We just reached a quarter-million unique hits!

 

250,000

 

Unique Hits

 

as of March 2nd, 2010 

 

As of yesterday afternoon, this blog has registered an amazing quarter-million unique hits.  And as we’re now averaging over 1,000 unique hits a day, we’re on track to attain a half-million hits by the end of September!

I’d like to thank my amazingly talented writers, past and present, for all of their consistently insightful work:

Paige Listerud, Catey Sullivan, Leah A. Zeldes, Barry Eitel, Oliver Sava, Katy Walsh, K.D. Hopkins, Keith Ecker, Ian Epstein, Aggie Hewitt, Richard Millward, Timothy McGuire Jackie Ingram and Venus Zarris.  

And I’d like to thank all of our passionate readers.  When starting this site, my goal was to 1. cover every multiple-performance show in Chicago, and 2. in turn, entice more people into experiencing the wonderful world of Chicago theatre.  I think we’re fairly close to accomplishing this goal – so thank you.  By the way, there’s much more to come, including more original video content, so please come back.  Often. 🙂

FYI: to make sure you don’t miss a thing, I suggest subscribing to this site.  This means that all of our posts, complete with pictures and links, are sent directly to your inbox. 

in your service,

Scotty Zacher
Founder/editor, ChicagoTheaterBlog

Addams Family: An Interview with Wednesday and Lucas

An Interview with Wednesday and Lucas

(From Addams Family – the Musical)

By Timothy McGuire

wednesday_interview_pic

From left to right – Wesley Taylor (playing ‘Lucas’ in Addams Family) and Krysta Rodriguez (playing ‘Wednesday’)


It was fun as a fan as well as a reviewer to see how excited both Krysta Rodriguez and Wesley Taylor are to be a part of the new Addams Family Musical. The two played off each other like old friends with inside looks and slight teasing to go along with their praise of one another. Relaxed and enjoying the moment, both Krysta and Wesley expressed how much of a thrill it has been to be a part of creating an original Broadway production.

Krysta is playing The Addams Family character ‘Wednesday’, but this is not the Wednesday Addams that TV-viewers are familiar with: Wednesday is all grown up now. She is at the difficult age of eighteen where childhood and adulthood tear at you from opposite directions. As Krysta puts it, “Wednesday is torn between her bizarre family’s norms that she grew up with and her new feelings that are more in line with regular people outside of the Addams family.” She is getting softer, not mushy, and she expresses this in the beginning of the show through her song “Pulled (in the wrong direction). “

After Wednesday’s song we meet Lucas Beineke (Wesley Taylor), the boy from school that Wednesday is dating, and this introduces the storyline of the musical. When Lucas Beineke’s parents (your average American Mom and Dad) meet the spooky outrageous Addams family when they get together for dinner at the Addams’ mansion, madness ensues.

Wesley Taylor will be originating a brand new character in his role as Lucas. Wesley auditioned multiple times for the original role of Lucas, without being cast. So when he was not asked to be a part of the first public reading, he assumed that he did not get the part. Something changed after his performance in the successful Broadway production of Rock of Ages. He was again asked to audition and this time he got the part. Telling that story, Wesley admits that he was rather frustrated, and did not understand why he had to read again when they were going to go another way – but in the end it just made his getting the part that much sweeter. With a smile stretching across his face, Wesley acknowledges how lucky he is to encounter the challenges and rollercoaster processes of creating a brand new role within a brand new musical.

Both Wesley and Krysta tell a story, literally interchanging sentences and checking with each other for confirmation, about a day in rehearsal when the show’s composer and lyricist, Andrew Lippa, called Wesley over to his piano and played a song he was currently working on. They started playing a duet together, and Wesley tells me that he was so excited and knew this show was going to be a big original hit. “They were both totally freaking out” interjects Wednesday.

Krysta and Wesley have said that they have had no choice but to become good friends, which is understandable when you work with someone all day everyday. They have been enjoying their free time together in Chicago, eating a lot as both of them will admit. Actually the topic of food brought some big smiles and elbow pokes from both Krysta and Wesley which made me ask where they have been dining out. It appears our good old Chicago style hotdogs are on top of their list.

Go see The Addams Family. (★★★ – our review here)

addamsfamily6Left to right: Krysta Rodriguez, playing Wednesday, and Bebe Neuwirth (Mortisha)

 

addamsfamily3Left to right: Wesley Taylor (Lucas Beineke), Carolee Carmello (Mrs. Beineke) and Nathan Lane (Gomez Addams).

