Broadway in Chicago continues 2010-2011 Season

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Broadway in Chicago’s 2010/2010 season to include:

  • Wicked
  • Next to Normal
  • 9 to 5
  • Hair
  • Spring Awakening
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Working
  • Peter Pan

TRACES

October 26, 2010 – January 1, 2011

Broadway Playhouse 

 

Broadway in Chicago - Traces - Broadway Playhouse7 Fingers (Les 7 doigts de la main) is an astonishingly talented French Canadian company that has pioneered a whole new brand of theatrical entertainment, and their smash-hit production, TRACES, will launch its U.S. tour in Chicago this fall. Combining awe-inspiring acrobatic training with infectious urban energy, seven performers deliver dazzling, gravity-defying displays of skill that produce “one of the most creative and inspiring pieces of entertainment I’ve ever witnessed” (Edinburgh’s The Sun)–balancing on each other’s heads, tumbling through hoops and leaping spectacularly up giant poles without using their hands. More than just a display of acrobatic brilliance, the audience is gradually drawn into the performers’ real life stories and, by the final, dramatic climax of the show, on the edge of their seats, willing them to pull off the seemingly impossible. “Mesmeric, spontaneous and unpretentious,” ( London ’s Metro), this thrill-a-minute show will leave you begging for more.

 

 


GOD OF CARNAGE

November 30 – December 12, 2010

small_God-carnage-logo The son of one couple has broken two teeth of the son of another. At first diplomatic niceties are observed, but as the couples meet to resolve things, and the rum begins to flow, huge tensions emerge and the gloves come off, leaving more than just their liberal principles in tatters. Winner of the 2009 Tony® Award for Best Play and Best Director (Matthew Warchus), GOD OF CARNAGE is “the funniest play on Broadway!” raves WOR radio.

 

 


WICKED

December 1, 2010 – January 23, 2011

wicked Entertainment Weekly calls WICKED “the best musical of the decade.” WICKED, the longest-running Broadway musical in Chicago theatre history, is returning to Chicago . Winner of 26 major awards, including a Grammy and three Tony® Awards, WICKED is Broadway’s biggest blockbuster, a cultural phenomenon and was just named “the defining musical of the decade” by The New York Times.  Long before that girl from Kansas arrives in Munchkinland, two girls meet in the land of Oz.  One–born with emerald green skin–is smart, fiery and misunderstood.  The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular. How these two grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good makes for “the most ‘Popular’ piece of Chicago theatre in a generation” (Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune).

 


9 to 5: THE MUSICAL

January 18 – January 31, 2011

9-59 to 5: THE MUSICAL is a hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era. This new musical comedy, direct from Broadway, is based on the hit movie and features Dolly Parton’s original hit title song along with her new Tony® Award and Grammy nominated score. The book is by Patricia Resnick (co-writer of the original screenplay). 9 to 5: THE MUSICAL tells the story of three unlikely friends who conspire to take control of their company and learn there’s nothing they can’t do — even in a man’s world. Outrageous, thought-provoking and even a little romantic, 9 to 5: THE MUSICAL is about teaming up and taking care of business… it’s about getting credit and getting even… and it’s about to open in Chicago!

 


BURN THE FLOOR

February 1 – February 13, 2011

burnfloor The international dance sensation BURN THE FLOOR visits Chicago direct from its record-breaking run on Broadway! You’ve seen Ballroom dance on shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So You Think You Can Dance.” Now, with BURN THE FLOOR, you will feel, live on stage, all the passion, the drama and the sizzling excitement of 20 gorgeous champion dancers, in a true theatrical experience, a performance with a grace and athleticism that The New York Times calls, “Dazzling!” From Harlem’s hot nights at The Savoy, where dances such as the Lindy, Foxtrot and Charleston were born, to the Latin Quarter where the Cha-Cha, Rumba and Salsa steamed up the stage, BURN THE FLOOR takes audiences on a journey through the passionate drama of dance.  The elegance of the Viennese Waltz, the exuberance of the Jive, the intensity of the Paso Doble – audiences with experience them all, as well as the Tango, Samba, Mambo, Quickstep and Swing.  It’s Ballroom. Reinvented.


LES MISERABLES

February 2 – 27, 2011

Cadillac Palace Theatre

Cameron Mackintosh presents a brand new 25th anniversary production of Boublil & Schönberg’s legendary musical, Les Miserables, with glorious new staging and spectacular re-imagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. This new production has already been acclaimed by critics, fans and new audiences and is breaking box office records wherever it goes. The London Times hails the new show “a five star hit, astonishingly powerful and as good as the original.” The Western Mail says “an outstanding success.”  

