgotten without a fight. Ora Jones (The Roommate) is equally strong as the mother which makes for quite a matchup.

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The set is quite impressive. They basically built a two story house on the stage and completely furnished it as if a family had been living there for years. Steppenwolf clearly puts a high value on their set design and it pays off.

At the very end of the play, Celeste M. Cooper plays a beautiful song called “Familiar” that brought the audience to tears. Sometimes shows at the Steppenwolf end strangely, but this was a fantastic close to the show! Once again, Steppenwolf proves they are the home for the best non-musical theatre in Chicago!

Get tickets now for Familiar through January 13, 2019!

Quinn Delaney

Lost Opportunity: Red Theatre Presents An Oak Tree at Athenaeum Theatre (Through December 9, 2018)

One actor, Gage Wallace, has rehearsed the play and his role is as a hypnotist. The second actor has never even seen the script. Tonight, this actor is Mike Tepeli. He plays a father of two girls. One of the girls was struck by a car that the hypnotist was driving. The father volunteers at one of the hypnotist’s shows seeking closure.

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Mike Tepeli played the part very seriously. He became this father, stricken with grief over the loss of his daughter. He is so distraught that at one point he drops to his knees. The program describes the play as absurdly comic, but with Tepeli’s performance, it definitely wasn’t.

Another production in Chicago just featured an actor who had never read the play before, White Rabbit Red Rabbit.  In this play, the stakes are high and the actor is given a choice. However, in An Oak Tree, the stakes are low and the actor is carefully guided the entire time. He never makes any choices which limits the variability caused by the second actor. It seems like a lost opportunity.

Get tickets now for An Oak Tree through December 9th.

Cost of a ticket: $25

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price

Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

Classic! A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre (Through December 30, 2018)

In 1843, Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol.  The following year, eight theatre companies had put on productions. In 1978, The Goodman Theatre first produced the play. In 1988, Bill Murray starred in Scrooged. And now, the Goodman begins its 41st run!

The Goodman Theatre has continually updated the play to feel fresh. This current production is much more funny, light-hearted, and kid friendly than it was originally. It is quite less darkly Dickensian. The actors singing and playing instruments liven it up as well.

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The set is very impressive. There are two double story sets that slide in and off the stage along with the permanent large structures on the sides. Also impressive is the flying around the stage with the ghosts. Add to that the great costumes, excellent use of fog, the cast giving it their all, and it’s clear this production has been perfected over the years.

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In the end, the audience is full of smiles and full of Christmas spirit. It remains a fantastic tale of redemption and a great Chicago tradition.

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Get tickets now for A Christmas Carol through December 30th!

 

Quinn Delaney

Talented! Rachel Eckroth opening for Rufus Wainwright at the Vic Theatre (November 20, 2018)

Surrounded by all the instruments for Rufus Wainwright’s set, Rachel Eckroth stands at her keyboard and synthesizer. As soon as she starts singing, it’s evident she has talent. Her voice is full of depth and sounds excellent tonight at the Vic Theatre. Her keyboard playing is also beautiful along with the prerecorded bass she has playing. It all adds up to a very full sound, despite her being the only one on stage.

To introduce one of her songs, she says she wrote it about a guy she has just started dating. She then relates that she is going to marry this man, in three days! The wedding is on Black Friday in fact!

After her set, she returns to play keyboards in Rufus Wainwright’s band. They go on to play until 11:30pm. That makes it three and half hours of stage time for her with only 2 short breaks!

Catch Rachel Eckroth on tour now!

Quinn Delaney