Review: Baby Wants Candy (Apollo Theater Chicago)

  
  

Celebrating 14th year in Chicago, “Baby” wants a little more finesse

  
  

Nathan Jansen, Brendan Dowling, Erica Elam, Nick Semar, Christy Bonstell, Zach Thompson, Ben McFadden, Chris Ditton, Kevin Florain, Sam Super - Baby Wants Candy - Apollo Theatre Chicago - Photo: Joanna Feldman.

  
Apollo Theater presents
   
Baby Wants Candy
   
Developed by Peter Gwinn, Al Samuels,
Stuart Ranson, Bob Kulhan and Don Bardwell
Written weekly by ‘Baby’ cast
at
Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln (map)
Open Run  |  tickets: $15  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

Oh, to have witnessed Baby Wants Candy at its Chicago inception 14 years ago – first performing at iO Theatre before, later, moving to the present Apollo mainstage. The brain-child of Peter Gwinn, Al Samuels, Stuart Ranson, Bob Kulhan and Don Bardwell, Baby Wants Candy’s central premise is this: the troupe improvises a new musical every performance, created from a title shouted out from the audience. The tactic had its formulas, but each evening the actors spontaneously crafted and performed a new one-hour long musical, never to be seen again. Previously performed musicals include: Peace Corps: the Musical, The Day the Gingers Ruled the World: the Musical, David Hasselhoff’s Secret Children: the Musical, and The Department of Redundancy Department: the Musical.

Zach Thompson, Erica Elam, Christy Bonstell, Brendan Dowling, Sam Super, Kevin Florian, Ben McFadden, Chris Ditton, Nick Semar, Nathan Jansen - 'Baby Wants Candy'  - Photo credit: Joanna Feldman.On the evening I attended, one audience member beat everyone else to the punch by throwing out The Confessions of a Teenage Rahm Emmanuel. How something that biographical would have been handled by Baby’s original member Peter Gwinn is anyone’s guess. Unfortunately, the new cast seemed to be just finding their feet with Baby Wants Candy’s drill. They seemed constrained and hesitant. They pulled back from a full out rift on Emmanuel. The team fell back on teenage high school formulas and played it fairly safe with Emmanuel’s life story. Although they generated a few laughs in spoken scenes, they floundered on producing consistently distinctive or funny musical lyrics. Relax, guys, he’s not mayor yet and, besides, making up random and absurd shit about Rahm, of all people, is the essence of improv.

There were a few bright moments, though they largely centered on the teenage Rahm’s balls. Rahm’s dream of going from high school loser to prom king felt fairly predictable, yet it yielded a bit of fun in his algebra teacher’s encouragement to join ballet–“Ballet Will Give You Balls” being the one successful tune of the evening. From then on, the jokes were pretty much about Rahm’s balls. Rahm’s balls rule the school hallways. Rahm’s balls hijacked a car once. Rahm’s rival, Troy, attempts to cut off Rahm’s balls at high school prom but only manages to get his finger. Seldom did the cast attempt to venture out from the safety of ball jokes—like one student claiming baby wants candy logohis dad was a moon-ologist or the momentary inspiration of having Christopher Walken host Rahm’s prom.

Baby Wants Candy has made it big in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and with its international touring company in Singapore and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Perhaps last weekend was just a little off with a new team. Then again, perhaps the franchise is showing quality control problems. Formulas may be necessary but an improv troupe has to have enough security with them so that it can take off to new horizons. For all the team’s struggles last weekend, the band held tight and ready under Ben McFadden’s direction. That remains the strongest element of performance—let’s hope it carries right on through to the rest of the cast every evening.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
      
     

Baby Wants Candy performs Fridays at 10:30pm on the Mainstage at the Apollo Theater, 2540 North Lincoln Ave. in Chicago.  Tickets are $15.  Student discounts are available with a valid student ID the day of the show only.  For tickets, call the Apollo Theater box office at 773-935-6100, Ticketmaster at 312-559-1212 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.  More info at BWC website.

  
  

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REVIEW: Rod Blagojevich Superstar (2nd City at Metropolis)

           

Blago spoof still funny, if more painful

 

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The Second City presents
 
Rod Blagojevich Superstar
 
Book by Ed Furman, songs by T.J. Shanoff
Directed by Matt Hovde
Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell, Arlington Heights (map)
Through Sept. 18  | 
Tickets: $28.50–$33.50  |  more info

Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes

The jury’s still out on the Rod Blagojevich trial, but the verdict on Rod Blagojevich Superstar is "guilty."

No one yukking it up it in the audience at The Second City’s remount of their clever 2009 hit, now at Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights, could have had any doubt that the whole silly story of our big-haired, big headed, impeached governor is all too painfully true.

Blago4 Blago and Company are much funnier than our previous crooked gubernatorial band, poor old George Ryan and his Inept GOP Grafters, who barely caught any comedy coverage at all, but their antics have been so over the top that it takes some doing to turn them into bigger buffoons than they made themselves.

