Excellent! Refuge Theatre Presents The Spitfire Grill at Windy City Cafe (March 30, 2018)

Percy is out on parole after spending five years in prison. She is looking for a fresh new start, so she chooses a small town in Wisconsin named Gilead because of a brochure she saw. She takes the only job available, being a waitress at the local diner. The owner of the diner, Hannah, lost her son in the war and then her husband shortly after. Now, she is trying to sell the diner, but it hasn’t sold in 10 years on the market. With Percy’s help, they decide to have an essay contest to pick a new owner.

 

The performance takes place in the Windy City Café, which is not usually a venue for theatre. It’s a small diner which makes for a very intimate show. For those seated in the front row, it may be too intimate, as the actors sing their hearts out only a few feet away. Thus, sitting in the booths is recommended. The performers use a side door that leads straight out to Chicago Ave. During tonight’s performance, after an actor leaves in anger, honking can be heard from the street, which makes for a cool touch.

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The cast does an excellent job. Everyone has a great voice, especially Emily Goldberg. They all pull off the comedic elements fantastically, especially Nicole Michelle Haskins. The Music Director, Jon Schneidman, does a very impressive job as he plays the piano, guitar, and harmonica simultaneously!

Get tickets now for The Spitfire Grill through May 5th.

Quinn Delaney

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Electronic Soul! Son Lux at Lincoln Hall (March 29, 2018)

Son Lux is the creation of composer, Ryan Lott. He plays the keys along with Rafig Bhatia on guitar and Ian Chang on drums. However, their music sounds much larger than just a trio. It creates a deep atmosphere on top of which they layer melodies and vocals into a very full sound. One of the highlights is a song called “You Don’t Know Me”. The crowd sways along to the beat and some people join in singing the poetic lyrics, “You drank your wine from my heart.”

Before the last song, Ryan invites Juan and Ally onto the stage (at 1:22:22 in the video). They are a very young couple, probably about 20 years old. He nervously proposes and she awkward accepts. Ryan congratulates them and then launches into their last song, “Lost It To Trying”. It’s a rocking song that they extend with a long jam, complete with slow and fast moments. The entire crowd soaks it in happily and leaves with smiles of their faces.

The performance is currently available on YouTube courtesy of AudioTree.

Quinn Delaney

Charming! Broadway in Chicago Presents Pretty Woman: The Musical at the Oriental Theatre (March 28, 2018)

Vivian Ward, a prostitute, meets Edward Lewis, a wealthy businessman, on Hollywood Boulevard while he is looking for directions. This leads to a deal where he hires her for the entire week. This simple business transaction turns into much more than either of them anticipated as they fall for each other and change themselves for the better. The play very closely follows the plot of the original film, from 1990.

The cast is incredibly impressive. Steve Kazee (Tony Award Winner for Once, Gus Pfender on Shameless) plays Edward Lewis with absolute charm and grace. His singing voice is also grand. Ward  Eric Anderson (The Greatest Showman, The Good Wife) is hilarious as the hotel manager. His comedic prowess is complimented by his bellhop, played by Tommy Bracco. They play off each other very well. Allison Blackwell is outstanding when she performs as the opera singer. Her voice is so powerful that she absolutely steals the scene.

The original music & lyrics created for this show by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance are excellent. At first, breaking out into song in this story seems a little strange, especially since the movie was not a musical. However, as the story builds, the songs fit right into place and are a perfect way for the characters to express themselves.

Get tickets now for Pretty Woman through April 15th!

Quinn Delaney

A Spectacle! Justin Timberlake at the United Center (March 27, 2018)

A Justin Timberlake concert is quite a spectacle. To start, there are three stages across the United Center floor. First, there is a large main stage at one end where his full band sets up. The two other stages are connected by a winding walkway. One of them is a small circular stage directly in the center. The other one is a medium size platform at the other end of the floor. Throughout the show, Justin is moving between all these stages utilizing the space like a true showman.

Towards the end of the show, a gas powered fire pit is raised onto the medium stage. Justin grabs a guitar and sits and plays while other performers sing covers such as “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac and “Come Together” by The Beatles. It’s an interesting idea, but the choice of these random cover songs is bizarre. Acoustic versions of Timberlake songs or even N’Sync songs would have been better.

“Say Something”, which features Chris Stapleton on the album, was a highlight of the night. It featured Timberlake on guitar and the whole crowd singing along. “Rock Your Body” also got the crowd up and dancing. “I’m gonna have you naked by the end of this song” was repeated multiple times at the end of the song, as it should be. It’s a great line.

See the full setlist here.