REVIEW: Theatre at the Center’s “The Christmas Schooner”

Chicago’s Christmas Play

 THE_CHRISTMAS_SCHOONER_4

Theatre at The Center presents:

The Christmas Schooner

 

by John Reeger and Julie Shannon
Directed by Chuck Gessert
Music-directed by William A. Underwood
Thru December 20th (ticket info)

reviewed by Timothy McGuire

I now have a new favorite holiday show, and I hope it runs as a yearly tradition in the Chicagoland area. The Christmas Schooner ran for many years at the Bailiwick Theatre and this year is currently at Theatre at The Center (an Equity theatre in nearby Munster, IN.)

CHRISTMAS_SCHOONER_2 The Christmas Schooner is a based on a true local story and written by Chicago’s John Reeger (book) and Julie Shannon (music.) The story involves a German family living in Wisconsin on the shore of Lake Michigan and working on the schooners that carry cargo to other ports along the lake. At home the Stossel family has a strong respect for the German traditions as well as generous hearts that feel compassion for those less fortunate. When a letter from Peter Stossel’s (Brandon Dahlquist) sister arrives, addressing her disappointment in not having a Tannebaum for Christmas and how many Germans in Chicago were left feeling homesick without their traditional Christmas symbol, Peter, the father and man of the family, feels a sense of duty to bring the people of Chicago Christmas trees.

Almost this entire story is told through the everlasting music. Shannon’s songs tell the whole story, including witty conversations between family members and acted as if reacting to real dialogue. It is a complex diverse score that moves with the changing tide in the play and allows the astonishing voices on stage to fill the house with the emotion of their characters.

The dialogue succeeds in bringing out the everyday humor in each situation, and Peter Kevoian plays it best as the Opa Gustav Stossel. Kevoian moved me in all direction, having me laughing throughout the play and crying at the end. Each performer created their own individual and, as a whole, the chemistry between each member of the family brings out the strongest sense of family spirit. The message of pride and sacrifice for others is brought out in action and the bonds of love and dependency in one another builds as they set out to please others less fortunate.

THE_CHRISTMAS_SCHOONER_3 CHRISTMAS_SCHOONER_5481

As in all true stories, there are moments of disappointment and sadness, but the courage and strength of the Stossel family bring out the true meaning of Christmas. Their kindness reached people of all ethnic backgrounds and the joy they brought to others made their difficult journeys worth their sacrifice.

The Christmas Schooner is a timeless musical that should be seen by all those dwelling near the Great Lakes, and across the U.S. This is a truly American Christmas story of family relations, traditions and generosity in the melting pot of the Midwest.

Rating: ★★★★

THE_CHRISTMAS_SCHOONER_5 

Continue reading

Review: Collaboraction’s “G.I.F.T.”

You Can Have Your G.I.F.T. Back

 G.I.F.T._1


Collaboraction presents:

G.I.F.T.

Reviewed by Timothy McGuire

G.I.F.T. by Collaboraction is a different form of theatrical performance compared to the traditional plays around the city. It is an unconventional multimedia event that makes an effort to appeal to all of your senses. Unfortunately, this innovative an artistically funky production fell short of entertaining me.

G.I.F.T._2 G.I.F.T. is more of an event than a traditional play. Walking into the large warehouse in a single file line, swerving around a gravel path into a “fantasy” room filling up with a hazy, glowing fog; strangely dressed people in an over-stimulated euphoric state greet me beaming with smiles and warmly welcomed me as if we have been best friends for years. I paused, turned to my guest and jokingly said “I think I have been to this party before.” I smell the incense, looked around at all the crazy characters moving about as if in their own pleasant world and said, “…and I might have been on the same drugs before too.”

Needless to say, G.I.F.T. opens with a trippy, unorthodox experience of mingling-with-the-cast-and-audience in the fictional world that Collaboraction has created. The shock-effect wears off quickly; soon you might find yourself standing there holding weird objects I never knew the meaning of as well as talking to friends about other plays they have seen throughout the week. The audience is left standing around too long to maintain the initial feeling of entering into another dimension and soon one loses interest in what is going on around them.

G.I.F.T._3 G.I.F.T._4

Eventually we are led out of the foggy realm and through another door for the main show. I felt a little like “Alice” who has just climbed through one rabbit hole into a crazy utopian circus and being led into another with no idea what to expect. Through the door you get a sense of intimate space, created by the white glowing floor that curves up into the walls, leaving no corners on the stage. The set design and lighting creates a mystic atmosphere that allows one’s imagination to determine the exact location (I imagined the north pole.)

The main performance consists of a series of reenactments signifying what a gift means, none of which are very enlightening. The acting feels rehearsed and the interactions in each skit feels more like an actor’s exercise. Collaboraction may have been trying to reach out to a more artsy audience – one that is looking for something new and innovative – but G.I.F.T. is just weird and boring.