 


RAIN: A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES

February 8 – February 13, 2011

Ford Center for the Performing Arts 

Rain BeatlesRAIN, the acclaimed Beatles concert, returns by popular demand, direct from Broadway! They look like them and they sound just like them!  “The next best thing to seeing The Beatles,” raves the Denver Post.   All the music and vocals are performed totally live!  RAIN covers The Beatles from the earliest beginnings through the psychedelic late 60s and their long-haired hippie, hard-rocking rooftop days. RAIN is a multi-media, multi-dimensional experience…a fusion of historical footage and hilarious television commercials from the 1960s lights up video screens and live cameras zoom in for close-ups. “A thrilling bit of time-warping nostalgia…Boomer Heaven!” raves The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Uncanny! RAIN are a quartet of fine musicians in their own right…as The Beatles, they triumph!” cheers the Boston Herald.  “An adoring Valentine to The Beatles,” declares the Washington Post.  Sing along with your family and friends to such favorites as “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Come Together” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and relive Beatlemania from Ed Sullivan to Abbey Road!

 


WORKING

February 15 – May 8, 2011

Broadway Playhouse

Working - Broadway Playhouse - ChicagoWORKING is a vital new musical based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Chicago ’s own Studs Terkel.  Newly adapted by Stephen Schwartz (WICKED, PIPPIN and GODSPELL), WORKING is the working man’s A CHORUS LINE.  It is a musical exploration of people from all walks of life, with twenty-six songs by all-star composers Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Tony Award™ winning Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz and Grammy Award™ winning James Taylor.  WORKING celebrates everyday people, fills you with hope and inspiration and is the perfect musical for anyone who has ever worked a day in their lives.

 


HAIR

March 8 – 15, 2011

Ford Center for the Performing Arts

The Public Theater’s 2009 Tony-winning production of HAIR is an electric celebration on stage! This exuberant musical about a group of young Americans searching for peace and love in a turbulent time has struck a resonant chord with audiences young and old. Its ground breaking rock score paved the way for some of the greatest musicals of our time. HAIR features an extraordinary cast and dozens of unforgettable songs, including “Aquarius,” “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Good Morning, Starshine” and “Easy To Be Hard.” Its relevance is UNDENIABLE. Its energy is UNBRIDLED. Its truth is UNWAVERING. It’s HAIR, and IT’S TIME.


MERCHANT OF VENICE

March 15 – 27, 2011

Bank of America Theatre 

From the acclaimed Theatre for a New Audience, the first U.S. theatre to be invited to the Royal Shakespeare Company, comes Shakespeare’s tragicomedy following command runs Off- Broadway and in Stratford-Upon-Avon . Starring Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham in his riveting portrayal of Shylock, and directed by Darko Tresnjak (former Artistic Director, Old Globe), the play has been arousing controversies for centuries with raucous and gentle comedy, tender poetry, and its struggle with mercy and justice. In this riveting update, religion, race and sexuality collide with love, family and justice and the currency of society and humanity has never been so changeable.

 


WISHFUL DRINKING

April 5 – 17, 2011

Bank of America Theatre 

WISHFUL DRINKING, Carrie Fisher’s autobiographical solo show, follows Fisher’s life. Born to celebrity parents, Fisher lands among the stars when she’s picked to play a princess in a little movie called ‘Star Wars.’ But her story isn’t all sweetness and light sabers. As a single mom, she also battles addiction, depression, mental institutions, and that awful hyperspace hairdo. It’s an incredible tale–from having her father leave her mother for Elizabeth Taylor to marrying and divorcing singer/songwriter Paul Simon, from having the father of her baby leave her for a man to waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed. Don’t miss this opportunity to see Carrie Fisher’s hit Broadway show.

 


NEXT TO NORMAL

April 26 – May 8, 2011

Bank of America Theatre 

 

Next to Normal - Broadway in ChicagoFrom the director of Rent comes the most talked about new show on Broadway, NEXT TO NORMAL, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and three 2009 Tony Awards including Best Score.  Alice Ripley who received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, will reprise her acclaimed performance in Chicago . Having been chosen as “one of the year’s ten best” by major critics around the country, NEXT TO NORMAL is an emotional powerhouse of a musical with a thrilling contemporary score about a family trying to take care of themselves and each other.  The New York Times calls NEXT TO NORMAL “a brave, breathtaking musical.  A work of muscular grace and power.  It is much more than a feel-good musical; it is a feel-everything musical.” Rolling Stone raves, “It is the best musical of the season – by a mile.  It’ll pin you to your seat.”


