Saturday, November 28, 2015

Review of Emerald City Theatre's A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Broadway Playhouse

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was written by Charles M. Schulz, based on the tv special by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson. The stage adaptation was by Eric Schaeffer and it was directed by Ernie Nolan with music direction by Austin Cook. It was about Charlie Brown (David Wesley Mitchell), who is a classic young cartoon child with a zig-zag t-shirt, and his friends who are not sometimes great friends, except for Linus (Denzel Love). Charlie Brown is trying to save the Christmas Pageant from disaster so that people won't think that he fails at everything. The play is about friendship, what Christmas means, and people who get depressed around the holidays. I thought this was a perfect recreation of the television show and I found that super cool. I had fun.

The entire show was very much like the TV special. It was almost just like watching the special but with adults playing the kid characters. It might be too similar, which might make you not want to spend money on something you could just watch on TV. I thought they could have put two specials together which would have made it longer. It was very short, which is good for little kids, but for older kids they might want more. It was still fun because I saw it with a friend and it is a fun TV special that was fun to see live. It is cool to see how they adapted it into a play. In a cartoon you can do a lot of not-physically-possible things, but in a play you can't. So they turned Snoopy and Woodstock (co-puppeteers, Isabella Karina Coelho and Micah Kronlokken), who do most of the not-physically-possible stuff, into puppets.

The puppets (designed by Lolly Puppets) were really cool. They looked like three-dimensional versions of the characters. And they moved like the characters too. When Snoopy would just uncontrollably dance at some moments, I thought that was amazing. In fact, everyone in the show moved like the characters. They all had the same dance moves as them and they all moved like them. Snoopy's feet already move like Gangnam Style all the time in short fast steps, because he is a puppet, but the human kids also moved in short fast steps. Woodstock flapped his wings and flew everywhere which I thought was super cool.

My three favorite characters were Sally (Mary-Margaret Roberts), Linus, and Charlie Brown. They have always been my favorite characters. I have always loved Sally. She is so energetic, hilarious, and sassy. She says things she doesn't understand, but still sounds very confident in saying them. Like when she asks Santa for money instead of toys, but she doesn't understand that Santa probably won't bring her a bag full of money. I love her character. And Linus is so learned. The kids who play Linus in the Charlie Brown TV specials, don't actually seem to understand what they are saying. But this made it turn all the way around and made it actually seem like Linus knew what he was saying, which I love. When he was talking about how Jesus was born, he sounded so intelligent and I loved it. And Charlie Brown is the main character in the story, so you kind of believe everyone loves him. And I am one of those people. He has such low energy all the time but, when he has to direct a play, he looked it up somehow so he could do a good job. And that shows how committed and amazing he is. They had the same person that played Elephant in Elephant and Piggie play Charlie Brown. I thought that was a great idea because they are both very pessimistic and adorable and funny.

People who would like this show are people who like Charlie Brown, dancing dogs, and Christmas. I think that people will enjoy this show. It is perfect for little kids and it is fun for families to go to together.

Photos: Austin D. Oie Photography

Review of Porchlight Music Theatre's Ain't Misbehavin'

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Ain't Misbehavin'. It was conceived by Murry Horwitz and Richard Maltby, Jr. Thomas "Fats" Waller and various others wrote the music and lyrics. It was directed and choreographed by Brenda Didier and the music direction was by Austin Cook. It was about this group of friends (Robin Da Silva, Sharriese Hamilton, Donterrio Johnson, Lorenzo Rush, Jr. and Lina Wass) who were at this speakeasy and they are all singing these songs by Fats Waller, who was kind of like an idol to them it seemed. They didn't exactly have characters; they more had personalities. They didn't have names or jobs you knew about and you also didn't know exactly their relationships to each other, but they did give you clues about the relationships. It was like a character concert because it didn't really have an overall story, but each song showed a bit of a character's personality and you end up really feeling for the characters. I thought this was a really fun show. It was exciting and the music was so awesome and catchy.

There is a song called "The Ladies Who Sing with the Band" that was about ladies with nice bodies who didn't know how to sing, which I thought was a very funny but not entirely true song. There were so many very talented singers back then. I still found it very catchy. It was sung by the two men, Johnson and Rush, but I think it should have had some women singers too because they can also have opinions on women getting jobs because of what they look like. "Yacht Club Swing" was a song that was kind of as an example of these kinds of singers. I thought this one was really funny. It was sung by Hamilton who was wearing like a little cute sailor suit (costumes by Bill Morey), and she made it all kind of Ethel-Merman-y and off-key sometimes, which I absolutely thought was funny and I loved it.

"Lounging at the Waldorf" was a cool song. It was about rich people and how they go to hotels to lounge around and meet people. I liked how everybody when they walked out were in these expensive fur coats that looked very very fancy. They were all pretending to be rich people, even though they were at a speakeasy, which I thought was super funny. And they were making fun of rich people by being very posh and strutting around with their noses in the air and they all sang a little differently than when they were just themselves. It was more opera-y and less swing-y. And I loved how they had to mention that they liked jazz but in small doses. The song isn't just about the posh people; it is about the people who play for the posh people. I don't think the people singing the song like the people at the Waldorf very much because they like their jazz not quiet or in small doses but loud and in heaps! When Da Silva sings "Don't sing loud when you sing at the Waldorf" she sings loud and everybody shushes her and I thought that was very funny.

"The Viper's Drag," sung by Johnson, also happened when the posh people were around. The Viper seems to be a person who is living the high life, and he might have a lot of money but it would be from something not legal. He was very seductive and he tried to seduce someone in the front row who I know, which was hilarious. She is married, and she tried to stay away from it but she still wasn't a poor sport because she tried to make the best of the situation without being all sexy. And what they both did by twiddling their fingers at each other was fabulous and hilarious. Then he pretended she had just touched him and said, "You can look, but you can't touch," and I was thinking how good the actor did with the situation since he must never know each night what is going to happen.

My favorite song was one called "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now" that was sung by Wass. The song was all about being a party animal but trying to change her ways so she could be with the person that she loved. I think that it is good that she is not a party animal anymore, because if you party too hard you can hurt yourself and you can also hurt other people. Also when you think you have found someone that you love, you don't want to mess up that chance. Her singing was so beautiful and lovely and I really loved it. I want to learn how to sing that song. I absolutely adored it.

People who would like this show are people who like swing music, vipers, and lounging at the Waldorf. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was so fun to be at. I loved the style of the music and the performances were just amazing. It isn't a holiday show per se, but it would be fun to take the whole family to during the holidays.

Photos: Kelsey Jorissen

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ada Grey Interviews for You: Sam Elliott, Anna Paquin, AJ Buckley, Jeffrey Wright, and Raymond Ochoa from The Good Dinosaur

Here are my two interviews with the stars of Pixar's The Good Dinosaur from Windy City Live. I had so much fun talking to everybody and going to LA!

Review of Griffin Theatre's Pocatello

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Pocatello. It was written by Samuel D. Hunter, and it was directed by Jonathan Berry. It was about a man named Eddie (Michael McKeough) who was the manager of an Italian chain restaurant in Pocatello, Idaho. Their business is not doing very well and they were in danger of closing. But Eddie didn't want that to happen and decided not to tell the employees--Isabelle (Allie Long), Max (Morgan Maher), and Troy (Bob Kruse)--that they may be closing. Also, he is gay and his mom Doris (Lynda Shadrake) doesn't seem very happy about that. And his brother Nick (Sam Guinan-Nyhart) is married to a woman Kelly (Nina O'Keefe) and has a good steady job, and his mom loves that, but Nick isn't very nice to his family because he doesn't think it is possible for them to be a good family again. There is another family that also has fallen on bad times: Troy and his wife Tammy (Mechelle Moe) and their kid Becky (Becca Savoy) and the Grandpa Cole (Sandy Elias). This play is about family, forgiveness, and blame. I thought this was a very good show with amazing acting. It was sad and depressing, but still good. It made me think about why people aren't happy sometimes even when the people they love are near them.

When you walk in to the theater and see the set (by Joe Schermoly) you feel like you've stepped into the Italian restaurant that you drive past all the time but never go in because the whole thing looks bland and boring. I liked how there was supposedly another room that you never saw, just like when you are actually in a restaurant and you are just sitting in that room and you don't know what is going on in the other one. They also had a lot of overlapping dialogue, where you would have to pay attention to one conversation and then you would have to pay attention to the other. And that made you feel like you were actually there in the restaurant. There was also a speaker (sound designer Bradford Chapin) that sometimes wouldn't work and it would keep skipping lines of the songs. It wasn't an actual problem with the speaker; it was a choice for the show that I thought was really great. It made it seem like a really crappy restaurant. And also made you see how people's feelings for each went on and off over and over again, like in Eddie's family and Troy's family.

