Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Review of On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called On Your Feet! The book was written by Alexander Dinelaris and the music was by Emilio and Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine. It was choreographed by Sergio Trujillo and directed by Jerry Mitchell. It was about Gloria (Ana Villafañe) and Emilio (Josh Segarra) Estefan's life, the good times and the hard times, their families and how they expressed themselves through music. This was a very fun and heartbreaking show. It had some very funny moments but it was also bittersweet. I loved the music and I loved the dancing and singing too. I thought this was a very very fun show. I loved it so much and I think it most definitely should make it on Broadway!

One of the very first scenes took place in the neighborhood in Miami where Gloria grew up. The younger version of Gloria (Olivia Coronel) starting singing this song and everyone started singing along with her and this big awesome dance number started. The dancing was so crazy and everyone seemed to be so flexible! It was so fun and I loved the song and the dancing. And then suddenly when she went behind some of the people's laundry she came out as the grown-up Gloria. And it was a really cool change: the little Gloria was gone and grown-up Gloria was standing in her place wearing the same dress. I loved it! I felt like this song was a traditional song and dance so it showed how the Cuban traditions would always live on in her music.

I loved the part where Emilio first came to Gloria's house and couldn't really talk to anybody. Gloria Fajardo (Andréa Burns) is Gloria's mom and they have same name. And that confuses Emilio, and he says, "You can't be Gloria. You are too old." And grandma Consuelo (Alma Cuervo) says, "This is her mother," and he realizes the big mistake that he just made. He makes it so funny by the look on his face that is like, "Oh no! I didn't mean it!"

I thought that her audition for The Miami Latin Boys was really beautiful. I thought it was super cool how her sister Becky (Genny Lis Padilla) sang "Anything for You" with her because Gloria needed help because she was shy a lot of the time. She made a very big leap from being the shy one to being one of the most famous people on the planet! If you were watching Emilio you could see him realizing what a beautiful voice she had and he was kind of falling in love, but not as much as later. I thought that her mom was starting to get slightly scared that Gloria would grow up too fast. I think her mom wants her daughter to be happy, but she is doing the same thing to Gloria as her own dad did to her when he told her that she couldn't be the Spanish-speaking Shirley Temple. Her mom was very talented, as you see when she sings in the night club in a flashback, but she wasn't allowed to show it. Gloria's abuelita Consuelo was very supportive of her granddaughter. I thought the grandmother was really sweet and nice and she was also very funny. She reminded me of my grandmother because she is also very supportive. In this scene you find out how much her grandmother supports her and is ok with her hanging out with a bunch of boys, but her mother is not. And I thought the song was really beautiful, and I liked that she got the idea from her grandmother.

After Gloria joins the group they change their name to Miami Sound Machine because now there is a girl in there. I guess they could have been The Miami Latin Humans, but that isn't as cool as Miami Sound Machine, which makes them sound like awesome robots--robots of pop! They are very successful in the Latin department but no one thinks that they can cross over to be pop stars. Then they write this song called "Conga" and they take it to like a Bar Mitzvah, and Italian wedding, and then they finally go to Vegas. The little boy who played the person who was having his bar mitzvah (Felix Monge) was a great dancer--I mean he was unbelievable! In the Italian wedding they were wearing these long bridesmaids dresses and then when they went to Vegas they ripped the skirts off and threw them off stage and then they started dancing really vigorously! I loved the part where Gloria was singing "Conga" and then she started a big Conga line where she would invite people from the audience to join the conga line with her. I thought it was so cool!

There is a scene that happens in the hospital that is so sweet and made everybody in the audience that has parents (which everyone does) want to cry. And if you are a parent it probably hurts even more! What happens in the scene is that the mother sings about how she doesn't want to lose her daughter and then she makes up with Emilio and she says "I'm sorry I yelled at you all these times," because she didn't like him that much even after they got married. But now she sees how much he loves Gloria. I liked how the mother and Emilio sing the song together. That shows you that they have made up and everything is alright between them. And it shows you they both have something in common: they both love Gloria. Then also, when Gloria is going into surgery, they have a dance where they bring back all the people she loves who have died and also her younger self, even though she hasn't died. I thought that dance was very beautiful and it was very touching because you got to see all the people that she missed.

