I had no idea what to expect Sunday night when I went to Soldier Field to see Guns N’ Roses. I really didn’t. I knew what I had hoped to see in what is now the highest grossing tour in 2016 but was still a bit skeptical seeing as the band has been on the outs for such a long time. Reviews of the band’s “Not In This Lifetime” reunion tour have been mixed, some claiming that Slash had been carrying the show, implying the other band members were merely present as symbols of yesteryear so that as much of an original lineup could be put together as possible to warrant such a major occasion that could fill stadiums. That’s not what I saw – not even close. Yes, Slash was amazing in himself, but I saw a band that collectively charged the stage and played with an enormous amount of continuity, energy, confidence and precision. I saw a band where EACH member contributed as much as the next in what turned out to be a very special event – the event one can only hope for when throwing around the words “Guns N’ Roses reunion”.
Having seen the band four times between the Appetite for Destruction and the Use Your Illusion releases, it is apparent that Guns N’ Roses now has access to a much larger and complex stage show where pyrotechnics and jumbo screens assist in presenting the band’s vision like never before. But of course you can’t have a successful reunion run without the music. There’s no denying the band has the catalog of material to please their hungry fan base, but let’s be honest – it’s been a long time since the band has played together and we now live in a world where comeback tours often recycle band members and thrust them on stage whether they can still perform or not. Guns N’ Roses is not one of these bands. While Slash wailed away on his Les Paul, effortlessly ripping through riffs and solos, bassist Duff McKagan also showed he was still in peak form even laying out impressive lead vocals on Iggy Pop’s “Raw Power”, a song the band covered on The Spaghetti Incident. McKagan patrolled the large stage area bleeding the Guns N’ Roses arrogance we have come to know, projecting the epitome of rock n’ roll attitude.
To me, I had little doubt that the instrumentation would be there, I was most curious if Axl Rose would still be able to gel with the others (and them with him) and, frankly, if his voice would hold up. Within minutes of the show, any doubts I may have had completely vanished. Axl was nailing it – and then some. With an incredible energy level that had him running all over the stage and grinding out his famous rock moves, Axl’s vocals were spot on and possibly even more powerful than ever before. His stage presence was dominant. He controlled the crowd. Who knows what goes on behind the scenes but all signs pointed to the three original members expressing great enjoyment as they played with each other – and this while playing at an optimum level.
The still youthful band, both musically and physically fit, was rounded out with Richard Fortus, who has been playing guitar for Guns N’ Roses since 2001 and was a presence in his own right, drummer Frank Ferrer (since 2006) who gives Matt Sorum a run for his money, longtime keyboardist Dizzy Reed and newbie Melissa Reese who manned a second keyboard.
Like a locomotive, the band’s sound was delivered with force from the get go when they opened with “It’s So Easy”. In a set that lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of two hours and forty-five minutes, Guns N’ Roses tackled a plethora of favorites including “Mr. Brownstone”, “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Civil War”, “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, “Coma”, “Estranged”, “Live and Let Die” and “Rocket Queen”. The band also played a handful of material from their critically acclaimed 2008 release Chinese Democracy, going into the title track along with “This I Love” and “Better”.
In what could only be interpreted as a tribute to Prince, the entire stage filled with billows of purple smoke just after an inspiring performance of “November Rain”. Duff also sported the symbol of Prince on his bass. Nice touch, fellas.
Theirs was a set that never let up. After one gratifying selection after another the band finished up with “Nightrain” before returning for an encore with “Don’t Cry”, The Who’s “The Seeker” and a ramped up “Paradise City”.
Guns N’ Roses “Not In This Lifetime” tour certainly lives up to the hopes of their many fans. It’s what fans knew the band could still be. Musically, the tour is fulfilling and visually, it is stimulating. It is the complete package. No shortcuts or cutting corners here. What fans get is an exciting, full blown Guns N’ Roses experience. I’m just glad Chicago made the band’s shortlist or tour stops. Great music, stage show and musicianship aside, not to worry, the band still carries a healthy “Fuck You” brashness after all these years – an important ingredient in G N’ R’s recipe for success.
Alice in Chains provided strong support for Guns N’ Roses for their Chicago stops and is highly deserving of their own rave review. Though Soldier Field may be the last stop for Alice in Chains as opening support, Guns N’ Roses will continue to take heavy-hitting acts along with them on the road with Lenny Kravitz, The Cult and Wolfmother scheduled on later dates.
