Month: April 2016

THE PRODUCERS at Mercury Theater

THE PRODUCERS at Mercury Theater

Mercury Theater’s THE PRODUCERS Is an Uproarious Hit

As the secretary and wannabe stage actor Ulla sings in THE PRODUCERS, when you got it, flaunt it. And Mercury Theater’s production definitely got it. While the eccentric producer Max Bialystock and neurotic accountant Leo Bloom hope to put together a Broadway flop so they can take the money raised from their “little old lady” backers and run, THE PRODUCERS had me riveted in my seat and awing at the comedic talent on display all the way through. I honestly can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a musical, and L. Walter Stearns’s direction ensures the actors don’t miss a single potential punchline anywhere in Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan’s book.

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SENDER at A Red Orchid Theater

SENDER at A Red Orchid Theater

World Premiere of Ike Holter’s SENDER at A Red Orchid Theatre Paints A Smart, Entertaining Portrait of Emerging Adulthood

A Red Orchid Theatre’s world premiere production of SENDER, from playwright Ike Holter (EXIT STRATEGY), thrives on the contrast between order and chaos. Or, more precisely in the millennial world of the play, the tension between wanting to remain in childhood and the need to face the realities of adulthood. The crux of SENDER focuses on a group of four friends struggling with this very issue, all of whom are in various stages of growing up. One of the friends disappeared a year ago and has since been presumed dead. The twist? At the beginning of the play, he shows up–and completely offsets the balance that has been established in his absence.

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BULLETS OVER BROADWAY Presented by Broadway in Chicago

BULLETS OVER BROADWAY Presented by Broadway in Chicago

BULLETS OVER BROADWAY Supplies Rip-Roaring 1920s Fun

The first national tour of BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (adapted from Woody Allen and Douglas McGrath’s film of the same name) makes for an evening of pure musical theater entertainment, expertly executed with a healthy dose of laughs and superb choreography. Susan Stroman choreographed and directed the original Broadway production, and I’m pleased to report that tour choreographer Clare Cook ensures the dance numbers continue to dazzle. Tour director Jeff Whiting helms this evening of unadulterated fun and the vocal talent in the cast is also prominently on display. BULLETS OVER BROADWAY’s musical numbers are comprised of vaudeville-era tunes from noted composers like Cole Porter, with additional lyrics by Glen Kelly. William Ivey Long’s lovely costumes supply 1920s glitz and glam, and Jason Ardizzone-West’s visually appealing set gives the actors lots of space on which to run amok. And while the musical doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of storytelling or score, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY will certainly bring a smile to audiences’ faces.
DREAMGIRLS at Porchlight Music Theatre

DREAMGIRLS at Porchlight Music Theatre

Porchlight’s Memorable DREAMGIRLS Will Never Leave You

Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of DREAMGIRLS is a musical theater lover’s dream. Under Brenda Didier’s direction, Henry Krieger’s score and Tom Eyen’s lyrics are delivered with a great deal of heart and power by the cast. And the intimacy of Stage 773’s Thrust performance space somehow manages to make the remarkable voices of the Dreams, the men in their lives, and their ensemble counterparts seem larger-than-life and undeniably potent. When DREAMGIRLS debuted in 1981 on Broadway, the show made Jennifer Holliday—who played the powerhouse role of the talented-but-slighted Effie White—a star. And in 2006, the film version introduced a new generation (including this reviewer) both to the musical and a new talent—Jennifer Hudson, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Effie. Fortunately, in Donica Lynn, Porchlight’s DREAMGIRLS has certainly found its own star.  Lynn sings the hell out of the famous Act One showstopper “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Her jaw-dropping take on that number alone makes this production worth seeing—Lynn delivers the song in a performance that combines vocal perfection with emotional vulnerability.

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HERSHEY FELDER AS IRVING BERLIN

HERSHEY FELDER AS IRVING BERLIN

HERSHEY FELDER AS IRVING BERLIN Provides A Lighthearted, Sentimental Tribute to the Great Composer

In his one-man revue HERSHEY FELDER AS IRVING BERLIN, Felder pays loving homage to the famed composer who worked his way from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway to Hollywood and beyond. This revue showcases a number of Berlin’s greatest hits, including “I’ll Be Loving You Always,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” and, of course, that ubiquitous holiday tune “White Christmas,” interspersed with biographical details about the composer’s life and career. Felder’s show allows audiences to revel in Berlin’s magnificent songs, many of which paved the way for the development of the American musical (though the rise of that art form ultimately posed a challenge for Berlin’s own career). The result is pleasant and entertaining, with some surprisingly touching insights into Berlin’s life—one of great success and acclaim but not without significant personal tragedy and, as a Jewish immigrant from Russia, discrimination.

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HILLARY AND CLINTON at Victory Gardens Theater

HILLARY AND CLINTON at Victory Gardens Theater

Victory Gardens Theater’s world premiere of HILLARY AND CLINTON offers an intriguing, timely portrait of life in the public eye.

Victory Gardens Theater’s world premiere production of Lucas Hnath’s HILLARY AND CLINTON invites audiences to imagine an alternate universe, though similar to our own, in which a woman named Hillary Clinton is running for United States president. And in setting up the play this way, Hnath has crafted an intriguing, multilayered play that simultaneously is and is not about the Hillary Clinton recognizable to 2016 audiences. With direction by Victory Gardens Artistic Director Chay Yew, this play invites audiences to consider themes both intimate and expansive.

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