Friday, October 24, 2014

Review of Frederick at Chicago Children's Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Frederick. It was adapted from the book by Leo Lionni by Suzanne Miller and directed by Stuart Carden. The songs were by Sarah Durkee and Paul Jacobs. It was about a mouse named Frederick (Richard Juarez) and he had friends who he lived with named Sunny (Emily Casey), Nellie (Sophia Grimm), Ernest (Shawn Pfautsch) and Baby (Christine Bunuan). Winter was coming and they had to get their supplies together for winter. But then winter came early, so they were in big trouble. And Frederick sees everything a different way than everybody else because he sees every single thing is beautiful and he appreciates nature and art. And the mice learn that he is not being lazy and selfish, that he is actually collecting memories and beautiful things he sees for the darkest hours. I thought this was an amazing production and I had a lot of fun. It is even fun for adults. And I think a little kid would also have fun at this. It is for all ages.

I thought that Baby was an amazing character. She was funny and the actress made her seem like a baby but didn't make fun of small children. I liked it when she woke up and then she kept trying to go back to sleep and then they played a loud note and she jumped up and started playing tambourine on her toes. It was just really adorable. I also liked how when Baby was listening to everyone's stories (they became super sad and never turned out well) she just started crying and then the next person would try and nobody's story worked except for Frederick's. I loved how Baby's face went from really happy to super super sad when the story changed. I also loved the storytellers and how they seemed like they wanted to tell this super sweet story, but then they never could.

I thought that the scenes with Ernest were super funny because he made everything into an equation basically. And my favorite of those scenes was when he was presenting his giant machine. Then the machine started moving and I just thought that was amazing. I'd never seen something that elaborate in a children's show. I thought that the song "Bells & Whistles" was really fun. It was different in that it was way more up-tempo than most of the other songs. It made it seem like there was hope. It was about something that could save them from starvation, so that was hopeful. I found the song very uplifting. And when everything started moving you just felt so amazed.

Sunny and Nellie were the optimist and the pessimist. Nellie was the pessimist and Sunny was the optimist; she made it seem like everything would be sunny. I liked the song, "No One Feels Like Chatting"; it was bluesy and you usually don't hear blues-like songs in a kids' show. Nellie sang it and it was about how they've been together so long they don't have anything to talk about. I liked that in that song she said, "we've run out of joy" because the next song was basically about how there's no such thing as running out of joy. And Frederick and all of the mice sing that. It shows that Nellie starts out being the pessimistic mouse but then she realizes that you can run out of food, you can run out of water, but you can never run out of joy. Sunny is like the perfect mouse because she has always liked Frederick and has always thought he was collecting stuff that was valuable. Sunny brings all the peace and she is also a strong and hearty worker.

Frederick is the hero of the story because he is the one who is most artistic and he is misunderstood by almost everyone because they think he is lazing around while everybody else does all the work. This character shows us how everyone should be accepted in the community for the work do and doing it well, even if it is not the same kind of work that you do. I think the playwright and Leo Leonni understood what it was like to be Frederick, to have your closest friends and family not realize what you were doing when you were doing your own artistic work. When the other mice were coming to rescue him and then when they find him, he is shivering, but he is shivering like a mouse, with his hands down trying to warm his tail. I thought that showed the work they'd done acting like mice, but not acting like mice too much.

I thought it was cool to have the music director, Nicholas Davio, on stage playing guitar and piano and all these different instruments in the background. Then he would puppet butterflies and bees and you could see him and it was kind of like a mouse who made the world beautiful by putting wonderful creatures and music in it.

I really liked the set (designed by John Musial) because the background looked exactly like it looks in the book. And it could be any sort of place. It could be inside or outside. I loved the flower because it looked just like the flower in the book. I loved the huge corn. I thought it looked very realistic and like it would be very hard to carry for a mouse. And the puppets I thought were amazing. (Props and puppets were by Meredith Miller.) I loved the giant butterfly and I thought the scene with the bee was really funny. I thought all the costumes (by Rachel Healy) looked like mice, but still had the person aspect to it. They had tails but they didn't have giant ears. It was a good idea because it didn't make the actors look too much like mice, like in a mouse mask. My favorite costume piece was the hat with little ear-holes on top for the baby's ear-buns.

People who would like this show are people who like poetry, awesome machines, and baby mice playing tambourines. I think that people should definitely go and see this show. It is super funny, the music is great, and the acting is awesome.

Photos: Charles Osgood

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Interview with Dee Snider, Adam John Hunter, and John Yonover of Dee Snider's Rock & Roll Christmas Tale

I had fun interviewing some of the people who are working on Dee Snider's Rock & Roll Christmas Tale. You can go and see it from November 4, 2014 to January 4th, 2015 at The Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place in downtown Chicago.