So what’s next after a successful reunion tour? That’s what everyone seems to be asking while hoping the answer is simply to make a new album and tour the shit out of it. Guns N’ Roses is back.
One of the world’s most popular musicals has found a temporary home at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire. And you should see it! Celebrating five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, the 1964 hit takes on a most interesting chapter in the life of Don Quixote while spending time in prison as he awaits a hearing with the Spanish Inquisition. Based on one of 17th century Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes’ most famed characters the 1959 teleplay I, Don Quixote set the stage for what has become one of the most successful musicals to date. Often referred to as a play within a play, Man of La Mancha focuses on Quixote, an imprisoned writer who has turned away from the harsh realities of the world such as battle, crime and poverty and decides rather to view the world as he wants to see it where a prostitute, Aldonza, can instead be a his beloved Dulcinea, a battered cane can be a mighty sword or a cooking pot can be a prized helmet – a victorious trophy.
Music Director Ryan T. Nelson and six-time Jeff Award director Nick Bowling take on this long-time prolific musical, splendidly piecing together a production that engages throughout and profoundly touches the heart. It is together with the powerhouse acting performance of Nathaniel Stampley, that this production goes over and beyond, becoming an instant Marriott classic and a show that will long be remembered for its superb acting and gripping storytelling. Stampley brilliantly seizes the lead role, which is really two leading roles, as the passionate writer who has defied the Spanish Inquisition along with the imaginary knight he has become in his imagination.
Stampley is an actor you can easily root for. Magnetic and captivating, Stampley is a tour de force, capturing the character’s subtleties while becoming a dominating presence when called for, particularly during his breathtaking rendition of the production’s famed song “The Impossible Dream”, which led to a much deserved extended applause that only escalated to a higher volume every time the cheers began to die down.
Stampley gets solid support from actress Danni Smith who delivers a memorable performance of her own, the two skillfully playing off each other to generate the much needed connection to make this show work. Richard Ruiz is also excellent as Quixote's trusty sidekick, Sancho. As all Marriott shows go, we are treated to a very gifted ensemble, as well.
Director Nick Bowling does add a twist to the original by having the story take place in modern times. Simply said, it works. As Bowling explains, “We put the story in modern day with the notion that there are inquiries still going today and there will always be inquisitions.” Bowling’s underlying tones are powerful and serve as a wake up call for some while everyone can still enjoy a masterful musical that can be as heartwarming as it can sad and often humorous in just the right spots.
Wonderfully acted with a slew of talented vocal performances, Man of La Mancha is a sure summer hit that is sure to make theatre goers cheer, feel and emphasize with and for a man who dares to dream the impossible dream and fight the unbeatable foe.
Man of La Mancha is being performed at Marriott Theatre through August 14th. Tickets range from $50-$55. For more show information visit www.marriotttheatre.com.
For those of you who are not aware, there is a great youth program taking place where a group of educators have created an alternative education source for CPS students. Enter Barrel of Monkeys. Barrel of Monkeys (BOM) is a combined group of actors, teachers and musicians that have developed a new, and fun, way for students to enhance their creative writing skills while building their self-esteem and open doors for them to express themselves. Mainly working with third through fifth graders, BOM focuses on working with underserved schools on Chicago’s South and West sides and the result has been a huge success.
Taking stories from students, this talented ensemble translates, then performs these ideas (often word for word, which can be amazingly hilarious) on stage, currently at the Neo-Futurist Theater in Andersonville. In what always turns into series of absurdly funny sketches, BOM’s performers act out each story, promptly giving credit to the student author before they begin.
Barrel of Monkeys now continues into the summer with their That’s Weird, Grandma series, a run that changes its overall theme throughout the year, the latest being That’s Weird, Grandma: The Summer Strikes Back. Again, with all material written by Chicago Public School students, you can just imagine how it translates when acted out by a professional theatre ensemble. Needless to say, the laughs are plentiful from beginning to end.