PETER PAN

Begins April 29, 2011

Chicago Tribune Freedom Center North

 

Peter Pan Chicago - Tribune Freedom Center North - Broadway in ChicagoBroadway In Chicago and threesixty° entertainment are excited to announce a unique event – a spectacular new production of J M Barrie’s classic story, PETER PAN, at the Chicago Tribune Freedom Center. Conceived by an award-winning creative team, the SMASH HIT Peter Pan features twenty-two actors, stunning puppets, epic music and dazzling flying sequences surrounded by breathtaking video projection using the world’s first 360-degree CGI theater set. Both cast and audience fly over Edwardian London. Performed in a state-of-the-art theater pavilion, this magical new “in-the-round” production of Peter Pan is an extraordinary experience for the whole family.

 


SPRING AWAKENING

May 3 – 8, 2011

Bank of America Theatre 

Spring Awakening - Broadway in ChicagoThe winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical – told by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater through “The most gorgeous Broadway score this decade” (Entertainment Weekly) – SPRING AWAKENING explores the journey from adolescence to adulthood with poignancy and passion you will never forget. The landmark musical SPRING AWAKENING is an electrifying fusion of morality, sexuality and rock & roll that is exhilarating audiences across the nation like no other musical in years. Join this group of late 19th century German students on their passage, as they navigate teenage self-discovery and coming of age anxiety in a powerful celebration of youth and rebellion in the daring, remarkable SPRING AWAKENING. “Broadway may never be the same again!” NY TIMES

 


DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 

June 28 – July 10, 2011

Broadway in Chicago - Beauty and the BeastThe romantic Broadway musical for all generations, NETworks presentation of DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the smash hit Broadway musical, returns to Chicago ! Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature film, this eye-popping spectacle has won the hearts of over 35 million people worldwide. Hailed by the Chicago Sun-Times as “warm and winning performances, a tuneful score, and real heart,” the classic musical love story is filled with unforgettable characters, lavish sets and costumes, and dazzling production numbers including “Be Our Guest” and the beloved title song. Experience the romance and enchantment of DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!



 

TICKETS

Group tickets are currently available for all of the 2011 Season Series shows.  Groups of 15 or more may receive a discount on most shows by calling (312) 977-1710.  2011 Season Series subscription packages will go on-sale to new subscribers on September 12, 2010.  Broadway In Chicago gift certificates, which can be redeemed for any production or for season ticket packages, can be obtained at Broadway In Chicago box offices, www.BroadwayInChicago.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 775-2000.

 

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REVIEW: Rock of Ages (Broadway in Chicago)

Strong performances resuscitate lame storyline

 

 Cast of "Rock of Ages" at Bank of America Theatre in downtown Chicago

   
Broadway in Chicago presents
   
Rock of Ages
   
Book by Chris D’Arienzo
Directed by Kristin Hanggi
at Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe (map)
through October 3rd  |  tickets: $18-$85   |  more info

Review by Barry Eitel

One thing the folks producing Rock of Ages need to figure out is how to push the beer sales. Although it stated clearly in the program that you could purchase a beer ticket before the show and then raise your hand and receive a cold one, I did not pass along a single can. There aren’t a whole lot of musicals where it’s par for the course to stand up and sway around like you’re a drunken 40-year-old woman reliving her glory days at a Journey reunion show. That needs to be more of a selling point.

Kerry Butler as Sherrie in Broadway tour of Rock of Ages, now playing in Chicago at the Bank of America Theatre Rock of Ages is a show that requires a few drinks in order to be truly enjoyable. Watching it sober, the vapidity becomes more obvious. The award-winning hair metal jukebox musical is undeniably fun. Most amazingly, the cast is even able to squeeze some emotional weight from the songbooks of Twisted Sister and Whitesnake.

The show features Tony-nominated Constantine Maroulis, one of an increasing number of American Idol contestants looking for work. Unlike many of his more unremarkable brethren, Maroulis pumps out oodles of charm alongside decent acting chops. With his long hair and arena rock howl, Rock of Ages is the perfect show for the guy. He plays Drew, the aspiring jukebox hero at the heart of this story. Instead of the typical Dionysian guitar slinger we’re used to, Drew is a sweetheart. Maroulis paints the character as shy and oft tongue-tied, a great move for a show that is otherwise thin on dramatic depth.

