The sun started to settle in the West. The shadows were forming over the manicured gardens. Night was coming and so was the start of a great show at Ravinia in Highland Park, IL.
It’s Saturday Night, the weather is nice, and Crosby, Stills, & Nash are in town. Fans young and old came to sing the songs performed by these greats. This was a tremendous venue for these Woodstock (1969) performers.
The three men came out armed with guitars, backed by a sweet band, and gifted with sweet harmonies. Not too many bands have ever been able to rival CSN in vocals.
“Carry On” was a perfect song to start it up with. All the old hippies dressed in their sixties tie dyed gear began to dance. Colored lights illuminated the musical display being set forth for the sold out show of concert goers.
“Marrakesh Express” has always been known for being a popular song amongst the fans. A great song with it’s up beat patterns and vocals that are just amazing. Always great harmonies.
“Long Time Gone” reminds a lot of people of the Woodstock Movie. It plays in the opening and was just a crowd pleaser. CSN were really hyped up for this show and they were letting it all hang out on a Saturday night.
When “Southern Cross” first started, the place just went wild. Everyone was singing the song throughout almost the entire way. “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time you understand now why you came this way.” When you see it done live by CSN you understand why you came to the show. Now everyone knows what all the hype is about.
Of course the boys had to take an intermission which was very cool for the aging entertainers and concert goers. David Crosby has lived two lives, but he looks amazing and is still harmonizing well. If you ask him, “It’s what I was put on this Earth to do.”
Helplessly Hoping was another great hit and Graham Nash is just still a top quality singer. His vocal contributions have long been present in this band and many others. He has been a full time member or singing backup with Dave for other bands. It’s like hearing a group of musical deities.
“For What It's Worth” was brought out from the Buffalo Springfield library and Stills did a great job as usual. He was a little raspy compared to the other two vocally, but where he lacked in one category he made up for it another. His guitar playing has always been a leading voice within this band since the start.
“Guinnevere” is just an amazingly graceful song. Each time they play this with such emotion and love from one man to this woman. No where can you hear a song like this written today. Sung in such a way it made a young lady cry. “It’s my favorite song by them. By anyone!!”
“Our House” was a sing along with lighters going and people chiming in on every note to this great hit. This song has some of the most children friendly lyrics put out. It just has an innocence about it that makes flowers in the hair of beautiful women mandatory.
“Chicago” a great song performed in honor of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. When they “Won't you please come to Chicago just to show your face” the excitement level went up immensely. Even in a far suburb of Chicago, it still makes many of us warm to hear about the city history in song.
“Teach Your Children” is probably the most known song by this band. Appearing in several commercials, being all over the radio, and possibly on a few kid shows like Sesame Street over the years, you would have to have to live under a rock to not hear this song. This is such a great song that was originally intended as a vocal lesson for The Grateful Dead. They would teach the members of the Grateful Dead how to sing harmony for their upcoming albums, Workingman's Deadand American Beauty.
The sold out show at Ravinia in Highland Park, IL. was just an amazing time for people of all ages. One is really overtaken and just in awe over the beautiful presence of the theater. The grounds surrounding were just filled with very well behaved attendees. No one got too crazy or out of hand. The sight of people enjoying a nice picnic lunch/dinner and beverage of choice just completes the scene of a serene summer weekend.
As the night came to a close, the crowd cleared out by shuttle buses back to the Botanical Gardens parking lot. They carried their chairs and coolers that had their leftover spinach dip and wine. Tie dyed people of all ages headed back to their vehicles excited from such a good show and exhausted because they got their monies worth.
Fans young and old came to sing the songs performed by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Night settled the temperature and set the evening for a memorable time. Alcohol was being consumed, people were dancing, and some of the greatest songs ever written were being sung. What more could you ask for? Maybe a time machine to bring you back to Yasgur’s Farm in 1969? Watch their second show ever and have some fine milk from his dairy?
For more Ravinia events, visit www.Ravinia.org.
Four strangers are quarantined together as the Black Plague sweeps through London. They must struggle through personal and social prejudices as they try to survive being cooped up together for weeks. Fear of contamination and imminent death from the agonizing plague, hope of escape, and sexual strain haunts their daily confinement. Will the fittest survive not only the plague, but each other?
