Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Review: Dreamgirls/Porchlight Music Theatre

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Donica Lynn, Candace C. Edwards and Katherine Thomas/Photo: Kelsey Jorissen

Donica Lynn, Candace C. Edwards and Katherine Thomas/Photo: Kelsey Jorissen

RECOMMENDED

There are some musicals that come with the burden of great expectation. “Dreamgirls,” which made its Broadway debut in 1981, is one such example. The heart-stopping performance of Jennifer Holliday’s “And I Am Telling You” is so etched in the public’s mind that every succeeding performance is measured by that standard. Is it fair? Absolutely not, but let’s be honest, when you have a precedent of that magnitude in your mind, expectations are subconsciously looming throughout the performance. We expect certain notes to be hit, certain dance numbers to make us groove and the overall performance to leave us wowed. Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of “Dreamgirls” goes above and beyond our subconscious expectations. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The King and I/Lyric Opera of Chicago

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King & I 2

Kate Baldwin and Paolo Montalban/Photo: Todd Rosenberg

RECOMMENDED

Lyric Opera of Chicago has found a formula that comes closer to a successful collaboration between the resources of a major opera company and the magic of musical theatre. This “The King and I” employs the sort of voices that approach the color and control, if not the size, that one might hope for in an operatic venue, while maintaining the clarity of characterization upon which a Broadway production relies. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Dry Land/Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

Midwest Premiere, Recommended Shows, Theater, Theater Reviews No Comments »
Bryce Gangel and Jessica Ervin/Photo by:

Bryce Gangel and Jessica Ervin/Photo by: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

Nobody wants the responsibility of telling kids about sex. That’s evidenced in the squeamish way the subject is handled in mainstream media as well as the biologically centered sexual education taught in schools that haven’t defaulted to abstinence. We learn about how babies are made but we don’t learn about how they are unmade. Ruby Rae Spiegel’s “Dry Land” traces a course of unmaking all too common and yet still largely invisible. A heart-wrenching tale of social neglect, Spiegel’s play is also an essential portrait of female friendship. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Connected/Collaboraction

Theater, Theater Reviews, World Premiere No Comments »
The cast of "Connected" at Collaboraction/Credit: Joel Maisonet

The cast of “Connected” at Collaboraction/Photo: Joel Maisonet

In celebration of its twentieth anniversary, Collaboraction mounts a production as grand in scale as humanly possible. Spanning the birth of the universe to post-apocalyptic America, “Connected” wrangles with perhaps the most hotly contested issue of all time: the nature of the human spirit. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: In the Heat of the Night/Shattered Globe Theatre

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ITHOTN-2

Tim Newell, Manny Buckley and Drew Schad/Photo: Michael Brosilow

RECOMMENDED

Everybody talks about the passing of the American Dream but what about the persistence of the American Nightmare? The latter unfolds in black and white, a violent and never-ending story about racial segregation, intolerance and inequality. Based on the great 1965 novel by John Ball, “In the Heat of the Night” tells one part of this American story the way it should be told: in full noir-like splendor with dark, sweaty, tough-talking and hysterical cinematic moments. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: A Splintered Soul/ARLA Productions

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Johanna McKenzie Miller, Craig Spidle and Nik Kourtis/ Photo: Emily Schwartz

Johanna McKenzie Miller, Craig Spidle and Nik Kourtis/Photo: Emily Schwartz

“A Splintered Soul” is among the more cynically calculating plays I’ve seen. Playwright Alan Lester Brooks starts with a crime story straight out of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine then wraps it in a Holocaust milieu to demonstrate his depth and seriousness. What we end up with is two hours of smarmy and pretentious melodrama about one of history’s bleakest chapters. Read the rest of this entry »

Review: The Producers/Mercury Theater Chicago

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The cast of "The Producers"/Photo: Brett A. Beiner

The cast of “The Producers”/Photo: Brett A. Beiner

RECOMMENDED

Have you ever had a dream? A fantasy? A certain frisson of something fabulous to come? A big vision, a prophecy of something monumental, transcendent, opulent? Beyond that, do what you must and cost what it will, will you make it a reality? If so, you might be a Producer. Whether that reverie is Stephen King’s “Carrie: The Musical” or surefire hits like “Moby Dick—On Ice!” or “The King and Us,” a true Producer will see it through. If it means they expose themselves to chorus girls with abhorrently pneumatic bosoms wearing nothing but 800 pounds of completely transparent, glittering rhinestones, so be it! Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Bullets Over Broadway/Broadway In Chicago

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Jeff Brooks and ensemble members of "Bullets Over Broadway."/Photo: Matthew Murphy

Jeffrey Brooks and ensemble members of “Bullets Over Broadway”/Photo: Matthew Murphy

RECOMMENDED

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 »

Review: The Lion in Winter/ Promethean Theatre Ensemble

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Jared Dennis, Nick Lake and Tom Murphy/Photo: TCMcG Photography

Jared Dennis, Nick Lake and Tom Murphy/Photo: TCMcG Photography

RECOMMENDED

James Goldman’s 1966 period piece with contemporary colloquialisms has played the world over, buoyed by the success of the 1968 film starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s dysfunctional family, as seen through Goldman’s witheringly funny eyes, continues to delight today. Goldman’s Shakespearian barbs are so neat and tidy as to be easily committed to memory. The actors in this play had better get them all out as fans in the audience might not be able to prevent themselves from chiming in, like “Rocky Horror” meets “Hamlet.” Read the rest of this entry »

Review: Evita/Marriott Theatre

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Larry Adams and Hannah Corneau/Photo: Liz Lauren

Larry Adams and Hannah Corneau/Photo: Liz Lauren

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 »