Theatre in Review

Having read that Six Corners was the “third in a loose Cop trilogy” by playwright Keith Huff, I was concerned that not seeing the first two stories (A Steady Rain and The Detective’s Wife) would lessen my experience. But from the moment I entered the theatre the stage was set, both literally and figuratively.

Thanks to the realistic set design, I was transported from a theatre to the Six Corners Police Precinct to watch this mystery unfold. The use of lighting to move the story between locations was especially effective as it simulated the fluorescent lights of the police station or the dimly lit bench at the bus station. The incorporation of a moving wall, however, was too complicated and not essential. That it failed during the show causing a disruption should be a signal to the creative team that it should be removed rather than risking another distraction. In my opinion, the pacing improved without it.

The opening scene brought the precinct to life, as we looked in on Detectives Nick Moroni (Peter DeFario) and Bernadette Perez (Monica Orozco), two burnt-out cops feeling the stress of failing marriages, being absentee parents, and being cops; not to mention the sexual tension between them. With a fast-paced verbal exchange full of both insults and empathy, it was clear that these two detectives were not looking forward to another late night dealing with the murder of a CTA employee. Relying on ethnic stereotypes of a chest-beating macho Italian and a fast-talking fiery Latina switching between English and Spanish, the actors’ portrayals were at times cartoonish as they overacted to earn some laughs. I assume this was intentional direction, and not the actors taking license.

In subsequent scenes we join the detectives as they investigate the crime by interviewing the only two witnesses, Carter Hutch (Manny Buckley) and Amanda Brackett (Brenda Barry), as their stories slowly unravel. Are these two witnesses really just strangers in the wrong place at the wrong time? Can they convince the detectives (and the audience) that they truly were Good Samaritans? Buckley and Barry portrayed their characters with emotional honesty and integrity. They were believably sympathetic as they displayed a nervousness and uneasiness that you might feel after witnessing a murder. Barry stood out to me for her portrayal of the struggling pregnant late-night waitress.

Intertwined with the murder investigation, we see a backstory develop as the show travels back in time. We are at the bus stop where an 8-year-old girl, Katie Yates (Lyric Sims), is alone after being separated from her mother. She encounters a stranger, a transient, BJ Lyles (Byron Glenn Willis) who she innocently befriends. Sims’ portrayal of 8-year-old Katie Yates was perfectly on point bringing an innocence to the child that felt real. While Willis adeptly portrayed transient BJ Lyles as a sympathetic character, he still gave the audience reason to mistrust his character as he got eerily close to the vulnerable child.

As the Backstage Guide reveals, the writer is influenced by CPD’s reputation for disregarding civil rights, inequality in treatment of female police officers, the blue code of silence, and the lack of public trust.

Throughout the story, the writer subtly weaves in evidence of unconscious bias and inherent racism. At the same time, he develops characters who are outwardly sympathetic even as their faults, deceptions and corruptions are exposed.

In spite of my criticisms, I enjoyed and am recommending this play, directed by Gary Griffin. The story line is well conceived and presented. More importantly, the subtext is both thought provoking and relevant.

Winner of the Edgegerton Foundation New Play Award, American Blues Theater’s production of Six Corners by Keith Huff runs at Stage 773 through March 24, 2018. 

Published in Theatre in Review

When walking past the exterior of the unflattering storefront on Clark Street in Andersonville, a former laundromat, one wouldn’t give it a second glance. Perhaps a handful of classic magic posters littered around the entrance might cause pause for a brief second, but that’s about it. No marquee, no ostentatious logos, no windows to peer inside. Nothing but the words “The Magic Lounge” near its main door would suggest that maybe something is going on inside – something special.

Upon entering the laundromat – wait, it used to be a laundromat, yet a wall of washing machines are in use. All signs point to the place still being a laundromat - we see clothes freely spinning through the circular windows of each machine while an attendant holds up a pair of underwear and asks, “Are these yours? We’ve been trying to locate their owner.” But alas, suddenly a secret entrance opens and I can only compare the experience to the Wizard of Oz, when black and white becomes color.

