Sunday, July 24, 2016

Review of Kokandy Productions' Tomorrow Morning

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Tomorrow Morning. The book, music, and lyrics were by Laurence Mark Wythe. It was directed by John D. Glover, with music direction by Kory Danielson. It was about a young couple, John (Neil Stratman) and Kat (Tina Naponelli), and an older couple, Catherine (Teressa LaGamba). It is about love, forgiveness, and how hard relationships are. This was a fun show that still had a lot of strong feelings, and I enjoyed it.

I really liked the song "The Reasons Behind Our Impending Divorce" because it was a catchy song but at the same time it was pretty sad--but slightly funny too. It was very complicated, and that's why I liked it. The song is Jack and Catherine singing about why they are getting a divorce and also at the same time about why they don't want to get a divorce. And on the other side of the stage Kat and John are madly in love, and that provides tension and sadness, because you see that they are so in love that they can't think about anything else, but the song shows you that love can fade over time, which is sad but true. I thought that both Jack and Catherine's voices were amazing and that they accentuated their feelings in the song. What they were saying was very powerful.

"The Secret Tango" was a very funny song. In the song, Kat was worrying if she would fit in her wedding dress and look beautiful enough on her wedding day and also making a lot of dieting jokes, which I thought was funny. One of my favorite lines was that she would get up in the night just to eat a Snickers bar. But my absolute favorite was how passionately she would sing about ice cream. Basically what she kept talking about was all the food she wanted to eat and it made me hungry. And then you find out the reason later why she is so hungry all the time, though I figured out why before they told me. I think that it is ok that I figured it out though, even though it is related to the big reveal at the end of the show, which I also figured out early, because the show is not really about the big reveal but about the relationships between the characters.

I also really liked the song "Look What We Made." I thought it was super sweet. It is about how beautiful their kid is, or will be, and how no matter what they are going to love that kid even if he becomes annoying or is mean to them. It is also about all the good things about the kid. I thought this was one of the most emotional and moving songs in the show. Both the dads who are singing the song are not very happy people at the time, but to see this glimmer of hope is really touching. I don't identify as much as the parents in the audience probably did, because they know what it is like to love your child so much that you would do anything for them and no matter what you would still love them. That doesn't always happen in romantic relationships, which is the point that the show is making. Romantic relationships don't always work out, but when you have a kid the most important person in your life changes to that kid and you have to do everything for that kid.

People who would like this show are people who like touching songs about parenthood, powerful voices, and passionately singing about ice cream. I thought this show had really talented actors and it was fun to talk about afterwards. I think that people who are actually married will identify with it and enjoy it even more than I did!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Review of Emerald City Theatre's Schoolhouse Rock Live!

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Schoolhouse Rock Live. The book was by Scott Ferguson, George Keating, and Kyle Hall based on the series by George Newall and Tom Yohe. The music and lyrics were by Lynn Ahrens, Bob Dorough, Dave Frishberg, Kathy Mandry, and Newall and Yohe. It was directed by Morgan Ashley Madison. It was about this guy named Tom (Ron King) who was a school teacher. And then different parts of his mind--evidently named Dori (Eliza-Jane Morris), George (Jed Feder), and Shulie (Emily Goldberg)--were helping him make learning fun by singing a lot of Schoolhouse Rock songs. I liked the songs a lot and it was fun to see the songs done on stage. I felt like there wasn't much of a story though, even though they kind of pretended there was. This was a very silly and fun show.

I've always really loved the song "Just a Bill," and I thought in this show they did some really fun stuff with it. They had George dress up like the bill (costumes by Sarah Jo White) and then the women would dress up like people who worked in the government. They had debates on stage about this bill and then the bill became a law, and because it is anthropomorphic you feel like, no matter what this bill is, that you are glad it became a law. If we actually knew what the bill was, we might not be so happy it became a law. But it is really celebrating how the government works, the government system, not a specific law.

I really liked the song "The Tale of Mr. Morton." It is still stuck in my head. It is about predicates and the subjects of sentences. It is also about a very lonely man, who is a crazy cat man kind of, but he meets a woman who also likes him, which is great for him because now he doesn't have to just talk to his cat anymore. I find that this is one of the catchiest songs in Schoolhouse Rock. I think it has a very good beat and very easy-to-remember lyrics.