People who would like this show are people who like Miami Sound Machine, festive dances, and bar mitzvah conga lines. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is so fun and hilarious and bittersweet. I just loved it so much.

Photos: Matthew Murphy

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review of Two Pence Theatre Company's A Midsummer Nights Dream

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Midsummer Nights Dream. It was by William Shakespeare and directed by Shannon Fillion. Hermia (Mary Tilden) and Lysander (Josh Mattingly) run off into the woods together and Helena (Lucy Carapetyan) tells Demetrius (Martel Manning)--who she is in love with but he isn't in love with her; he is in love with Hermia--about it.  So they run off into the woods to find them.  And the entire time Helena is saying how much she loves him and pouring odes on him.  And there are also these fairies named Titania (Alexis Randolph), Oberon (Tom Wells) and Puck (Judy Lea Steele). And Oberon and Puck are trying to make everything right between the lovers, but they end up making mischief.  But also while they are doing that they are trying to make Titania love Oberon again.  There are also these normal people who have no acting experience who are trying to put on this play for the Duke's wedding.  In this production everyone plays a lot of parts and sometimes they are in the same scene so I think that must be pretty crazy for the actors. That was cool and new and exciting. This was a very exciting and fun show. I had a good time at it!

My favorite part of Midsummer Night's Dream is always the "players" because they are always so funny, so clueless, and such terrible actors. The Wall (Tilden) had dead eyes and was smiling the entire time. She looked so terrified; it was hilarious. I couldn't stop laughing the entire time. And every time they said "the chink" she held out her arm like a robot and she would just pop it up whenever they needed it. And I thought that was hilarious. Moonshine (Randolph) also was very terrified and said her lines so quietly and quickly. I found it funny that the actors got to comment on the players' acting as another character. Like that happened when Demetrius said something about the Lion (who the same actor had just played). He even said it with the Lion mane around his neck. And the Duke comments still holding Pyramus' (Wells) sword. And I thought, "If they think the play is so bad, why did they buy all the merchandise so they could dress like the characters!" (Just kidding! I understood that they just didn't have time to change!)


I thought that is was cool that Puck also played Hermia's father because they are such different characters. This production gave you a lot of ideas about the play because when the same actors play a lot of parts, you start to see the similarities that you hadn't noticed before. The way that Puck and the father both treat people is like, "I don't care how you're feeling." And they both work for a monarch! If the father were more fun, they might be exactly the same! Another cool triple casting thing was where Bottom, Oberon, and the Duke were all the same person. They usually have the Duke and Oberon be the same person, but never Bottom. (I just realized! Bottom got his wish. He got to play more than just Pyramus!) It shows that maybe this all is just a dream for Bottom. Or maybe Oberon dresses himself as Bottom so that Titania will fall in love with him as an ass. I always think she should have stayed with Bottom, even though he is a bit of an idiot, instead of going with that son of a biscuit. But this kind of changed my opinion because I thought Oberon was making a metaphor and saying, come back to me, don't worry I won't be an ass anymore.

I thought the lovers scene was very funny. This one was especially funny because I found it so hilarious when someone would just sit on somebody because they were so mad at them. They also made this big hamster pile of people and then Bottom came in and laid on them and then they became the fairies, Peaseblossom, Mustardseed, Cobweb, and Moth. They didn't even have their costumes for the fairies, so you didn't know they were the fairies until they woke up. I thought that was really cool and awesome. Another funny thing in the fight was how they would have smack fights instead of fights with swords and stuff like that. I always love the insults in the scene and it was super funny in this version because the men reacted like "How dare you!" when Hermia insulted Helena.

