Review: White Noise (Royal George and Whoopi Goldberg)

        
        

Though it doesn’t quite rock the hard place, it still rocks

  
  

MacKenzie Mauzy and the ensemble in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago.

  
Whoopi Goldberg presents
  
White Noise: a cautionary musical
  
Book by Matte O’Brien
Music/Lyrics by
Robert Morris, Steven Morris, Joe Shane
Directed and choreographed  by
Sergio Trujillo
at Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted (map)
through June 5  |  tickets: $50-$65  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel

Neo-Nazism, maybe now more than ever, is definitely a lonely philosophy, with both sides of the political spectrum trigger-happy to brand their opponents as followers of the Fuhrer. Unlike the more fashionable discrimination against Latinos, Muslims, and gays, wholesale white supremacy is not in vogue these days. White Noise, the new “cautionary musical” produced by Whoopi Goldberg, asks what would happen if subtle and coded racist rhetoric went viral? It’s already sort of happening over on 4Chan; in this way, Matte O’Brien’s book is screamingly relevant. He’s assisted by well-wrought, if often disturbing, songs and Sergio Trujillo’s snappy staging. However, by using tired Nazi philosophy Emily Padgett and MacKenzie Mauzy in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatreas its punching bag, White Noise fails to present a nuanced reflection on racism in today’s America—something we desperately need.

The events of the play were inspired by a little duo of white nationalists who formed a band called Prussian Blue. The two tween girls sang about race wars and crushes on skinheads, nearly immediately gaining the ire, and spotlight, of the national media. However, the pinnacle of Prussian Blue’s career was playing a state fair or two. The titular band in White Noise is sexier, more talented, and more marketable—singing their ciphered bigotry, they become YouTube darlings and put out a number one single.

One wonders how their repulsive beliefs are kept hidden from the media – something the show never explains. In fact, you aren’t really told much about how those beliefs came to be; there is never the searing indictment of inherited racism you find in American History X.

What we’re left with is the terrifically short rise and fall of White Noise, which is comprised of sisters Eva and Eden (Mackenzie Mauzy and Emily Padgett), skinhead/bassist/Eva’s boyfriend Duke (Patrick Murney), and Jake (Eric William Morris), who’s slapped onto the band by record exec Max (Douglas Sills as a lukewarm Bobby Gould-lite) with the mission of repackaging the group. The show becomes a battle between the greed of the amoral Max and Duke’s desire to vocalize his disgusting views on a national platform. Eva and Eden are caught in the crossfire. Eden just writes the tunes; she’s never really that concerned with the message. Eva fully believes the stuff, but she’s also a capitalist.

This story is juxtaposed with Max and Jake’s attempts to repackage backpack rappers Dion (Wallace Smith) and Tyler (Rodney Hicks) as gangstas. It doesn’t help that the two’s original ideas are pretty lame (like a rap version of the Declaration of Independence – not kidding), lacking the intelligence of Lupe Fiasco or De La Soul. Against their will, Max turns them into Blood Brothers and Jake writes them a little tune called “N.G.S.,” a smash hit about N’s (think N.W.A.) shooting “white boys.” Obviously, Jake and Max are guilty of racist double-dipping, but Max could care less and Jake is concerned with making his career. The whole musical leads up to a giant concert featuring a double bill of White Noise and Blood Brothers. Needless to say, it doesn’t go down as smooth as “Ebony and Ivory.”

     
Eric Morris, Emily Padgett, MacKenzie Mauzy, Patrick Murney in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatre
Rodney Hicks and Wallace Smith as the "BloodBrothas" in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatre in Chicago. MacKenzie Mauzy and Emily Padgett in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatre

Mauzy and Padgett give great performances and nail the musical numbers. Their tunes, penned by Robert Morris, Steven Morris, and Joe Shane, are legitimately catchy. Murney is chilling and Morris, who becomes the romantic lead in this tale, is decent. Max is a wannabe Mamet character who just isn’t quite ballsy enough, but Sills does the best he can.

I have to give props to this show – which has Broadway-level production design – for not shying away from the vile language. The show may be as blunt as Nazi propaganda. It presents racism in a polarized manner that doesn’t speak to the insidious, quieter racism that we see today. But White Noise still asks some relevant questions. The Hitler salute-inspired choreography in the video of White Noise’s hit single, “Mondays Suck,” inspire rounds of fan vids on YouTube, a la “Single Ladies.” At the end of the night, I was wondering how stupid all those kids must feel after they realize they posted videos of themselves goose-stepping.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Eric Morris, Emily Padgett, MacKenzie Mauzy, Patrick Murney in Whoopi Goldberg's 'White Noise' at the Royal George Theatre

White Noise: a cautionary musical continues at the Royal George Theatre through June 5th, with performances Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30pm, Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 5pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 5pm. Tickets are $49.50-$64.50, and can be purchased online or via the box office (312-988-9000). For more info, download the

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All photos by Carol Rosegg

     

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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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