I thought the dances for the songs (choreography by Madison) seemed really fun and I could see that everyone on stage was working their butts off. Those dances require a lot of jumping around and energy on stage, and they really did do that well. One of my favorite parts was the box turning in "Three is a Magic Number." I thought it was engaging and very fun to watch. Another of my favorite dances was the one for "Unpack Your Adjectives." The dance told a story which I thought was super cool. It had this section where they ran into a bear and they screamed and ran away and then immediately started dancing which I thought was funny.

People who would like this show are people who like Schoolhouse Rock songs, number boxes, and anthropomorphic bills. I think a lot of people would enjoy going to this show with younger kids. It would be a new experience for the little kids and these songs are still fun and relevant.

Photos: Johnny Knight

Monday, July 11, 2016

Review of The Cuckoo's Theater Project's Anon(ymous)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Anon(ymous). It was by Naomi Iizuka and it was directed by Rocco Renda. It was about a man named Anon, who I think is based on Odysseus, and the adventures that he goes on with the help of a goddess, Naja (Aziza Macklin) after he has been shipwrecked fleeing from a war with his mother, Nemasani (Priya Mohanty). On his journey to find his mom he makes plenty of friends and plenty of enemies. It is about love, modern-day crises with mythology mixed in, and persistence. This was a moving show. I liked it and I thought that it made some really good points about war, family, and immigrant experience.

I noticed a lot of characters from the Odyssey, and I am a big Greek mythology fan so I noticed a lot of references. I think those references were really fun. I noticed the Cyclops was a butcher named Mr. Zyclo (Jack Wright) who ate people. In the modern day people don't have the same fears as they used to, like Cyclopses and three-headed dogs. Now we are scared of mass murderers and guns and robbers. I also noticed Athena who was Naja. In the Odyssey, Athena is the one who is helping Odysseus. And in this version Naja is helping Anon. In this version their relationship is more romantic. I felt like it gave more romantic tension to the plot, which was good.

I also noticed Penelope who was Odysseus's wife, but in this version the woman called Penny was his mother. This one more payed tribute to the Odyssey instead of just laying it out, because they make a point that her name is not really Penelope, but her name is just "too hard" to pronounce. That's what the boss, Mr Yuri Mackus (Wright) says. He is like the suitors of Penelope who all want to marry her, and he wants to marry her too. I think it was a good decision to have the Penelope figure not be Anon's wife but his mother because he did a lot of things that would make you not like him as much if he were married, like kiss Naja. He rescues his mom from the boss because he loves her and not because she's his property, and I liked that better.

A really cool aspect of this show is that a lot of the people wore masks (by Amber Lee Olivier). That showed that all these people were kind of hidden to Anon. He's different from everybody else because he is not wearing a mask, and that makes him Anonymous to everyone else. It is kind of like reversing the mask. At one point everybody in the workhouse was wearing masks except the mother and that made her kind of the strange one, and then she is rescued by someone who is like her, her son, who is also not wearing a mask. I thought the entire concept of the masks was great and the masks were beautiful.

This show really made me consider the position of an immigrant, which can be complete confusion and distress because you are the outsider and some people don't feel like you fit in. At the beginning there was a poem about how beautiful Anon and Nemasani's home was and how there were huge butterflies and leaping frogs, but then one day a war started and they couldn't do anything about it. But they still want to go home because that was their home and they loved that place. But they can't can't go home because the place is destroyed and could actually hurt them. It is very complicated.

People who would like this show are people who like Odyssey references, beautiful masks, and epic stories about immigrant experiences. I think that people should go see this show. It's a moving mix of Greek myth and what's happening in our world today. I really liked it!

Photos: Sussan Pirll

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review of Pygmalion at Oak Park Festival Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Pygmalion. It was by George Bernard Shaw and it was directed by Jason Gerace. It was about this woman named Eliza Doolittle (Amanda Drinkall) who was being taught by this man named Henry Higgins (Kevin Theis). It is about their relationship as he teaches her how to speak well and behave like a lady. The problem is that Henry Higgins can a be "a bit" aggressive at times and he makes her feel bad about herself and scares her a lot. So, he is not the nicest of men. And she has to learn that she should be able to fend for herself and she doesn't have to do only what a man tells her to. It is about what it means to be refined, expectations, and strange friendships. This was a fun show with a strong cast. I really enjoyed the show.