People who would like this show are people who like awesome triple casting, smack fights, and hamster piles of fairies. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It was very funny and a great new way to experience this play!

Photos: Ben Chandler

Monday, June 22, 2015

Review of Forks and Hope's The Pied Piper

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Pied Piper. It was adapted by Forks and Hope from the poem by Robert Browning and it was directed by Josh Sobel. It was about this woman called the Pied Piper (Suzanna Ziko) who comes to a village and she rids them of all the rats but then when the Mayor (Christian Stokes) and the Corporation (Andrew Bailes) won't give her the money that she asks for, she takes all their children. It is a really short play and I think it is really good to take your kids to because it gives you a little taste of storefront theater but then it is not to long. I thought it was a really great idea, because people don't usually adapt poems into plays, and I thought it was cool how they took that risk. The risk is that usually for an adaptation you are condensing it, not making it longer. But then most of the kid's plays at Lifeline and Emerald City make their plays longer than reading the book because you need to make the play long enough. It might take less time to read the poem, but they are pretty close which is pretty cool. This has cool dance breaks and you get to see what they think the movement and the sound would be like in person. I thought this was a pretty fun show and I think it was cool to see all these people become characters a lot of people grew up with.

I thought that the movement (designed by Aileen McGroddy) was really cool and lyrical, like modern dance. I loved when all the chorus (Julia Meese, Casey Pilkenton, Amber Robinson, Isaac Samuelson, and Nikki R. Veit) lifted up the Pied Piper and they made it look like she was making all the rats go away with her special powers. I thought that was super awesome and cool. When the rats drove themselves into the river they all hopped over the bar in different ways, like one time they would jump on the Pied Piper's knee and hurl themselves over but then sometimes a fellow rat would help them up. And one time, there was a gymnast rat that jumped over all by itself. I loved the movement work they did with the chorus so that the rats and the children seemed really different. The children ran and walked very spritely. The rats were always crouched down and their teeth were very jittery. I thought it was so cool how the rats were all shoes, and not actual rat puppets or anything.

I wish we had gotten to know the characters a little better. The limping child (Robinson), you got to know two facts about her. She limped and her father was the mayor, which isn't very much for an important character. I think it is fine that the Pied Piper is mysterious because she is supposed to be mysterious. But then for all the other characters you didn't get to know more than a few facts, and some of them had no facts at all. If they helped you know more about the characters it would have made it less like just reading a summary. What they might have been trying to do is make it more like reading a fairy tale where the characters are not fully developed because they just want you to know the story of the people and not all their likes and dislikes and that kind of stuff. But in a play you want more character development because it helps you stay more intrigued in the story.

The moral of the story is that you shouldn't go back on your promises because they will take your children away. I think the play had mixed feelings about the moral of the story because the thing is it didn't end on the note of like, "Well. They deserved it because they didn't pay her!" It ended on the note of like their memory of the children and what they hope the children actually got; they hope they got to go to a magical place. But then, that is probably not what happened because probably even then there was no such thing as actual magic. And you also think they might not be in a magical place because they all seem ghostly, like they are not actually there. And the rats didn't get to their magical place so the children probably didn't get to theirs either.

People who would like this show are people who like fairy tales, awesome choreography, and gymnast rats. I think people should go see this show. It was pretty funny and it was kind of emotional when the children came back and you knew they weren't really back. I think this show should be for ages 6 and up because it may have some sad moments in it, but then it depends on your point of view at the end, because you might think the kids are actually back. I think this is a good way to introduce your kids to storefront theater.


Photos: Tom McGrath

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review of Sideshow Theatre's Chalk

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Chalk. It was by Walt McGough and it was directed by Megan A. Smith. It was about this woman Maggie (Kathleen Akerley) who was in the apocalypse and she thought her daughter Cora (Nina O'Keefe) was dead, but then the entire world has been basically taken over by demons. She is still alive because of this chalk circle she has. The chalk circle was basically this circle of chalk, not the kind of chalk you draw with but before it is molded. That reminded me of Caucasian Chalk Circle by Brecht because both plays were about chalk and trying to save your children. It was about mother-daughter relationships and protecting someone you love. I thought this play was really really cool and bittersweet and I found it really interesting.