Rating:

 

G.I.F.T. is playing at Firehouse Square, 459 N. Wolcott through Nov. 29th



Featuring: Saverio Truglia, Aurelia Clunie, Carla Kessler, Hannah Phelps, Catherine Glynn, Antonio Brunetti, Gregory Hardigan, Scott Cupper, Jeremy Harris, Andy Junk, Emma Stanton, and Amber Robinson.

Review: Circle Theatre’s “Little Women”

Holidays with the March Sisters

 The women of Little Women_11

Circle Theatre presents:

Little Women

adapted from the novel by Louisa May Alcott
directed by Bob Kuth
thru December 19th (ticket info)

review by Timothy McGuire

The women of Little Women_1 Circle Theatre offers another quality production of classic literature with their world premiere adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. This story is perfect for the holiday season and entertaining anytime of the year. The unselfish themes of giving and love along with warm naturally occurring musicals scenes create a performance that can be enjoyed by the whole family, as well as those other singles out there.

Circle Theatre’s production of Little Women is only based on part one of the series (so no, Beth does not die,) but it is still packed with plenty of drama and conflict to accompany the vibrant personalities of the March sisters. The four sisters are spiritually played by Laura McClain (Meg), Kieran Welsh-Phillips (Jo), Jill Sesso (Beth) and Abigail St. John (Amy.) They playfully tease but overwhelmingly cherish each others company. With their father away serving as Chaplain in the Civil War and their mother doing everything she can to support her husband and country, the four sisters bond together as they grow into their own individuals. The March Family is financially struggling (something many of us can relate to this holiday season) yet still finds ways to constantly support those around them in need and those they want to show they care. Besides the wealthy Aunt March, the whole family is inspired by the closeness between them, and their kind spirit is an inspiration to those that witness them as well.

The cast of Little Women_1The set is designed far more sophisticated than you see at even most of the best storefront theatres in the city. Bob Kuth (Director/ Scenic & Lighting Designer) has created the inside of the March home in Maine warm and delicately decorated for the winter season. The windows are covered in 19th-century drapes and a faded portrait of Mr. March hangs above the fireplace. In the back corner is the simple piano played by Beth to lighten the family’s mood and bring in some holiday cheer and the living room is complete with antique furniture for the family to join together for gossip and companionship. The staircase in back of the stage and second level leading to the door add depth to the large country house, and the performer’s ability to look beyond the audience and through the windows at a scene fictionally taking place off stage turn the small staging area into the open lands of Concord, MA.

Each actress and actor brings a special individuality to their character. The enduring qualities in each sister are brought out by the talented natural performances of each actress. I fell in love with Jo and her rebellious attitude and drive to go after he own desires. Each individual performance in the play strengthens the connection you feel with the relationships that are being formed. Watching this family evolve and connect with their characters can naturally bring out a loving emotional connection to your own family, and that is what the holidays are all about.

Rating: ★★★

 

At Circle Theatre, 7300 W. Madison, Forest Park, IL, call   708-771-0700, www.circle-theatre.org, tickets $20 – $24 ($2 off for seniors/students), Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 & 8 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission.

FEATURING: Kevin Anderson • Peter Esposito • Eileen Ferguson • Anita Hoffman • Laura McClainJeremy MyersBrian Rabinowitz • Mary Redmon • Jill Sesso • Abigail St. John •  Kieran Welsh-Phillips.

The company of Little Women_1

Review: Drury Lane’s “Thoroughly Modern Millie”

 thoroughly-modern-millie-1

Drury Lane Oakbrook presents:

Thoroughly Modern Millie

by Richard Morris, Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan
directed by William Osetek
thru December 20th (ticket info)

Reviewed by Timothy McGuire

The traditional Thoroughly Modern Millie is given a new breath of life in Drury Lane’s high quality, highly energetic and enjoyable new musical, directed by William Osetek. From top to bottom, set to song, this is a near flawless performance of traditional musical theatre produced with Broadway-like standards – just  on a smaller scale.

thoroughly-modern-millie-3 Thoroughly Modern Millie is the story of a young woman who has moved to the big city in search of becoming a “modern woman,” one in search of wealth not love. Set in the early 1920’s, when the social and economic climate is changing, especially for women who have recently joined the work place and have a new independence when seeking happiness. With nowhere to go she takes refuge in a hotel that houses other single women, most of whom are out-of-work actresses, but unknown to Millie and the other girls the hotel is also a front for Mrs. Meers “white-slave” trafficking business. Unaware of the dangers around her, Millie is stubbornly set on marrying her rich boss and decides that there is no room for love in a modern woman as she flirts to get his attention.