Ada Grey: I’m here with Dee Snider the writer/star of Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale. Thanks for talking to me. I have a few questions for you. I know you were involved with the Rock of Ages musical. I saw it when it was in Chicago last time.

Dee Snider: Did you? I’m glad you didn’t see the movie. The movie’s terrible!

Ada Grey: (Laughs.) I have a question for you. Were the 80s really like that?

Dee Snider: (Laughs.) That is a good question! I guess, you know, in some ways, yes. In some ways, it’s exaggerated. I always think that when people who weren’t there look back at it, they just see a more romantic version—not meaning loving—they don’t see any of the bad things. They only see the fun good things. That reflected a lot of the fun good things and the craziness. But it’s an exaggeration. Nobody wants to see a show that shows you the bad stuff.

Ada Grey: Yeah.

Dee Snider: They just want a show that’s all fun and good, you know?

Ada Grey: Yeah. And what was your favorite part of the 80s?

Dee Snider: Favorite part of the 80s…well, besides having tremendous success in the 80s and the admiration of millions of people in the 80s…I always loved heavy metal music and it wasn’t really ever mainstream like something that you heard on the radio. It was always something that the fans knew about, but it wasn’t everywhere. And in the 80s there came a time where people started to accept that heavy metal could be cool, could be fun. And you started to hear it on the radio. I never expected to hear my songs because I was a heavy metal guy. And all of a sudden I had hit records! So, that the music I loved finally became accepted by the world was my favorite part.

Ada Grey: Awesome! …So what is your favorite song that you wrote?

Dee Snider: That’s funny. My favorite song that I wrote was a song that was never released called “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” But nobody knows it. So a better question is “What is my favorite Twisted Sister song?” because I wrote every Twisted Sister song. And you would think I would say, “I Wanna Rock” or “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and I love those songs because they were so popular. But there is a Twisted Sister song called “You Can’t Stop Rock and Roll” which is actually in the show, is in Rock & Roll Christmas Tale. And that one I think defines my band better than the ones people know us for.

Ada Grey: I heard that you did Titus Andronicus with puppets? Do you like Shakespeare?

Dee Snider: Actually, my son Shane—I have three sons and a daughter—he’s involved with Puppet Shakespeare. And no, I don’t like Shakespeare, and that’s why I’m so excited and trying to help my son. Besides that he’s my son, I said, “This show is great! You don’t have to like Shakespeare and it makes you enjoy Shakespeare” because Shakespeare can sometimes be kind of confusing and a little hard, but they mix real Shakespeare actors with comedian puppets. And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Shakespeare…

Ada Grey: Yes.

Dee Snider: Well, I don’t know about you, but it makes me go, “What’s going on?” But the puppets will actually stop and talk to the audience in not-Shakespeare, and they’ll say, “And that means he’s this,” and that helps the audience appreciate the Shakespeare better. So, I’ve been producing the show and it’s doing really well. They did one month off-Broadway and they got a five-star New York Times review, which is great, so we think that, hopefully, that eventually the whole country is eventually going to get to see Puppet Shakespeare.

Ada Grey: Awesome! What is your favorite part of Rock & Roll Christmas Tale?

Dee Snider: I think my favorite part is the exorcism (both laugh) because I’m the exorcist. I play the narrator in the show and for the most part I sit and I tell the story in-between, you know, like a narrator—you’ve seen narrators before. But in one part of the show the band tries to exorcise the spirit of Christmas because it’s not metal. So they hire an exorcist and I come in all serious, and then they go, “Yes, we want you to exorcise the spirit of Christmas.” And I’m like, “Wait! What?” And so I have to do an exorcism that gets rid of the Christmas spirit, so it is very funny and I get to really be a ham.

Ada Grey: Awesome!

Dee Snider: “The power of Rock compels you!” and I’m screaming and there’s a lot of yelling, so I have fun!

Ada Grey: Awesome! So, I watched a few Twisted Sister videos and it seems like you don’t really like authority figures very much. Do you think that any kind of authority should be allowed?

Dee Snider: You know, that’s a point…. (Laughs.) Who are you? How old are you really? You’re in your 40s?

Ada Grey: I’m 10!

Dee Snider: You’re not fooling anybody, Miss…Ma’am. Ok. When I was younger I wrote “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and it was standing up to my parents, my teachers, my bosses, my ex-girlfriend. All people who said I couldn’t do what I wanted to do and couldn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve, and that’s what the song meant to me. And it is certainly an anthem of rebellion and anti-authority for sure. That does not mean that I believe there should not be any kind of authority. My dad was a policeman and he also fought in the Korean War. We need structure, no doubt. But there are times, we’re seeing it right now in Hong Kong where people are protesting because their democratic rights are going to be taken away, and so sometimes we have to stand up to authority. I went to Washington to fight censorship in the 80s, and they were questioning “We’re Not Gonna Take It” because it was anti-authority, and I said, “There was a time when our forefathers George Washington and Benjamin Franklin and all those great people, they were anti-authority against the British. You know, they were saying ‘We’re not gonna take it anymore.’” Sometimes we need to stand up, but it doesn’t mean I am against authority.

