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!

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Impressive! A Golden Celebration of Dance at The Auditorium Theatre (November 12, 2017)

Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre first opened it’s doors in 1899. In 1941, due to the Great Depression, it closed its doors. On October 31st, 1967, it reopened with a performance by the New York City Ballet. And now, in 2017, the theatre celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Grand Re-Opening with a one night only show combining dancers from around the world. The following is a handful of the best performances.

 

The Swan

Liudmila Konovalova (Vienna State Ballet)

Choreography by Mikhail Fokine

Music by Camille Saint-Saëns

This performance was very impressive. Liudmila Konovalova was standing on point for almost the entire dance. Dressed in all white, she was as graceful and beautiful as a swan gliding on water.

 

Diana and Acteon Pas de Deux

Koto Ishihara (San Francisco Ballet) and Brooklyn Mack (The Washington Ballet)

Choreography by Agrippina Vaganova

Music by Cesare Pugni

This was another incredible number with Brooklyn Mack performing a series of impressive athletic ballet jumps that were met with thunderous applause by the audience.

 

Caught

Ian Spring (Parsons Dance)

Choreography by David Parsons

Music by Robert Fripp

See a video here.

Ian Spring

This is a very innovative piece. Using quick flashes of light, Ian Spring appears to transport around the stage without moving a muscle. Every time the light is on him, he is in a different location holding the same body position. Then, he seems to fly around the stage without ever touching the ground. Each time the light hits him, he is mid-air. The audience is awestruck and erupts in applause at the conclusion!

Millennium Skiva

Todd Burnsed and Nicole Loizides (MOMIX)

Choreography by Moses Pendleton

Music by Brainbug

This piece sticks out immensely from the other acts tonight. Firstly, the music is very electronic and futuristic. Secondly, their outfits are shiny silver outfits that look like space suits. While wearing skis, Todd Burnsed and Nicole Loizides skillfully move to the music in a sleek fashion including leaning forwards and backwards at sharp angles and doing summersaults. It’s a truly artistic number whose only comparison is to a Cirque du Soleil show.

 

Takademe

Solomon Dumas (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)

Choreography by Robert Battle

Music by Sheila Chandra

The song uses vocals in a very percussive manner and the dance is choreographed to match. Solomon Dumas does an excellent job visualizing the speed of the song and also the humor in it. The crowd is absolutely delighted.

 

Check out the calendar of the Auditorium Theatre for upcoming events!

Quinn Delaney

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!

Fantastic! Polaris: A Contemporary Pole Dance Company Presents Poleitico: A Pole Show on Politics at The Den Theatre (November 8, 2017)

Poleitico is a dance show that explores issues such as gay rights, mental health, and climate change through pole dancing. November 8th was specifically chosen as it is the one year anniversary of Trump’s election. The dancing is very impressive and athletic and is met with thunderous applause by the audience. They make it look easy climbing up to the ceiling and spinning around. Also, the music chosen for the performances is fantastic.

Spotify Playlist of the Songs Used:

 

Program for the Night:

…But Equal: Human by Sevdaliza (racism piece)

Her: Her by Madame Ghandi (women’s issues piece)

Unholy War: Unholy War by Jacob Banks (religious persecution piece)

Reclaiming Our Lives and Crying Glory: Glory by Common and John Legend (BLM piece)

Hexus: The Spring by Khary Laurent (climate change piece)

Frame of Mind: Breathe Me by Sia (mental health piece)

Requiem : Requiem For Tower by Escala – An adaptation of Lux Aeterna from the Requiem For A Dream Soundtrack  (drug addiction piece)

When Home is a Person:  Stickwitu by The Pussycat Dolls (gay rights piece)

-It’s unknown if these dancers are a couple in real life, but it definitely felt like they were.

Generations to Come: Amerika by Young the Giant (immigration piece)

-See our review of Young the Giant at Northerly Island on September 9th here, in which Amerika is their opening song.