 

Dark Comedy! Remy Bumppo Presents hang at Greenhouse Theatre Center (March 26, 2018)

Starting a play in the middle of a story is usually a good strategy. The action starts right away and the audience discovers what happened in the past as the story goes along. However, in the case of hang, the backstory is revealed too slowly. The dialog is so vague and uninformative. The two government employees use so many pronouns and skip key words that it becomes irritating. Also, on this opening performance, about a third of the audience is laughing hysterically. This is because they know what is happening. Without having to struggle to figure out the situation, they are able to laugh at the performances. And so now, a small plot point will be revealed. It’s a fact that is not revealed until the second half of the play that should have been revealed much earlier.

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The woman is being asked to decide which form of capital punishment should be used for a specific man. With this information, the entire play will be an enjoyable dark comedy. Without it, only the part of the play after this is revealed is funny.

This information raises many questions. Where in the world is this play taking place? The UK abolished capital punishment in 1965. In the US, lethal injection is mostly the sole method. In a few states, the prisoner may choose another option such as lethal gas or electrocution. So, then the question is, when is this story taking place? Is this some dystopian future? These questions definitely will inspire conversations after seeing this show.

The cast does an excellent job. Annabel Armour is hilarious as the bumbling government employee constantly making mistakes. Eleni Pappageorge is superb as the boss who is always scalding the other employee for messing up. She embodies the idea of a corporate bureaucratic mess. Lastly, Patrese D. McClain is fantastic as the woman who has to make the big decision. She successfully plays it straight in the face of the infuriating nonsense the other two are dealing out.

Get tickets now for hang through April 29th!

Quinn Delaney

Sleek! Hubbard Street Dance : An Evening of Alejandro Cerrudo at The Auditorium Theatre (March 24, 2018)

Off Screen

This is the first time that Alejandro Cerrudo has used text, rather than music, as inspiration for a dance. One of the dancers is spotlighted up in a box seat as she powerfully delivers a theatric monologue by philosopher, Alan Watts, about reality and dreams. The following performance involves them interacting with a large billowing silk sheet. Finally, to conclude the piece, another dancers comes out and delivers a solo lecture. It ends with the following line: “If you know, … the ego doesn’t really doesn’t exist, then it won’t go to your head too badly if you wake up and discover that you are God.”

Off Screen

3/22/18 2:00:43 PM — Chicago, IL Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Spring Season “Off Screen” by Alejandro Cerrudo © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018

Silent Ghost

This piece features a trio of hauntingly beautiful songs accompanied by emotional and heartfelt dancing in couples. There is “For Now I am Winter” by Olafur Anolds (2016), “Familiar” by Nils Frahm (2011), and “First Watch” by King Creosote and Jon Hopkins (2011). Each of the songs transitions smoothly into the other and so do each of the dances. It’s modern, sleek, graceful, and expertly crafted.

Out of Your Mind – World Premiere

The monologue that started the “Off Screen” piece is used while the dancers perform. Later on, the song “It Starts Now” by Blond:ish plays. It contains the same text that was performed at the end of “Off Screen”. It’s an interesting way to tie together the two pieces. In addition, the philosophical nature of the words matches quite nicely with the artistic movements of the dancers and the music to create a beautiful piece of art.

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Quinn Delaney

Wonderful! Broadway in Chicago Presents On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (March 23, 2018)

On Your Feet is the story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan. The show begins with Gloria learning music in Cuba and then shifts to Miami. It is here that Gloria joins the Miami Sound Machine and meets Emilio. The musicians struggle to get their first single, “Dr. Beat”, on the radio, as there is resistant to play a song with a Latin beat and English lyrics.  Through hard work and persistence, they eventually gain great success through the song.

However, when they return with their next single, “Conga”, they are again met with resistance. Emilio comments, “They all want something original that everyone already likes!” Once again, they refuse to take no for an answer and the artists turn it into their biggest hit which leads to a world tour. But then tragedy strikes when their tour bus was struck by a semi-truck. This is a very intense scene with bright headlights and the loud sound of a semi-truck expertly recreating the crash.

Something you may not expect from this show is comedy. However, there are many laughs to be had, especially from the character Abuela, which means grandmother in Spanish. Abuela is bluntly honest which has a great comedic effect. In fact, she receives the loudest applause at the end.

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The finale is a wonderful mega mix that creates a concert atmosphere with everyone getting up on their feet! Full concert lighting shines across the stage and into the entire theatre. The complete cast comes out to sing a few lines and dance along. The audience is clapping and dancing all the way through to the final jam with the full band at the front of the stage. Everyone is smiling and laughing as they leave the theatre. It’s an absolute must see for fans of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine!

Get tickets now for On Your Feet through April 8!

Quinn Delaney