Category: Rachel’s Picks

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: SIX National Tour Presented by Broadway In Chicago

Review: SIX National Tour Presented by Broadway In Chicago

All hail! The pop queens of SIX are back in Chicago for an epic royal homecoming in their national tour debut. With direction from Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage and the same creative team behind the show’s 2019 American debut at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Broadway production, the SIX tour is exhilarating and entertaining. Toby Marlow and Moss’s pop musical about the six wives of King Henry VIII remains a master class in original and concise musical theater storytelling. 

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Review: KING JAMES at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Review: KING JAMES at Steppenwolf Theatre Company

KING JAMES is a platonic male love story — and Rajiv Joseph’s world premiere play at Steppenwolf is one slam dunk of a bromance. 

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Review: COME FROM AWAY National Tour Presented by Broadway In Chicago

Review: COME FROM AWAY National Tour Presented by Broadway In Chicago

The current national tour of Irene Sankoff and David Hein’s COME FROM AWAY features an ensemble of twelve actors that bring the musical to blazing life; every emotional moment feels raw and real. Based upon the true story of the 7,000 diverted passengers who land in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11, the musical calls upon the ensemble to embody both Gander’s residents and the stranded passengers. 

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Review: OKLAHOMA! National Tour Presented by Broadway In Chicago

Review: OKLAHOMA! National Tour Presented by Broadway In Chicago

Director Daniel Fish’s production of OKLAHOMA! feels both familiar and surprising. Familiar in that the Rodgers and Hammerstein 1943 classic contains some of the most iconic tunes in the American musical theater songbook and established many of the composite elements that made up all future musicals. Surprising in that Fish’s vision for the musical, which won a 2019 Tony Award for Best Revival, brings the inherent darkness in the material to the forefront. Likewise, this OKLAHOMA! fully realizes the complexity of the narrative and the dimensionality of the characters. 

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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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Review: I HATE IT HERE at Goodman Theatre

Review: I HATE IT HERE at Goodman Theatre

I didn’t hate I HATE IT HERE. In fact, Chicago playwright Ike Holter’s “concept album” play was both an uproariously funny and thought-provoking conclusion to Goodman Theatre’s LIVE series. Holter and director Lili-Anne Brown reimagined what was originally an audio play for this final installment, which artfully blends live theater and highly cinematic qualities (Christiana Tye returns as video director and Gabe Hatfield is director of photography). 

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Review: Porchlight Music Theatre’s BROADWAY BY THE DECADE

Review: Porchlight Music Theatre’s BROADWAY BY THE DECADE

Porchlight’s streaming program BROADWAY BY THE DECADE provides some much needed musical theater cheer in this unprecedented and challenging year for Chicago theater. This streaming offering is an enjoyable virtual take on the Porchlight Revisits series, in which the company mounts limited engagements of rarely produced musicals—complete with a pre-show briefing from Artistic Director Michael Weber. Weber now takes on the role as musical theater historian and revue emcee as he traces the history of the American musical from the late 1800s to the present—all in the span of 45 minutes. BROADWAY BY THE DECADE provides viewers with an insightful overview of American musical theater, without bogging down the program with details. 

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Review: WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME Presented by Broadway In Chicago

Review: WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME Presented by Broadway In Chicago

In WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME, playwright Heidi Schreck has pulled off one of the most challenging feats in theater: The seamless blending of the personal and the universal. And the result is remarkable. In the play, Schreck reconstructs the speech she gave at age fifteen about the U.S. Constitution in competitions across the country; she was able to win enough of these contests to pay for her entire college education.  The play evolves into an examination of what the Constitution has meant to Schreck at various points in her life, from her initial awe in high school to her present-day questioning of whether this esteemed American document actually protects the rights of all citizens. It’s a blistering examination of our country’s frequent failure to protect the rights of women and minorities (and particularly Native Americans), partly as relayed by Schreck’s inclusion of some haunting stories about the history of the women in her family. 

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