Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s celebrated “Little Shop of Horrors” is a tunefully amusing musical—and that’s partly what makes it so scary. Telling its story of love and murder through sixties-inspired pop and R&B, “Horrors” challenges audiences by being both heartwarming and cold-blooded; it’s a counter-intuitive musical that the American Blues Theater revives with tender and terrifically tasteless inspiration. Read the rest of this entry »
“Once in a Lifetime” at Strawdog Theatre Company. Kaufman and Hart’s classic comedy marks Strawdog’s final show at their Broadway home before their move to Rogers Park in the fall. Through June 4. For tickets and more information visit strawdog.org
“Mike Mother” at The Neo-Futurists. A two-person, one-woman show that explores theater’s reliability as a vessel for truth. Through June 4. For tickets and more information visit neofuturists.org
“The Art of Losing” at the Den Theatre. A world premiere family drama set in Boston at the height of the 2004 American League Championship Series. Through May 14. For tickets and more information visit facebook.com/artoflosingplay
The musical version of Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath’s 1994 film of the same name has lots of good things going for it. This first national tour has an incredibly talented cast, great choreography and strong production elements—from costumes to set design. Read the rest of this entry »
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock oratorio “Evita” sings a story that never tires in its retelling: the disenfranchised individual, working with their particular skill set and virtually on their own, can rise from obscurity to answer the largest dream they dare. The original Broadway production starred Patti LuPone as Eva and Mandy Patinkin as Che; their Tony Award-winning performances turned them into stars. Read the rest of this entry »
“Welcome to Berlin, ” say several cast members to the young American writer arriving from Paris in search of his novel. The time is 1929 and Berlin is in the waning age of the Weimar Republic when everyone, even the queers and Jews, are more than welcome. And nothing symbolizes that brief period of time better than the infamous Kit Kat Klub with its dancing girls, available men and the sexiest orchestra this side of the Rhine. Overseeing this decadent madness is an emcee almost too scandalous to be believed. Read the rest of this entry »
“Far From Heaven, ” the acclaimed 2002 film starring the translucent Julianne Moore, was penned and directed by Todd Haynes and shot using the carefully composed color schemes, camera angles and incandescent lighting of the 1950s when the film is set. An Off-Broadway telling burned brightly and closed quickly in the summer of 2013. Kelli O’Hara, possessed of a nearly impossible soprano voice like a computer powered by the oldest soul on the planet, created a heart-string-searing portrayal, preserved in the revered original cast recording. It may be difficult for the film and musical theater buff not to make comparisons between these expansive constructions and Porchlight’s intimate production. Read the rest of this entry »
As this sprightly new musical opens, Arthur Conan Doyle has just committed what his myriad readers see as the ultimate crime: killing off iconic super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes. “He’s been smashed to smithereens/And I don’t care a hill of beans,” flippantly sings the Scottish doctor turned writer, who is sick to death of the fictional construct who has overshadowed every other aspect of his existence. Now Holmes, along with his nemesis Professor Moriarty, lies drowned at the foot of the Reichenbach Falls, so that Doyle can live. What the good doctor fails to reckon with is the objections of his own creation, who materializes from a late-Victorian twilight zone to remonstrate with the writer about his premature demise and, incidentally, to help him solve a real-life mystery. Read the rest of this entry »
The trial run of a musical comedy on its way to Broadway is probably not the first place you’d expect to find an exploration of systematic disempowerment. Reasonably so, given theater’s impressive batting average with Caucasians who can qualify for the senior discount (not that they need it). Still, as they say, where there’s a will there’s a way. With its ingenious conceit and pleasantly whitewashed vision of cultural crossover, “Gotta Dance” succeeds by holding up a mirror to its audience and encouraging them to like what they see.
Featuring the milieu of nursing homes and bingo nights, “Gotta Dance” is atmospherically suburban and unapologetically moral. The book’s myriad holes and limited number of locations occasionally stretch the limits of plausibility. With all good intentions, director Jerry Mitchell tends to make matters worse with his persistent use of LCD screens, which symbolically—and quite blatantly—ignore the musical’s overwhelming conviction that the old ways are best. Read the rest of this entry »
“The Lion King” is undeniably magical. As the show begins, Rafiki–the mandrill shaman–sings the first lines of “The Circle of Life” while a host of actors in brilliantly designed animal costumes (including giraffes, elephants, zebras and birds) appear against a sunrise to pay tribute to the lion cub, Simba (Tré Jones and, later in the show, Blaine Alden Krauss as his adult counterpart), who is destined to become king of the jungle. In less than a minute, audience members of all ages are completely hooked.
The stage version features the critically acclaimed songs by Elton John, Tim Rice and Hans Zimmer that were first featured in the animated film (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “Hakuna Matata” etc.) along with a few additions. Read the rest of this entry »