Ada Grey: What was the process like writing your latest show, Rock & Roll Christmas Tale?

Dee Snider: It was very long because it didn’t start out as a musical initially. The original idea was to do what they call a concept album. A concept album is where you do a bunch of songs and they tell a story. And I wanted to do it with my band and have some acting in between, but it was designed to be a concert experience, not a musical in the traditional sense. So, when I went and did Rock of Ages, Adam Hunter was my director, and I asked him to take a look at my story for the concept album, and he came back and said, “A) This is a musical and B) I want to direct it.” And I said, “You really think so?” And he said, “Yeah, you got to flesh it out” because musicals have certain things they need to have to be more traditional like choreography and things like that. But he says, “This is a great musical.” So at that point I went from thinking “I’m writing a concept album for my band” to “I’m writing a musical.” So it was process. I met Hunter in 2010 and we started working together and then we met with producers and went from there. So it has been a process. A learning process, too. You know, sometimes we don’t know how to do something, but we shouldn’t be afraid to try just because we don’t know how. There’s got to be a YouTube video showing how to do it somewhere! They show you how to do everything!

Ada Grey: Yeah! What is your favorite part of rehearsal?

Dee Snider: My favorite part of rehearsal is getting to watch my words being brought to life before my eyes, which is just incredible—to have an idea in your head, and then put it on a piece of paper which is an inanimate object, and then see these great actors and actresses make it live. It’s like a dream, quite honestly. It’s really like a dream.


Ada Grey: I’m here with Adam John Hunter, the director of Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale. Thanks for talking to me. I have a few questions for you. I know you and Dee Snider were both involved in Rock of Ages. I saw it in Chicago when it was here last time, and I have a question for you. Were the 80s really like that?

Adam John Hunter: (Laughs.) My perceptions of the 80s were certainly like that. I think what Rock of Ages was able to do was…you know as we get older our idea of what the past was gets a little rosier, a little shiner than maybe it actually was…and that is what we were able to do with Rock of Ages, make people feel like it was the 80s but kind of gloss over some of the stuff you might not want to remember from your past.

Ada Grey: What was your favorite part of the 80s?

Adam John Hunter: My favorite part of the 80s was probably when I got a Sit ‘n Spin for Christmas. I was probably 7 years old. It was 1982 and it was like the best thing ever when I got my Sit ‘n Spin. That was my favorite part of the 80s.

Ada Grey: (Laughs.) Awesome! What was the process like working on Rock & Roll Christmas Tale with Dee Snider?

Adam John Hunter: When I met Dee Snider it blew my mind to meet a guy who you have such a strong feeling about from his public image. You know, he’s got this big-hair, crazy make-up, and you think, “Oh. I know who that guy is.” And then you meet that person and you’re like, “Oh. He’s not that. He’s been doing this thing, he has a stage persona, and he’s this incredible guy.” So the process of working with Dee has just been eye-opening and enlightening and he’s written a real musical. Dee Snider, that guy we think of as “We’re Not Gonna Take It” has actually sat down and written a musical. It has been a long process, but they always are. It has been exciting to give him suggestions and let it go through Dee Snider’s mind and come back out and go, “Oh my gosh, that’s really exciting!”

Ada Grey: What is your favorite part of rehearsal?

Adam John Hunter: My favorite part of rehearsal is working with the actors, talking with the actors and making suggestions and having conversations with them and getting to understand the story of the show that I’m working on from somebody else’s perspective because I spend a lot of time reading myself and making plans, the “master plan,” and I have to be willing to let that break down when you introduce the actors into the process. So having them come in and have their suggestions and watching it get bigger and bigger and turning into something even better than I could imagine, that’s definitely my favorite part.

Ada Grey: Does Dee Snider ever throw you out a window when you tell him what to do in rehearsal?

Adam John Hunter: (Laughs.) Not yet. Not yet. But we are on the ground floor. So that could happen. That could still happen. It is not outside the realm.


Ada Grey: I’m here with John Yonover the producer of Dee Snider’s Rock & Roll Christmas Tale. Thanks for talking with me. Let’s start with you telling me what a producer does for a show.

John Yonover: There are two things we can do. One, we can pick which projects we want to do and, two, when we will close them. That’s really the only choices that we have. So, I get a lot of scripts, and I pick the ones I like. My big job is to find money. Theater is very expensive, this show cost over a million dollars, so I have to go out and find people who are going to give me money. (Both laugh.) And when people give me money for theater, it is not a particularly good investment. So, if you said to me, “John, I would really like to make some money, should I invest in the theater?” I would say, “No. Not so much. You should put that money in stocks or you should put that money in a savings account” because seventy-five percent of the time, they lose money. So it takes a special kind of knucklehead to want to be a producer, right? You have to find money and you’re not going to give people much of an opportunity to get their money back. But when you do give their money back, like when you’ve got a show like Motown or Jersey Boys or WickedWicked by far, probably the most successful Broadway show ever—then they make a bunch of money. So what we say on Broadway is, “You can’t make a living, but you can make a killing!” So, that’s my job as a producer.