I thought that it was a pretty realistic mother and daughter relationship because the thing is even though mothers and daughters fight they will always still love each other. One of the most realistic moments was at the very end when the mother had been telling the demon version of her daughter all about some of the times she felt like a mother. And those times are like when there is a little car and her daughter was in there and was getting very close to these steps and she thought she was going to die or hurt herself. But then she just got off. And the mother threw out the car because she didn't want to see her daughter get hurt. This story was in there because it was a moment that made her feel like an actual mother and it was not too sweet. The thing is that this part was a motherly moment because she was just trying to help out her daughter but she was so distracted and scared about her daughter that she didn't realize the solution to the problem. But then the thing is the daughter was alright. She got off the car and went and played somewhere else. Her mother realized that she didn't need her help as much anymore which is something that is hard for mothers to deal with.

The actress playing Cora did a great job because I think it must have been hard for her because she had to change characters so quick and the characters were so different. That was so crazy because the thing is they looked like an actual transformation of body and brain. She just twitches for a moment and when she wakes up her voice is changed and that's so cool. I thought that it really showed the character when she started eating from the cans and she ate in like a crazy bloodthirsty way. But then when she is eating so crazily you think, "This must not be an actual person." And then she also opened the cans by breaking them in half, and I thought "That's very very inhuman." I think the daughter is a demon in this play because sometimes you think when your daughter changes so much you might think she is the same person in the same body but with a different brain. I liked Cora better than the demon because she seemed like a better person and was definitely nicer to her mother. I kind of felt some sympathy for the demon though because it seemed like it was just a baby and didn't really know what it was doing, and that is why it made such terrible decisions. The demon is very scary but you also kind of have sympathy for it.

Maggie seemed to be going through some difficult times even before the apocalypse happened because she didn't have a husband anymore and she had had to raise a young girl and be a single mother, but they didn't get along very well because the thing was it must have been hard on Cora not to have a father and she thought her mother couldn't help her enough. I think this actress also did a great job. You felt sorry for her but then you also saw how powerful she was and that she wouldn't stop until she had saved her daughter. I thought that that was really cool. I thought this was an amazing character to follow around because you felt so intrigued to hear about this woman's life that used to be pretty normal but now the apocalypse happened and now it is insane. I thought the fights (by Faith Noelle Hurley) were really cool and they really contributed to the story. They made the story so exciting. And they showed that the mother would do anything to help her daughter and how smart she was because she had such smart tactics.

People who would like this show are people who like parenting, apocalypse stories, and ripping open canned foods. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is heartbreaking and scary but beautiful and I loved it.


Photos: Jonathan L. Green

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review of Underscore Theatre Company's Borderlands

Once upon a time I went to a preview of a show and it was called Borderlands. The book and lyrics were by L. C. Bernadine and the music and additional lyrics were by Erik Olsen. It was directed by Alex Higgin-Houser and the music director was TJ Anderson. It was about a bunch of friends who got together to play music, but then they all had really tough lives so they talked about that, but they expressed themselves through music. I liked a lot of parts of this show and thought the performers had amazing voices and most of them were good actors too! I think it was a great idea for a show.

There was this one song "Food Pantry Gospel" that was all about this woman Marie (Dimokratia Michalopolous) who was very poor and had to go get her groceries by standing in a big long line. What happened in the scene was that she went and got this sack of flour and she was happy because she could make biscuits for her children. But then when she got out the flour she spilled it and there were mealworms all over. And I thought that was sad and gross because I felt like, what kind of person would donate flour with mealworms in it without checking first? I found that so sad and I wanted to do anything to help this woman. I felt like she did a great job telling her story and making it emotional but not making it cheesy. I thought the song was very catchy, too, and I liked it a lot. I thought Ryan (Jon Patrick Penick) and Marie had a great relationship. I just wish they didn't have money problems. There was a song called "Wondrous Thing" that was all about her and the kids, and how much he loved them, and I thought it was very moving.

My other favorite song was "Then Again," the one that Ellie (Sarah Beth Tanner) sang about all the men that had loved her and betrayed her but then she is trying to get over all that. What had happened is her boyfriend had not come home and she was super mad about it. So she went over to this other guy's, TJ's (Aaron Davidson), house and borrowed a chainsaw. It was so funny when you just heard the chainsaw noises coming from her apartment and you thought she was killing her boyfriend. But that is not what she was actually doing. She was just sawing through her bed. I did kind of relate to how angry she felt when someone betrayed her but you felt like that person would never do anything to hurt you and make you feel sad. I've had friends that I thought would never make me feel sad or say anything mean, but then they do. This was a section where you were invested the entire time and you wanted to know what was going to happen next. The singing was gorgeous too.

I felt like there should have totally been an intermission in this show, because it was a little bit too long to watch it all in one go without being able to have a bathroom break. Or they could have cut it down so that it was only like an hour and a half. I would have cut some of the songs that I felt weren't mandatory to the story. Like the one all about the New Yorkers. You already knew where Sanders (Mike Mazzoca) was and he had already talked about the New Yorkers and how they didn't really care where you were going, so I didn't think you really needed a whole song about it. I also felt like Sanders missed out on a lot because his ex, Tara (Julia Merchant), was such a great singer and seemed like a really nice person. And that shows that he was ungrateful and that made me not like his character very much. I really liked the character of Hicks (Ian Knox), but you didn't really get to learn much about him until the end when they sort of acted like he'd been the main character the whole time even though you didn't get to learn much about him. They talked about stuff that they expected you to know about, but that they hadn't talked specifically about yet. And he hadn't had any songs specifically about his story yet. I enjoyed his song at the end, but if his acting and that song hadn't been so good, I would have thought they should just cut that character.

People who would like this show are people who like beautiful singing, biscuits, and bed-breaking chainsaws. I think people will really enjoy the amazing stories and great performances. I had fun at this show!

Photos: Zane Rerek

Friday, June 5, 2015

Review of The Neo-Futurists' Trust Us / Screw You

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Trust Us / Screw You. It was written and directed by Dan Kerr-Hobert and Phil Ridarelli. It was all about con men and basically they did con tricks on you as you watched the show. I think this was a great idea and it was super fun. It was very cool because you don't expect to have money taken from you in the course of the show. I don't like having money taken from me, but it was still very cool because it is a new thing from a show and I just love new things. It made you think about how easy to trick humans are and how con men get away with a lot of the stuff they try to do. People are easy to trick because they want to be nice or they think if they give something they will get something more. Once they've been tricked, they want things to work out in the end so they just try again and again. Eventually they realize something isn't right, but they still keep trying because they want things to work the way that they want them. I found this show very captivating and amazing. I loved it!

During the show there is one guy that they basically play a con on that was a longer one and took more time. It was kind of like a prank. He was just coming to see the show but they ask him to go on all these adventures. I thought that was very cool and it got you very interested in the story. You were like, "Is this guy actually doing all this stuff?" He had to be an amazing actor if this con actually wasn't happening to him for the first time. He seemed very confused about what was happening. The entire con was so perfectly planned that it was just crazy that it wasn't a plant. The plants that you find out are plants you don't even really recognize that they are plants until they show that they are. I kind of find it cool to be fooled because theatre is basically just fooling people that you are a different person, or at least trying to.

I got to be one of the tricked people in the show. And that was actually really fun. Kerr-Hobert and Riderelli asked "Does anyone have a dollar?" And I raised may hand and said, "Yes, I do" and they said, "We'll give you two dollars." But they didn't. It felt kind of scary and suspenseful, like "Am I going to get my money back?" It was like having a con trick pulled on you, even though you felt like you would at least get something because if you didn't someone might sue them or something. I think the difference between a real con and theater is that in a con you give them something and they don't give anything in return. But in theater you give them money to fool you but then you get entertainment for your money.

This show had a lot of very very funny moments. You laugh a lot of the time. One of my favorites is when Curtis Williams comes out and is an ATM. He had this big ATM costume that basically looked like a cardboard box that somebody had tried to turn into an ATM using paint and markers. Then he would make all the boop beep boop noises. Then he kind of acted like a guy who was just fed up with his job and it was so funny I couldn’t stop laughing. And another thing that happened is that after each part, basically act, of the show they would open the curtains and there would be a card castle being built. And it got more and more impressive over time. And by the end it was like this completely insane thing. No one could build that thing even if they were the best card stackers in the world. I think they did because it was random, weird and funny, but it also made you think about how con men are always building their plan like a house of cards on you.

People who would like this show are people who like card castles, con pranks, and exasperated ATMs. I think everyone should definitely go see this show. It was hilarious, clever, and I had a great time


Photos: Joe Mazza of Brave Lux

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Review of Filament Theatre Ensemble's Lifeboat

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Lifeboat. It was by Nicola McCartney and it was directed by Julie Ritchey. It was about these two girls Beth Cummings (Mara Dale) and Bess Walder (Molly Bunder) who met on this ship that was taking them to Canada because the war was getting too scary and there were too many bombing in England, so parents were sending away their children so they could go to a better place to stay with relatives. But then there is a giant shipwreck because the Nazis had bombed them, and they were put on a lifeboat. The play is about the journey that they go on and the memories they have once they are on the lifeboat. It was about friendship, World War II, and bravery. I thought that this was an amazing show. It was a true story which made it even more amazing and it taught me a lot about this very sad historical event and it also told me about these two real women who are heroes, basically, for going through this event and surviving it.

I thought the set (designed by Andrew Marchetti) was really cool. It was awesome because they only used some chairs and a table to make most of the scenes. But then there was also a platform and a bunch of suitcases and a piano. The chairs and the tables and the platform simulated different things, the ship and their homes, and also the lifeboat. I also really loved the sound (by Melissa Schlesinger) and the lights (by Daniel Chapman) they used because they really contributed to the story. Like when they were on the lifeboat they used the lights to show that the water was there and the ship was sinking and the sound let you hear the crackling flames of the ship going down. I thought that the actors' way of showing the different people slipping off the lifeboat, where they put both of their hands out and would have them each slip away off the table, was very cool and kind of sad. The lights helped a lot with that too.

The flashbacks were of the girls' lives back at home and you got to see what everything was like before the shipwreck happened. You got to see their families and how they missed them so much, and I thought that was very sweet. It contributed a lot to the sadness and bittersweetness of the show. Since there were only two people in the show, they played all the different parts. I thought that was really cool. I think it would be hard to switch characters and personalities so quickly. It made it be more of a spectacle. It also felt like the girls were family to each other because that might be all they had left. The friends were playing the parts of the family members.

The story I think is a kind of bittersweet one because you get to meet all these people who die, but then you also get to see all the people who survive. Beth and Bess seemed like great friends. They didn't have a lot in common, but even people who don't have a lot in common still sometimes become amazing friends. Beth was from Liverpool and was very polite and quiet but was pretty poor. And Bess was middle class from London and wanted to get away and become a movie star. And she always spoke her mind. The first time you see their friendship spark is when they find out that they both love The Wizard of Oz. My favorite part was definitely the ending because it showed you that their friendship was everlasting and I thought that was really sweet.

People who would like this show are people who like The Wizard of Oz, suspense, and friendship. This is the second time that this show has happened at Filament, and I hope they do it again because I am sad that I only got to see it right before it closed. I would definitely see it again!

Photos: Christian Libonati