Director Jeffrey Clark Stokes has brought a team of newcomers and old hands returning to the stage to create his directorial debut. The highlight of the cast is Caroline Phillips, the young actress playing Morse, a strange girl who sneaks into the boarded-up house and has a profound effect on the wealthy owners’ lives. Her belief in each moment is governed with a direct simplicity and a strong voice, bringing bewitching contrasts of innocence and depravity to this ravaged setting.
A fresh look at a small space, the audience is in effect taken into the quarantined room and has the chance to experience the ghastly confinement through all-around, staggered seating, bringing actors and audience close together. Stripping away any semblance of presentation, a tension-filled realism is achieved as these family-like relationships tauten and wind around themselves.
A brilliant score by DePaul student David Samba ushers us into this hellish house utilizing murmuring winds, groans and repetitive dripping and tapping. The score emphasizes Wallace’s poetic wordplay and grotesque imagery, which startles, horrifies, and repulses even as it invites a closer look into the physical agonies of life in the Black Plague era.
Ghost Light Productions’ One Flea Spare runs July 13-25 at 7:30pm at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee Ave, in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. The show runs 2:10 with a 10 minute intermission. Tickets are available at www.brownpapertickets.com.
The Scottish city of Glasgow wallows in economic depression, as this laborer’s family struggles through the hardships of basic survival. “All we’ve done wrong is to be born into poverty,” the father says in comforting the overworked wife wrapped in his arms. A crash look into the real housewives of Glasgow circa 1930, overcrowded and unsanitary apartments, unfaithful relationships, being unemployed and broke, rebellious teenagers, and human rights verse human cruelty clash in this epic three-act play at Edgewater’s Raven Theatre.
A complex tale of interweaving lives, Robin Witt impeccably directs a strong cast in the creation of this fast-moving family drama, sure to be a summer hit! Touching on many modern issues, this story carries its audience through a roller coaster of fears and tenderness: the joys of raising children, the sorrows of disaster befalling loved ones. Family, even society, pull together as economic struggles break them apart.
Especially touching is the graceful performance of Lori Myers playing Maggie Morrison, the matriarch who leads her family through this desperate saga. She clings to love although gossip, fighting, rejection, and illness nearly break her heart in two. A masterful portrayal, Myers carries the show with a touch of genius, inviting the audience to share her trauma and rejoice in her triumphs.
Great talent work in Chicago, nowhere more so than in this production. A slice of life, featuring excellent costuming by Kate Murphy and ingenious audio effects by Victoria Deiorio contribute to making this charming production an evening that leaves its audience with hope and enjoyable entertainment.
Griffin Theatre Company’s Men Should Weep runs July 5 to August 10 at 7:30pm at the Raven Theatre Complex, 6157 N Clark St in Chicago. The show runs 2:40 with two 10 minute intermissions. Tickets are available at www.griffintheatre.com or by calling 866-811-4111.
In reference to (www.guitarsite.com), the lead singer and guitarist of The Trews revealed where the groups’ name came from in one of his interviews. He said the mom of the bands’ bassist suggested we call ourselves trews. Scottish trousers are known as trews, and the thought of the men wearing them makes for numerous woo-hoos! The front man adds “Given our Scottish heritage the name would be a fitting one to choose.”
The first photo I saw of the Hard rock/Alternative rock band, The Trews, made me wonder if I may have a few loose screws. Was I seeing double views? Are there two sets of male twins in The Trews?
Before you get a Double Mint Gum commercial stuck in your noggin, I should unveil I soon discovered there are not any twins in The Trews. The born and raised Canadian artists, Colin MacDonald (lead singer and guitarist), his brother, John-Angus MacDonald (guitarist), and their cousin, Sean Dalton (drums) along with their childhood bud, Jack Syperek (bassist), have all been playing together since ten plus years ago. The Trews’ hometown is Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and their present cribs are in Toronto. Also, The Trews have won a lot of prestigious awards, some include two #1 singles and 13 Top Ten from Canadian radio.