The real draw here, though, is the music. I don’t know if the fellas of Asia ever thought they would hear their tunes in a Broadway musical, but it works surprisingly well. The 80s were all about theatricality anyway, with the big hair, big voices, and big egos. Book writer Chris D’Arienzo stretches a few songs to fit the story (“Final Countdown” seemed forced, and Starship’s “We Built This City” was reprised far too many times). I did love the tale told through “I Want to Know What Love Is,” relating a date headed towards destruction. We all know the lyrics to these radio favorites, so it’s fascinating to watch how they unfold to help the story move along.

Rock of Ages survives because the cast can seriously sing. Maroulis has mastered that rare Steve Perry belt and gives his own personal touches to the anthems he sings. Rebecca Faulkenberry, who plays the object of Drew’s affection, Sherrie, also gives serious treatment to these often silly tunes. As a character, Sherrie falls flat, but Faulkenberry gives her as much life as she can. MiG Ayesa gives plenty of vocal power in his portrayal of Stacie Jaxx, the more typical hair-metal douchebag who sort of becomes Drew’s nemesis.

Constantine Maroulis and Kerry Butler - (2) James Carpinello and Company
Lauren Molino and Tom Lenk Constantine Maroulis and Kerry Butler Tom Lenk

Currently on loan from the Broadway run is Mitchell Jarvis, who originated Lonny, the mulleted sprite who narrates/conjures the story. He’s endearingly wacky, and aside from Maroulis, easily the most memorable part of the show. He prances, leaps, and twirls, like a mix between Tinkerbell and one of the guys from Metallica. Lonny lets loose plenty of self-referential one-liners (“I’m no Andrew Lloyd Sondheim”), which get tired after awhile. Arienzo is intent into beating us over the head with the fact that we’re watching a “different” sort of musical, one that pretty much embraces the form but isn’t afraid to let fly a few f-bombs. This is one of many areas where the book could be a bit more clever.

Jarvis and Maroulis’ performances save Rock of Ages from becoming a forgettable (and groan-worthy?) night of classic rock and 80s gags. The show will have you tapping your toes, and if you had a couple, singing along at the top of your lungs.

   
   
Rating: ★★½
   
   

James Carpinello and Kerry Butler

Constantine Maroulis and Company

        

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Broadway in Chicago announces 2011 Spring Season

Broadway in Chicago’s 2011 Spring Season


The 2011 Spring Season Series emphasizes Broadway In Chicago’s long-standing commitment to bringing the best of Broadway to Chicago . The complete season lineup, including performance dates, is as follows:

 

February 2 – 27, 2011

   
   
  Les Misérables Cadillac Palace Theatre
   
  Cameron Mackintosh presents a brand new 25th anniversary production of Boublil & Schönberg’s legendary musical, Les Miserables, with glorious new staging and spectacular re-imagined scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo. This new production has already been acclaimed by critics, fans and new audiences and is breaking box office records wherever it goes. The London Times hails the new show “a five star hit, astonishingly powerful and as good as the original.” The Western Mail says “an outstanding success.”   
   

 

February 15 – May 8, 2011

   
   
  Working – Broadway Playhouse
   
  WORKING is a vital new musical based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Chicago ’s own Studs Terkel.  Newly adapted by Stephen Schwartz (WICKED, PIPPIN and GODSPELL), WORKING is the working man’s A CHORUS LINE.  It is a musical exploration of people from all walks of life, with twenty-six songs by all-star composers Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Tony Award™ winning Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers, Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz and Grammy Award™ winning James Taylor.  WORKING celebrates everyday people, fills you with hope and inspiration and is the perfect musical for anyone who has ever worked a day in their lives.
   

 

March 8 – 15, 2011

   
   
  Hair – Ford Center for the Performing Arts
   
  The Public Theater’s 2009 Tony-winning production of HAIR is an electric celebration on stage! This exuberant musical about a group of young Americans searching for peace and love in a turbulent time has struck a resonant chord with audiences young and old. Its ground breaking rock score paved the way for some of the greatest musicals of our time. HAIR features an extraordinary cast and dozens of unforgettable songs, including “Aquarius,” “Let the Sun Shine In,” “Good Morning, Starshine” and “Easy To Be Hard.” Its relevance is UNDENIABLE. Its energy is UNBRIDLED. Its truth is UNWAVERING. It’s HAIR, and IT’S TIME.
   