Much like an old-timey speak easy, patrons are quickly transported from the unspectacular to the spectacular. Music is playing, the atmosphere is lively as people gather around a bar that centers around a magician performing close-up magic and challenging eager volunteers with bar bets for a free drink chip. This in itself is already something. Onlookers gaze down from a mezzanine above. We later learn these onlookers are club members – magicians only. Not long after an usher escorts us to a library, some of its contents authentic relics of a grand time when magicians like Harry Houdini, Harry Keller and Chin Ling amazed audience after audience. After a brief history lesson, the usher escorts a handful of people through another secret entrance. What we experience next is nothing short of astonishing, as we enter a vast theater laced in fine art deco finishes with high ceilings above the balcony, the floor accommodating multi-layered seating areas that surround a magnificent stage to host its magicians. No details are overlooked. Club employees are donned in clothing reminiscent of the 1920’s Jazz Era, the women in sparkling dress then men dapper with white shirts beneath vests or skinny ties and suit jackets. You can almost imagine Al Capone and friends walking in at any minute while instinctively looking for a hook to hang your fedora. The theater is appropriately named after Harry Blackstone, the famous magician who really put a stamp on “Chicago magic”, which we are reminded by the evening’s host is a real thing.

The Harry Blackstone Theater

The Magic Lounge is a time capsule. The multi-million-dollar facility is an homage to the once popular magic haunts that regularly entertained its Chicago patrons. Magic clubs that were once such a prevalent part of Chicago’s night-life since the early 1900’s, have slowly – and not so magically – disappeared.

“Chicago Magic Lounge brings back a style of magic unique to the Windy City, which once hosted over 15 bars, restaurants and lounges all dedicated to what would become known as ‘Chicago-Style Magic,’” said co-owner Joey Cranford.

It’s main stage (yes, there is another stage – the private back-room, 40-seat “654 Club” for those who don’t want the magic to end – literally) will host some of Chicago’s most talented and colorful magicians such as Luis Carreon, Dennis Watkins, Bill Weimer and Lee Benzaquin and also bring in top performers from around the world such as was the case on opening night with superstar mentalist/wizard of sorts Max Maven. the shows are as interactive as they are mind-bending. Yours truly was even called onstage to volunteer for the great Mr. Maven. The venue will also host live music fitting to its atmosphere.

While having a bite and/or pre-show drinks (try the “Sleight of Hand”) prior to the evening’s main show, magicians circle the seating area entertaining each table with close-up magic. The club’s unique air of mystery, suspense and nostalgia is something that cannot be found at any other establishment in Chicago. And why Andersonville as opposed to a downtown location? Simple. Magic Lounge owners wanted to bring the gift of magic back to Chicago, therefore opting for a neighborhood location over an area that caters more to tourists.

Magician Bill Weimer entertains in the Performance Bar

Whether just going to hang out at the bar, attending a show in the main theater, catching an act in the more intimate 654 Club – or all of the above – a distinctively rich experience awaits you.

Live entertainment will be performed seven days a week. Monday and Tuesday evenings will welcome musical performances on the mainstage, Wednesday evenings will host David Parr’s “Cabinet of Curiosities” and Thursdays through Saturdays will offer the mainstage magic shows. A family-friendly show will be offered on Sunday afternoons. Depending on the show and ticket package, theater admissions range anywhere from $10-$55, though you can always stop in for a cocktail at the performance bar.

The Magic Lounge is an exciting scene that exudes the perfect combination of class, fun and awe. If its February 22nd grand opening is any indication of things to come, it will undoubtedly become a staple in Chicago entertainment for years to come.

For more information including performance schedules, cocktail options and pricing, visit www.chicagomagiclounge.com. 5050 N. Clark Street. 

Be amazed.

 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Before I set foot in the Goodman’s Owen Theatre to see the Chicago premier of Sarah DeLappe’s acclaimed play The Wolves, I tried not to read or hear or learn too much about it. I knew it had been a finalist for a Pulitzer, and won other awards. I knew it was about a girls’ high school soccer team. And that was about it.