Yes, The Trews are not just some Joe Schmos. Bruce Springsteen asked The Trews to play on stage with him while he performed (kudos!) In addition, Robert Plant, The Rolling Stones, the new Guns n’ Roses, Kid Rock, KISS and others invited them to open for their shows.
The Trews graced the stage on Tuesday evening at Chicago’s Double Door, where The Rolling Stones have played before. Promoting their new album, The Trews, is the main reason for their current tour. And for the record, I did not witness anybody bored out of their gourde.
There was a very close to even amount of men and women, as far as The Trews’ fans go. A fraction of the hot ladies wore super tight jeans, but thankfully I did not see any camel toe. (Although, that is not the nastiest of things, and does not make one a straight-up ho.)
Most of The Trews’ tunes they played had hooks that wheeled me, and the rest of the audience in and really feelin’ it. The Trews were the s***! They also had me and the crowd singing, dancing and head banging—I loved every bit!
And let me tell ya, The Trews left us wanting more, more, more! Indeed, their show was absolutely not a bore. You have to see The Trews on tour.
*All photos by Tracy Walsh Fun Photography –
Steppenwolf Theater will be the testing ground for Kenneth Lonergan’s “This Is Our Youth” before the play goes to Broadway for its launch in September. Powered with young, talented actors Micheal Cera, Kieran Culkin and 18-year-old fashion blogger turned actress, Tavi Gevinson, we are taken to a lived-in Manhattan apartment in 1982 during the Reagan era. Archetypal slackers, “Dennis”, “Warren” and “Jennifer” are rich kids with all the drugs and self-indulgent worries a group of college-aged kids can ask for.
It all starts when Warren (Cera) intrudes on his self-absorbed pal, Dennis (Culkin) with fifteen thousand dollars that he had swiped from his father after the two had a major argument. Having spent some of the money already, Warren recruits Dennis’ help in trying to replace it before he returns the cash back to his father – hopefully undetected. Dennis, not at all cool with the fact that Warren has now made him accomplice, devises a hair-brained scheme where they would buy some coke, keep some for themselves, cut it and then resell it for a profit exceeding the amount needed to replace the full fifteen thousand dollars. Of course, nothing goes as planned.
In the meantime, throughout constant belittling of Warren by Dennis, Jennifer comes into play, a girl that awkward and nerdy Warren has had a crush on for some time. Plenty of clumsiness takes place between the two before common ground and mutual interests are observed. As the story develops we see plenty of layers shed from each character exposing various vulnerabilities.
The plot is not rocket science – simple and to the point, but the dialogue is plenty and engaging enough to capture one’s attention all the way through to where interest is never lost for a moment. For those whose youth enveloped those early 1980s years, plenty of references are made that will make you think, “Oh, yeah. I remember those – or that.” “This Is Our Youth” is a witty comedy that is refreshingly not overly dark, heavy and depressing. It’s a classic story of a bad situation that gets worse in a very realistic way. Cera and Culkin are a wonderful team and their chemistry is through the roof whether they are bickering or horsing around.
“This Is Our Youth” is a modern day classic that has been performed around the world and has had a revolving door of talent taking on its roles, most notably Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin during a West End run over a decade ago. Anna D. Shapiro directs this production to perfection, brilliantly capturing all the character nuances and bringing this story to life in a theatre-in-the-round setting, creating an atmosphere to which one feels a part of the play.
Funny, charming and sharp, “This Is Our Youth” is pure theatre bliss. Cera, Culkin and Gevinson are electric.
“This Is Our Youth” is playing at Steppenwolf Theater in the upstairs theatre through July 27th. For tickets and/or show information, visit www.steppenwolf.org or call 312-335-1650. Captivate
If you have any fondness for tales of the golden era of Hollywood, and in particular the work of the beloved movie star comedian, Jack Lemmon, you will thoroughly enjoy this moving and entertaining one man show starring Jack’s son, Chris Lemmon.
Writer and director, Hershey Felder had a similar solid hit last year with "The Pianist of Willesden Lane” in which a daughter tells the story of her mother surviving the Holocaust. Jack Lemmon Returns script was originally based on a memoir by Chris Lemmon titled, A Twist of Lemmon. Felder took the book, added some wonderful music and had Chris do the entire piece, not as himself- but as Jack, which makes this piece especially unique and enjoyable. All of the monologues flow beautifully into each other along with the music and never before seen photographs projected above the stage to create a touching, and funny progression that is very polished and theatrically satisfying.
There is no hash slinging ala “Mommie Dearest”, but Chris acknowledges Jack’s two decade long struggle with alcohol addiction. A telling moment about Jack’s narcissism is when “Jack” describes the thrill of winning his first Oscar for Mister Roberts and realizing after a few hours of celebration that he had literally left his wife behind, sitting all alone in the auditorium, which signaled the end of his marriage to Chris’s mother and actress, Cynthia Stone.
Lemmon has wonderful stage presence, as himself and as his dad, Jack. I was unaware that both he and his father were such gifted pianists. Jack introduced Chris to music, who later earned a degree in classical piano and composition. Chris recalls how after his parents divorced, while he was only two, Jack would make time to visit him almost everyday at his beach side home to play piano together. Chris says that although his new stepmother did not really welcome his presence, Jack was still “a little bit in love with his mother” and he remained his father’s beloved “hotshot” son without interruption.
The one piece of video in the show was of French Actor/Director and Mime Jean-Louis Barrault's performance in the silent film Children of Paradise, which Jack Lemmon studied intensively. It shows how ahead of his time Jean-Louis Barrault’s expressive hand gestures were - like a series of poetically powerful hand mudras, which were able to make people laugh and cry at the same time.
Chris does an amazing job of recreating young Jack’s many complicated trademark mannerisms, comical stuttering and gracefully manic hand gestures. He also does some fantastic impersonations of the friends in Jack’s start studded life like James Cagney, Billy Wilder, Jerry Lewis, Gregory Peck and even Marilyn Monroe.
Chris Lemmon grew up near Marilyn Monroe and relates a great story of how he snuck into her yard once while she was surrounded by secret servicemen during a tryst with JFK. The armed men tried to remove him but Marilyn stopped them and said “No! That’s Jack Lemmon’s son! “
The ninety minutes flowed so quickly and intensely that I wanted it to go on longer and pack in even more star recollections. Chris said afterwards that he and Felder had a rough time cutting the piece down to this exact running time especially when it came to cutting a section about Jack’s great friendship with actress Shirley Maclaine. He further explained that an intermission or even three extra minutes could stop the pace of this one man show in its tracks.
There is a real market for this special piece. After the show I felt like I had experienced a visit with real Hollywood royalty in both Jack and Chris and wanted to see Jack Lemmon’s movies again, and read Chris Lemmon’s biography with this new perspective.
At 59 Chris Lemmon is the perfect age to play his father as a young man and into old age when Jack died of cancer at the age of 76.
Chris’s stage version of his beloved father is more than an impersonation. Because of Chris’s skill and because Chris Lemmon is “blood”, his remarkable performance borders on actually “channeling” his late father’s huge spirit. It is truly exciting and haunting to watch. At times I felt I was actually witnessing Jack Lemmon joyfully “stepping into” his son’s face and body. After congratulating Chris and meeting his lovely wife and daughters at the end of the night, we hugged goodbye and I told him how much I loved his dad. I could have sworn I saw Jack Lemmon himself with his broad smile winking at me over Chris’s shoulder.
Hershey Felder said after the show that they brought “ Jack Lemmon Returns” to Chicago first because of all the cities in the U.S., Chicago is the only city that truly welcomes new theatre and longs for it’s success, instead of sitting arms crossed in judgment.
Do not miss your chance to see this remarkable and beautifully written and directed piece of theatre while it is running here at The Royal George Theatre, which is being performed through June 8th. Visit http://www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com/ for more info.
The Houston Ballet might not have shown us the world (shining, shimmering, splendid), but they did present the city of Chicago with an incredible production of “Aladdin” filled with the same sorcery, riches, splendor, magic, love, and romance as we’ve come to expect from the heartwarming tale of an impoverished young ne'er-do-well who becomes part of a whirlwind adventure.
The Houston Ballet made its debut at the Auditorium Theatre with celebrated English choreographer David Bintley's ballet "Aladdin." The ballet was originally created for the New National Ballet of Japan in Tokyo in 2008, and the Windy City was only the fourth city to experience the performance, sharing the magic carpet ride with such cities as Tokyo and London. Most people will know the story of Aladdin from the popular 1992 Disney movie of the same name. However, the Houston Ballet's "Aladdin" follows the more traditional story of Aladdin from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights). There’s no singing genie or clever monkey named Abu, but there was no need for it in this breathtaking production.
The caliber of talent that took the stage this past weekend would leave the staunchest of critics in awe. From the background dancers to the principle dancers, everyone commanded the audience’s attention with a technique and grace that prove why the Houston Ballet is a world renowned. The moment the curtains rose, the dancers instantly transported us to old Arabia. Set against spectacular scenery created by the English designer Dick Bird and coupled with an exceptional original score by Carl Davis and performed by the Chicago Philharmonic, the audience was immediately under the spell of Aladdin’s magic.
While there were many highlights throughout the 2 ½ hour performance, one of the standouts had to be the cave of wonders. When the evil sorcerer convinces Aladdin to enter the cave and retrieve the magic oil lamp, Aladdin is met with jewels and riches beyond his imagination. The jewels onyx, pearls, gold and silver, sapphire, rubies, emeralds, and diamonds were all brought to life by dancers, making the riches literally dance before Aladdin’s eyes. The audience watched on, as mystified and entranced as the young peasant boy himself. Equally impressive were the comings and goings of the genie throughout the performance; whether he hovered in midair or vanished and appeared in a cloud of smoke, the genie entered with power and pizazz that would make Robin Williams himself proud. In one scene at the royal court, when the genie transforms Aladdin from rags to princely attire, the scene erupts into a frenzied dance with the genie, jewels, slaves, and courtesans. The high energy, fast moving dance was so synchronized you’d think one person was controlling the dozens of dancers on stage. It was graceful, powerful, magical, and was the definitive mark that this ballet is here to stay.
Who doesn’t love the story of Aladdin? It’s a rags to riches story that has stood the test of time. The Houston Ballet’s production of “Aladdin” is nothing short of spectacular. Folks young and old gave the performance a standing ovation and were captivated for the entire duration of the performance. The sheer talent and pageantry of the ballet was a welcome change to Chicago and the Auditorium Theater. I hope more shows like this breeze through the Windy City for Chicagoans to experience. So the next time “Aladdin” flies into Chicago on its magic carpet, be sure you jump on and enjoy the ride.
Contemporary dance is an art form like any other. As a style of dance it is much more of a philosophy than a strict technique like, say, traditional ballet or modern. Rather, it draws inspiration from both techniques and creates an entirely different experience for the audience. Much like art, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Whether you are a fan of contemporary dance or not, you should take the time away from the bitter winter cold and venture into the Auditorium Theatre to experience The Joffrey Ballet’s presentation of Contemporary Choreographers.
Like many of the contemporary showcases performed by The Joffrey, Contemporary Choreographers is split into three productions: Crossing Ashland, Continuum, and Episode 31. Let’s quickly cover off on some highlights; Episode 31, the final performance in the series choreographed by Alexander Ekman, is actually quite fun. It can adequately be described as a dramatic playground, bringing a youthful approach to dance with a touch of humor; no seriously, people were laughing along to the performances.
The second performance in the series is Continuum, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. This was the least entertaining performance for me; I would equate the performance as a whole as looking a blank white canvas in an art museum with a title like “Block 39.” To many, they would draw a profound and ethereal message from the blank white canvas, while others might see just a white canvas, blank and without meaning. Many of those in the audience gave Continuum a standing ovation, but to me the performance lacked a story and with it a reason to enjoy and watch it. Then again, it followed one of the best contemporary pieces I would safely say is the most enjoyable contemporary performance I’ve ever seen, so I am slightest biased.
Throughout the opening piece called Crossing Ashland, choreographed by Brock Clawson, dancers in streets clothes created the vision of pedestrians passing each other on the street, walking briskly back and forth across the stage. These stoics in street clothes turned expressive when they stripped away their outer layers of clothing and exposed the vulnerability of their inner selves. Crossing, the dancers showed us what we look like; dancing, they showed us the enormity of what we feel. The performances’ emotions were palpable to the audience and after each dancer took the stage you begged them to say longer. The dancers themselves were drop-dead, makes-you-want-to-go-workout, idol-worthy specimens, each and every muscle working to show their emotions. In lament terms, they were hot.
So what makes Crossing Ashland special? It’s the fact that the dance is so relatable, so understandable to the audience; two people pass on the street, their hands touching slightly, longingly, but then they part. So much is said in those moments without saying a word, and when two dancers portraying their emotions take the stage and perform a deeply passionate interpretation of breaking-up and making-up, you are captivated. Crossing Ashland could easily be made into a full length production and take the stage for a full two hours and no one would be bored. And more importantly, it could introduce an entirely new generation to contemporary choreography that isn’t limited to what one sees on televised dance shows or in the movies.
So cross Wabash Avenue and make your way to the Auditorium Theatre to see Contemporary Choreographers. The show runs through February 23rd. It is a breath of fresh air to a modern style of dance that will hopefully leave you breathless.
Throughout the last century, The Phantom of the Opera has taken on many forms. Originally written by Gaston Leroux and published in early 20th century France the Phantom soon found its’ way onto the silver screen right here in the U S of A with Rupert Julian’s silent film depiction. Currently however, The Phantom of the Opera is most well known for the incredibly moving musical adaptation composed primarily by Andrew Lloyd Webber and making its’ debut in 1986 London. The musical received 2 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best New Musical and Michael Crawford (the Phantom himself) Best Actor, paving the way for a 1988 debut on Broadway where it became an immediate classic and eventually the longest running show in Broadway history. After receiving 2 Tony Awards for Best Musical and Crawford again achieving Best Actor in a Musical, the Phantom of the Opera would be transcribed into 13 different languages to be seen by over 130 million people in theatres all over the world.
Now, considering the rich history and evolution in production throughout the many tours The Phantom has undergone, I can’t help but feel my reviewing this most recent version of Lloyd Webber’s adaptation to be somewhat arbitrary. You see, until I experienced this new production by Cameron Mackintosh, my knowledge of the Phantom was limited solely to Joel Schumacher’s 2004 film depiction and because this film was written and produced by Webber himself it, of course, is a masterpiece. That being said, having not had the pleasure of witnessing any of the previous musical productions of this beloved theatrical classic, I offer you a fresh perspective on this spectacular new production by Cameron Mackintosh.
Nostalgia filled the air that night at the Cadillac Palace Theatre January 15th as the auctioneer presented old relics of an opera house long past. Spirits rose as the enchanting melody emanated from that silly little music box where that bellhop monkey we’ve all grown to adore played the cymbal. Hearing those notes served as a firm reminder of all the gripping music that so effectively captivates my heart and I began to feel a stir of emotion as I watched with anticipation. But as we all know, the show doesn’t truly begin until the auctioneer presents “lot 666”… the monumental chandelier was lowered, uncovered and illuminated!
The magnificent display proved a worthy reflection of the production to follow as the stage was, to say the least, impressive. A set such as this, nearly 30 years in the making and after grossing over 5.6 billion dollars worldwide, certainly shows the extraordinary progress in quality and an unmistakable attention to detail was visible throughout the set. The integration of tracks and mobile parts made for an engaging display. The set itself however, as impressive as it was, merely emphasized the wardrobe which brought life to each character in an undeniably authentic fashion that drew me into the romance and magic of it all. The Phantom of the Opera was brought to life in a truly striking new light and I couldn’t imagine a better venue to bare witness to such a spectacle. The Cadillac Palace offers a wide range of seating options all of which provide an excellent view of the stage and the décor, in one word, grandeur.
I soon took note that some characters added a sense of lightheartedness to this new production that caught me by surprise. Carlotta Giudicelli (performed by Jacquelynne Fontaine) and Ubaldo Piangi (Frank Viveros) for instance, immediately jumped out to me and the audience both, carrying an untraditionally high-spirited weightlessness that was otherwise uncharacteristic to their personalities. Even amid the wake of the ominous Phantom, Carlotta and Ubaldo’s playful touch managed to lift the audience to a blithesome state of ignorance receiving laughter and applause in nearly every appearance from Scene 1 “The Dress Rehearsal of Hannibal” to Scene 7 “Don Juan Triumphant” in the second act. There was never a dull moment while either shone on the stage.
Nevertheless, their characters serve merely as a distraction only building suspense while The Phantom (exceptionally performed by Cooper Grodin) lies wait beneath the stage. Finally making his first appearance in Scene 3 “Corps de Ballet Dressing Room” while singing the masterfully conducted “Angel of Music” his voice struck me as nothing less than should be expected from the man chosen to portray The Phantom. It is only in the scenes following that The Phantom must prove his love to Christine (performed by Julia Rose Udine) and Grodin’s portrayal to the audience, for it is in these moments that one falls in love with The Phantom of the Opera. I must say, Cooper Grodin being as well seasoned and experienced as he is, having had an ample education in music and the performing arts, and having played such major rolls in theatre, taking on the roll of The Phantom and doing so as well as he has is truly an admirable accomplishment, a milestone to be proud of for the rest of ones’ life. My hat goes off to you sir, for as you led Christine deeper into the labyrinth and ever closer to The Phantoms’ lair I was no longer watching the portrayal of Cooper Grodin, but The Phantom himself had entered my mind!
We’re all aware of The Phantom’s infamous nature behind the mask, while precarious and fraught with danger at the turn of a hat, still somehow affording a mysterious and even seductive quality that continues to draw you in. However, once unmasked, I found that Grodin’s portrayal of these seductive yet insidious attributes to depict more of an unnerving and disturbing performance that I felt took away from the suspense almost entirely. I felt that his mystery was lost too quickly and any attraction Christine may have still suffered had died. If these were the intentions of the new production, then it only left more room in the spotlight for the beautiful Julia Udine to portray Christine who, let’s face it, is the true star of the show.
From ballet dancer to center stage, Miss Christine Daaé carried the innocence of an angel. Julia’s portrayal of Christine was outstanding! Her voice did more than match that of The Phantom’s, but carried an unwavering familiarity that held true to the classic. Song and word alone could never do her justice and the nature of her performance can only be experienced firsthand. For it is only our beloved Christine, that can bring The Phantom to his knees and the crowd to their feet.
The Pahntom of the Opera is playing at Cadillac Palace through March 2nd. For tickets and more information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.
Of the many Christmas shows I have seen over the years, Mary Wilson of The Supremes and The Four Tops may have collaborated for one of the best I have seen with their Holiday Spectacular. Amazing vocals, flashy costumes, classic band hits and a bevy of holiday song favorites made this night at Harris Theater one to remember.
The Four Tops, led by founding member Abdul “Duke” Fakir, kicked off the show with a handful of their own hits including “Reach Out”, “Bernadette”, “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” and “Baby, I Need Your Loving”. Spin moves and choreographed routines that help made them famous in the late 1950s and early 1960s were still highly present as the band motored its way through the night. Beautiful harmonies swept across the auditorium while The Four Tops tackled Christmas favorites “Silent Night” and “White Christmas” before Mary Wilson joined them on other beloved melodies like “My Favorite Things”. Wilson and Fakir also collaborated on one of the highlight moments of the evening when the two teamed up for a duet for an amazing rendition of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”.
Mary Wilson was simply astounding. Looking fantastic and sounding silky smooth she plunged into many of The Supremes most notable songs “Baby Love”, “Can’t Hurry Love” and “Stop In the Name of Love”. Wilson had the help of a 15-plus piece band, backup singers and dancers, making each number larger than life. Another show stopping moment was when Wilson sang a breathtaking version of “Have Yourself A Very Merry Christmas”.
The mood was certainly merry throughout the crowd during this festive and most memorable event. Audience members rose to their feet with regularity. Toes were tapping and hands were clapping. It was certainly a treat to see these performing legends work together and we can only hope that Mary Wilson’s Holiday Spectacular Featuring Special Guest The Four Tops will return next year.