In Summer Strikes Back directed by Artistic Director Joseph Schupbach BOM performs seventeen sketches in their hour-plus performance, some converted into songs while others acted out just as they were written. Stories range in creativity and are each amusing in their own way. Though some stories may be as simple as a conversation between a bunny and an EXIT sign or “Taylor the Rose” where a rose reads off a list on what not to do to her – like pick her because she will die, BOM is able to find the humor in each while at the same time brilliantly promoting the imagination and expression of its young student writers. With titles such as “The Day A Monkey Slapped My Cousin”, “Jake’s Very Bad Day”, “Walking Meatball and Mozzarella Cheese” and “Lady Spy”, you can only imagine the fun that awaits.
While getting the chance to enjoy a very humorous evening of one hilarious sketch after another, one is also supporting a fantastic program – a program that has helped students to write over 5,500 stories within the school year. An amazing outfit, Barrel of Monkeys has been pivotal in reaching out to students, 77% of teachers reporting a positive change in enthusiasm for language arts among their lowest performing students over the course of their residency.
That's Weird, Grandma: The Summer Strikes Back is a fun show that, though is mostly a laugh factory, can also reveal moving moments and profound insights of the student writers. With talented cast and musical members (I’ll just name them all since they all made terrific contributions) Nancy Casas, Kassi Bleifuss, Nick Hart, Krista Mickelson, Elizabeth Levy, Laura McKenzie, Spencer Meeks, Deanna Myers, Gwen Tulin, Dixie Belinda Uffelman, Rawson Vint and Joseph Schupbach himself, we get a uniquely well-rounded show that moves quickly and grabs you in from the moment the audience is directed into the seating area by an air traffic controller. This is also a show that can be seen more than once as audience members vote on their favorite sketches afterwards via secret ballot and new sketches are introduced into the following performance as others are removed.
A show for all ages (bring the kids!), Barrel of Monkeys: The Summer Strikes Back is being performed each Monday at 8 pm at Neo-Futurist Theater through August 15th. Tickets are beyond reasonable at just $12 for adults and $6 for children under twelve.
Imagine a 70s-era Woody Allen movie set to music. That's basically "Company" by Stephen Sondheim. It premiered in a time when many Broadway musicals were just collections of songs loosely connected by a simple plot. In 1970, Sondheim's "Company" challenged that formula by presenting a musical that was more book than music. The story is even less clear than a classic Broadway show. It's the story of Bobby, a bachelor living in New York City with mixed-up ideas about marriage.
Though Bobby (Thom Miller) is the main character, "Company" is about the women in his life. Writers Theatre director William Brown has assembled a stellar cast of Chicago actresses. Each scene is a vignette in which Bobby learns about his friends' marriages. Blair Robertson as uptight Jenny is charmingly neurotic. Tiffany Scott playing urban Southern bell, Susan, and with costumes by Rachel Anne Healy, looks like a young Cybil Shepard. With distinct performances from the female ensemble, it's hard to pick out a favorite scene from the show, however Allison Hendrix singing "Getting Married Today" is a highlight. For Sondheim groupies, this is one of the show's most popular numbers but also its most challenging with a unique staccato rhyming scheme. Hendrix pulls it off, and makes the comedy relatable. Jess Godwin as April, is the show's last stop. Her portrayal of an awkward bachelorette is sure to make everyone laugh.
"Company" concludes on the bittersweet song "Being Alive" and while Thom Miller's performance as Bobby is a little uneven throughout, he brings a lot to the cathartic final number. In one song, the musical goes from odd-ball romantic comedy to a philosophical question about the nature of long term love.
Writers Theatre in Glencoe is rightfully proud of their new space designed by Jeanne Gang. "Company" is presented as part of their Inaugural Season. The show, like the space is sleek, stylish and sexy. William Brown's production will likely be remembered as a definitive presentation of this not-often produced Sondheim classic. With more space, it’s nice to see a show at Writers with some breathing room.
Through July 31st at Writers Theatre. 325 Tudor Court, Glencoe. 847-242-6011.
One thing for sure - there is no shortage of shows to see in Las Vegas. Home to some of the most dazzling production shows, Broadway-esque musicals and magic acts, The Strip is sure to entertain, finding something for just about anyone, including music lovers of all varieties. As the other shows go, when it comes to live music, choices also span widely from resident acts such as Donny and Marie to Celine Dion, and though fantastic shows in their own right I’d be more than hard pressed to find a more action-packed show than The Australian Bee Gees performed at Excalibur Hotel and Casino.
One of the most outstanding tribute shows ever assembled, this outfit does the Bee Gees right. In fact, Barry Gibbs’ own mother quoted her son as saying the AGB is the best in the world at what they do. And who can really argue with that? After watching their show I sure can’t.