At the end of My Fair Lady, which I have just seen recently at Light Opera Works, Eliza comes back to Henry Higgins, but in this show it seems more likely that she is not coming back. That is a more feminist ending than the musical; I can't believe that the later version is more sexist! My Fair Lady makes me furious because to make it a romance they turn Eliza into a weaker character. In this show, Eliza has a full speech to Henry Higgins about how she doesn't need his approval and how she wanted respect. She didn't want love, she just wanted respect and friendship. Of course, when he doesn't respect her and doesn't listen to her, that is why she left, not because she wanted a romantic relationship with him. I felt like this was one of the best scenes in the show because you could really see the feelings and how Eliza just wanted some companionship. Her father (Brian Rooney) doesn't ever hang out with her, and even the women she sold flowers with on the corner were not really her friends. They were just people around her that she had to hang out with. You can really see how alone Eliza is, which I hadn't really noticed before. I like the ending from Pygmalion much better.

I feel like the two most feminist characters in the show were Mrs. Higgins (Mary Michell) and Mrs. Pearce (Belinda Bremner) because they defend Eliza from Henry Higgins. They show her a lot of kindness and take her under their wings because they know Henry Higgins better than almost anybody and they can tell her everything she needs to know to get through living with him. Mrs. Pearce stands up to Henry Higgins when she thinks he is doing something wrong, even though she might be risking her job for Eliza. Mrs. Higgins is a good example for Eliza because she will speak her mind about Henry and will also defend Eliza's right to live her own life and not be tied to her teacher. Both of these women do almost everything for themselves; Mrs. Higgins does have butler (Michael Pacas) but she pays him and she lives on her own without a husband. I absolutely love these two characters; they are an example to Eliza that women can work and live on their own and you don't necessarily have to be married to have a good life.

I liked how the show didn't make you sympathize with Henry Higgins very much at all, because if you really like him you can't have as much fun at the show because you will be trying to find a way that he is right. Henry Higgins treats everyone like they are dirt, which is fair but not nice. But Colonel Pickering (Jack Hickey) treats everyone like they are Duchesses, which is fair and nice. If you are not too invested in Henry Higgins learning his lesson, which will never happen, you can just sit back, relax, and watch him be a jerk, which is what he does best and which is also really funny. I don't think the actor is unlikable at all, even though in my experience he does usually play jerks, but I feel like the route they took for this production was to make the character unsympathetic but funny, which I actually think was quite a good decision.

People who would like this show are people who like feminist housekeepers, strong Elizas, and funny jerks. I thought this was a really fun production and I really liked it. There are just two more weeks, so go see it!

Photos: Johnny Knight Photography

Friday, July 1, 2016

Review of The SpongeBob Musical (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The SpongeBob Musical. The book was by Kyle Jarrow and there were original songs by a lot of talented people that would take a very long time to list. It was co-conceived and directed by Tina Landau and the choreography was by Christopher Gattelli. The music supervision and arrangements were by Tom Kitt. It was about SpongeBob (Ethan Slater) and his friends Patrick Star (Danny Skinner) and Sandy Cheeks (Lilli Cooper) trying to save their hometown, Bikini Bottom, from destruction. But the plotting of Plankton (Nick Blaemire) is trying to stop them from saving it. I thought this was a super fun show. I loved it. It might be one of my favorite musicals this year! I loved the variety of songs and how they transformed the entire theater into a huge SpongeBob extravaganza of awesomeness.

I liked the song "Daddy Knows Best" (by Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros) and I was just blown away during this song by Pearl's (Emmy Raver-Lampman) singing voice. The song was all about how Mr. Krabs (Carlos Lopez) didn't care about anything but money. It wasn't just funny; you also felt sorry for Pearl because her dad was really not paying attention to her and didn't seem to care about her very much. The song was really good and when Pearl started singing her solo, I was overwhelmed by the awesomeness of her voice. It was very powerful.

The song "(I Guess I) Miss You" immediately clicked in my head when it started because immediately I knew it was the John Legend song and I like John Legend songs a lot, so I know his style. When a sad song starts playing in a SpongeBob musical, you know John Legend did that. The song was actually very sweet and it made SpongeBob and Patrick seem very human. On the show they are usually just goofballs, but in the musical they seem to have actual complicated feelings. In this song they were sorry that they left each other's side, but they were still mad and hurt because of each other. I do really like their friendship; they really seem to be BFFs like in the song "BFF" (by Plain White T's), which was basically about how they were BFFs and they would never part from each other. But that is when they find out the world is going to end and then they completely freak out even though in the song it seems like they are saying that as long as they are together they will never be afraid. I found that absolutely hilarious, and that was complete SpongeBob humor in a nutshell.

"Chop to the Top" (by Lady Antebellum) was a very fun song. It was fun because the choreography was super big and crazy and the set (by David Zinn) worked really well with it because this part of the set, carts of boxes, was moving all the time. During the entire song somehow SpongeBob and Sandy had flawless vocals even as they were climbing up a cardboard-box mountain of terror. And I know what you are thinking, "Really? SpongeBob having flawless vocals?" But I think that even though SpongeBob talks like a funny maniac in the T.V. show and the musical, I think it was a good idea to have SpongeBob not sing goofily because if you had to listen to all of that you would probably go crazy.

The whole look of the set and the costumes (by David Zinn) was awesome. Mrs. Puff (Abby C. Smith) had a fabulous costume; it was like a huge coat that made her look like a puffer fish--and that is a compliment! And Squidward's (Gavin Lee) costume was amazing because he had four legs like Squidward on the show, but they all moved, not two of them were just dangling around. I also really loved the Rube Goldberg machines. They sent down orange balls and someone in the cast would have to block them. It undercut the threat of the destruction a lot, but I think that is very good for the age of audience they are aiming at and I thought it was hilarious.

I really liked Karen the Computer (Stephanie Hsu) and Plankton. I thought they were an adorable couple and they were also hilarious. Oh, and both of them are pretty much evil. SpongeBob has always been famous for their slightly "adult" jokes, like in the musical they had a few references to Karen and Plankton's love life, which were very funny to me because it is a computer and a tiny plankton. I don't really understand how that works. I think their child would be a purple-haired plankton with glasses and a beehive who has a hard drive.

My favorite song, possibly in the world, is "I'm Not a Loser" (by They Might Be Giants). It was Squidward doing a tap dance routine. My life is complete. Squidward sang this entire song about people bullying him when he was a kid and how now he is going to show how amazing he is--in song! And he tap danced with all four of his feet! My mom was bouncing in her seat and rocking the entire row because she was so happy this was happening. [Ed. note: This is true.] I felt the exact same way. I just wasn't so physical about it. Squidward and a very colorful chorus line of sea anemones were dancing their hearts out on that stage and it just made me so happy to see this happening. I loved it so very much; I'm still smiling because of it.

People who would like this show are people who like Rube Goldberg machines, computers with beehives, and tap-dancing cephalopods. I really really loved this show. I think children and adults will love this so much. I absolutely loved it with a passion.

Photos: Joan Marcus

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Review of Griffin Theatre's Bat Boy: The Musical

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Bat Boy: The Musical. The book was by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming and the music and lyrics were by Laurence O'Keefe. It was directed by Scott Weinstein. The music direction was by Charlotte Rivard-Hoster and the choreography was by Rhett Guter and Amanda Kroiss. It was about the famous Bat Boy (Henry McGinnis) from a tabloid. Of course the Bat Boy is not a real thing, but they made up a really awesome backstory to go with him. But it was also a very dark story. When I was little I used to hate dark comedies, but now I'm a big fan. This show is about respect, family, and prejudice. I thought that this was an absolutely fun and amazing show.

One of my favorite songs (and also one of the most uncomfortable songs for me to hear ever) was called "Children, Children." It was a song sung by Pan (Jordan Dell Harris). It had a bunch of animals and mythical creatures coming out and talking about the beauty of nature, or at least that is how it started. And then it turned into all of the animals very suggestively doing things with the different animal puppets (by Lolly Extract and Amber Marsh) they were holding. It was basically to encourage Edgar, the Bat Boy, to "get together" with this girl he likes named Shelley Parker (Tiffany Tatreau). This song was hilarious but it made me very uncomfortable. I think everybody else just found it hilarious, but since I am an eleven-and-three-quarters-year-old girl, that made it slightly more awkward for me. It was so funny because of the way they used the different parts of the animal puppets and their costumes (by Izumi Inaba). It was hilariously awkward.

I also really liked "Mrs. Taylor's Lullaby" sung by Mrs. Taylor (Ron King). It was absolutely hilarious and the character work put into Mrs. Taylor was amazing. She would fan herself very quickly with her hand when she would get frustrated, which I could not stop laughing at. The song was funny because it was a very dark song about killing Bat Boy sung in a very sweet tone and manner. Ron King also sang a song called "Joyful Noise" as the Reverend. It was very high in energy and I really loved that song. I would have that be my ringtone! It was super fun and I wanted to just get up and dance during that song.

"Show You a Thing or Two" was another of my favorite songs, sung by the entire Parker family--Dr. Parker (Matt W. Miles), Meredith (Anne Sheridan Smith), and their daughter Shelley--and Bat Boy. I really liked this song because it was really sweet, but it wasn't a slow sweet song. It was just about how everyone in the family wanted to help Edgar/Bat Boy become a gentleman. The song was a really fun montage of them teaching Edgar to read and write, teaching him to speak well, and they also had flash cards that were really funny because they were not necessarily things someone learning civilized English should need to know immediately, like names of operas, movies, and people. Also in the montage was Bat Boy drinking blood! Later in the show, you find out who Bat Boy's mother is, which is a big reveal, but then Dr. Parker has to explain to Bat Boy where he came from. And it is like this big long elaborate story and he has to put on a wig to tell the story and that was very funny. I really liked how Dr. Parker's character changed so much over the course of the show. It was funny to see this person who seemed to be so intelligent at first making these horrible decisions to talk about his plans in earshot of other people. They'd say, "What did you say?" And he'd say, "Nothing" and go on with his day. Bat Boy's transformation is going from a demon-boy found in a cave to a civilized, strangely British man, Dr. Parker's transformation is going from a smart, civilized guy to a crazy man. It just shows you that people can drastically change and just because you think you know who somebody is, doesn't mean that is how they are today.

People who would like this show are people who like blood, murderous lullabies, and ridiculous mating rituals. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is super funny and awesome and I had so much fun at it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Review of Hell in a Handbag's The Divine Sister

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Divine Sister. It was by Charles Busch and it was directed by Shade Murray. It was about a convent and school and the nuns that lived there and taught there. Mother Superior (David Cerda) and her best friend Sister Acacius (Ed Jones) were both teachers and nuns there, but they both had complicated pasts that they wanted to keep secret but are revealed throughout the course of the play. Basically, by the end of the show, everybody has something that has been revealed. And all of the things that are revealed are pretty ridiculous. This was a really crazy and weird show. This show wasn't exactly to my taste, but I think other people could really enjoy it.

Agnes (Charlotte Mae Ellison) was my favorite character. She is a nun in training at the convent. She was a very silly character and she was kind of like the super-happy, jolly-jolly-fun-time, Julie-Andrews character of the entire story. She was over the top but in a very funny way; she really seemed very genuine while she was acting goofy. And she was very committed to it, which I really liked. She was mostly very peppy and skipping around and singing, and she would end almost every number in the splits! I found her really funny. Then she has a huge transformation at the end where she becomes a total biscuit and starts smoking and has a huge amount of makeup and a perm. And I thought that was hilarious.

The way that you find out that three of the characters were related is because they realize that when they are emotional they have gagging reflexes. I thought that was quite clever, kind of dumb, and funny all at the same time. That basically explains the entire show in a sentence! The entire show is very silly in an over-the-top way with a lot of sexual humor and unexpected twists. I think a lot of people will enjoy that. I'm not sure if camp is really my style or my thing, but there were still moments that I enjoyed.

I felt like the show had some aspects that I wasn't a huge fan of. I felt like some of the acting was over the top in a way that was funny, but seemed fakey. I understand that camp is not supposed to be believable, but I wanted to see these actors actually seem like they cared about what they were saying more than they sometimes did. You want the play to be fast-paced but sometimes it felt like they were just rushing and it made it very hard to understand. Sometimes people would stumble or totally forget a line, which I found very awkward, but I'm not sure if that would still be a problem if someone saw it now.

People who would like this show are people who like campy shows, family gagging reflexes, and jolly-jolly-fun-time nuns in training. I thought this was a crazy show and a lot of people I think will have a lot of fun at it.

Photos: Rick Aguilar Studios