March 15 – 27, 2011

   
   
  Merchant of Venice – Bank of America Theatre
   
  From the acclaimed Theatre for a New Audience, the first U.S. theatre to be invited to the Royal Shakespeare Company, comes Shakespeare’s tragicomedy following command runs Off- Broadway and in Stratford-Upon-Avon . Starring Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham in his riveting portrayal of Shylock, and directed by Darko Tresnjak (former Artistic Director, Old Globe), the play has been arousing controversies for centuries with raucous and gentle comedy, tender poetry, and its struggle with mercy and justice. In this riveting update, religion, race and sexuality collide with love, family and justice and the currency of society and humanity has never been so changeable.
   

 

April 5 – 17, 2011

   
   
  Wishful Drinking – Bank of American Theatre
   
  WISHFUL DRINKING, Carrie Fisher’s autobiographical solo show, follows Fisher’s life. Born to celebrity parents, Fisher lands among the stars when she’s picked to play a princess in a little movie called ‘Star Wars.’ But her story isn’t all sweetness and light sabers. As a single mom, she also battles addiction, depression, mental institutions, and that awful hyperspace hairdo. It’s an incredible tale–from having her father leave her mother for Elizabeth Taylor to marrying and divorcing singer/songwriter Paul Simon, from having the father of her baby leave her for a man to waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed. Don’t miss this opportunity to see Carrie Fisher’s hit Broadway show.
   

 

 

April 26 – May 8, 2011

   
   
  Next to Normal – Bank of America Theatre
   
  From the director of Rent comes the most talked about new show on Broadway, NEXT TO NORMAL, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and three 2009 Tony Awards including Best Score.  Alice Ripley who received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, will reprise her acclaimed performance in Chicago . Having been chosen as “one of the year’s ten best” by major critics around the country, NEXT TO NORMAL is an emotional powerhouse of a musical with a thrilling contemporary score about a family trying to take care of themselves and each other.  The New York Times calls NEXT TO NORMAL “a brave, breathtaking musical.  A work of muscular grace and power.  It is much more than a feel-good musical; it is a feel-everything musical.” Rolling Stone raves, “It is the best musical of the season – by a mile.  It’ll pin you to your seat.”
   

The lineup will also feature the opportunity for priority purchase of the following 2011 Off-Season Specials:

 

April 26 – May 8, 2011

   
   
  Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
   
  RAIN, the acclaimed Beatles concert, returns by popular demand, direct from Broadway! They look like them and they sound just like them!  “The next best thing to seeing The Beatles,” raves the Denver Post.   All the music and vocals are performed totally live!  RAIN covers The Beatles from the earliest beginnings through the psychedelic late 60s and their long-haired hippie, hard-rocking rooftop days. RAIN is a multi-media, multi-dimensional experience…a fusion of historical footage and hilarious television commercials from the 1960s lights up video screens and live cameras zoom in for close-ups. “A thrilling bit of time-warping nostalgia…Boomer Heaven!” raves The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Uncanny! RAIN are a quartet of fine musicians in their own right…as The Beatles, they triumph!” cheers the Boston Herald.  “An adoring Valentine to The Beatles,” declares the Washington Post.  Sing along with your family and friends to such favorites as “Let It Be,” “Hey Jude,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Come Together” and “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and relive Beatlemania from Ed Sullivan to Abbey Road!
   

 

May 3 – 8, 2011

   
   
  Spring Awakening – Bank of America Theatre
   
  The winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical – told by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater through “The most gorgeous Broadway score this decade” (Entertainment Weekly) – SPRING AWAKENING explores the journey from adolescence to adulthood with poignancy and passion you will never forget. The landmark musical SPRING AWAKENING is an electrifying fusion of morality, sexuality and rock & roll that is exhilarating audiences across the nation like no other musical in years. Join this group of late 19th century German students on their passage, as they navigate teenage self-discovery and coming of age anxiety in a powerful celebration of youth and rebellion in the daring, remarkable SPRING AWAKENING. “Broadway may never be the same again!” NY TIMES
   

 

June 28 – July 10, 2011

   
   
  Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
   
  The romantic Broadway musical for all generations, NETworks presentation of DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the smash hit Broadway musical, returns to Chicago ! Based on the Academy Award-winning animated feature film, this eye-popping spectacle has won the hearts of over 35 million people worldwide. Hailed by the Chicago Sun-Times as “warm and winning performances, a tuneful score, and real heart,” the classic musical love story is filled with unforgettable characters, lavish sets and costumes, and dazzling production numbers including “Be Our Guest” and the beloved title song. Experience the romance and enchantment of DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST! 
   

 

2011 Broadway In Chicago Spring Season Series ticket holders will receive a multitude of special benefits, including savings up to 64%, priority seating at each venue, ticket exchange privileges, pre-paid and discounted parking, access to gift cards to give tickets as gifts, as well as the first opportunity to purchase additional tickets to future Broadway In Chicago productions, including those not currently listed in the 2011 Season Series.  2011 Season Series subscription packages are on sale now, and are available by logging onto www.BroadwayInChicago.com or calling the Season Ticket Hotline at (312) 977-1717.

Group tickets are currently available for all of the 2011 Season Series shows.  Groups of 15 or more may receive a discount on most shows by calling (312) 977-1710.  2011 Season Series subscription packages will go on-sale to new subscribers on September 12, 2010.  Broadway In Chicago gift certificates, which can be redeemed for any production or for season ticket packages, can be obtained at Broadway In Chicago box offices, www.BroadwayInChicago.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 775-2000.

REVIEW: Cirque Dreams Illumination (Broadway in Chicago)

A bit long on the illusion and merriment

 

Perch

  
Broadway in Chicago presents
  
Cirque Dreams Illumination
  
Created and directed by Neil Goldberg
at
Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe (map)
through June 6th  |  tickets: $25-$75   |  more info

reviewed by Katy Walsh

Hand BalancerScale down Hephaestus, gather a few Billy Elliot dancers, add in some Fuerza Bruta illusion, sprinkle with Second City comedy, and set it in a Red Line subway stop, and you’ll have Broadway in Chicago’s Cirque Dreams Illumination. The touring show  has a limited one-week engagement at Bank of America Theatre. Cirque Dreams Illumination is circus acts strung together by a reporter singing about the daily occurrences of the commute. Electricians, bellhops, military personnel mingle in with traffic cones and headless businessmen to create a visual spectacle. By ground or air, Cirque Dreams..  uses acrobatic dancing and stunts to illustrate how to make a city’s transit system more entertaining. Even without the traditional physical division inspired by the Big Top, Cirque Dreams creates a three-ring circus frenzy throughout the show. These standout chaotic moments showcase the main act and surround it with secondary simultaneous activity. When the action goes solo, primarily in Act 2, the pacing becomes sluggish with a one-trick-pony dissatisfaction. Cirque Dreams Illumination is at its best as death-defying burlesque incarnate resurrected out of the tumultuous pedestrian.

Among the initial crazed commuters and paparazzi dealing with electrical outages, an elegant waltzing couple have a wardrobe change…several times… on stage… within seconds. It’s ‘how did they do that…again and again?’ magic. An electrician walks his wire. A marine climbs a pyramid of chairs. A street performer break dances with disjointed twists. An aerial dancer dangles from her foot while suspending three other performers. The circus acts are entertainment. They are spliced together with song, sax, and sass creating prolonged transitions. Although Janine Ayn Romano (reporter) has a powerful singing voice, its robust cadence doesn’t quite fit with the circus or commuting theme. Marybeth Kern Martin Lamberti 1(saxophonist) easily could be relocated in the Chicago subway system as musical accompaniment to the rush hour. There and here it’s a jazzy background that puts a little merriment in the movement. Acting as an onstage director, Martin Lamberti (Vaudevillian) is a clown communicating through whistles. He leads a hilarious audience interactive scene in comedic mime, though the bit is a bit too long. He definitely knows how to get the funny out of a gag but smaller morsels could avoid the audience’s gag reflex.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages may I direct your attention to feats that will amaze and shock you…’ Creator and director Neil Goldberg combines magic and stunts for an urban fantasy commute. The illusions and dangerous elements are present. The challenge is to human cannonball the action to leave the audience breathless. As the ringmaster, Goldberg needs to tighten the reins to keep the pace worthy of the anticipated circus introduction.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
 

 

Running Time: Two hours includes a twenty minute intermission

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REVIEW: The 39 Steps (Broadway in Chicago)

More Monty Python than Alfred Hitchcock

Scott Parkinson, Eric Hissom and Ted Deasy - Photo by Craig Schwartz

   
Broadway in Chicago presents
  
The 39 Steps
 
adapted by Patrick Barlow
directed by Maria Aitken
at Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe  (map)
through May 30th  |  tickets: $20-$70 |  more info

by Barry Eitel

Let’s get one thing clear: even though Patrick Barlow’s stage adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps has the famed director’s name slapped on the poster, no one should enter the Bank of America Theatre expecting to be psychologically thrilled.