Set in an intimate theatre that probably holds less than three hundred people, fans are able to get an up close and personal experience to the music of the Brothers Gibb. Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb are wonderfully played by Matt Baldoni, Wayne Hosking, and David Scott who perpetuate the famous band’s legacy with an enormous amount of respect, talent and excitement. This engaging, hit-filled show is broken down into different periods taking on the earlier triumphs of the Bee Gees before heading to their later, and probably most influential, years when Saturday Night Live was all the rage. With a comprehensive catalog of material hitting on love ballads like “How Deep is Your Love” and “Too Much Heaven” that are nearly guaranteed to bring out the romance in everyone, the set also lets the crowd get their boogie on with popular disco faves “Stayin’ Alive”, “Tragedy”, “Jive Talkin’”, and “You Should Be Dancing”, even transforming part of the venue into a dance club for the last handful of numbers.
In their heyday, it was probably difficult to find someone who did not own an LP or 8-track of a Bee Gees album. Many of us have grown up with the band’s music that still holds a dominant place and influence in today’s world, making this show an exciting trip down nostalgia lane. And for those who did not, I envy their experience of discovering this music in such a fun and unique way. Immortalized in classic films, still played regularly in radio rotations, the music of the Bee Gees always takes us back to one of the most memorable periods of pop culture, highlighting the ever so groove-laden, bell-bottomed, big collared, gold medallion-hanging-over-open-chest disco era. Yet, we cannot overlook the incredible talent involved in writing and performing the music that made them famous, making The Australian Bee Gees show all that more impressive as they handle the vocals and instrumentation with amazing precision while infusing the perfect amount of energy and personality into their act to create this rare show opportunity. In other words, they wholeheartedly capture the spirit of the Bee Gees.
Owned and operated by David Scott, Wayne Hosking, bassist Tony Richards and Michael Clift (who also performs as Barry Gibb), The Australian Bee Gees are not only a successful Las Vegas act, as they are well into their fifth year to performing for packed houses at Excalibur, they are also a popular international touring group. How can they tour while playing six nights a week in Las Vegas? Easy, by rolling out more than one band. In fact, they even have a third outfit assembled for good measure. That said, The Australian Bee Gees success is world wide. It also helps that people from all over the world attend the band’s Las Vegas’ shows, adding to their already large amount of world-wide exposure, a segment of the show proudly paying homage to the homelands of their audience members in a uniquely fun fashion. Outside of their current Las Vegas home, the band has also had residencies in other parts of the world including a six-week run at The Broadway Playhouse in Chicago.
The band formed just over twenty years ago when “the guys” played in various cover bands and original projects throughout Australia upon realizing that no one was doing a Bee Gees tribute. Thinking it could be a challenging project and having an obvious appreciation for the music, the musicians gave it a shot and clicked immediately. Testing the waters the ABG’s booked some shows in China and after three weeks of sold out shows in Hong Kong, it was apparent they were on to something special. After their inaugural tour success, the band quickly flew back to Australia and put an entire show together based on the One Night Only concert (The Bee Gees one and only concert). Since, it has gradually snowballed into what it has become today - a fantastic tribute to an iconic band where fans around the world can relive the magic of The Bee Gees - a band that has performed in over forty-five countries.
Though their initial success caught on overseas, the band still had to conquer America. The Bee Gees certainly achieved a great level of success here and that naturally played into their favor. However, if any trepidation existed amongst the ABG members, it was unwarranted as Americans welcomed them with open arms. Wayne proved to be correct when he said, “If you can make it in Australia, you can make it anywhere”, referring to the band’s rather tough home audiences.
The band describes the Bee Gees music as universal and timeless so much so that they cannot fit enough hits into one show. In seeing the AGB’s live, it is evident the band members are not just going through the motions but rather are playing with a true love and enthusiasm for the music - something the audience feeds on rabidly.
When asked the band’s favorite song to perform they quickly agreed that they often have a special moment with the audience when playing “Words”, as fans sing along with the ballad word for word - even in countries where English is not widely spoken. Though many songs head the list of favorites, the band also explains that set lists are changed depending on where they are playing. For instance, what may be popular in Germany, may not be as popular in other parts of the world. Another example would be the popularity of Spicks and Specks, The Bee Gees breakout number one hit in Australia that, over there, compares to the popularity of Stayin’ Alive here in the States.