The first tidbit informed my own expectations – this ought to be good, I figured. And the second informed who I’d bring along – my own 14-year-old soccer-playing daughter. I was excited that the subject matter might excite her, sure, but was more intent on using her as a litmus test for not just the play’s quality, but its authenticity. And boy, did we both find that it delivered on both counts.

While the play’s 20-something playwright and cast might seem like whippersnappers to an old dude like me, their ilk are positively elderly to a teen. After the play, my daughter admitted she’d been worried that the presentation would be the usual – what old people think young life is like these days. But The Wolves portrayed young life – the young life of today, of yesterday, of time eternal – in a way both dad and daughter found realistic. That is, the play portrayed life realistically.

Sarah DeLappe’s script sets up this portrayal like a champ. After the play, I read that DeLappe was influenced by old war movies – the kind where a gang of guys gain personal revelations in the face of greater situations – and I can see that. I also sensed the influence of 12 Angry Men or Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs – art that finds greater truths by plopping a disparate troupe of characters into a script. But instead of machine guns and military rations, instead of a jury room or a bank heist, the troupe on the Goodman’s stage was armed with shin guards and phones and backpacks and headbands. But the idea was the same – flesh out a story by fleshing out the people telling it. DeLappe tells her story through her girls’ banter as they stretch and warmup before a series of soccer games. Her gift for said banter is something else – making it sound like how not just girls talk, but how people talk, as the characters flit from discussions of world events to feminine products, from hopes and dreams for the future to the sex and sexuality that seems so pressing in their present. Talk goes from Pol Pot to periods, from weirdoes who live in “yogurts” to punk rock chicks who lick coffeehouse microphones. The stuff real people talk about. And how real people talk about that stuff.

And, more than any play I can remember, director Vanessa Stalling’s production of a team shows it takes a team to pull it off. First off, the cast is great. Those grown-up ladies onstage could totally, like, pass as a gaggle of teen girls. And that’s not to belittle them or the material they’re working with. Most likely because I’m a nerd, myself, I connected with Sarah Price’s neurotic know-it-all, #11 (yes, the characters are only identified by jersey number, further enforcing the team concept, and further highlighting how both script and cast breathe life into these nameless roles). As the team captain, #25, Isa Arciniegas is – to continue the earlier war motif – Pattonesque in a Napoleanic package. Cydney Moody’s #8 is the moody one. Angela Alise’s #00 is the lonely goalkeeper. Erin O’Shea is the red-headed, homeschooled, yogurt-livin’ outsider (think Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls, except with mad ball-handling skills). And the heart and soul of the team are Natalie Joyce and Aurora Real de Asua. Joyce’s #7 has the mouth of a sailor but the problems and insecurities of a girl, while #14 is the ego to 7’s adolescent id. The teammates kick around conversations as feverishly and randomly as they do their soccer balls, again making it sound not just like how high school girls talk, but how people interact.

The teamwork on display does not stop with the script and its interpreters, however. Collette Pollard’s set gave this soccer dad, who’s spent too much time hanging out at fields both outdoors and under domes, flashbacks. Lighting by Keith Parham is spot on, as are the musical choices by sound designer Mikhail Fiksel, both providing energy and intensity that match the actors’.

And so, this whole team comes together to not just tell a story of young girls, but of people. What starts as dissonant and diverse digressions between types and tropes turns into a realistic back-and-forth you’d hear not just on the field or in the mall or in a classroom, but at work, on the train, in the checkout line, on the street. Given great material to work with, the cast and crew of the Goodman Theatre’s production of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves give us something that’s funny, sad, uncomfortable, cute, ugly, and beautiful – that is, art that pulls off the rare feat of feeling like real life. And, like, my teen daughter seconds that!

Published in Theatre in Review

Gone are the days of traditional theatre when actors and audience members were politely separated by at least an imaginary buffer zone. Enter Southern Gothic, written by Leslie Liautaud, created by Carl Menninger and Amy Rubenstein, and directed by David H. Bell, with its concept of “immersive theatre” where the audience members (only 25 are allowed per each show) are given an opportunity to be a “fly on the wall” at a birthday cocktail party in Ashland, Georgia in the summer of 1961.

There’s really no stage, the entire set is a replica of a southern mid-century house; it is meticulously designed by Scott Davis and complete with the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom and a back porch. Every fabulously authentic detail of the house, including the furniture, dishes, the actors’ costumes, as well as the food and drinks, are spot on. And if going back in time sounds exciting, then being able to snoop around the house, open the kitchen cupboards and the fridge, and eavesdrop on intimate conversations is a dream come true!

And speaking of dream come true: just because the audience is “invisible”, doesn’t mean that they can’t sample that delightful mid-century American cocktail party fare: the spam-topped crackers, bright red jello dessert and the retro cocktails occasionally being passed around. All that is sure to put one in the mood for the unfolding drama; and there’s plenty of drama.

Four couples get together at Ellie and Beau Coutier’s house to celebrate Suzanne Wellington’s 40th birthday. Alcohol flows freely and guests are mostly enjoying themselves, when the good times turn sour once drunken guests start spilling their dirty secrets.

The hostess (beautifully played by Sarah Grant) is having an affair with one of the guests, Charles Lyon, a charming politician (Brian McCaskill), whose wife Lauren, a very wealthy woman with her own secret [or two] is pre-occupied with her problems. The birthday girl (a superbly colorful and lively Brianna Borger), whose reputation for being obnoxious precedes her… well, she is just very hungry because the party caterer was being held up and she’s reduced to dining on saltine crackers. It’s a very intimate play, made more so by being so physically close to the actors. There’re several plots going on, and as events intensify, it is virtually impossible to follow through on every one of them, which makes the entire experience sort of customizable. But as the sounds of crickets are heard outside the windows, cool 60’s vibes palpable throughout – it’s a good feeling to jump back to the simpler times. Just be sure not to bump into actors as you try to take it all in.

Opened in 2015, Windy City Playhouse prides itself on providing non-traditional high quality theater experience starting with a welcoming full-service bar in a luxurious lounge. Theatergoers are encouraged to stay after the show and mingle with the actors.

Southern Gothic is being performed as an open-ended run at Windy City Playhouse. For more show information visit http://windycityplayhouse.com.

Published in Theatre in Review

Cuban Jazz was the flavor at McAninch Arts Center (The MAC) this past weekend, but the band’s labeled genre might just be a bit misleading. In fact, I would describe the Cubanismo’s sound of as that more akin to Big Band first and foremost. Though high energy dance music with infectious grooves, it is heavily sprinkled with a touch of Havana and Latin Beats. Lively and catchy from beginning to end, let’s just say if audience members aren’t clapping or tapping their toes, someone in the medical profession needs to check them for a pulse.

Cubanismo founder and trumpeter, Jesus Alemany, led the ensemble through two sets of some very spicy music. Let me take a mental head count of musicians - four horns, three percussionists, three singers, bass, guitar, keys and Alemany complete the band’s line-up. That adds up to thirteen if I did the math correctly. Ricky Ricardo would have felt right at home with this combo.

They key word with music like this is rhythm. I mentioned in my review of Gipsy Kings last summer how that was a lesson in rhythm. This was a follow up to the learning I received that day. The reason why I don’t really consider this Jazz is due to the ability to dance to what was presented. I know Jazz has many sub categories. What this band really represents is the dance clubs of Pre-Castro Cuba - straight from the 1940’s – music with a serious spice to it. There also seemed to be far less emphasis on improvisation in this band’s set as opposed to the likes of Gipsy Kings. I think a good portion of the show may have been changed in slight ways from time to time, but unquestioned were its tight arrangements.

The band’s three singers took charge of their songs with serious support from the rest of the players. I wish my Spanish was better as far as understanding the lyrical content but that didn’t matter all that much, as music is the universal language. Cubanismo is all about getting their fans to move. Recently, a friend mentioned to me how there should be more room for dancing when going to see a band play. A larger dance area would have certainly helped the situation, especially when the band gave a mambo lesson on the final number. Cubanismo showed the moves while on stage and their fans followed. This was yet another reason I say it is not really Jazz per se. Nobody (particularly other musicians) was sitting around admiring the technical sophistication of the players. That being said, I am not at all saying the band members were not amazing. We just weren’t pelted with one self-indulgent solo after another in typical jazz fashion. It was truly an ensemble performance.

To give readers a brief history of the band, Alemañy was a child prodigy in Cuba before joining Sierra Maestra when he was just 16. After more than a decade of playing with that group, he moved to London to pursue his own career. There he met a fellow Cuban, pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, and the two musicians organized a jam session in Paris in 1994. It was there that record producer and head of Hannibal Records Joe Boyd heard the group play and suggested the pair organize another descarga (or improvised jazz session) in Cuba with all-star musicians from all over the country and record it. The recording was such a success that the group formed a band and toured extensively.

The band played selected tunes from their hit albums “Melembe”, “Reencarnación” and “Greetings from Havana” along with many other up-tempo, cha-cha-driven favorites.

The music of Cubanismo is straight from an era of Cuba long since gone. The tradition does live on through the music of this particular band that has received critical acclaim. Supporting this music is what keeps it alive and I hope to see more of that. Jesus Alemany should be proud of what he has assembled. If you get a chance to see them live, I am sure you will not walk away disappointed. In fact, you will not walk at all…you will dance.

www.cubanismo.org

Published in In Concert
Sunday, 18 February 2018 02:36

Review: ‘Cosi fan tutte’ at Lyric Opera

“No woman ever died for love” says Despina in Mozart’s charming little opera ‘Cosi fan tutte’. There may not be any deaths from love but, maybe a few tickled funny bones in this revival going on now at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Originally conceived by John Cox about ten years ago, this version of ‘Cosi fan tutte’ moves the setting to WWI, or 1914. This seasons’ production is largely the same with direction by Bruno Ravella.

‘Cosi fan tutte’ is a lighter work by opera standards. It’s basically a rom-com sung in Italian. Written in 1790, Mozart would only see this opera performed five times in his life, as he died the following year. Mozart operas are typically upbeat with plenty of repeated phrasing. There’s no shortage of beauty pouring out of the pit conducted by James Gaffigan. This is a very accessible piece in both music and performances.

The plot is fairly uncomplicated. Two men Ferrando (Andrew Stenson) and Guglielmo (Joshua Hopkins) question the fidelity of their fiances Fiordiligi (Ana Maria Martinez) and Dorabella (Marianne Crebassa). With the help of Don Alfonso (Alessandro Corbelli) and sexy maid Despina (Elena Tsallagova), the two men pretend to go off to war. They return to their future wives in disguise and each attempts to seduce the other’s fiancé. If it sounds familiar, it is. This opera is loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’.

Few people attend an opera for the dramatic chops of the performers. Opera is about beautiful music first and foremost. That said, these two fantastic sopranos are also gifted comedic actresses. The over-the-top emotions of these two characters makes for some really great physical humor. The projected dialogue is almost as ridiculous as the plot itself. Martinez takes up the pious role, making her seduction all the more fun to watch. Crebassa is the goofball and her performance radiates joy even as she’s cheating on her fiance. Though, it’s really Tsallagova who runs away with the laughs in her performance as Despina. This is also her US debut. A talent we’ll hopefully see more of in coming seasons.

As always, the set and costumes are sumptuous. Setting this piece in 1914 gives costume and set designer Robert Perdziola a lot to work with. It’s not terribly often you seen somewhat modern fashion at the Lyric. There are some lovely flapper-flavored looks going on. Nothing quite compares to the second act opening though. A background of venetian boats adorned with twinkling lights opens up to reveal the imposter suitors sailing in to claim their respective victories. The visual against the lovely Mozart music is one of the most arresting moments of the evening.

‘Cosi fan tutte’ is not an opera you’ll find on any before-you-die lists, but it’s an opera worth seeing. While it’s not the shortest show of Lyric’s season, clocking in at just under four hours, it’s definitely the easiest to get into. The music is for everyone, and will leave you feeling warm and tingly.

Through March 16th at Lyric Opera of Chicago. 20 N Wacker Drive. 312-827-5600

 

Published in Theatre in Review

If you are a passionate fan of the original "Phantom of the Opera" musical, its sequel "Love Never Dies" will surely peak your curiosity and is a 'must see'.

The continuation to one of the greatest love stories of our time takes place in 1907, ten years later after the Paris Opera House fire. The Phantom fled at that time, escaping tragedy, but not before releasing Christine and Raoul, so moved by his love for her. Christine now resurfaces after receiving an invitation to travel from Paris to make her singing debut in New York and the Phantom is determined to win back her love. After so many years have gone by, we finally see a life changing reunion between the Phantom, Christine and other ghosts from the past.

Magnificently directed by Simon Phillips, the stunning musical includes a new set and costume designs by Gabriela Tylesova, choreography by 2011 Astaire Awards winner Graeme Murphy, lighting design by Nick Schlieper and sound design by Mick Potter. Together they produce what can be described no less than an enchanting theatre experience that is as haunting as it is seductive.

A handful of characters return from the first musical, including the Phantom portrayed with fierceness by Cardar Thor Cortes who was born in Iceland and is making his debut in the United States in this performance. Cardar Thor Cortes comes directly off the heels of a successful run of Love Never Dies in Hamburg, Germany. Christine is beautifully acted by Chicago native Meghan Picerno. The music and lyrics created by Andrew-Lloyd-Webber and Glenn Slater seem personally written for these two amazing singers who held the audience in awe.  Other return characters were Raoul (Sean Thompson), Madame Giry (Karen Mason) and Meg Giry (Mary Patterson).

The musical number impress one after another and are in many ways as powerful than those in the original “Phantom”. "Once Upon Another Time" will touch your heart while offering meaning to the story line of this play. Meghan Picerno, (Christine) and Gardar Cortes mesmerize the audience singing beautifully together, their words enhanced by every powerful note. "Love Never Dies", without question reveals Meghan's emotionally charged and extremely talented voice.  

Applause, applause and more applause...

“I have the great joy of being able to say that I think this production is probably the finest one I could ever, ever hope for,” said Andrew Lloyd Webber just minutes after seeing the musical’s first run through.

One of the play’s nice surprises was 13-year-old Casey Lyons native of Lake Forest who was a joy to watch sing and perform. Casey is a natural and has a wonderful gift of song.  

The Coney Island atmosphere freed the stage up to every kind of performer singing and dancing together to present a mystical, delightful and creative wonderland. The fluid stage changes were excellently done and the orchestra gets an A-plus in every way.

Not to give the plot away, I can say the story line is unique, a little unexpected, and keeps you wondering until the very end. "Love Never Dies" is well worth attending.  

“Love Never Dies” has a running time of two hours and twenty-five minutes with one intermission and is being performed at Cadillac Palace Theatre through March 4th. For tickets and/or more show information, visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

 

Published in Theatre in Review

Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to announce its 2018 season, kicking off this spring with a revival of its 2013 hit L’IMITATION OF LIFE, a dead on parody of the 1959 film Imitation of Life about race, mothers and daughters – and looking fabulous! Adapted by Ricky Graham and Running with Scissors and directed by ensemble member Stevie Love, ensemble member Ed Jones and Robert Williams reprise their roles as Lana Turner and Annie Johnson.
 
This summer, Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia return for THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 2. Following last year’s sold-out, seven-month run, Handbag’s parody of the beloved TV sitcom is back with all new adventures written by Artistic Director David Cerda and directed by Becca Holloway. THE GOLDEN GIRLS will feature Chazie Bly, David Cerda, Adrian Hadlock, Ed Jones, Michael S. Miller and Grant Drager.
 
This fall, Handbag’s 16th season continues with Charles Ludlam’s comedic throwback to the age of film noir: THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE, directed by Shade Murray. The cast includes ensemble members David Cerda, Sydney Genco, Ed Jones and David Lipschutz 
 
For Halloween, Handbag conjures up a special treat: THE GOLDEN GIRLS: Bea Afraid! Our heroines return for seven spooky performances guaranteed to scare you out of your housecoat. 
 
The season will conclude with a soon-to-be-announced holiday production! 
 
Handbag’s 2018 Season will be staged at Mary’s Attic (5400 N. Clark St., Chicago) and Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago). Season subscriptions and single tickets will be available shortly at www.handbagproductions.org.
 
Hell in a Handbag Productions’ 2018 Season includes:
 
March 31 – May 6, 2018
L’IMITATION OF LIFE
By Ricky Graham and Running with Scissors
Directed by Stevie Love
Featuring ensemble member Ed Jones (Lana Turner) with Robert Williams (Annie Johnson). Additional casting to be announced.
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
In this hilarious parody of the1959 film Imitation of Life, Lana Turner is determined white widow and single mother with aspirations of becoming a Broadway sensation. When Lana meets Annie Johnson, a struggling single African-American mother, the two team up and take on the world as Lana does “whatever it takes” to make it in show business – while Annie takes care of the homestead and raises both daughters.
 
The two women face insurmountable challenges led by their daughters. There's the blonde, perky and “so white it's frightening" Suzie, daughter of Lana Turner, and the raven-haired rebellious light-skinned beauty, Sara Jane, daughter of Annie. Sara Jane learns the hard truth about acceptance and the color of your skin- especially when she tries to “pass” as white. 
 
June 19 – September 7, 2018
THE GOLDEN GIRLS: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 2
By David Cerda
Directed by Becca Holloway
Featuring ensemble members Chazie Bly (Ensemble), David Cerda (Dorothy), Adrian Hadlock (Sophia), Ed Jones (Rose), Michael S. Miller (Ensemble) and Grant Drager (Blanche).
at Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago
 
When Handbag opened THE GOLDEN GIRLS – THE LOST EPISODES in June 2017, it was supposed to be short summer treat for Handbag audiences but quickly turned into a sold-out, seven month run! Now, these lovely women from the classic TV sitcom return with new stories of friendship, love and cheesecake – all with the Handbag twist audiences have come to love!
 
September 20 – October 28, 2018
THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE
By Charles Ludlam
Directed by Shade Murray
Featuring ensemble members David Cerda (Mother Nurdiger), Sydney Genco (Roxanna), Ed Jones (Chester Nurdiger) and David Lipschutz (Zachary Slade). Additional casting to be announced.
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE is Charles Ludlam’s last play and a perfect vehicle for Hell in a Handbag! Chester Nurdiger is a mild-mannered fellow who lives in the back of the pet shop he runs with his sultry wife Roxanna and his overly protective mother. Roxanna is bored to death, but when a handsome drifter walks into their lives, things get interesting… perhaps even deadly?! Part Double Indemnity, part The Postman Always Rings Twice, THE ARTIFICIAL JUNGLE is throwback to the classic age of film noir by the master and founder of the Ridiculous Theater movement. 
 
October 6, 2018 – November 3, 2018
The GOLDEN GIRLS: Bea Afraid – The Halloween Edition
By David Cerda
Directed by Becca Holloway
Featuring ensemble members Chazie Bly (Ensemble), David Cerda (Dorothy), Adrian Hadlock (Sophia), Ed Jones (Rose), Michael S. Miller (Ensemble) and Grant Drager (Blanche).
at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago
 
It’s not Halloween without a Handbag show, so Artistic Director David Cerda is conjuring up a special edition of its hit TV sitcom parody. Better get your tickets early – Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia are only back for seven wig-raising performances. Bea afraid, Bea very afraid!
 
About Hell in a Handbag Productions
 
Hell in a Handbag is dedicated to the preservation, exploration, and celebration of works ingrained in the realm of popular culture via theatrical productions through parody, music and homage. Handbag is a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

Artists from the bands Postmodern Jukebox, tUnE-yArDs and Diane Coffee join Broadway and West End talent for Lyric Opera’s North American premiere of Timothy Sheader’s explosive Olivier Award-winning production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, presented from April 27 to May 20, 2018 at the Lyric Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive, Chicago (press opening April 28).
 
