Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

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

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

Review: Teatro Visto Presents American Journalero at UrbanTheatre (Through November 18, 2018)

Six men wait on a corner in Queens. Four of them are journaleros (laborers) looking for work for the day. Each time a truck pulls up, they stand up in anticipation. The other two men are just there to harass the other guys. They are white Americans who fear that the immigrants are stealing their jobs and driving wages down. However, after talking with the guys for a while, one of the white guys befriends them and learns they aren’t even competing for the same jobs and he has nothing to fear.

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Dillon Kelleher (right) plays America First vigilante Mark, who confronts (left, from left) a trio of immigrant day laborers – Victor Marana as Luis, Ramón Camín as Michigan and Mike Cherry as Montezuma – in Teatro Vista’s American Jornalero by Ed Cardona Jr. American Jornalero had its Chicago premiere at Victory Gardens as part of DESTINOS, the 2nd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival. It transfers to UrbanTheater, 2620 W. Division St., in Humboldt Park, for an additional four weeks, October 25 through November 18. For tickets and information, visit teatrovista.org or call (773) 599-9280. Credit: Joel Maisonet

Just like the title, this play is bilingual. It’s mostly in English, but the journaleros often speak to each other in Spanish. It’s often words not taught in high school, aka, profanity. A quick refresher on these terms on this website is helpful. Use of both languages make the play much more authentic than it would be in all English.

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(from left) Ramón Camín is Michigan, Victor Marana is Luis and Jordan Arredondo is Marcelo, day laborers waiting to be picked up for a day’s work, in Teatro Vista’s American Jornalero by Ed Cardona Jr. American Jornalero had its Chicago premiere at Victory Gardens as part of DESTINOS, the 2nd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival. It transfers to UrbanTheater, 2620 W. Division St., in Humboldt Park, for an additional four weeks, October 25 through November 18. For tickets and information, visit teatrovista.org or call (773) 599-9280. Credit: Joel Maisonet

Ultimately, this is a light-hearted tale about a segment of the population that doesn’t often get much attention. It’s a quick (75 minutes) glance into their lives and struggles portrayed by a great cast. Mike Cherry’s performance as Montezuma is especially fantastic.

 

Cost of a ticket: $25

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It!

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

 

Next up from Teatro Visto: The Abuelas starting on February 9, 2019.

 

Quinn Delaney

Powerful! Broadway in Chicago Presents Miss Saigon at the Cadillac Palace (Through December 8, 2018)

In September of 1989, Miss Saigon first opened in London on the West End. In April of 1991, it opened on Broadway in New York City. The first US tour started in Chicago in October of 1992. And now, 26 years later, the revival comes to Chicago’s Cadillac Palace.

An American soldier fighting in the Vietnam War meets a local woman and falls in love. He meets her at a brothel and he makes it his mission to get her away from that life. However, the fall of Saigon marking the end of the Vietnam War tears them apart. This leaves the woman to struggle to find her lost love. It’s a very dramatic and emotional ride.

This show is a grand spectacle. The set is quite grand as well with the Dream Land bar and the amazing helicopter scene that had the audience gasping. The cast is 42 people strong plus a full live band. They sing and dance to fantastic choreography. Anthony Festa, who plays the main American solider, has an especially impressive voice. Also, Red Concepcion is so fun and energetic as The Engineer.

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Emily Bautista as the local woman puts on an excellent acting performance. The purpose of acting is to deliver a performance where you can connect with your audience by delivering a performance so strong that they feel the emotions you are intending to convey. And she does just that. She’ll make you cry.

Every interaction she has with her son was so powerful. It showed the strength of a mother to protect her kid even up to literally sacrificing her entire life. This is especially the case where she was forced/expected to surrender, but she didn’t give a damn.  She held her own and stood for her own beliefs.

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Get tickets now for Miss Saigon through December 8th!

Cost of a ticket: $92

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It!

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

Quinn Delaney