Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review of Jesus Christ Superstar at Paramount Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Jesus Christ Superstar. The lyrics were by Tim Rice and the music was by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was directed and choreographed by Ron Kellum. The music directors were Kory Danielson and Tom Vendafreddo. It was about Jesus (Evan Tyrone Martin) in the weeks before his death and Judas’s (Mykal Kilgore) thoughts before he betrayed him. It is about Jesus’ followers Peter (Gilbert Domally), Simon (Mark J. P. Hood), and Mary Magdalene (Felicia Boswell) and what they want from him and who they think he is. It is about the priests Caiaphas (Lorenzo Rush, Jr.) and Annas (Avionce Hoyles) plotting against Jesus to give themselves all the power. It is about devotion, politics, and belief. I think this is a really great show; it has so many great songs and actors. I really loved it!

The first song is called "Heaven on their Minds" and it is sung by Judas. It is about how all of Jesus' followers will soon find out that he is not who they thought he was. Judas thinks Jesus is a good person, but he doesn't think he is the son of God. Judas reminds me a lot of Aaron Burr in Hamilton. He is the person who causes the death of the main character, but he is also the narrator. He isn't really the villain because he didn't really assess or understand the situation correctly. Judas admires Jesus, like Burr admires Hamilton, but then he is also envious of him and doesn't agree with everything he says. It seems like Judas is actually trying to save Jesus from something, so it is almost like he knows how the play is going to end, kind of like Burr in Hamilton. I thought Kilgore did such a great job with the song. He hit those high notes like a boss, and it was so awesome to listen to. He definitely makes you care a lot about Judas and what happens to him in the end--even though everyone knows it is not going to work out too well for him.

"The Last Supper" is when you really start to see Jesus' vulnerability and that he is not just a messiah: he is an actual person. He and Judas get into this huge fight about betrayal and how Judas is going to betray him. Judas thinks that Jesus has too much power. He calls him a jaded mandarin because he thinks that he is drained and as a result is laying around with his power instead of using it to change the world. And then Judas storms off and he sings this amazing high note that the audience went crazy for.

"Gethsemene" was a really great song. This is the scene where you really see Jesus break down. He's not just scared; he's terrified and doesn't know what to do. Which shows that even the people we look up to most aren't fearless. The song is basically about how he's scared of dying, but he knows that he has to. He is very brave, but he still contemplates if there is any way he can get out of this or get through this well. I felt so much for him during this song. He seemed to be feeling every line. It was so heartbreaking and beautiful to watch.

The song "Could We Start Again Please" was about Mary, Peter, and Judas asking Jesus if they can start again because they feel sorry for what they have done to him and want to save him. I thought it was super moving and it was sung very well. It is saying I want to go back because everything is bad now, which is a familiar feeling--wanting to turn back time so everything that has broken apart can be made good again. There is a connection between this song and "Everything's Alright." "Everything's Alright" is sung by Mary Magdalene to Jesus and it is about how everyone should just calm down and relax, but later in the show "Could We Start Again Please" is when everyone realized that it's not alright now, and we need to go back.

I absolutely loved Herod's Song! Herod (Hoyles) was so fabulous and oh so evil, and his song was so catchy. He is basically demanding Jesus to make a miracle, and then making fun of all the miracles he has performed. He would say stuff like, "Water! Wine!" like "Look I can do miracles too! And I can be a jerk to you at the same time!" It is a cruel thing to do, but it was really funny to watch as part of a big musical number. Whenever he would hit a high note, all of his attendants would ooh and ah and it was pretty funny. His dance moves were flawless, and so were his background dancers and their costumes (by Theresa Ham)! I absolutely loved this scene!

People who would like this show are people who like retellings of old stories, amazing singing, and hilarious Herods. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is a lot of fun to watch and it feels super meaningful. It had great actors and the singing was amazing. I loved it!

