REVIEW: Songs for a Future Generation (Lights Out Theatre)

Dancing to its own tune!

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Lights Out Theatre presents

Songs for a Future Generation

 

Written by Joe Tracz
Directed by Mary Rose O’Connor
At EP Theatre, 1820 S. Halsted

Thru March 13th  (more info)

By Katy Walsh

What does the future hold? The good news is dance parties! The bad news is no lobster! Lights Out Theatre Company presents Songs for a Future Generation. Set in the future, in a galaxy far, far away, Songs for a Future Generation imagines the SFAFG1continued challenges of hosting successful theme parties, searching for ‘the one’, and saving the… rock lobster. It is present day themes with science fiction twists. The party hosts are clones. The love seeker is a time traveler. The seafood advocate is an  intergalactic fugitive. Songs for a Future Generation is multiple stories unfolding during a series of dance parties. Watching the show is like being a wallflower, you are delighted by the rocking bash but uncertain how to engage in what’s happening.

The cast rockets with pure octane energy. The best moments are the choreographed (Anna Lucero) dance sequences involving the whole cast. The ensemble is perfectly in-sync in the dance. They bop with such enthusiasm, it feels like you are gawkers at the cool kids’ party rather than an audience at a play. As Marika clones, Andrea DeCamp, Hailey Wineland and Annie Lydia Litchfield do a wonderful job being unique while being in unison. Jaclyn Keough (The Kid), looking like an androgynous “It’s James Dean,” was fascinating to watch in her antics to rescue the rock lobster. Jonathan Matteson (Error) is the lovestruck time traveler bringing old school charm to a hedonistic generation. The costumes (Bradley Burgess-Donaleski) and hairstyles are a fun, sexy, hot mess.

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For any dance party to be successful, certain elements must be present. For Songs for a Future Generation, there is definitely the right music, dance and energy. The buzz killer is often straddling the party balance between “too much” and “not enough.” In the dance numbers, keeping the large cast in step together is impressive. In scenes, where the action is low and the cast is hugging the walls, the stage’s emptiness is “nobody came to my party” awkward. The script also becomes party victim to “too much” or “not enough.” Although there are multiple storylines to follow, the content is light and frothy. The plotlines are basic and predictable. The rave is definitely the boogie. Life is a collection of celebrations. Every festivity doesn’t have to be legendary. Treat Songs for a Future Generation like the eye candy at a party, he’s pretty to look at but a strong connection isn’t necessarily present. It’s a fun hour without any emotional or intellectual commitment. Sometimes, it is just about dancing!

Rating: ★★★

Running Time: One hour and twenty-five minutes (no intermission, 10 minute delayed start).

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REVIEW: Alegria (Cirque du Soleil)

Exquisite power and grace brought to an imperfect setting

 handbalancing

Cirque du Soleil presents

Alegría

At Sears Centre Arena
Through March 7 (more info)

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

The magic of the big top is missing, sight lines are mostly flawed and the clowns are not so funny, but Cirque du Soleil’s Alegría is still full of enchantment, a sparking example of this Canadian circus/theater troupe’s best work. The arena staging makes the overall effect seem smaller and less encompassing than Cirque du Soleil under the big top, but still very worthwhile.

Highbars2 First mounted in 1994, Alegría toured for 14 years as a tent production. Last year, the company refitted it as an arena version, allowing short runs like the current one at Sears Center Arena, which ends Sunday.

Surreal and beautiful, the show’s themes trace old worlds vs. new ones and the voyages from one to the next. Dominque Lemieux‘s exquisite, shimmering costumes evoke the court of Louis XV and the explorers and natives of the colonies. There’s no narrative plot, and while the creators saw specific roles for the various colorful "characters" ambling in and around the circus acts, they won’t be obvious to anyone without a program. It doesn’t matter.

The clowns carry much of the story line, such as it is, in a variety of transportation-themed skits. Canadians Aron de Casmaker and Bubkus (Jesse Buck) are the silly ones, playing with a toy horse and paper airplanes; Russian Yuri Medvedev is the sad one, mooning over a suitcase and lost in a snowstorm. Even when they’re funny — as when de Casmaker and Bubkus do an amusing parody of other performers in Act II — the clowning business always goes on too long, especially in relation to the comparatively brief and breathtaking acts that we really came to see.

Among the most astonishing and wonderful bits are; "Power Track," an amazingly beautiful synchronized acrobatic dance, full of tumbling, soaring gymnasts on trampolines; Micah Naruo and Maui Sumeo‘s brilliant Hawaiian fire-knife dance; Russian bars, a petrifying acrobatic act in which the performers jolt into the air and come down onto perilously narrow, flexible boards; Baansansuran Enkhbaatar and Ganchimeg Tumurbaatar, two tiny, graceful contortionists from Mongolia; and, of course, a dazzling high-bar aerialist act.

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All of this comes at hefty prices, plus $15, cash, for parking, but you needn’t — and shouldn’t — get the costliest seats. Sears Centre Arena has few perfect seats for this show. If you get premium seats on the arena floor, you’ll likely have heads blocking your view of the lower parts of the stage. Those seated at the sides may not be able to see rear stage, and views of the aerialists’ high bar act may be obscured by the net. Try to sit in the stands directly across from the stage; you’ll have unobstructed views, but you’ll be a long way from the action — bring opera glasses.

Fortunately, a big part of this show’s power is in its music. Réné Dupéré’s original score rings with majesty and mystery, with multilingual lyrics that add to the exotic flavor of the show.

Backed by Swiss vocalist Malika Alaoui Ismaïli as the Black Singer, and a fine live band — all in white-faced clown makeup and false noses — led by Jean-Philippe Fortin, the splendid voice of French performer Nancy Arnaud (aka Nancy Chiche), as the White Singer, dominates the arena despite a combination of miking and arena acoustics that often makes it seem as if she’s lip-syncing to a recording. (This seems to have led the opening-night audience, sadly, to treat her performance as background music.) There’s a good reason that the "Alegría" soundtrack is Cirque’s bestseller; it was nominated for a Grammy in 1995 and spent 65 weeks on Billboard’s World Music Chart. Arnaud lacks the electrifying, sexy rasp of the original singer, Francesca Gagnon, but brings more sheer power and melodiousness to the songs.

The vibrant, haunting, namesake song of the finale, "Alegría," Spanish for "jubilation," will stay with you.

 

Rating: ★★★½

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NOTE: This YouTube video portrays the Aerial High Bar Act as staged and performed in Cirque du Soleil’s tent-version of Alegria.

REVIEW: An Evening with LuPone and Patinkin (BIC)

Let the pros show you how it’s done

 

patti-mandy

Broadway in Chicago presents:

An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

Conceived by Mandy Patinkin and Paul Ford
Directed by Mandy Patinkin
At the
Cadillac Palace Theatre 
24 W. Randolph, Chicago

Through March 7th (more info | tickets)

by Paige Listerud

There’s something secure in watching two consummate professionals dig into the American songbook and skillfully weave both major and minor works into a thematic Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 whole. Their vocal power and dexterity astonishes, their ability to delineate the subtext behind the lyrics awakens new possibilities within each song, and the sheer joy in performance that they exhibit with each other becomes nothing less than infectious. Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin take the audience on a musical journey and that audience will gladly then follow over hill and dale precisely because they know they are in good hands.

Broadway In Chicago’s An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin only runs from March 2 to March 7 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. The show reunites them after their first turn together in Evita thirty years ago. But the biggest surprise of the evening may be the casual, youthful ease and vigor both singers evince as the evening progresses. Upon opening night, Lupone omitted her classic calling card, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” from the program’s first act—leading to speculation over whether she felt a touch under the weather. If so, it was a meager compromise in an otherwise energetic and precisely crafted performance.

Mandy Patinkin conceived the dramatic arc and music selection of the production with his longtime accompanist and collaborator Paul Ford. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine this show without Ford’s quicksilver touch at the piano. The program itself is intriguing, to say the least. Major musical hits by Jerome Kern, Steven Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein have been spliced with lesser known work–such as “Somewhere It’s Green” from Little Shop of Horrors, “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle, and “Old Folks” from 70, Girls, 70. The songs are aligned to suggest the course of a relationship between two people–falling love, evading commitment, settling down and recalling the past together.

Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 Patti LuPone in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376
Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin in “An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.” This one-week-only engagement with two of the most acclaimed performers of our time opens at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre on June 23, 2009, and will continue through June 29. For tickets and information, call (213) 628-2772 or go to www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.           
Photo Credit: Brigitte Lacombe
Press Contact: CTG Press (213) 972-7376 patti-mandy-together

The arc of the first act flows more smoothly than the second, mostly because it’s hard to miss a love story with tunes from South Pacific. Patinkin’s light, dexterous interpretation of “Some Enchanted Evening” refreshes and revives the standard. Clearly, Patinkin, Lupone and Ford are pushing the songs a little beyond conventional rendition—never so far as to seem outlandish, just enough to incite renewed interest. Patter songs frame and energize the evening—Lupone whipping out “Getting Married Today” from Company and Patinkin joyfully hamming his heart out with “The God-Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me Blues” from Follies.

The storyline may get a little lost in the second act, but by that time the audience just might not care. Lupone and Patinkin clearly love working together and they happily let everyone else in on their connection. Some numbers are effervescently goofy, like Ann Reinking’s charmingly choreographed dance on rolling office chairs. Above all, both performers are old hands at deeply humanizing their material but also give it the fresh glow of people who never take life for granted. It’s a perspective that makes this show the perfect start to March in Chicago, when the first suggestions of spring are borne on the wind.

 

Rating: ★★★½

 

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