Millie is magnificent. Holly Ann Butler makes her Drury Lane debut as Millie, and her tremendous talents stand out in every aspect of her performance. She can sing (whoa can she sing) dance, act and is innocently beautiful on stage as she takes the audience through the streets of New York as designed by Kevin Depinet.

Kevin Depinet has designed an open stage with a towering 3-dimensional backdrop of Manhattan creating depth and distance on stage. The huge buildings have a romantic feeling intensified by the changing colors and brightness that shines through the windows of each building depending on the time of day. The set hovers over the cast creating a visual sense of the magic that exist downtown.

The choreography is exceptional, and gives one an example of the meaningful influence that top-notch choreography can have with the plot and overall enjoyment of a production. Tammy Mader’s choreography brings the book and songs together, fluidly portraying individual emotions; creating entertaining numbers that enhance the feelings surrounding the stage.

The production really picks up in the second act where the choreography gets even more complicated, with surprise quirky moves, and the plot thickens with a merry-go-round of love interests to go along with Mrs. Meers increasingly deviant plan of kidnapping white-slaves. Millie’s journey to discover the value of true love rather than the materialistic measures of success is guided by the wealthy Muzzy (Melody Betts), and everyone finds their way to true love and happiness – well almost everyone.

thoroughly-modern-millie-2The energetic musical numbers throughout the production are led by truly gifted voices and enhanced by the full production of each song. Actresses and actors like Holly Ann Butler, Randall Dodge and Melody Betts are performances in themselves, and it is a special experience to hear a group of talented vocalists sing together at such a high caliber. My personal favorite is the deep baritone voice of Randall Dodge as Millie’s boss.

Along with the spectacular songs, a ton of comedy is slipped into the plot and brought out especially well by gifted and seasoned actresses like Paula Scrofano (Mrs. Meers,) and Sharon Sachs (Mrs. Flannery), who connect well to the audience with their well-timed antics displaying the off-beat personalities of their characters. Richard Manera and Paul Marinez (Ching Ho and Bun Foo) also bring continuous laughter into the musical with their expressive remarks and interactions with Mrs. Meers.

Drury Lane’s Thoroughly Modern Millie is a top notch professional production that is as good as any musical you will see of this size. The cast is filled with talented stars, the creative team is at its best, and the stage is strikingly magical. For musical theater lovers, this is the show you want to see.  And for those new to the theater, this might be the musical that sucks you in to Chicago’s musical theatre scene.

Rating: ★★★

 

Continue reading

David Pittsinger wows the crowd at Gibson’s Steakhouse

Big talent represents “South Pacific” at Gibson’s

 southPacific_david

By: Timothy McGuire

I recently had the opportunity to attend a media luncheon for the upcoming touring performance of Lincoln Center Theater’s production of South Pacific. Broadway’s successful tony award winning musical will be playing at the Rosemont Theatre for a limited one-week engagement November 24 – 29, 2009. (ticket info)

The passion and excitement for this specific production was evident in the enthusiasm expressed by the people involved in bringing this production from New York to Chicago. They sincerely believe that this is an extraordinary show offering the audience the rare opportunity to experience a performance done in the spectacular old Broadway fashion, featuring a huge full orchestra unlike anything seen in current Broadway productions today. The touring show of South Pacific promises to be a near replica of the prize-winning musical that started in New York.

The most impressive endorsement for this production was the opportunity to hear the astonishingly powerful and elegant voice of David Pittsinger, who will be playing Emile. The impact of Pittsinger’s romantically forceful bass-baritone voice just a few feet away brought the small audience at Gibson’s Steakhouse to emotional heights, and one can only imagine the magnificence of hearing the full production of his songs produced on Rosemont Theatre’s spacious stage.

southpacific_iconDavid Pittsinger also was a terrific speaker, appearing genuine in his belief in the significance and relevance of South Pacific to today’s audience. Pittsinger is the living embodiment of his character Emile. His wife is born of minority decent and he has interracial children (who he is bursting with pride to talk about.) His belief in love, unification and racial equality is evident in his actions and his loved ones around him.

The original role of Emile de Becque was written for an opera singer, and David Pittsinger is a talented, internationally acclaimed opera performer working with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City (most recently portrayed Angelotti in “Tosca”at the Metropolitan Opera) and living and working most of the year in France. The advantage that Pittsinger is also a world-class actor increases the quality of his role and greatly supports the well-written book that goes along with the classically entertaining music in South Pacific. With themes of war and racial conflict, along with the joyous uplifting story and cleverly catchy songs, this year is a fantastic time to enjoy Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific.