Author: rachelrweinberg

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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Review: LIFE AFTER at Goodman Theatre 

Review: LIFE AFTER at Goodman Theatre 

Britta Johnson’s LIFE AFTER is a deeply moving and creative new musical that beautifully probes the complexities of grief and the accompanying anxiety and unanswered questions it brings in its wake. This is a profoundly emotional, but also at times surprisingly humorous, musical that sonically takes inspiration from contemporary shows that came before it but has a personality all its own. Under the direction of Annie Tippe, Goodman Theatre’s ensemble brings the story of 16-year-old Alice, who mourns the sudden loss of her father, to life in a visceral and touching production. 

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Review: CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE ‘90S MUSICAL at Kokandy Productions

Review: CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE ‘90S MUSICAL at Kokandy Productions

Kokandy Productions’ staging of CRUEL INTENTIONS: THE ‘90S MUSICAL is a fun romp filled with ‘90s nostalgia and some banging vocals from director Adrian Abel Azevedo’s ensemble. Created by Jordan Ross, LIndsey Rosin, and Roger Kumble and based on Kumble’s 1999 film of the same name, CRUEL INTENTIONS understands its assignment well to deliver camp, fun, and ‘90s hits. While I found the original film quite absurd with its seductive and slightly sadistic tale of lascivious stepsiblings Kathryn and Sebastian and their antics, the musical owns the ridiculousness, and in the end, makes for a clever adaptation that improves upon its source material. Certain elements of the film have not aged well, but the tongue-in-cheek nature of the musical compensates for that. 

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Review: cullud wattah at Victory Gardens Theater

Review: cullud wattah at Victory Gardens Theater

The Chicago premiere of Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s cullud wattah at Victory Gardens Theater is a heartbreaking and compelling play about a family of resilient Black women living in Flint, Michigan. Dickerson-Despenza’s script intertwines slice-of-life scenes between marion (Brianna Buckley), her sister ainee (Sydney Charles), her daughters plum (Demetra Dee) and reesee (Ireon Roach), and her mother big ma (Renée Lockett) with larger discussions and news clips that reflect the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. 

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Review: SKATES: A New Musical at the Studebaker Theater

Review: SKATES: A New Musical at the Studebaker Theater

American Idol alumni and real-life married couple Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young take the stage in SKATES: A New Musical. While Christine Rea and Rick Briskin’s musical bills itself on the whole as an exercise in nostalgia, the most nostalgic part of SKATES for me was seeing DeGarmo and Young perform; I rooted hard core for DeGarmo back in her AMERICAN IDOL days. Here, she shows why— she has a tremendous powerhouse voice and an appealing stage presence that make her a consummate performer. Director Brenda Didier and choreographer Christopher Chase Carter work with a cast of Chicago musical theater veterans who perform alongside DeGarmo and Young. 

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