Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

Amazing! Broadway in Chicago Presents Dear Evan Hansen at The James M. Nederlander Theatre (Through March 10, 2019 and July 7, 2020 through September 27, 2020)

“Dear Evan Hansen” was the darling of the 2017 Tonys, sweeping up a total of 6 awards including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, which went to the original Evan Hansen, Ben Platt.

Now the tour has reached Chicago with a new Evan/Ben, this time with Ben Levi Ross. And for those who worried that Platt’s shoes would be too big to fill, worry not.

I truly believe the show is best seen without a full summary of the plot (which you can surely find elsewhere), but to give the barest of an overview. The show is about Evan, an anxious high school student without any real friends. Quickly, he becomes entangled in a lie that grows bigger and bigger, with painful consequences. The story is about mental health, grief, the relationships between parents and their children, and the universal desire to matter, to be known, to be found.

2 - The Company of the First North American Tour of Dear Evan Hansen. Photo by Matthew Murphy. 2018

Ross fully inhabits the role, putting the character’s internal struggles and pain on full display. And his voice? You can hardly believe it’s coming out of a lean 21 year old. He sings with such emotion, such power and the highest notes in the show are comfortably within his range.

And with all of the praise for Ross, he is matched by the entire cast. Maggie McKenna presents a touching portrait of a character both guarded and vulnerable (not to mention the beautiful tone of her voice). Jessica Phillips and Christiane Noll, each playing a mother in the show, both grab your heart every single minute they are on stage.

Catch this tour of Dear Evan Hansen if you can through March 10th. And if not, the show returns next summer, July 7, 2020. Tickets to the return engagement will go on sale to the public February 19, 2019. Don’t miss it twice!

Quinn Delaney

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Heartfelt! Spending the End of the World on Ok Cupid at Pear Theatre (Through February 17, 2019)

It’s the morning of the last day ever. The world is ending at midnight. Yesterday half of the population disappeared like in The Leftovers. Many people turn to Ok Cupid for one last chance at a connection. They are looking for someone to accompany them as they check off their bucket list. To have a $20 coffee at Black, to eat the Ten-Star Burger, to get a tattoo, or to just watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Will they find love? Will the world end?

 

 

The cast does an excellent job. They are confused and unsure how to spend their final day. Their search for meaning is evident on their faces and with their body language. It creates a very real and of the moment experience. It’s funny throughout and also emotionally touching. It made for a great Valentine’s Day night, and any date night for that matter.

 

Get tickets now for Spending the End of the World on Ok Cupid through February 17th!

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Cost of a ticket: $32

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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

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Quinn Delaney

Hilarious! King of the Yees at the San Francisco Playhouse (Through March 2, 2019)

Lauren Yee is a 30 year old Chinese woman from San Francisco. Her father, Larry Yee, is a proud member of the Yee Family Association, a Chinese American men’s club. When he goes missing, Lauren must go on a quest through Chinatown to find him. It’s a wild journey that includes solving riddles, dancing, and speaking in Chinese.  The quest is reminiscent of Monty Python’s The Search for the Holy Grail with the riddles and the odd challenges presented to her. In addition, they are both very entertaining and fun.

The answer to the riddle in this video is a key component of the play.

The cast is absolutely fantastic. Francis Jue (Obie and Lucille Lortel Award Winner) is earnestly funny as Larry, who is so proud to be a Yee. Krystle Piamonte is great as Lauren, sharing this journey with the audience. Jomar Tagatac is absolutely hilarious as Shrimp Boy, the gangster who runs Chinatown. Will Dao is so funny as the Model Ancestor and as another character whose surprise is too great to spoil. Rinabeth Apostol is excellent as the Whiskey Seller and the female FBI officer.

The soundtrack for this show is great. It is especially enjoyable during the dance montage scene when clips from “Gangnam Style”, “Thriller”, and more are played. It really creates a fun atmosphere in the theatre.

Get tickets now for King of the Yees through March 2nd!

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Cost of a ticket: $25 – $85 (Go with the $55 tickets)
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

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Quinn Delaney

Violently Hilarious! Hand to God at Altarena Playhouse (Through February 10, 2019)

From Broadway to London’s West End and to Alameda’s Altarena Playhouse is Hand to God. It is the story about Jason and his hand puppet, Tyrone. His mother, Margery, teaches a puppet ministry class at the church. This is where we see that Jason is a quiet timid kid and Tyrone is a loud, obnoxious, and foul-mouthed puppet. In this production, the actors need to differentiate a bit more between their voice and their puppets voice. At times they would use a distinct tone, but at other times they would just use their own tone.

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The vulgarity of this play is similar to the style of South Park and Book of Mormon. Tyrone is able to be very offensive because he is just a puppet.  Hearing him say and do nasty things is hilarious. This relates to the cartoon children on South Park speaking foul language. Still, South Park is a TV show and couldn’t get away with the puppet sex scene that takes place. The entire theatre was simultaneously aghast and laughing hysterically during this raunchy scene. The expressions on the human’s faces during this scene made it even better.

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When Tyrone attacks, things get bloody. The audience is shocked by the sudden violence. But once again, they can’t help but laugh because it’s a puppet. There are so many funny scenes that must be seen, but not by children. The content is definitely R-rated. When the show ends after less than two hours, the crowd is left wanting more. This is a great sign of a show well done.

Get tickets now for Hand to God through Sunday!

 

Cost of a ticket: $30

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price +

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

 

Quinn Delaney

Delightful: Porchlight Music Theatre Presents A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts (Through March 16, 2019)

The mission for Monty Navarro is simple: murder eight members of the D’Ysquiths family in order to inherit the earldom of Highhurst. The fun comes with the strategy in making all their deaths look like accidents so as not to arise suspicion. Each time Monty devises a new murder plan is great fun. The audience responds with laughter as they enjoy watching his plans play out.

Matt Crowle’s (The Producers, Mary Poppins) comedic performance is great as he plays the entire D’Ysquith Family and then acts out their subsequent demise. Each time a new member of the family is introduced is exciting, especially when it is a female character. Crowle’s acting is purposefully over the top and delightful. Andres Enriquez’s (Adding Machine) performance as Monty is impressive as he is on stage for almost the entire show. Emily Goldberg (Spitfire Grill) shines as Sibella, Monty’s first love. She is equally matched by Ann Delaney (Buddy Holly) as Phoebe, the second love interest. Also, Michael Reyes (Arcadia) is also fantastically expressive as Pinckney, the chief inspector!

The music in this show is excellently done with a 7 piece band behind the scenes and great singing by the entire cast. “Why Are All the D’Ysquiths Dying” is a perfect example of the musicality and the humor of this show.

Get tickets now for A Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder, the 2014 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical, through March 16!

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Cost of a ticket: $60

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It –

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

 

Quinn Delaney

Sequel Worthy! How to Catch Creation at the Goodman Theatre (Through February 24, 2019)

This is an authentic ensemble piece about creators. A young painter becomes a writer. A middle age man seeks to create a child. A computer repair clerk pursues her love of  music and an art school administrator begins to paint again. This is the story of how these creative artists find inspiration and how their lives intertwine with one another.

The show has a great soundtrack that is underused. The songs are played during the transitions between scenes and then quickly fade out. Playing the songs a bit longer as in Linda Vista, would allow the music to create a stronger atmosphere. Like Linda Vista (playing at the Mark Taper Forum in LA through February 17th), spinning stages are expertly used. The stage rotates and the characters are already in the scene, as if the audience is catching them in the middle of whatever they are doing. Set pieces also slide in and off the front of the stage in a very visually appealing manner.

The cast does an excellent job creating characters that you’ll really care about. In fact, the performances are so engaging, it deserves a sequel. Karen Aldridge is great as the administrator who finds new inspiration. Ayanna Bria Bakari and Jasmine Bracey are solid as the lesbian couple in the flashback scene to the 1960s. Bernard Gilbert is joyful as the young painter discovering a new passion. Maya Vinice Prentiss is exceptional as the muse. Lastly, Keith Randolph Smith has a very strong performance as a middle age man seeking to create life.

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Get tickets now for How to Catch Creation through February 24th!

Cost of a ticket: $60

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It

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

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Quinn Delaney

A British Farce! Noises Off at Windy City Playhouse (Through March 31, 2019)

It’s the night before opening day and the cast is not ready. They’re forgetting their lines, which objects they are supposed to be carrying, and their cues. The director is getting very upset as he watches his cast fumble around. Then, the set starts malfunctioning with doors being unable to be opened and other others not staying closed. In addition, the secrets of who is sleeping with whom start to be revealed and everything truly goes nuts.

This is a very British style play in the same slapstick style as Faulty Towers and The Doppelganger. The Benny Hill song playing during the mayhem would fit right in. It’s a roller coast ride of comedy!

The cast is hilarious. Erica Bittner is so funny as the assistant stage manager trying to hold everything together. Amy J Carle is great as the bumbling maid. Will Casey is a strong presence as the drunken veteran of the stage. Scott Duff with his pants around his ankles just may be the funniest sight of the night. Ryan McBride as Garry always wanting to just say one more thing during the rehearsal always draws laughter from the crowd. Alexander Quinones is fantastic as the stage manager trying to fill in for actors last minute. Just like in Becky Shaw, Amy Rubenstein’s character is trying to making everyone happy, which is a very difficult task. Rochelle Therrien is solid as the actress clearly hired for reasons having nothing to do with her acting ability. Lastly, Mike Tepeli (Shameless) is outstanding as the director absolutely going bananas the entire time.

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Get tickets now for Noises Off at Windy City Playhouse through March 31st!

Cost of a ticket: $70
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Half Price +
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

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Quinn Delaney

Also check out Southern Gothic, now playing in the South Loop!