Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

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.

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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.

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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

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

Beautiful is a fantastic musical that begins with Carol 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 Carol 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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Does this story make you want to get your hands on an axe? Check out Thunderboldt Axe Throwing!

Hilarious! TimeLine Theatre Company Presents In The Next Room at Stage 773 (November 16, 2017)

In the 1880s, in a town outside of New York City, Sabrina Daldry is suffering from hysteria. She is willing to try a new form of therapy, electrical massage. Upon entering the office of Dr. Givings, she is very quiet and restrained. She is sensitive to light and to cold. She is asked to remove her clothes for the treatment and she requests that the doctor leave the room since she is very modest. The doctor returns and explains that using this electric device, they will induce a “hysterical paroxysm” which will release fluids from her womb that are causing her symptoms.

This scene is absolutely hilarious. The facial expressions by Melissa Canciller playing Sabrina are perfect. She goes from shyness, to shock, to interest, to ecstasy. This is in sharp contrast to Anish Jethmalani as Dr. Givings, who keeps a straight neutral face of a professional. Equally funny is the all business demeanor of his assistant, Annie, played by Dan Tretta.

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Adding to the hilarity of the scene is the set design and costumes. Together they perfectly recreate the 1880s. While wearing these large, fluffy, and old fashioned dresses, the actions of the scene are twice as funny.

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In the second act, Edgar Miguel  Sanchez as Leo Irving seeks treatment. The entire audience gasps as Dr Givings pulls out the device he plans to use. This gave the impression that the second half would be just as funny as the first. However, after this scene, the play becomes much more dramatic as the relationships between the characters is explored. The transition is a bit awkward and the scenes drag out just a bit.

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Overall, this production is extremely well done and a very funny way to explore this part of history. Get tickets now for In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play through December 16th!

Quinn

Excellent! Teatro Vista Presents Fade at Victory Gardens Theatre (November 10, 2017)

Lucia has just moved to LA to work on a TV series. She is finding it difficult to fit in with the all-white male team.  She befriends Abel, the Mexican janitor, who is the only person that is really nice to her. They develop a friendship and he unintentionally helps her with script ideas by telling his life story. This includes explaining his “Semper Fi” tattoo, which means always loyal, and is the motto of the US Marine Corps. It’s a story that’s both funny and dramatic.

Sari Sanchez is fantastic as Lucia. She plays the role of fish out of water perfectly and her excitement is palpable as she begins to get comfortable and have success. She also fully earns out empathy as she describes the way she is treated by her superiors.

Eddie Martinez, Sari Sanchez. Photo by Liz Lauren

Eddie Martinez is excellent as Abel. He comes off as standoffish to start when Lucia speaks to him in Spanish at the start. “Podrias venir aqui? (Could you come here?)” He explains that he prefers to speak English, since they are in America. They do speak lines of Spanish throughout the show such as “Que tienes? (What’s wrong?)” He also calls her “una fresa”, which means a preppy stuck up rich person. However, he eventually warms up to her and becomes her main ally at the office.

Get tickets now for Fade through December 23!

Quinn Delaney

Excellent! Porchlight Music Theatre Presents Billy Elliot at Ruth Page Center (November 9, 2017)

Billy Elliot is based on the 2000 Film which won the BAFTA Award for the Best British Film. The play won both the Tony Award and Olivier Award for Best Musical. It is an inspirational story set in an English mining town during the miners’ strike of 1984-85. Billy Elliot journeys from the boxing ring to a ballet class to make his dreams come true while challenging the long held beliefs of his hometown.

The film is rated R for language and the play should be too. The cursing in this show is quite shocking and vulgar. It’s especially shocking to see the miners hurling profanities at the police while the young ballerinas dance around them.  This scene showcases how large the cast is for this performance with most of the 35 cast members on stage. The choreography is impressive as all the moving pieces fit together.

 

The entire cast is fantastic. Here as just a few of the highlights. Ivan Bruns-Trukhin is athletically graceful as Older Billy. Peyton Owen practically steals the show as Michael Caffrey. Shanesia Davis as Mrs. Wilkinson is fierce. Sean Fortunato as Dad shows great range as he transforms from anti-ballet to Billy’s biggest supporter. Jenny McPherson as Grandma Dancer is fantastic.  Gabriel Robert as Small Boy and Tommy Novak as Mr. Braithwaite are both hilarious. And lastly, Lincoln Seymour is excellent as Billy Elliot. Both his dancing and his acting are impressive.

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Get tickets now for the excellent Billy Elliot through December 31st!

Quinn Delaney