Quinn Delaney

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Spotify Track URIs:

spotify:track:7rgnedMfQa1YHzKIe5Mwem
spotify:track:1NpMKUlA4fKue0vy4V5ejC
spotify:track:4PjZsEf8bCIVyf4VXd57wS
spotify:track:2fmqPLRFdJNPhLU3b2NSFp
spotify:track:6hrgeEo1WQOHVeF8QMv68S
spotify:track:1xB7YdTKvUzO4bOjN6QAW8
spotify:track:4NjR63Up0uMkQBlKvlZd1l
spotify:track:6pqKbOiVd58jcnxqIB10Ra

Broadway Bound and Tony Award Worthy! The Minutes at Steppenwolf Theatre (November 19, 2017)

Mr. Peel, played by Cliff Chamberlain, is a new member of the Big Cherry City Council. He missed the last session due to the death of his mother. The minutes from the last meeting have not been distributed, so he is behind on many topics. When he tries to find out what happened, the other members avoid answering his questions. He keeps digging and eventually a deeply dramatic story unravels.

The play explores the age old saying, “History is written by the winners.” What happens when you learn the full truth of the story? Can you ignore it and go on living the same way? Is ignorance bliss? This draws direct parallels to the current controversy over removing Confederate statues and also the Washington Redskins, who are playing their first Thanksgiving game this year, in what seems like a sick joke.

The performances in this production are world class. William Peterson, who may recognize as Gil Grissom from CSI, plays Mayor Superba excellently. He shows strength and leadership and he struggles to keep the meeting in order. Francis Guinan as Mr Oldfield is absolutely hilarious. In many ways, this role is similar to his performance in Hir. In both, he plays an old man almost completely unaware of reality who stumbles through life and provides comic relief for the show.

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Ian Barford portrays Mr. Carp. Like his role as Wheeler in Linda Vista, he seeks the truth with conviction and it is forcing him to change in ways he didn’t expect. Danny McCarthy, who was last seen at Steppenwolf in The Flick, is great as Mr. Hanratty. The way he deals with the other council members during his proposal for a new fountain is so funny. All of the other supporting cast members are excellent as well.

Get tickets now for The Minutes through January 7th, before it heads to Broadway and wins a few Tony Awards!

Quinn Delaney

Note: This is Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Lett’s follow up to Linda Vista. See our review here.

Funny and Exciting! The Agency Theater Collective Presents Hellcab at The Den Theatre (November 17, 2017)

It’s Monday, December 21, 1992, in Chicago, IL.  It’s a cold, snowy day, which is good for business for the Cab Driver, played by Rusty Schwimmer. She starts early, at 630am, and picks up her first customers, a couple going to church. They try to convince her to join them. This is just the first of many strange invitations she receives this night. Later on, a female passenger played by Delysa Richards enters her cab with her hood pulled down over her head acting very suspiciously. She keeps fumbling around with something in her pocket, like a gun or something. The cab driver is obviously rattled and it makes for a very exciting scene.

Schwimmer plays the straight man role perfectly. As her customers do annoying things, she makes the perfect disgusted face, which is so funny. She is on the audience’s side and we are experiencing the taxi life with her. She also displays great fear and anxiousness when the suspicious passenger is in the cab.

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Here are a few fun trivia items about the play:

In one scene, Schwimmer sits by herself in the cab, singing “Barracuda” by Heart.

Most of the characters are just going “3 blocks” away.

In one scene, her passengers from NYC are making fun of Chicago sports teams. She says the Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, which was true at the time.

In the same scene, she defends the Bulls, who were on their way to their third straight championship.

While watching the performance, there are never more than four people on stage at a time. However, there are seventeen people in the cast.

The play was turned into a movie in 1997 starring Michael Shannon, John Cusack, Tracey Letts, John C. Reilley, Gillian Anderson, Julianne Moore, and many more.

Get tickets now for Hellcab through Dec 17th!

Quinn Delaney

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