There were a lot of things that you at first thought were stereotypes in this show, but then you see they are not. Like Becky, who you think its going to be the classic rebellious teenager. But then she wasn't really rebellious. The things she had done to get suspended from school where not really rebellious. She just showed pictures of a subject of history in history class that were too gory. But history is gory sometimes. Even your life is gory sometimes. So you can't just hide the truth from everybody. She also throws up everything she eats so that seems like a eating disorder but she's really just worried because she doesn't know where her food comes from. It's more about her guilt about animals and plants and people working hard for not much money. Nick seems like a classic successful business man, but you find out the terrible things that have happened to him with his family. That makes you realize why he is working so hard to be successful. Nick wants to have a normal happy relationship with his wife and work a well-paying job, because his original family didn't have those things. And he wants to have everything his first family didn't have. I thought it was really cool that the playwright made it seem at first like some characters were just classic but then he showed you that they were not.

This is sometimes a very sad and depressing show, but there are also funny parts to it. It can't just be all depressing. Theater is about telling a story not just about making people feel sad or feel happy. It is about telling a story with ups and downs just like real life is. And that was what this show did. It was funny when Max and Isabelle were caught doing basically all the things you shouldn't do at work, in a kitchen at the same time! Don't they have cars or something? And they also tried to explain how it was ok, but the way they try to explain is so funny and dumb, because there is no way these things they are doing are ok in the kitchen at work! Funny things can also lead into sad things. Eddie made a Cheez Whiz casserole and that is funny because it sounds so disgusting. There is broccoli in it too, in case I forgot to mention it. I do like broccoli, but not with Cheez Whiz. Can you imagine the calories! But then that is something their father used to make in the diner, and something really bad happened to their dad, so now they are all sad about the casserole. I think it is a really cool technique to do something very funny and then punch you in the face with sadness.

People who would like this show are people who like Italian restaurants, not-really-rebellious rebellious teenagers, and Cheez Whiz casserole. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is such a beautifully sad and depressing play, with little snippets of fun hidden inside. Just so you know, you'll leave this play wanting Italian food because the food they eat at the end looks pretty good.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ada Grey on Windy CIty LIVE's Most Talented Kids episode

I had a great time two weeks ago on Windy City LIVE! Here's a video clip of my interview. The whole episode full of talented kids airs again on Thanksgiving on ABC7 at 11am!

Review of The Nutcracker at The House Theatre of Chicago

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Nutcracker. It was created by Jake Minton, Phillip Klapperich, Kevin O'Donnell, and Tommy Rapley based on the story by E.T.A. Hoffman. It was directed and choreographed by Tommy Rapley and the music director was Matthew Muñiz. I'm not going to make a full review of this show because I've reviewed it three times before. You can read my earlier reviews from 2010, 2013 and 2014. I'm going to talk about the new things I noticed that were in the show. I think this is a really great show to take your kids or just yourself to. It is a different and fun version of The Nutcracker; it is not a ballet and it has a different, sadder, and more heartfelt version of the story, but it is also hilarious and interactive and fun.

There were a lot of new additions to the cast. Abu Ansari played the father, David, and the Quite Scary Rat. I thought he was really good as the dad. He really made a connection with the actors that were playing his family. The Quite Scary Rat is kind of an outsider who is not that good at being a scary rat. And that makes him more sympathetic but he is also very very funny. Marika Mashburn played the mother, Martha, and also played the Really Scary Rat, who was the one who was trying to teach the Quite Scary rat how to behave and how to be scary. As Martha, she was a wonderful mom; she was just going through some very hard times. I liked when the entire family reunited after Clara (Jaclyn Hennell) came out of the wall, and the way the mom tried to bring everybody back together was very heartwarming and sweet. James Houton was Drosselmeyer who is also trying to bring the entire family back together, but he doesn't live with them and he is trying to show Clara that magic is real. Drosselmeyer is trying to find ways to make it seem more like Christmas and rid the house of pizza bagels and get Martha to bake sugar plum cookies. I think we are supposed to believe that he is actually magic. But that is kind of how you can feel about any special relative that you don't see a lot but brings a lot to your family; they can seem magical to you. This Drosselmeyer didn't seem scary like they sometimes are but he was still complicated. He is still full of secrets and very mysterious.