The Lyric cast includes: Broadway artist Heath Saunders (Jesus); three-time GRAMMY Award-nominated soul singer Ryan Shaw (Judas); tUnE-yArDs tour vocalist Jo Lampert (Mary Magdalene); Broadway and Postmodern Jukebox crooners Michael Cunio (Pilate) and Mykal Kilgore (Simon Zealotes); Diane Coffee frontman Shaun Fleming (Herod); Chicago-based Broadway artist Joseph Anthony Byrd (Annas); West End favorite Cavin Cornwall (Caiaphas); and Chicago-based artist Andrew Mueller (Peter).
 
To guarantee a front row rock concert experience, Lyric will offer orchestra pit seating—the closest possible position to the stage—for the first time in the company's Broadway musical history. This new, up-front seating goes on sale today for students through Lyric’s NEXT discount ticket program, and will be made available to the general public at a later date.
 
Single tickets for Jesus Christ Superstar start at $44 and are on sale now at jcsuperstar.org, in person at the Lyric Opera House box office, or by calling 312-827-5600.
 
Three-time Olivier Award winner Timothy Sheader directs the North American premiere of his acclaimed 2016 production from Regent’s Park Open-Air Theatre. Sheader will be joined in Chicago by the original creative team, including music director Tom Deering, Olivier Award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie, Tony Award-nominated set & costume designer Tom Scutt, and Olivier Award-nominated lighting designer Lee Curran. The Chicago production will feature members of the Lyric Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
 
Jesus Christ Superstar is an iconic rock opera that reinvented musical theater for the modern age. With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, this global blockbuster tells the story of the final weeks in the life of Jesus Christ, from the perspective of Judas Iscariot. As Christ’s followers grow more fervent, Judas must make his fateful choice between faith and betrayal. Filled with an exciting mix of musical styles that draw upon 1970s rock, gospel, folk and funk themes, this contemporary imagining of the biblical tale features high-energy dance and powerful storytelling.

To learn more about Lyric’s current season, go to lyricopera.org.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre

First Floor Theater is pleased to continue their sixth season with the Chicago premiere of Nathan Alan Davis’s poetic and poignant drama, DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA, directed by Chika Ike. DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA will play March 4 – 31, 2018 at The Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are currently on sale at firstfloortheater.com. The press opening is Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 pm.
 
The cast includes First Floor company member Shariba Rivers, with Brianna Buckley, Jerome Beck, Kayla Raelle Holder, Brian Nelson Jr., Destiny Strothers and Jalen Gilbert as Dontrell.
 
Eighteen-year-old Dontrell Jones the Third decides it is his duty and destiny to venture into the Atlantic Ocean in search of an ancestor lost during the Middle Passage, but his family isn’t ready to abandon its prized son to the waters of a mysterious and haunting past.

Blending poetry, humor, wordplay and ritual, DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA is a modern-day hero’s quest exploring the lengths and depths we must go to redeem history’s wrongs. The play has been called “a mesmerizing blend of magical realism and poetic social comment” by The Los Angeles Times and “the most important play on DC stages” by The DC Theatre Scene.
The production team for DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA includes Eleanor Kahn (scenic design), Uriel Gomez (costume design), Rachel Levy (lighting design), Sarah D. Espinoza (sound design), Samantha Myers (props design), Breon Arzell (choreography), Bobby Huggins (technical director), Cole von Glahn (production manager) and Kayla Menz (stage manager).

PRODUCTION DETAILS:

Title: DONTRELL, WHO KISSED THE SEA
Playwright: Nathan Alan Davis
Director: Chika Ike
Cast: First Floor company member Shariba Rivers, with Brianna Buckley, Jerome Beck, Kayla Raelle Holder, Brian Nelson Jr., Destiny Strothers and Jalen Gilbert as Dontrell.
 
Location: The Den Theatre, 1333 N Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago
Dates: Previews: Sunday, March 4 at 3 pm and Tuesday, March 6 at 7:30 pm
Press Performance: Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 pm
Regular Run: Thursday, March 8 – Saturday, March 31, 2018
Curtain Times: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm; Sundays at 3 pm.
Tickets: Previews: Pay What You Can. Regular Run: $10-$20. Tickets are on sale now at firstfloortheater.com.

 

Published in Upcoming Theatre
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