Progressive Rock / Jazz Fusion: Lisa Fischer with Grand Baton at City Winery Chicago (February 4, 2019)

Lisa Fischer is a phenomenal singer who toured with The Rolling Stones from 1989 to 2015. Soon after the film “20 Feet from Stardom” was released in 2013, she began touring with Grand Baton, a progressive rock / jazz fusion band. The leader of the band often plays the SazBass, an eight-stringed electroacoustic instrument inspired by the Turkish baglama that adds an intense Middle Eastern flavor.

During her set, she sings many great songs including “Addicted To Love”, “Immigrant Song”, “Gimme Shelter”, and “Message in a Bottle”. They have each been altered to match the Grand Baton style. This is unfortunate as her voice truly shines in a rock environment. Even her hit song, “How Can I Ease the Pain”, received the progressive rock / jazz treatment. However, her voice still manages to shine through in a few moments. If she were to join with a rock band with a more similar sound to the Rolling Stones, this show would truly incredible.

See the latest posted set here.

Quinn Delaney

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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!

South African Arena Rock! Kongos at Lincoln Hall (January 23, 2019)

The Kongos brothers are originally from South Africa. Thus, it makes sense that they play a version of arena rock blended with African rhythms. The song “I Don’t Mind” features guitar work very common in African Rock. Also, the accordion player plays a major role, especially on “Come with Me Now”, which has over 123 million streams on Spotify. He has the picture of the gorilla from the cover of their album, Egomaniac, printed on his instrument which expands and shrinks as he plays.

They play a bunch of songs from their brand new album, 1929, Pt.1, which was just released this month. There will be parts 2 and 3 later on. These songs are so new that the crowd doesn’t yet know any of them except for the single, “Pay for the Weekend”.

For the encore, Kongos play Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles. It’s an interesting choice that sounds very good played by them. Lastly, they play “I’m Only Joking”, a great rocker to close out the night and send everyone home smiling. “We’ll be back! I’m sure of it!” says the bass player.

During the show they mention their documentary series, Bus Call. It gives a great behind the scenes look at their life on the road. It’s available on YouTube for free! In the series, you’ll learn that their father was a musician who taught them music when they were very young. In 1996, they moved to Arizona. However, they got their first big break in South Africa. They were playing stadiums there at the same time they were playing in bars back in the states for audiences of less than 10 people.

Cost of a ticket: $25
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney

See the latest posted setlist here.

Hilarious! Shattered Globe Theatre and Theater Wit Present The Realistic Joneses at Theater Wit (Through March 9, 2019)

Bob and Jennifer Jones are sitting on their back porch chatting about life. They hear the clanging of their garbage cans and suspect it is a skunk or a raccoon. As it turns out, it’s their new neighbors, John and Pony Jones. They say they weren’t eavesdropping, but then later on they admit they were listening while standing silently in the dark. “Wow, it sounds weird when you say it out loud.” The new neighbors continue to act strangely as they sit down and talk. The audience is cracking up constantly in response to their very bizarre behavior.

This play is absolutely hilarious. John and Pony say the strangest things that you just can’t help to laugh at. You’ll start to wonder what the title is referring to? Are they realistic robots? Aliens pretending to be humans? Or, are they just really awkward? This added mystery adds to the excitement of the production.

At one point, Jennifer is listening to music featuring a didjeridu, an Australian instrument. This odd music perfectly matches the tone of this play. In addition, the set is very impressive. The entire back porch slides back, a fence slides over, and then the kitchen from the other house smoothly slides forward. It’s a great feat to fit all of this on the medium sized stage.

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The cast is excellent. Joseph Wiens is hilarious as John saying the most ridiculous things. He barely cracks a smile a few times, but it’s amazing he doesn’t constantly break playing this character. Courtney McKenna is equally funny as Pony showing great comedic chops in many different situations. Linda Reiter is fantastic as Jennifer, the wife who is concerned about her husband and curious about the new neighbors. HB Ward is great as Bob, the husband who is very amused by the whole situation.

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Get tickets now for The Realistic Jones at Theatre Wit through March 9th!

 

Cost of a ticket: $34

PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Exceptional Value

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

 

Quinn Delaney

Good: Algorithm Nation or The Status Quo at Second City (Open Run)

“We will now do a dramatic scene for you. We need the name of a dramatic movie never seen before.” “The Killer Grapes!” “I’m afraid of the grapes.” “Why?” “They have seeds!” “What? I thought all grapes at Whole Food were seedless!” “We need a scientist!” “How about a mathematician?” “Let’s get some graph paper!” “Have you ever had sex on graph paper?” Blackout. “Sorry, our algorithm failed to create a dramatic scene. Enjoy this intermission while we fix this issue!” This was one of the wild completely improvised scenes that shows the talent of the ensemble.

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This truly is a great cast. Kimberly Michelle Vaughn has a great energy on stage, especially during the dancing scene where she plays a wife just left at the altar. Nate Varrone is absolutely hilarious as a guy wearing Bluetooth, while having sex. He says himself that he looks like the child of Billy Mays and Borat!  Emma Pope is a solid actor always willing to be the straight man in a scene. Ryan Asher is consistently funny especially while improvising scenes about puppies. Tyler Davis is a solid guitar player with good comic chops. Lastly, Jeffrey Murdoch is hilarious as the man tied up and held hostage stripped down to his underwear.

All in all, it was a good show, but not one of Second City’s best. Dream Freaks Fall From Space was definitely better. However, the cast is still strong, especially in the improvised scenes. They have started performing two shows on some Sunday nights, so unfortunately there wasn’t an improv set at the end of this performance.

Get tickets now for Algorithm Nation or The Status Quo!

Cost of a ticket: $36
PlaylistHQ Economic Rating: Worth It-
Rating Scale: Exceptional Value > Worth It > Half Price > Go for Free > Don’t Bother

Quinn Delaney