Photos: Liz Logan

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review of Aladdin (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Aladdin. The music was by Alan Menken, and the lyrics were by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Chad Beguelin. The Book was by Beguelin based on the Disney film. It was about a young man named Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) who lives in Agrabah and one day he meets the princess Jasmine (Isabelle McCalla). Her father's (JC Montgomery) advisor Jafar (Jonathan Weir) and his sidekick Iago (Reggie De Leon) decide he is a threat to the throne, but they also discover that he is the only one who can retrieve a magic lamp because he is a "diamond in the rough." Aladdin finds this magical lamp and meets the Genie (Anthony Murphy) who will grant him three wishes for (almost) anything he desires. It is about keeping your promises, duty, and staying true to who you are. I thought that this was a really amazing and spectacular show. The music, the acting, and the effects were all so great. I had so much fun watching it; I had a smile on my face the whole time.

Aladdin and Jasmine have such an adorable relationship. I've always really loved Jasmine, and she is my favorite Disney princess from that time period because she was the most feminist at the time. She seemed so powerful and sassy in this production and I absolutely loved that. Aladdin was also super great. He was charming but he was still a flawed character. A lot of times in Disney movies the flawed characters are just the villains, but Aladdin is flawed but still a good person--that is why they call him a diamond in the rough. They sang a song called "A Million Miles Away" which was all about wanting to get away from your problems. I think that was a great song because even though they have very different lives in terms of privilege, they still both had very difficult lives. I thought it was very moving because you could see the pain they had both been suffering.

"Friend Like Me" was so full of crazy unexpected spectacle. I thought that was amazing. There were fireworks, magically appearing and disappearing foods, people who gloriously appeared out of pillars, and tap dancing! What more could I ask for in a show! I wasn't completely sure how they could recreate all the animated elements of that song in the movie on stage, but they did--maybe even more beautifully because it was happening in front of your eyes! My favorite part was probably the medley of Disney songs from other movies that the Genie sang as part of "Friend Like Me." He did this whole pop star thing where he was like, "Now, I want to bring down the house a little bit," and he started singing "Tale as Old as Time" from Beauty and the Beast. Everyone started applauding so much; it was very funny. The Genie was such a great presence on stage; he really made you love the Genie. He is supposed to be so charismatic and lovable, and he certainly was!

There were three characters that were not in the movie, Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Phillipe Arroyo), and Kassim (Mike Longo) who were Aladdin's friends. I think they were a great addition to the show. They have been around with Aladdin ever since he was out on the streets. They were good comedy for when the Genie wasn't around and they had a different kind of humor than the Genie. They are more comedy inside of the story and physical comedy, whereas the Genie is more verbal comedy and talks to the audience. My favorite song with the friends was "High Adventure." It was about the three guys going to rescue Aladdin from Jafar's clutches. There were some really good physical comedy moments, like when they were running in slow motion and then there is just a guy walking past normally looking at them like, "What is their deal?" Also, when they meet Jasmine's three attendants (Mary Antonini, Olivia Donalson, and Annie Wallace), they are stunned by their beauty and they flirt with them a little bit, which is a very funny moment. I wish the three attendants had had their own song, like Babkak, Omar, and Kassim did, because I would have liked to know more about their lives. And I wanted to know their names!

People who would like this show are people who like adorable royal couples, fantastic spectacle, and slow-motion running. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It was so much fun to watch, and I absolutely loved it!

Photos: Deen Van Meer

Ada Grey Interviews for You: Isis Elizabeth of The Wiz at Emerald City

I had so much fun talking to Isis Elizabeth from Emerald City Theatre's The Wiz. Here's our interview!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review of Porchlight Music Theatre's Marry Me a Little

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Marry Me a Little. The music and lyrics were by Steven Sondheim and it was conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman René. It was directed by Jess McLeod and the music direction was by Austin Cook. It is a compilation of many of Sondheim's songs in the context of two neighbors falling in love. I think this is a super fun show; I love Stephen Sondheim's work and I thought the performers (Cook and Bethany Thomas) were really lovable, talented, and had great voices. It wasn't just fun, it was also emotional at times, and you do come to care about the characters.