A bunch of the toys were either new or I hadn't reviewed before. Desmond Gray played Fritz, also known as the Nutcracker. He had this gorgeous connection with Clara and his song was so beautiful. He expressed it very nicely and I really enjoyed it. Chris Mathews moved a lot like an actual monkey and I really liked that. That showed you a lot about the character of the Monkey; he moved around like a very sophisticated French monkey, which is what we all want for Christmas! Phoebe (Rachel Shapiro) is the doll, who kind of dresses like a Groovy Girl. I thought she was so energetic and funny. I love her energy and my favorite moment of Phoebe is always when they are doing the "Let's Make Cookies" song and she holds the electric mixer in the air like a crazed murderer. Rachel did it justice; she made me laugh. It was also great having Andrew Lund back as Hugo. I noticed this year that when Clara was about to say something that she wasn't aware sounded inappropriate, the toys all knew what the slightly sketchy things that she said meant. They must have been left in the parents' room sometimes!

People who would like this show are people who like heartwarming family stories, sugar plum cookies, and toys that understand innuendo. I love this show so much. I have seen it since I was five or six and I am absolutely in love with it. And I notice new things every year. You should all make it a tradition; it is just a fun family activity for the holidays.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review of Ibsen's Ghosts at Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Ibsen's Ghosts. It was directed and adapted by Greg Allen but it was written first by Henrik Ibsen. It was about this mother, Mrs. Alving (Carolyn Hoerdermann), who had been keeping this secret from her child Oswald (Gage Wallace) for a really really long time and things had just gotten a little too out of hand so she had to tell him that his father had cheated on her a lot of times. The Alvings are building an orphanage with Pastor Manders (Stephen Walker) in honor of the cheating father. And Regina (Catherine Lavoie) was their maid and she seemed to be in love with Oswald. Her dad Jacob (Kirk Anderson) has a problem with his leg and he is the builder of the orphanage and he wants to build a home for lost and lonely seamen and he wants Regina to work at his new business, but she wants to stay with Oswald. This story is about loving somebody no matter who they are, lies, and misconception. There is a lot of thought about parenting issues as well, about how you can try to be so nice and perfect for your child but it still might not work. It doesn't sound like it is going to be a funny show when you go in, but it turns out to be a really funny and interesting show. I absolutely loved it and it was so fun to watch.

If you have ever been to the Mary-Arrchie space, you will know it is not super spacious. That makes it quite intimate there, and for this show that was absolutely perfect. It gets you super involved in the story and with the characters. It so fabulous; I couldn't have wished for a better space. The characters in the play even sometimes talk to you. But not in a weird fake-y way that pulled away all the tension from the story. They did it in a very real-looking way where you were involved in the story. They also didn't say really directly that they were in a play, they just made hints at it. If they had just said "we are in a play" it could have made the show less intriguing and you would have cared less about the characters. It was the perfect amount of talking to you but not taking away from the story. Regina also handed out all the programs because that is kind of like a servant-y thing to do. You kind of got to know her before the show, so you would care more about her when the show gets started and you see what her life is like and that makes you have even more sympathy.

The mom and the son seemed to love each other very much, but they did have some hard times because her son was very mad at her a lot. He was mad at her because she had lied to him but also because she was too welcoming. She welcomed him with open arms even though she had sent him away. And they had these beautiful moments together that when you got to the end of the play just got even more sad. Mrs Alving seemed to love Regina almost as much as she loved her son, which is pretty hard to get to because she loved her son with so much of her heart that she could almost never pull herself away from him. She almost instantly loved anything her son loved, like Regina, and she wants him to be able to have it, but it is almost impossible, which is one of the other things that makes the story super sad.

This show does have some very depressing and sad things about it, but there are also times when you almost die from laughter. The pastor was a very funny character. Even though he has some very bad ideas about life and women, he was still hilarious. One of my favorite moments was after he had learned about what one of the character's relationship to another one of the characters was. And he did this weird sign language right behind her back that indicated this person had been birthed by somebody and then was now working here. But he did it right behind her back which was probably not a smart thing to do. It was so funny because he was just so bad at trying to cover up the situation. And when the pastor came in and just completely swore his face off, which is not a very Christian thing to do, that made me laugh so hard. Another funny part was when Jacob was talking about the new idea for his business and it is just so dumb that it is hilarious. I mean, like, how many lost seamen are there in the world? I don't think they would get lost because their job is to navigate.

People who would like this show are people who like dramatic stories, intimate spaces, and swearing pastors. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was so funny and sad and beautiful, and I really loved it.

Photos: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux