Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

Grand! Broadway in Chicago Presents Love Never Dies at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (February 15, 2018)

In 1910, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra was published. In 1986, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Phantom of the Opera, based on this novel, opened in London’s West End. The musical continues to run as Broadway’s longest running show with 12,502 performances to date. In 2010, Love Never Dies opened in the West End. And now, in 2018, Love Never Dies makes it’s Chicago debut!

The Phantom of the Opera lives! Apparently his death was all a lie, and now he has followed Catherine to America. She has traveled to perform at a renowned opera house. In the ten years that have passed, she has since had a child with her husband. However, this does not deter the Phantom as he attempts to win her back by having her sing his song, Love Never Dies, at his theatre.

Love Never Dies Utica, NY

Love Never Dies Utica, NY

Fans of the original will not be disappointed in this production. It is equally grand and spectacular. The costumes are excellent, especially those of the performers in the circus. The singing is so emotional and strong. It’s not quite opera, but it’s very close. Although there is no giant falling chandelier, the staging is very impressive. Huge sets smoothly slide on and off, completely changing the scene. It all combines for a truly engrossing experience that leads to a very exciting climax.

Get tickets now for Love Never Dies through March 4th!

Quinn Delaney

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World Class! You Got Older at Steppenwolf (February 11, 2018)

Mae returns home to the Pacific Northwest to care for her father, who has just been diagnosed with cancer. She is able to do this because she just broke up her with boyfriend and lost her job. She wonders if it is convenient that all these things are happening at once, or, is her life completely falling apart? The play follows her emotional journey as she expresses her feelings and sexuality very openly with the people in her life.

Music is used very well in this show. In one scene, Mae and her father sit and listen to the Regina Spektor song, “Firewood”, in its entirety. Her dad says it is the theme song for his treatment. It’s a very touching moment. Also, “Timber” by Pitbull and Kesha is used for a dancing scene very well. However, the abrupt transition to this scene received mixed responses from the audience.

The acting in this production is absolutely world class. Caroline Neff (Linda Vista, The Fundamentals, and The Flick) is outstanding as Mae. It’s an incredibly impressive performance as she is on stage for the entire show. Gabriel Ruiz (The Rembrandt and Native Gardens at Victory Gardens Theatre) is outstandingly hilarious as the Cowboy. He absolutely has the charm required to play this great character. Francis Guinan (The Minutes, The Rembrandt, Hir) is solid as well as Dad. With his talent, he makes his performance look effortless.

Get tickets now for You Got Older through March 11th!

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Quinn Delaney

 

Hilarious! Taking Steps at Ensemble Theatre (January 10, 2018)

Elizabeth is leaving her husband, Roland, after only 3 months of marriage. Her brother, Mark, can’t understand why. He is also unaware that his fiancé, Kitty, wants to leave him. Tristram, filling in for Roland’s lawyer, is very socially awkward. In addition, he keeps hearing noises in the house which he is convinced is a ghost.

All of the play takes place in a three story house that is represented all on one level on stage with slanted railings representing the stairs. When each character takes the stairs, they do a hilarious high stepping silly walk reminiscent of Monty Python. They also poke fun of the setup when Elizabeth dances around and dust falls on Tristram on the level below her. Hilarious things like this continue to happen to Tristram which make him more and more scared.

2 Simon London as Mark and Christa Nicola as Lizzie in TAKING STEPS at Ensemble Theatre, creditPrudenceUpton_145b

The entire cast is fantastic. They all adapt a British accent perfectly and play the characters with great comedic timing, in the great British humour style.

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Catch Taking Steps now through the 13th of January!

Quinn Delaney

Excellent Ensemble! Becky Shaw at Windy City Playhouse (December 8, 2017)

Suzanna Slater’s father has just passed away. Her mother, Susan (yes, this is a bit confusing), and her adopted brother, Max, are discussing new revelations about their father. Apparently, he didn’t handle his money very well. Also, he had a romantic relationship with his accountant.  Emotions are running high as this family tries to move forward while being brutally honest with each other.

Becky Shaw Production 3

The second scene flashes forward eight months. In this time, Suzanna met and married Andrew. Together they decide to set up his coworker, Becky Shaw, with her brother, Max. It’s clear from the get go that this isn’t a good match and things continue to spiral out of control from there.