Family-friendly, edgy and brilliantly performed, this is a show that can be enjoyed over and over again. Catch the fever - the Saturday Night Fever - and pass it on - it’s contagious.
As a heads up, here are a few things one might expect at an Australian Bee Gees show - lots of toe tapping, hand clapping, dancing (whether at your seat or a few feet over at “Club Mo”), humor, the likeness and sound of The Bee Gees remarkably revisited and and all around experience where you will leave knowing that you just attended one of the most energetic and memorable shows on The Strip. Tickets are priced at an ultra reasonable $49.95-$59.95, making this not just one of the more affordable Las Vegas shows but one of the best overall values.
As I sat down in my second row center seats in Planet Hollywood Casino Hotel and Casino’s Saxe Theater, the couple next to me told me excitedly that they had seen Vegas! The Show as VIP's to meet the cast afterwards ten times! This lovely couple in their early sixties from the Midwest said that they return to the show every year and even have favorite cast members that they hope will be in the constantly evolving large cast.
The show starts off in what appears to be a dark warehouse filled with a slew of large, worn hotel and club signs once brightly shining to dazzle the Las Vegas crowds. Enter “Ernie” the maintenance man. Ernie addresses the crowd, telling us about Vegas’ golden era when the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne were in their heyday, entertaining audiences and setting the unachievable standards for future Las Vegas stars. Ernie reminds us that these were the days when women would attend shows in fancy dresses and dapper gentlemen arrived in well-tailored suits or tuxedos as opposed to today’s show-goers that arrive in shorts, sandals with white socks and t-shirts that ask “Who Farted?”. After a bit more reminiscing, he then takes us to yesteryear and we get a glimpse at what once was. In a blink of an eye, the stage suddenly transforms into a sparkling set full of life, dancers, and colorful lights. A full band appears as we are thrust into the magic of classic Las Vegas. Vegas! The Show beautifully presents a timeline of entertainment that makes stops from the 1940’s through the 1970’s, sets changing with the times as we hear one classic number after another.
Refusing to allow any gaps in entertaining its audience, the show brings forth a variety of amusing acts front of stage during set changes from jaw-dropping juggling acts to an aerial balancing beam team that gets plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” from nervous crowd members. This show is simply oozing with talent and entertains with the best of them. It is no surprise this show has been named “Best Show in Vegas” many times during its five-year residency.
I enjoyed this show from beginning to end. If you have a yen to see a little bit of everything Vegas is known for like tall, beautiful showgirl numbers, great personality impersonations of singers like Tina Turner, Elton John, Tom Jones, Wayne Newton, Sonny and Cher and Elvis Presley, this is the show for you.
As impressed as I was with the singing voices of the various star impersonators I was also blown away by the large cast of well-trained energetic young dancers who filled every number with so much excitement and sexy surprises it was hard to decide which part of the stage to watch.
This is a saucy, slightly sexy, but never raunchy respectful tribute to the historic performers and places that have made the history of Vegas what it is today, is a breeding ground for great talent.
There's also some humor mixed in with the great singing and dancing and although the costumes are sexy, I would not hesitate to take kids to this show.
The most poignant moment of this very upbeat variety show came in the form of a slideshow at the finale as “Elton John” sang “Rocket Man”. The footage consisted of film clips of all the past great who have graced Las Vegas such as Liberace, Elvis and The Rat Pack before switching into a montage of all the hotels (Sahara, Frontier, Dunes, etc.) actually being leveled by explosives to make way for the new and modern Vegas we know today.
Filled with interesting history tidbits about Vegas yet never slowing down by literally filling the stage in this intimate 400-seat venue with old school, eye popping glamour, this really is a show to see with friends and family who'd like to experience a little of each of the great parts of Vegas just like one would at a buffet – by getting a healthy gander at so many fabulous themes in a single night.
Tickets currently run at $79.99 for general admission though a VIP package is offer for just $20 more that assures seats closer to the stage. Showtime’s are 7pm and 9pm seven days a week. Be sure to add Vegas! The Show on your Las Vegas to do list.