This play is about two people falling in love unexpectedly, so it is no wonder they have so many duets together. Two of my favorites were "Bang" and "Two Fairy Tales," both from A Little Night Music. I really liked the song "Bang." It was all about the noise that The Man's piano was making upstairs. They were clearly overreacting to the situation; they acted like this was war. They actually said "This means war!" in the song right after The Woman had banged on the ceiling of her apartment. I found that very funny. If he hadn't been playing so loud, they wouldn't have met, which means it was kind of a good thing. The song "Two Fairy Tales" was kind of their bonding song where they bonded over their childhood stories that they used to read. I thought it was really sweet, and I really liked that song. They were basically connecting the two stories, so they sounded like one crazy fairy tale with two different endings. One has a happy ending and one doesn't, so when you put them together you get a kind of bittersweet ending. And that is exactly what happens in Marry Me a Little. The story is about happiness and heartbreak in the same relationship.

The first song The Woman sings, "The Girls of Summer," is a very seductive song, but it is kind of about how dumb these seductive girls are. The Woman is the girl who isn't a girl of summer. The girls of summer get their hearts broken and don't remember anything by fall, but The Woman has protected herself from getting her heart broken, but then she didn't have much of a summer at all; she hasn't gotten her heart broken because she hasn't been in love. Another song that she sings later on in the show is "I Remember Sky." It was all about the times when things were better. She is going through some hard times with The Man, and she is remembering when things were better for them. I thought this song was really beautiful, and it was really moving how her beautiful acting and beautiful singing made the whole effect of the song so huge and meaningful. She also had more hilarious songs, like "Can That Boy Foxtrot." I think it was so funny because of all the tricking that she would do of the audience by making them think she was about to say something that she wasn't. So she would say "Boy, can that boy fffff--oxtrot." And everyone thought she was going to say a different word, but she never did, which was pretty hilarious.

The Man also had some really great solos. "If You Can Find Me, I'm Here" was all about how he wanted to be alone but if you want to find him he is at this undisclosed location. And he was so furious as he was playing the piano, which was really interesting to watch. He seemed like he'd gone off the deep end, which is understandable because of the situation he was in. He can barely find himself even, like he's saying "Don't look for me, because I can't even find myself." "You Are the Best Thing That Ever Has Happened" was not technically a solo, even though it was mostly sung by him, because The Woman has a few interjections. It was such a sweet song, but it was actually more bittersweet because they had broken up. He was reminiscing on when they were truly happy, but he is actually pretty angry at her at the same time. He sang this song with so much intention and love and loathing at the same time and that was very heartbreaking. I think that is a very relatable feeling.

People who would like this show are people who like combining fairy tales, fatefully loud piano playing, and fff-oxtrotting. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It has so many great songs sung by two great performers. I really loved it!

Photos: Brandon Dahlquist

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review of NightBlue's Tarzan: The Stage Musical

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Tarzan. It was based on the Disney film adapted from the story "Tarzan of the Apes" by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The music and lyrics were by Phil Collins, and the book was by David Henry Hwang. It was directed and choreographed by Kevin Bellie and the music director was Michael Kaish. It was about a man named Tarzan (Jomar Ferreras) who had been raised by apes since he was a boy (Jean-Eduard Rodriguez). Then a expedition comes to his jungle and he meets a girl named Jane (Rachel Juncker) and they develop a very close bond. It is about finding out who you truly are, remembering your roots, and doing whatever it takes for love. I enjoyed many of the performances in this show. It is not my favorite script for a musical, but I thought they did a good job with what they had.

I thought that Tarzan and Terk's (Juwon Tyrel Perry) relationship was really adorable. They seemed to have such a close friendship, which was really sweet. And it was so sad to see how much Terk didn't want Tarzan to go with Jane, because they were such close friends. They have a song called "Who Better Than Me?" that they sing twice. The first time it is Terk saying "Who better than me to become your mentor and friend?" and the second time it is "Who better than me to help you get the girl and help you be able to live among the humans?" I think that song worked really well for both of those situations and it was really heartwarming to see them reprise the song with a different meaning. Instead of Tarzan beginning his life with the apes, he is going away from it. Terk also had another really awesome song called "Trashing the Camp," which was mostly scat singing. And I was tapping my foot the whole time.

Tarzan's relationship with Kala (Khaki Pixley), his adoptive mother, is very close. It shows how important the relationship between a mother and her son is, even though they are not from the same species. That shows you that love has no boundaries and that love is love. I think that is a pretty good moral to a story. They sing a song together, "You'll Be in my Heart," that is all about how she is always going to protect Tarzan. The second time they sing it, it almost made me cry. It was really moving to see a relationship between a son and mother that was so close and to see them leaving each other.

Tarzan and Jane's relationship was really cool to see grow throughout the course of the play. They had a very pedagogical relationship, meaning that they would teach each other things. The song, "Strangers Like Me," that they sang together, was really cool and crazy catchy. I'm still singing it. It is about how they want to know everything about the other person's culture. They respected each other's culture more than the other people on Jane's expedition, especially Clayton (Garret Haley), who wanted to kidnap gorillas and sell them to circuses. Tarzan and Jane's relationship was also super charming and adorable. I thought how they acted with each other on stage seemed really natural.

I'm not sure this was a good movie to make into a live musical because it is literally a story that is about a man and his family of apes and it is kind of hard to represent those apes well on stage. I think the actors did as well as they could be expected to do, but they still have to speak and sing, which does not make them seem like apes. In the movie it worked because it was all animated. It is adding on another layer of disbelief to have them be played by humans when you can see their bodies. Talking animals are fine in a animated movie, or even on stage, but you are supposed to be noticing all the cultural differences between apes and humans in this show, and how they should all be treated with respect, but it seems sometimes like just humans and humans in different costumes. The moral of the movie is that we should treat all living things with the same respect, even if we're different. But I felt like the differences got lost here without animation or real gorillas.

People who would like this show are people who like crazy-catchy songs, adorable relationships, and scat-singing apes. I think this was a fun show. It had some awesome songs and performers.

Photos: Drew Peterson

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review of Artemisia's Visiting

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Visiting. It was by Ed Proudfoot, and it was directed by Carrie Lee Patterson. It is about a young woman named Penny (Sarah Wisterman) who is suffering from manic-depression and her family has been hiding something from her: that her Aunt Lauren (Julie Proudfoot), who also has depression, is really her mom. But Penny still wants to have an actual life outside the hospital, so Penny and her family have these picnics where they talk about what they should do. When they get there they seem like they are just going to sit around and talk, but every time there is more to the picnic than that. It is about family, depression, and taking risks to have a better life. I thought that this was a really heartbreaking, effective, and beautiful show.

This play was very sad to me because of the pain you could see all the characters were feeling. Penny and Aunt Lauren are very close to each other even before Penny knew they were mother and daughter. They are not just sad because of their own depression but because of the other's suffering because they feel so close to the other and feel responsible for each other. Rachel (Millicent Hurley) was the woman who raised Penny and was always known to Penny as her mom, even though she was her mom's sister. Her pain was because she felt like she had done so much for Lauren and Lauren still wasn't completely better. And she thinks of Penny as her own daughter and she is worried about her daughter killing herself. And her pain is also because she misses her own mom so much. Holly (Carin Silkaitis) is the rebel sister of Rachel and Lauren. She lives in Chicago, while the rest of her sisters stayed in Indiana, and she is not afraid to speak her mind. She wants everyone to listen to her. She doesn't seem like a person who would feel a lot of pain, but by the end you see her kind of broken down. Even though Holly is really mad at Lauren, they still have a really strong bond, and you really see Holly regret her choices about how she speaks to her sister. Carol (Maggie Cain) is the wife of the sisters' brother. She is very religious and almost too sweet. I think she is the happiest of all of them, because she seems kind of oblivious, but she has her own problems with her marriage. I think the writer wanted all these characters to seem very vulnerable and relatable. But they are all still fighting to have normal lives and they try to help each other out even though they all have their differences.

I thought it was interesting how they used just a picnic table and screens for the set (design by Eric Luchen), but it worked for everything: the hospital, the house, and the rest stop. There was one section where they used blinking lights (lighting design by Rebecca A. Barrett) and an alert sound (design by Kallie Rolison) to show that Penny has escaped from the hospital. They also use blinking lights when she is having her treatments done. I think they use the blinking lighting in both instances to signify the danger she is in. When she escapes from the hospital she is in danger because she might kill herself. The play doesn't completely show them solving that, but she is alive in the next scene so you assume they did. The treatments are dangerous because they might not work and it will be a lot of pain for nothing. I thought the language was super interesting. It was very poetic but it wasn't Shakespearean. It was very realistic at the same time. They would talk to each other like real people who were in reality, but a reality that was altered by the strange lens of depression. I think this is a really good choice for this show because it gives you a sense of the strangeness of what the world seems like when you're depressed, and that is really effective. The set also helped give you a sense of that strangeness because it was all mellow colors that didn't really draw your attention to the set but to the story, which makes it more audience inclusive.

I liked that the message of the show was that people with depression should not deny themselves the happiness of raising a family just because they have a disease. But they need their family to get through it all. I think the final scene where all the women of the family have gotten together was super heartwarming. The whole play shows a blend of the depression and the happy moments, which I think make each of the happy moments more effective. There was one moment when they brought out the cake for Penny's birthday, but they didn't bring a knife to cut it. So they all started to pass the cake around from person to person. I thought that was a super heartwarming moment. But it was also kind of sad because of the sad thing they had just been talking about. Even though it is a sad moment and they don't have what they need, they are making do. Even when things are hard, there can still be cake...and Carol's flying chicken tea towel that she made for Penny.

People who would like this show are people who like picnics, heartbreaking and heartwarming stories, and flying chicken tea towels. I think people should go see this show. It is a beautiful story. I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Kat Tushim

Friday, April 14, 2017

Review of Shattered Globe Theatre's For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday. It was by Sarah Ruhl, and it was directed by Jessica Thebus. It was about a group of siblings--Ann (Kathleen Ruhl), Wendy (Eileen Niccolai), Michael (Patrick Thornton), John (H.B. Ward), and Jim (Ben Werling)--whose father (Doug McDade) was dying. They are reflecting on how easy it was when they were kids, and then they all went back to the days when they were little and pretending to be in Peter Pan. It is about family, not wanting to grow up, and reflection. This is such a moving play and it is funny too. I thought it was great.

The first main section is in a hospital room. They are all there waiting for their father to die. They are all at different levels of dread and do different things to kind of calm themselves. Ann is doing a crossword puzzle; the guys want to watch football; Wendy kind of wants to pamper her dad--she is massaging his feet. They are all trying to be calm and they are all trying to make the best out of the situation. I think when a person dies they would never say, "Everyone should be sad for years." That's why I think it is okay for people to be trying to make the best out of the situation like people in this show are doing. They want their dad to die happy, but you can't really tell if that happens, which is kind of a sad thing to think about.

The second section of the play takes place at the family house. They are all sitting around telling jokes as part of celebrating their dad. And they are also getting pretty tipsy while they are at it. And their father as a ghost keeps walking into the room and his children can't see him. And he is just going about his day: making his Metamucil, eating a grapefruit, and petting his adorable dog. (I think that dog should win a Jeff for most adorable dog in a play.) When they say "Dad, if you are here, give us a sign," he knocks the lid off a tin. And everybody is like "Well, that was weird," but they don't really pay much attention. I thought that was interesting because they didn't have this big discovery: ghosts are real! Instead they just go back to their conversation. Wendy believes very strongly in a higher power. And Ann is the opposite of that. Everybody else is kind of on the fence about it, and they get into a heated discussion about why they do or don't believe in a higher power. I think that was very interesting to watch because they had all different opinions even though they were part of the same family. I kind of want to hear a podcast with all of them because I thought all their opinions were interesting.

The third section was all based on Peter Pan, with Ann playing Peter and everyone else playing their namesakes, except for Jim who was Captain Hook and Tinkerbell. The lines were much more simple in this section because everything was simpler when you were younger and more oblivious to everything. I liked how they acted like they were in the Peter Pan stories until they all realized what their responsibilities were at home as adults. I think that when older people don't want to grow up it is because they are afraid of dying. And they have just been reminded about all of that because of their father passing away. Thematically Peter Pan is all about not wanting to grow up. And all of these adults are grown up, and there is kind of no turning back from that now, but they still want to keep from getting older. I think the reason why this play is so moving is because all of them are haunted by the inevitability of death. Even though some of them say they aren't, I think they all secretly are. This section felt sad at moments of course, but overall it was amusing to watch because it was kind of a spoof of Peter Pan.

People who would like this show are people who like Peter Pan, moving stories, and adorable dogs. I think people should go see this show. It is such a different and interestingly beautiful play.

Photos: Michael Brosilow