The mini-musical doesn’t provide any answers to important questions like, "How come we keep electing such losers?" but confines itself to chronicling the career of the not-too-bright, Serbian-American "scrapper" from the Northwest Side who gets a party-school law degree, meets and marries the foul-mouthed daughter of a powerful Chicago alderman and rides the well-greased Illinois machine all the way to the top.

Joey Bland — in a remarkable wig — and Lori McClain ably reprise their roles as those already larger-than-life characters, Rod and Patti Blagojevich, supported by Dunbar Dicks doubling as Patti’s now-estranged dad, Ald. Dick Mell (D-33rd), and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald; Lauren Dowden as Ill. Attorney General Lisa Madigan; and John Hildreth in a hilariously restrained take on now-Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.).

Even as parodies go, this is no great musical. The best song is the opening nod to "Jesus Christ Superstar," which asks, "Are you as nuts as we think you are?" Other numbers take off on tunes from such musicals as "Godspell," "Pippin" and "The Wiz," but the music just supports the japes. None of the cast are notable singers, but they belt out the lampooning lyrics clearly enough for comedy’s sake. "Pay to Play" might just as well be the official state song.

Laughable as it is to those who’ve been following along, you do need some state-of-Illinois savvy to get all the jokes. If the name "Tony Rezko" means nothing to you, you might have to do some homework before the show. On the other hand, if you’re hep to the whole Blago megillah, you’ve heard a lot of these jokes before. They’re still funny, but I can’t help but think that this revival is a bit like beating a dead donkey.

 

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When "Superstar" premiered last year, Blagojevich himself appeared onstage to open the show. There’s just no way they can top that.

The play has not been changed to reflect any current events, so the cast has added on some post-show improv games in which the audience can ask "Rod" questions and suggest additional "crimes" he might have committed (as if 24 counts weren’t enough!). Like all such shticks, it’s only as good as the audience’s idea, which on opening night wasn’t very. Even with the extras, it’s all over in about an hour and a quarter. So much for our first Democratic governor in 30 years. You have to laugh. Or cry.

      
     
Rating: ★★★
    
    

Note: As educational as this might be for the kids, the language is extremely uncensored.

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Cast of “Blagojevich Superstar” to be interviewed by Blago himself!

Blago to interview Blago


blagospoofThose listening to WLS AM radio at 7am this  Wednesday morning will hear something quite unique – ex-Gov Blago will be interviewing two stars of the Second City spoof of Blago himself, entitled “Rod Blagojevich Superstar” –  Joey Bland, who plays Blagojevich, and Mike Bradecich (who plays both Ald. Dick Mell and D.A. Patrick Fitzgerald). Second City’s popular review, now playing at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier, is a foul-mouthed portrayal of the ex-governor’s legal woes (which is apt, after one hears the Blago’s expletive-laced phone conversations).  The show also takes shots at Blago’s wife, Patti.

So why is the ex-Gov on the radio to begin with?  It seems that he is sitting in on the regularly scheduled “Wade and Roma” show at WLS AM while the duo are on vacation. He was a guest on the program just last week after he took a hiatus from a full-blown media blitz earlier this year.

Ah, the joys of Chicago’s ultimate theatrical event: politics

Story is courtesy of Natasha Koreckion of the Chicago Sun-Times

Blago Superstar

‘Rod Blagojevich Superstar’ moving to Chicago Shakespeare

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Following a sold out run at Second City e.t.c., the popular comedy review “Rod Blagojevich Superstarwill be playing a limited engagement Chicago Shakes on Navy Pier.  The Navy Pier version has been updated with new sketches and music to include recent Blago happenings, such as his 6-figure book deal and Roland Burris’ son (and, as the Blago drama proceeds, so will Second City’s improv show!).  After each performance, the famed improv theatre troupe will improvise a 20-minute political comedy set based on audience suggestions.

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Superstar has book by Ed Furman, music and lyrics by T.J. Shanoff and direction by Matt Hovde. The cast includes Joey Bland as Rod Blagojvich, Mike Bradecich as Richard Mell/Pat Fitzgerald, Lauren Dowden as Lisa Madigan, Lori McClain as Patti Blagojevich and Sam Richardson as Senator Roland Burris.

According to Second City notes,

“Politics and parody take center stage Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare with the Second City’s rollicking musical parody of the rise and fall of ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich. A faux tribute to the man who compares himself to Gandhi, King and Mandela, Rod Blagojevich Superstar presents the story of the former governor in the style of a ’70s rock musical. Jesus and Mary Magdalene have been replaced by Rod and Patti Blagojevich, with appearances by Alderman Dick Mell, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Senator Roland Burris. The jury is still out on Blagojevich, but of the five other Illinois governors who have been charged with crimes, three have done time.”

More info at ChicagoShakes.com.

Rave reviews after the fold.

See video preview of the show here.

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