Las Vegas - Dazzling light displays, glitzy hotels with themes ranging from some of the planet’s most desired locations such as Paris, Venice and Egypt, exciting casinos filled with the sounds of cheering and the cha-chings of slot machines, energetic clubs with sexy dancers and, maybe best of all, some of the most colorful and original shows one could hope to see. When going to Vegas, it’s easy to check the show sites only to be barraged with so many options the task can become a bit frustrating. Well, the good news is the Buzz News Chicago staff makes a point to visit Las Vegas on an annual basis to keep our readers informed on some of the best shows the Strip has to offer. If we don’t like it, we won’t write about. Rather than tell you what not to see, we’d prefer to make recommendations on shows that deserve your attention.
This year, there were a few shows stood out as “must sees”, one of my personal favorites being Jabbawockeez, currently being performed at MGM Grand Hotel and Casino inside the Jabbawockeez Theater. The latest of the Jabbawockeez adventures “JREAMZ” is an amazing blend of hip-hop, break dance and dreamlike theatrics that is thrilling, interactive and best of all, completely original from any other production show. The show, voted three years running for “Best Family Show” and “Best All Ages Show” Jabbawockeez is not just a modern workshop of hypnotic dance moves and brilliant choreography, it is a throwback to mime to which a large amount of humor is injected into its dream sequenced series of events. Despite the lack of any dialogue, the Jabbawockeez dancers, faces hidden in white masks of varying degrees, have no problem communicating their point with their fellow performers and audience members. Considering the vast amount of people who travel to Vegas from around the world, this show gets extra points as a production everyone can follow.
Walking Dead fans will enjoy the show’s beginning that takes its audience through a full on zombie apocalypse, before gradually shifting to rotating successions of dreams that could either fall on the nightmare side, be a joyous, blissful experience or can be an adventure in itself. No matter the scenario of the moment, we always receive a heavy dose of stunning dance moves where you can only shake your head in disbelief or think, “What the…?”
Adding to the comedy of the show, members of the audience are sometimes plucked by the dancers and guided to the stage for some good old fashioned embarrassment that create big laughs. Performed in a somewhat intimate venue for Vegas standards where every seat is a good seat, the audience gets slammed with an up close, in-the-face experience that is sure to be remembered. Jabbawockeez is a unique production that can be enjoyed over and over and suits just about any audience.
The dance troupe is not just recognized in Las Vegas, they have made a splash nationally appearing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, “Dancing with the Stars”. “So You Think You Can Dance” and “I Can Do That”. One of the most original dance productions recognized across the country, Jabbawockeez is a Vegas experience like no other - an experience that will inspire, make you laugh and leave you amazed.
Like most every show in Vegas you can purchase souvenirs of the performance, the main difference being that Jabbawockeez offers products from its own clothes line – and they’re cool!
Tickets for this fantastically entertaining production are very reasonable and in line with many of the other shows on The Strip. Performed at 7p.m. each night except Tuesday and Wednesday, prices range from $49.99-$82.99. For an additional $55 a VIP Package can be purchased which includes a photo op with the Jabbawockeez dancers, an after show meet and greet and a bag of goodies.
When it comes to an engaging mystery thriller, the need for finely-written, well-executed twists, turns and the unexpected are imperative. Afterall, a good suspense story on stage that has the ability to genuinely captivate its audience members can be one of the most enjoyable theatrical experiences we can have. In Drury Lane’s current production Deathtrap, we get just that. Deathtrap, written by Ira Levin in 1978 and later becoming a film starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve, is a whodunnit that pulls you in keeps you guessing so that just when you think you’ve figured it out, another curveball is thrown.
Upon entering the theatre, we are met with the interior of a Victorian house with a rustic interior. Swords, poster tins of plays and antiques such as Houdini’s handcuffs and collectible pistols decorate the walls and shelves. When looking closely, it appears the way the rafters are cut suggest we could be looking into a massive trap.
It all starts when a theatre professor, a former flourishing playwright, Sidney Bruhl, takes notice of a play written by one of his students, Cliff Anderson. It’s brilliant - a sure fire hit. It’s been a looooong time since Bruhl has had a successful play and there is no reason to think he is on the brink of anything else that could make waves in the theatre world. When Bruhl promptly invites Anderson - along with his single transcript - to his country home where he lives alone with his wife, Myra, the suspense begins and only thickens as we wonder if Sydney is capable of murdering for a hit show. The well-written dialogue keeps one on edge, moving back and forth from friendly banter to that of a suspicious nature. Adding to the intrigue are Myra’s suspicions and the interactions of Helga, the Bruhl’s neighbor who possesses psychic abilities.