Claire Brownell and Ted Deasy - Photo by Craig SchwartzThe play is closer to Monty Python, featuring the madness of four actors portraying around 100 characters. The insanity has been much appreciated by critics and audiences around the world, carting away Tony and Olivier awards for the original West End and Broadway productions. All that success has earned the play a national  tour, with Chicago among the list of stops. Whacky, extremely energetic, and, much of the time, pretty stupid, Barlow’s creation exudes a wonderful sense of play that keeps us engaged and entertained. Not that there aren’t a few kinks with the touring production (especially the dragging first few scenes), but the madcap concept and over-the-top execution keeps us smirking.

The play follows the film’s plot pretty closely, but the tone is sharply different. We journey alongside Richard Hannay (Ted Deasy), an ordinary man pushed into international espionage. The 39 Steps milks all sorts of comedic gold from lampooning the “man-on-the-run” archetype. Cops are bumbling, the Germans talk really funny, and the action-packed final scene features plenty of popping guns. With four actors playing scores of random characters, the play also lays bare the relative ridiculousness of the original movie and novel.

Helmed by director Maria Aitken, the show features very little of the elaborate scenery we’ve come to expect from these Broadway imports. Instead, the committed cast paints the world on a sparsely-filled stage. Scenes fall on top of each other at breakneck pace, with some props doubling as completely different things to keep up the speed. A hotel fireplace becomes a car, for example. Aitken also slips in some interesting expressionistic touches, such as Hannay’s harrowing stroll on top of a moving train. A crucial part of the movie but sort of impossible to do in a theatre, the stage version does some interesting visual trickery to recreate the grand escape. Then there is the giant shadow-puppet show that brings to mind scenes from “North by Northwest”. You don’t really expect a whole lot of theatricality from a farce, so it’s a pleasant surprise when it turns up.

In order for the wheels of this show to really turn, though, it demands huge, perpetual amounts of energy from the actors. Fortunately, the cast here taps into a vast reservoir of goofiness. The best performances of the play come from the two men forced to play dozens of characters of all backgrounds, occupations, and genders. Scott Parkinson and Eric Hissom, who has a history with Chicago theatre, are the real heroes of the play. They are both masters of the lightning-fast quick change. Sometimes, they must portray two characters in the same scene, and, sometimes, they even have to have dialogue with themselves. I would posit that about three-quarters of the laughs emanate from the two men’s exasperated antics.

Photo 4 Photo 5
Scott Parkinson and Eric Hissom - Photo by Craig Schwartz The Cast of "The 39 Steps" - photo by Craig Schwartz

Although less funny, pretty good work comes from Deasy and Claire Brownell, who plays all three of his love interests (the spy that tosses Hannay into this mess, a lonely Scottish housewife, and a “stranger on a train”). Neither is as bold as Parkinson or Hissom, but there is also less material for them to work with. Both rely on charming the audience, and both succeed for the most part.

The production is plagued by a lack of focus in some parts. This is especially true for the first few scenes, which aren’t nearly as laugh-packed as the rest of the play. Also, all of the performers are guilty of pushing certain bits too hard and too long, stalling the zipping energy of the piece.

It was a bold move to write up a spoof of Hitchcock’s film, not just because of the original’s acclaim, but because the movie is 75-years-old. However, Barlow’s risk paid off in laughs and awards. This is due to the ferocious energy of the cast and story, and the touring cast knows this well.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

The Cast of "The 39 Steps" - photo by Craig Schwartz

      
       

REVIEW: Avenue Q (Broadway in Chicago)

A perky-pervy ‘Avenue’ like no other

 

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Broadway in Chicago presents
 
Avenue Q
 
Music/lyrics by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez
at
Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe (map)
thru May 9th  |  tickets: $22-$67  |  more info

reviewed by Catey Sullivan

Sure, the hot puppet sex scene – anal, oral, Reverse Cowgirl and a riotous assortment of additionally hilariously raunchy positions one does not normally associate with puppets – is a real grabber, so to speak.

But there’s so much more to the perky and pervy world of Avenue Q. The 2004 Best Musical Tony-winner – an explicit and R-rated ode to Sesame Street and the life-lessons therein- has more veracity than many a real-people populated drama. avenuq3 For example: Everyone’s a little bit racist. And: The more you love someone, the more you sometimes want to kill them. And: Life often sucks. And finally (but of course): The Internet is for porn. Go ahead – try and dispute the grain-to-mountain of truth in any of those statements. If you are at all honest with yourself, you will lose that debate. That the last bit of wisdom is delivered in a chirpy song that sounds, lyrics aside, as if it should be the tune to a nursery rhyme, only increases its sage power.

Some seven years after Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx (music, lyrics, original concept) introduced the world to the multi-culti wholesome denizens of  a seedy, scrappy corner of  New York City, Avenue Q still holds up.

