Tag Archives: musicals

Arcadia at Writers’ Theatre: Vintage Wine in a New Bottle

We review Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and the horse it rode in on, namely Writers’ Theatre’s new Jeanne Gang-designed home.  Then K., suffering from an excess of enthusiasm, recommends two shows in Rogers Park: Rent at Theo Ubique and Pride & Prejudice at Adapt Theatre, while  J. restricts himself to a single pick: After All The Terrible Things I Do (a/k/a his autobiography) at About Face.

 

Savannah Quinn Hoover as Mimi and Patrick Rooney as Roger in Theo Ubique's production of Rent.  Photo by Adam Veness

In Brief: Rent at Theo Ubique

Savannah Quinn Hoover as Mimi and Patrick Rooney as Roger in Theo Ubique’s production of Rent.  Photo by Adam Veness.

 

The first time I saw Rent I was underwhelmed; that’s because I didn’t see it done by Theo Ubique.  Now I understand what all the noise has been about: the gorgeous choral harmonies of Jonathan Larson’s score make its La Boheme-inspired story of freezing artists and wannabes resonate with those of us who aren’t freezing.  Director Scott Weinstein, Choreographer Daniel Spagnuolo and—especially—music director and pianist Jeremy Ramey make the lives of the downtrodden a treat for eye and ear.

The show is flawlessly cast: Matt Edmonds as Mark, who spends the show documenting everything with his video camera instead of experiencing it, has the perfect imperfect face and a voice which makes melody out of even Larson’s least melodic songs, including the title number.  Patrick Rooney as Roger, sulking in his tent like a contemporary Achilles, has the classic floppy-haired tragic romantic look, and is complemented wonderfully by Savannah Hoover’s Mimi.  And Aubrey McGrath deserves a special acknowledgment: he plays drag-queen Angel, a part written for a Latino actor, with such life-giving energy that any and all prejudices—for or against drag queens; for or against casting against ethnic type—simply melt away.  Without naming every single member of the cast, I can’t do justice to its quality: suffice it to say, go.

Through May 1 at the No Exit Cafe in Rogers Park.

Midnight Cowboy at Lifeline: Forget the Movie

Plus, J. picks I’ve Got the World on a String, the Harold Arlen revue at City Lit.

Far From Heaven at Porchlight Theatre—& hell on the radio! We nearly come to blows

We disagree violently over Porchlight’s Far From Heaven, the musical adaptation of the Todd Haynes film in turn adapted from a women’s weepie of the early 60s.  Then K. recommends Refuge Theatre Project’s High Fidelity, the musical adaptation of the John Cusack film in turn adapted from a book in the early 90s.  Doesn’t anyone do anything original anymore?

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In brief: The Old Friends at Raven, First Folio’s Jeeves at Sea and High Fidelity by Refuge Theatre Project

K. sez:

Raven Theatre does a fine job with the Midwest premiere of Horton Foote’s The Old Friends, a sort of updating of The Little Foxes wherein a wealthy woman (or two) manipulates and bullies everyone around her.  JoAnn Montemurro is particularly strong as the bully-in-chief, giving a vanity-free performance of a mean sloppy drunk, and director Michael Menendian brings out the best in others as well, especially marssie Mencotti, whose own drunk scene is a highlight of the production.  But Foote ended the play rather than finishing it: there’s that telltale pause before the audience starts applauding, because we’re not sure the thing is over.  The Old Friends is more action-filled and absorbing than many other Foote plays, which can verge on Chekhovian non-eventfulness; but the lack of resolution nearly invalidates everything that went before.  Through the end of March at Raven’s home theater on the Edgewater/Rogers Park border.

Fans of PG Wodehouse will find plenty to like in First Folio’s Jeeves at Sea: Christian Gray and Jim McCance are back as the idiotic Bertie and the unflappable Jeeves, and the four supporting cast members raise such a hullabaloo that it was surprising how few of them there were at curtain call. Never mind the plot: Wodehouse is all about the style, and director Alison Vesely and her cast have it down pat. This version of the early-20th-Century English upper class is the perfect tonic if you’re feeling hung over after bingeing on Downton Abbey.

Refuge Theatre Project begins its sophomore season by knocking it out of the park with High Fidelity, a musical based on the Nick Hornby novel and the John Cusack film of the same name. Turning a second-story space in the West Loop into “the last real record store on earth,” the company under Christopher Pazdernik’s direction manages to convey the essence of slack while nonetheless singing and dancing their hearts out. Every word of the script (by David Lindsay-Abaire, who shows no sign of slumming here but gives it his considerable best), every lyric, every character has a perfect 90s period feel coupled with sharp comedy and a love story or four. Max DeTogne, who plays our anti-hero, is so good I’m gnashing my teeth at having missed him as Jesus Christ Superstar at Theo Ubique–he holds the whole show together with his hangdog charm. Get thee to 666 West Hubbard before the show closes at the end of February, and maybe if you just refuse to leave you can persuade the company to keep running the show–like, forever.

We start the new year with something “Beautiful”

. . . and totally fail to disagree. What Carole King hath put together, let no man put asunder!

A Night At the Opera: the DCs Take On the Lyric’s Bel Canto

The Marx brothers have nothing on us! Plus, K. re-recommends the Q Brothers’ Christmas Carol: they had me at the two yarmulke’d philanthropists who tell Scrooge, “I’m Rahm, and he’s Ari.”

We review Strawdog’s Robin Hood and Maid Marian, then anticipate the arrival of Hamilton

Sugarplums and treacle–or, if you prefer, faith, hope and love: the holidays on Chicago stages

Jonathan waxes Scrooge-like about holiday offerings while Kelly takes her inner child out for an excursion.  Grab your insulin and dive in!

Good for Otto by David Rabe Gets Its World Premiere at the Gift Theatre

J. and K. praise the direction and acting of Good for Otto at the Gift but raise some questions about the text of this new David Rabe play.  Then K. picks For Her As A Piano at Pegasus Players and J. recommends the new musical Ride the Cyclone at Chicago Shakespeare.