Daniel Cantor as Sydney Bruhl and Aaron Latterall as Cliff Anderson are brilliant together as they lock horns in their highly engaging cat and mouse exchanges, each performing magnificently while McKinley Carter as Myra offers strong support and is able to cement the growing tension to enhance the audience’s intrigue even further. Though plenty of witty dialogue between players to incite a good share of laughs, Cindy Gold as Helga den Dorp is absolutely hysterical as the psychic neighbor, causing quite a stir with her “visions” that often includes exaggerated body language and heavy moaning.
We are constantly asked the question on what we would actually do to gain success, no matter what has shown up in our past nature or not, should the opportune moment take place. Should the temptation be great enough, should we know we would get away with, let’s say a crime of significance, we generally rely on the thing deep inside ourselves that would not allow us to go to such extreme measures - to take such action - most people anyway. But what happens when one’s morale compass fails us them - is absent? What is one’s breaking point?
Deathtrap is a nearly perfect psychological thriller. Add that to the fact that this particular production boasts exceptional acting performances, a detailed set that draws one in before the show even begins and a healthy diet of humor, and it would be impossible not to recommend this fantastic play.
Wonderfully directed by William Osetek Deathtrap is being performed at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook through August 14th. For tickets and/or show information, visit www.drurylanetheatre.com.
Chicago is alive with the sound of music, thanks to the return of Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic musical now playing at Cadillac Palace that comes with a delightfully vibrant cast and an orchestra that is able to capture the uttermost essence of the original score. Directed by three-time Tony Award winner Jack O’Brien, The Sound of Music is in town for just a limited engagement so if you’d like to take in one of the most enduring musicals of all time, you had better act quickly.
Most know the story that takes place in World War II Austria where a “rebellious” nun-to-be, Maria, is sent by the Abbey to the home of the widowed Captain von Trapp, a wealthy and successful Naval officer, to act as the governess for his seven children. She enters a strict household where there is no longer a place for music but rather is closer to the environment found on one of the Captain’s sea vessels. This is a tightly run ship, where orders are barked and children answer to whistle tones. No one dares oppose the way the Captain runs his household, that is, of course, until Maria enters the picture. As the story progresses, Maria kind-heartedness slowly breaks through to the Captain and a whirlwind of love story takes place as the two realize they have eyes for each other.
With the Third Reich threatening to take over Austria and enlist the Captain’s services, the story takes another turn when the head of the Von Trapp household refuses to support the Nazi ideal. The Sound of Music is a classic love story adventure that has won the hearts of millions not just by its compelling story but by its sensational soundtrack.
Usually, it is the role of Maria that runs away with the story and is relished and admired so much by its audience. However, in this case, Ben Davis as Captain Georg von Trapp is so dynamic, both vocally and in his acting performance, that so say he stole the show would be a heavy understatement. Displaying a vocal range from a seasoned baritone to a gifted soprano, while so well capturing the essence of a hardened man softened then transfixed by the love, forgiveness and admiration of a young woman, Davis makes one wonder if it is possible to play the role of Captain von Trapp any better.
But you do need a strong Maria or the play cannot work - period. Kerstin Anderson as Maria is strong indeed. Probably taking the role a bit on the nerdy side in a bit of a twist, Anderson still has the warmth and charm, and is frankly…likeable. Able to harness the much-needed free-spirited persona into her character with seemingly natural ease, she certainly flows gracefully in her role, and she, like Davis, can also belt.
The supporting roles are also well cast from the Melody Betts as the Mother Abbess to Merwin Foard as the wheeling and dealing Max Detweiler. Talented too are the child actors who make up The Family von Trapp, particularly Paige Sylvester who plays Liesl and also Dan Tracy as Rolf Gruber, her love interest. Sylvester and Tracy especially light up the stage during their inspiring number “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”.
With such amazing songs as “Do-Re-Mi”, “Climb Every Mountain”, “The Sound of Music” and “Edelweiss”, we are literally treated to one great after another. The Sound of Music is without question both vocally and visually entertaining. The set beautifully depicts the von Trapp mansion, helping to bring this wonderful story to life.
To put it simply, you won’t want to miss this one.
The Sound of Music is being performed at Cadillac Palace through just June 19th. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.
