Review: CABARET ZAZOU LUMINAIRE Presented by Broadway In Chicago

Review: CABARET ZAZOU LUMINAIRE Presented by Broadway In Chicago

The glittering indoor Spiegeltent ZaZou has unveiled another entertainment confection for downtown Chicago audiences: TEATRO ZINZANNI has now morphed into CABARET ZAZOU. The latest edition, CABARET ZAZOU’s LUMINAIRE, once again combines powerhouse vocals, breathtaking aerial acts, and a little bit of slapstick comedy for over two hours of dinner theater fun. 

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Review: CLYDE’S at Goodman Theatre

Review: CLYDE’S at Goodman Theatre

In CLYDE’S, playwright Lynn Nottage posits that salvation comes in the form of a sandwich…in more ways than one. Clyde, an ex-convict, runs her sandwich shop at a truck stop (expressively also referred to as a “liminal space” in the script) with an iron fist and a sharp attitude. She hires fellow formerly incarcerated employees to whip up sandwiches, and along the way, decide what they’re going to do next with their lives. Thus, CLYDE’S simultaneously pays homage to the transcendent nature of an excellent meal and also the transcendent experience of working at the sandwich shop. The former is a metaphor more grounded in realism; the latter takes the play into a more elusive state. 

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Review: THE MOST SPECTACULARLY LAMENTABLE TRIAL OF MIZ MARTHA WASHINGTON at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Review: THE MOST SPECTACULARLY LAMENTABLE TRIAL OF MIZ MARTHA WASHINGTON at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Steppenwolf’s season opener THE MOST SPECTACULARLY LAMENTABLE TRIAL OF MIZ MARTHA WASHINGTON is a wild fever dream of a play. James Ijames’s play asks audiences to grapple with the question of who is truly free in America and at what cost do we perpetuate cycles of oppression and abuse, even though they may fall under the guise of forward movement. 

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Review: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE at Court Theatre

Review: ARSENIC AND OLD LACE at Court Theatre

Joseph Kesselring’s 1941 play ARSENIC AND OLD LACE combines farce, explicitly dark comedy, and a little murder. Director Ron OJ Parson’s decision to envision the central Brewster family as a wealthy Black American family gives the play a modern twist. ARSENIC AND OLD LACE has historically been performed by mainly white actors—though there’s no reason in the text for this to be so. Seeing the mischievous and murderous sisters Abby and Martha Brewster played by TayLar and Celeste Williams adds to the power dynamic at play: Now it’s two elderly Black women who set on a mission to help elderly white men find peace—with help from some poisoned elderberry wine. 

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Review: THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA Pre-Broadway Tryout

Review: THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA Pre-Broadway Tryout

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA is a solidly entertaining musical, but much like florals for spring, it’s not exactly groundbreaking.

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Review: PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT at Mercury Theater Chicago

Review: PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT at Mercury Theater Chicago

Mercury Theater Chicago is adding some major camp to this summer with Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter’s production of PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT. Based on the 1994 film by Stephan Elliot and with book by Stephan Elliot and Allan Scott, this romp of a jukebox musical features high-energy hits from iconic pop divas. The musical features an assortment of songs that audiences will immediately recognize including The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men,” Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” and many more. Eugene Dizon’s music direction ensures that these hits are delivered with the powerful vocals to match. 

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Review: GET OUT ALIVE at Haven Chicago

Review: GET OUT ALIVE at Haven Chicago

Nikki Lynette’s autobiographical GET OUT ALIVE is a deeply vulnerable musical about her struggle with depression. This is one of the most incredibly personal pieces of theater I’ve seen; Lynette is truly no holds barred as she probes the intimate depths of her past trauma, triggers, and hospitalizations over the course of her battle with depression. She bills GET OUT ALIVE as a “celebration of life,” and the show is framed around the structure of a funeral (at least in the program). Directed by Roger Ellis and Lucky Stiff and featuring Jacinda Ratcliffe, Keeley Morris, and DJ Jason “P1” Lloyd in the ensemble, Lynette uses numerous elements to relay her story. GET OUT ALIVE incorporates vivid costumes (designed by Anna Wooden), a catwalk-style set from Eleanor Kahn, projections from Chris Owens and Lynette, and choreography by Morris and Ratcliffe. While the structure is fairly standard for a musical, weaving between dialogue and songs, the show makes ample use of projections, video clips, background vocals, and even visual art. Just as it seems that Lynette at times had to take radical approaches during her darkest depressive episodes, so too does the show take an “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to the storytelling.

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Review: IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Review: IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Kellen Blair and Joe Kinosian’s IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is campy musical theater fun that pays homage to the 1953 “B-movie” from which it’s adapted. In the vein of musicals like LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, Blair and Kinosian lean into the source material’s ability to delight and amuse with a take-home message that’s clear as day—but the earnestness of the material is what allows it all to be delivered with a wink. Laura Braza’s production guides the six cast members through the material swiftly (though it does still seem like a song or two could be cut, particularly while the show ramps up to the unveiling of those mysterious aliens). Scott Davis’s set design, Mieka Van Der Ploeg’a costumes, Heather Sparling’s lighting design, Rasean Davonté Johnson and Michael Salvatore Commendatore’s projections and video all echo the cheekiness of the musical. 

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Review: WHERE WE BELONG at Goodman Theatre

Review: WHERE WE BELONG at Goodman Theatre

The Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s production of Madeline Sayet’s solo play runs through July 24, 2022

Madeline Sayet proves herself to be a powerful and magnetic storyteller in her one-woman play WHERE WE BELONG. Sayet has structured her text so the story becomes more personal and poetic as it progresses, and under the direction of Mei Ann Teo, she delivers her testimony to the audience in a compelling and dynamic manner. 

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Review: CHOIR BOY at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Review: CHOIR BOY at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

The long-awaited Steppenwolf production of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s CHOIR BOY was well worth the wait.

With direction by Kent Gash, Steppenwolf’s staging hits all the right notes. Steppenwolf ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play is is a heartwrenching and tuneful story about Pharus— a young gay Black man who relishes nothing more than his role as the choir lead at the prestigious Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys. Over the course of the play, Pharus navigates that classic adolescent tension between his desire to be fully himself and his wish to be accepted among his peers. McCraney’s script beautifully demonstrates this push-and-pull in a way that will universally resonate with audiences, but the story is also incredibly specific to Pharus and his classmates. 

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