Author: rachelrweinberg

Review: FROZEN National Tour Presented by Broadway In Chicago

Review: FROZEN National Tour Presented by Broadway In Chicago

Queen Elsa has arrived in Chicago to “Let It Go” — and that famous song from the original FROZEN film now serves as the act one finale for Disney’s latest musical theater magic. Elsa (Caroline Bowman, belting within an inch of her life) sings the powerhouse number as an ice castle swirls around her in Christopher Oram’s set with lighting awash in Natasha Katz’s cool-tone color scheme and projections from Finn Ross. While the moment is a delight, the most spectacular moment comes from Elsa’s quick costume change — Oram also designed the costumes, and that’s the real moment of magic here. 

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3 Sensible Takeaways from Porchlight Revisits NUNSENSE

3 Sensible Takeaways from Porchlight Revisits NUNSENSE

Dan Goggins’s 1985 absurd and laugh-out-loud funny musical comedy NUNSENSE kicked off the eighth season of Porchlight Revisits. Here are three key takeaways from my viewing of this intentionally nonsensical musical comedy.

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Review: PARADISE SQUARE Pre-Broadway Production

Review: PARADISE SQUARE Pre-Broadway Production

PARADISE SQUARE takes the theme of the proverbial American melting pot deeply to heart. The musical centers on the lower Manhattan neighborhood of Five Points  in the 1860s, where many white Irish immigrants and free Black Americans lived together. Though the show’s narrator, Paradise Square saloon owner Nelly O’Brien, tells audiences that Five Points was notorious for being a slum, she also makes clear that the neighborhood’s inhabitants enjoyed deep friendships and romantic relationships. 

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Review: SISTER ACT at Mercury Theater Chicago

Review: SISTER ACT at Mercury Theater Chicago

Mercury Theater Chicago returns with SISTER ACT — and it’s pure musical theater elation. This “Joyful, Joyful” (SISTER ACT II reference intended) production, with direction from Reneisha Jenkins and choreography by Mercury’s new Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter, meets the goal of delighting audiences. This is musical theater that’s designed to entertain and not make audiences think too deeply, and Mercury’s production capitalizes on the show’s capacity for fun. While the material is not at all serious, the talent in this company is stacked, and the actors take their responsibility to deliver this fun seriously. 

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Review: PUMP BOYS & DINETTES at Porchlight Music Theatre

Review: PUMP BOYS & DINETTES at Porchlight Music Theatre

After the long pandemic hiatus, Porchlight Music Theatre returns to in-person productions with a feel-good staging of PUMP BOYS & DINETTES. It’s clear that Artistic Director Michael Weber knew that audiences would be craving some classic, lighthearted musical theater sentiment after such a long time away. He was wise to program director Daryl Brooks’s production of this 1983 show as a welcome back. 

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Review: FANNIE at Goodman Theatre

Review: FANNIE at Goodman Theatre

E. Faye Butler is one of those performers who makes acting and singing look as natural as breathing. As strong-willed civil rights and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, Butler knows she has audiences in the palm of her hand. And rightfully so! Butler easily glides between impassioned, sincere monologues and using her powerful belt and riffs to sing such notable songs as “This Little Light of Mine.” 

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Review: AS YOU LIKE IT at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Review: AS YOU LIKE IT at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Chicago Shakespeare Theater returns following its pandemic hiatus with director Daryl Cloran’s rad production of AS YOU LIKE IT. Cloran’s vision for this classic pastoral comedy combines the renowned lyricism of Shakespeare’s text with the songs of some more modern iconic British wordsmiths —  the Beatles. This take seamlessly interweaves the play’s text with the Beatles songs, and Cloran chose a play that fits naturally with the famous band’s music. Given that Shakespeare’s language is innately lyrical, it lends itself well to a pairing with other notable lyrics. At the same time, that can be a tricky balance. Not so with this production. Cloran balances text and song beautifully, and thus this is a show that’s sure to please fans of both Shakespeare and the Beatles. 

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Review: AMERICAN MARIACHI at Goodman Theatre

Review: AMERICAN MARIACHI at Goodman Theatre

Directed by Henry Godinez, Goodman Theatre’s production of AMERICAN MARIACHI, co-produced with Dallas Theater Center, exudes charm and makes impeccable use of its titular music; the five women who form the all-female American mariachi band in question are all outstanding vocalists. 

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Review: MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY at Theater Wit

Review: MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY at Theater Wit

I find it obvious to state that Theater Wit’s revival of Anne Washburn’s MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY is a prescient choice for the company’s first live production since March 2020. Washburn’s 2012 play takes place in three acts — in the very near future, seven years after that, and 75 years after that — in the wake of a mysterious illness and other disasters that have wiped out a substantial portion of the United States population. The parallels to the current pandemic moment are evident, even though the play was written well before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19. Theater Wit Artistic Director Jeremy Weschler’s staging, however, primarily highlights another theme of MR. BURNS: The idea that we turn to art in times of immense pain and difficulty. 

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Review: SCHOOL GIRLS at Goodman Theatre

Review: SCHOOL GIRLS at Goodman Theatre

Live, in-person theater has returned to Goodman Theatre. And it could also be said that school’s back in session. After nearly 17 months, Jocelyn Bioh’s SCHOOL GIRLS; OR, THE AFRICAN MEAN GIRLS PLAY has finally opened. The production radiates Black girl joy. After such a long wait, it’s particularly magical to see this uproariously funny but also tender play that puts young Black women right at its center. 

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