Just on the cusp of the band’s latest release, Prayers for the Damned Vol. 1, Sixx: A.M. is already knee-deep into a full-fledged U.S. tour, last night stopping at Chicago’s Concord Music Hall before playing some dates in Europe. Not surprisingly, the band played their nearly two-hour set before a packed house of eager fans putting forth a well-balanced song list, taking key selections from each of their four albums including a handful of their newest, slightly untested material.
Bassist Nikki Sixx has described the new release as an intermingling of 2011’s This Is Gonna Hurt and 2007’s The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack, and after giving the new album more than a few listens, he’s spot on. As already evidenced by the album’s first single “Rise”, the album once again carries the band’s now very well-known blend of energy, dynamics and melodic bliss along with meaningful lyrics that deliver a solid punch. Filled with raunchy, yet utterly tasty leads from guitarist DJ Ashba and singer James Michael’s versatile vocal range combined with a unified feel that only comes from a band that has played together for a decade, give or take, Prayers… might just be the best work from the band yet. Its message is simple but poignant – wake up, be aware, do not be complacent and scrap the existing state of affairs we are told to blindly accept. Like the band’s past album themes, Prayers – Vol. 1, produced and engineered by Michael, is also filled with optimistic undertones that truly inspire.
Sixx: A.M. wastes no time in thrusting lethal blows towards its crowd, kicking off their set with the high-powered track “This Is Gonna Hurt”. James Michael, aptly self-assured as he continuously rises in the ranks as one of today’s best rock vocalists, delivers a true rock and roll performance hitting each note with precision, honing in with finely finessed power whenever called for. At the same time Nikki Sixx supports Michael with his ever-so-striking presence and flashy bass work while DJ Ashba and drummer Dustin Steinke respectively plug away on one track after another. Rounding out the band’s sound is a duo of backing vocalists Amber Vansbuskirk and Melissa Harding, adding a unique flavor to an already appetizing set.
As previously indicated, Sixx: A.M. plays a somewhat generous dose of material from their latest release ripping into “Rise” early on, perhaps bringing down the thunder more so than any other on the album with an authoritative presentation of “When We Were Gods”. The new material went over as well as can be expected and then some while the familiar sounds of past albums were once again emphatically welcomed by a bursting house of loyal followers. Almost on cue, fans wildly cheered as Michael introduced the poetic and deeply moving “Accidents Can Happen” before Sixx and company jumped into the hard-hitting “Dead Man’s Ballet”, both songs coming from The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack. Theirs is a set that never lets up. From “Goodbye My Friends” to “Stars”, rest assured fans are thoroughly entertained, moved and inspired from the show’s beginning to its fitting encores “Skin”, a song that touches on the acceptance of yourself and others and Sixx: A.M.’s anthem that is full of positivity and hope, “Life Is Beautiful”.
Seemingly unfazed by the difference in venue size he might be used to, Sixx genuinely appeared to appreciate every single second on stage now inserted into a much closer relationship with his fans, as did the other band members. Close up and personal in this fifteen hundred seat or so venue, Ashba, Sixx and Michael clearly reveled in the experience, undoubtedly receiving a reciprocal vibe by the Sixx: A.M. faithful. With Motley Crue now in Sixx’s rearview mirror and no longer a side project of his, it will be interesting to see how Sixx: A.M. evolves. So far, based on volume one of the new two volume release and a commanding touring presence that is both youthful and mature at the same time, there is no reason to think that Sixx: A.M. wouldn’t be able to headline their own arena tours sometime in the near future – if they so desire. With a following that has already existed, and is continuously growing, thanks to the band’s electric material, it should be noted that Sixx: A.M. is NOT a band riding off the successes of their previous band affiliations. Rather, they are the full package – songs, image, musicianship and message, created by insightful musicians that happened to have previous music notoriety. Nonetheless, wherever they play – however many fans they play in front of, one thing is certain – Sixx: A.M. is a highly-passionate band that plays each show with heart and a sincere love for music.
Currently, one of the best bands on the touring circuit, Sixx: A.M. has again made it look easy by putting out yet another album that rocks through and through. Prayers for the Damned Vol. 1 is filled with thought provoking songs compiled by a veteran presence that has been there done that, has had life failures and successes, has learned by its mistakes and now shares its hope with others. In other words, it’s real.