The effectiveness of Avenue Q lies in part in its brazen willingness to give voice to things simply not said in polite society. Coming from puppets, some self-evident truths are a bit easier to swallow. With a touring production that keeps the expensive production values of the original Broadway incarnation largely intact, Avenue Q maintains its winning mix of peppy charm and profane raunch,  (hilariously) dream-shattering cynicism and up-with-people, can-do enthusiasm.

Its endearing, enduring gimmick – storytelling via an ensemble of puppet characters and “real” people – is immensely clever. Black-clad actors (there’s no attempt to hide them) give voice and marvelous movement to bug-eyed, cloth moppets. It’s a device that sounds terrible on paper – a cheesy mix of ventriloquism and kindergarten field trip. But it works, beautifully thanks to a top-notch cast and Lopez’ utterly winning material.

When Princeton, as idealistic and clueless as only a newly minted B.A. in English can be, shows up looking for his purpose in life and an affordable apartment, he’s embodied in the face, body and voice of both actor Brent Michael DiRoma and the puppet DiRoma’s carrying.

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DiRoma and Jacqueline Grabois anchor the production, each portraying a pair of Avenue Q residents. In addition to Princeton, DiRoma is also the Bert- (as in Ernie and) like Rod, a lonesome closeted gay man who you just know is going to come out in a feel-good, huge triumph-of-the-human spirit big song ‘n dance number before the evening’s over.

Grabois is both Kate Monster, a shy and wholesome (at least until she’s wasted) assistant kindergarten teacher who dreams of founding a special school where little monsters can be safe from ridicule  and the sashaying Lucy the Slut, a character whose name pretty much sums her up.

Watching Grabois and DiRoma agiley veer between characters – sometimes in the same conversation – you get a sense of how deceptively demanding Avenue Q really is. It only looks easy. But technique, no matter how impressive, is not what Avenue Q has to offer the audience. Avenue Q is a lovely and lively mix of smut and sweetness that even the most puppet-averse will find irresistible.

 
 
Rating: ★★★★
 
 

 

 

Avenue Q continues through May 9 at the Bank of America Theatre, 19 W. Monroe.Tickets are $25 – $75. For more information, go to www.avenueqontour.com or www.broadwayinchicago.com

   

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REVIEW: Stomp (Broadway in Chicago)

Who needs instruments when you got a trashcan?

Water

 
Broadway in Chicago presents
 
STOMP
 
Created/directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas
at
Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe (map)
Thru May 2nd | tickets: $17-$55  |  more info

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

JumpBrooms, garbage lids, paint cans: the makings for an award-winning show are in the garage. Broadway in Chicago presents STOMP, an entertaining spectacle about the percussionist potential of everyday items. In 1991, Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas introduced STOMP at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre. Nearly twenty years  later, it has played in over 350 cities in 36 countries, won multiple awards, and spun off into films, commercials and other stage versions. The original smash hit, STOMP, is touring with the old favorites tweaked and two additional full-scale numbers. For the next several days, STOMP will be sweeping Chicago off their feet with their flawless synchronized rhythmic beat.

The show starts and ends with a guy and a broom sweeping up the stage. In between, a dozen performers use everything including the kitchen sink to produce a medley of sounds sans any musical instruments. Literally, kitchen sinks of water and suds are hanging from performers as they tap out a tune with drumsticks. STOMP connects mundane household items to a hip, urban movement. Even without the aid of any props or words, a performer interacts with the audience in a clapping stand-off to produce an impressive theatrical noise. The playful moments between the performers and audience makes the show feel spontaneous and fresh. The performers seem to be Red Drum enjoying the action as much as the audience. The whole theatre is applauding and clomping in mutual admiration and expression. The guy next to me is so enthralled in mimicking claps and stomps, it feels like he is auditioning. (Unfortunately, he shouldn’t expect a callback!)

It’s the audio AND the visual. It’s hearing AND seeing the stomp. In one number, the ensemble lines up with Zippo lighters for the click AND the flame. Fascinating! The physicality of the performers is remarkable in their dancer-musician duality. This is most notable in a routine where they are suspended in the air as they stick it to a wall of hubcaps for a tribal melody. Familiar items like paint cans and recycle bins create an audio-visual sensation that will inspire kids to grab a bucket and practice. The fast paced sequence of innovation makes STOMP perfect for kids and adults. It is the most fun you’ll ever have with a broom!

 
Rating: ★★★
 

Group

 

Running Time: One hour and forty-five minutes with no intermission

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