The acting in this production is excellent. Michael Doonan plays Max perfectly as completely self-centered and without empathy to hilarious effect. Carley Cornelius is so funny as Becky Shaw, the coworker who is a little nuts. Michael Pogue does great playing the straight man, Andrew, among all these crazy people. Suzanne Petri is fantastic as Susan. Some of the best moments in the play are when she gives out advice so bluntly. Lastly, Amy Rubenstein is solid as Suzanna, trying to make everyone happy while she struggles to find happiness herself. They all work together excellently as an ensemble.

Becky Shaw Production 4

Becky Shaw is an odd choice for a title, since this is more of an ensemble play than just about any single character. Perhaps it should be called The Slaters instead.

Get tickets now for Becky Shaw through December 17th!

Quinn Delaney

Fantastic! Broadway in Chicago Presents Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Cadillac Palace Theatre (December 6, 2017)

Beautiful is a fantastic musical that begins with Carole King as a young determined songwriter and ends at Carnegie Hall with her as a confident composer and entertainer. The story encompasses her relationship with her husband and songwriting partner, Gerry Goffin. This talented duo wrote dozens of songs together during their tumultuous relationship. In addition, it includes the story of fellow song writers Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, their best friends and friendly competitors. The musical chronicles Carol and Gerry’s relationship which hinges on an unexpected pregnancy and subsequent marriage. King and Goffin’s relationship is a sharp contrast to Weil and Mann.   Cynthia is very hesitant to marry Barry because she doesn’t want to lose her identity as his songwriting partner and just become his wife, raising kids. The drama of watching these developing relationships and comparing them with today’s view on marriage held the audience captive.

The show has many humorous moments. Among them is a scene in which Cynthia and Barry are struggling to compose their new song, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”.  Barry begins singing the song in a very lethargic and apathetic manner because he doesn’t like the song. Cynthia chimes in that it just needs to be song in a lower key. Cut to the Righteous Brothers singing in their signature low vocal: “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips”. This is a fantastic piece of theatre and it’s moments like this that add context to the songs by revealing the stories behind them.

The music is absolutely fantastic. After a few notes, each song is instantly recognizable. It’s amazing the number of big hits these two couples wrote and how many different artists have sung their songs including James Taylor, Aretha Franklin, and The Animals, just to name a few. Often the performers get all the credit, but this amazing musical showcases the noteworthy contributions of the songwriters.

Get tickets now for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical through January 28th!

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Quinn Delaney

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Rock Arts! Cratchit at Shadowbox Live (November 26, 2017)

Everyone knows the story of Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. But the full story of Bob Cratchit is unknown… until now. This production expertly integrates rock songs to tell each character’s story. Early on, when Cratchit is going through some hard times, he sings “Fell On Black Days” by Soundgarden. “Whatsoever I’ve feared has come to life. Whatsoever I’ve fought off became my life.” It fits so well that it almost feels like the song was written for the show.

Later on, the bartender tells a story about her wife who left to go to the hollywood canyons after a fight. It leads perfectly into the lyrics of the next song, “A Long December” by Counting Crows. “And it’s one more day up in the canyons. And it’s one more night in Hollywood. If you think that I could be forgiven I wish you would.” It’s another fantastic fit.

On an interesting note, in this production, instead of Tiny Tim, it is Tiny Tina. The Goodman Theatre also has a girl playing this role for the first time in their 40 year run of A Christmas Carol.

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According to the program, Shadowbox Live is the largest resident theatre company in America. They achieve this distinction by having all their actors do all aspects of their business, from marketing and box office to waiting tables and cleaning. It’s quite a fun experience when the actors come out in costume during intermission to serve drinks and desserts.

Get tickets now for Cratchit through December 23rd!

It Rocks! Firebrand Theatre Presents Lizzie at Den Theatre

In 1892, Lizzie Borden was arrested for the axe murder of her father and stepmother. It was well known that she hated her stepmother and feared she was trying to steal their family’s money. Before Lizzie was arrested, she burned a dress that she claimed was stained with “paint”. During the trial, she did not take the stand and the evidence against her was not enough to convict. In June of 1893, she was acquitted. This play is a dramatization of these events.

Upon entering the theatre, you’ll notice the front row has ponchos along with a splash zone warning. It’s a sure sign that things will get bloody. And it does get very messy when Lizzie wields a large axe. Afterwards, a crew in white hazmat suits (nice touch!) comes out to clean it up.

This production is more rock concert than play. Almost every word on stage is sung in an operatic goth rock style similar to Evanescence And just like Amy Lee of that band, all the actresses have excellent voices that are up to the task.

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Get tickets now for Lizzie through December 17th!

Quinn Delaney

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