Ada Grey: What made you think, “Dee Snider has to be in this show.”

John Yonover: Well, when I first read the script, Dee was intending not to be in the show. He wanted to write it and then watch it go up. And I said, “You know, Dee, you need to be in the show because it’s your show.” When you produce theater without a brand, it is even more difficult. Think about Motown, for example. Motown is a brand. You know those records. You know Michael Jackson or you know the Jackson Five. So there is an immediate understanding: Oh, I know that! If I said to you, “Rock & Roll Christmas Tale” or “Wicked” which are you going to go to? You’re going to go to Wicked because you’re going to say, “So what’s that other show? I’m not going to spend my hard-earned money on a show I don’t know anything about.” But if Dee Snider is in it and you’re a Dee Snider fan, you say, “Oh, I like this. I’m going to check that out.” Having Dee above the title brings another audience to our show.

Ada Grey: What is the hardest decision you have to make as a producer?

John Yonover: The hardest decision is to find people you really want to work with. Call it the lunch test. Really, it wasn’t my creation. It was a friend of mine who is a very successful producer. It is called the lunch test, and, Ada, what that is is you take somebody out to lunch and you have a really good lunch, and you really like them, and you want to go out to lunch with them again. If you don’t want to go out to lunch with them again, you probably don’t want to work with them. And so Dee, for me, passed the lunch, breakfast, and dinner test because we really got along instantly. We are very similar people. He’s a dad; I’m a dad. He’s a grandpa; I’m not yet a grandpa. But he’s married 38 years; I’m married 27 years. We are very similar people. And when you work with people that you really like, great things happen! So that was the first connection, and then Adam, our director, he was friends with Dee from Rock of Ages, and he came into the project. And so it all just happens. But each of these guys, for me, had to go through the lunch test.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review of The Phantom Tollbooth at The Theatre School at DePaul

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Phantom Tollbooth. It was by Susan Nanus. It was based on the book by Norton Juster and it was directed by David Catlin. It was about a little boy named Milo (Erinn Fredin) who gets a package with a tollbooth in it. Totally normal. And then he goes on this magical adventure to go save two princesses of Sweet Rhyme (Taylor Blim) and Pure Reason (Vahishta Vafadari). And he meets a dog named Tock (Brian Rife) and a humbug named The Humbug (Dominique Watkins) and lots of other amazing creatures. I really loved this show. I think it is great to take your kids to and I think it is a great adaptation of the book. I love David Catlin's work, like Lookingglass Alice and The Little Prince. All the plays of his I've seen have circus elements, and I think that is really awesome.

This play's look is just mesmerizing all around. The very first thing you see is Milo's room which looks like any little boy's or girl's room, but then the play starts and you see a clock (Shadana Patterson) which just looks like a woman in a black top with a white skirt with numbers all around. Then she pulls the skirt up with her hands and then you see a clock. The costumes were by Catharine Young and I thought that they were all amazing. I also really liked it when Rhyme and Reason tore off their dresses and there were sun outfits under them. I also really liked the Humbug's outfit. I thought that it was super cool because it had these awesome sunglasses that could go up and look like bugs eyes. I also liked how he had two walking sticks which were also like praying mantis legs. And he wore tap shoes and tap-danced everywhere he went! I liked the tower that Rhyme and Reason went to (scenic design by Jake Ives) because it was very modern and not at all like the tower you'd think that they would be in. The car was super cool because it still looked like a toy car. It was cool that you could see the feet powering it, because then you could see the imagination part of it.

I though that the banquet scene was really awesome because they ate their entire meal on a held-up cloth. This is a trick banquet basically. What happens in it is that they say what they want to eat and then they eat their words Badump pshhh! They used the cloth as basically a circus/magic act because they pulled it from under and waved it above their heads and everything was gone. King Azaz, the Unabridged (Awate Serequeberhan) looked basically like a nerd. In a good way--I am a nerd myself and I love nerds. I am not using the word nerd in a mean context. He had thick glasses and I thought that he did a great job acting like sort of a doofus but still seeming smart. Another thing about the banquet scene that I liked was how The Spelling Bee (Maya Malan-Gonzalez) and the Humbug were basically glaring at each other when they weren't talking to the king or eating.

The Dodecahedron was played by three people, but I don't know who they were. I think they were Sam Krey, Sam Haines, and Zivon Toplin. The Dodecahedron is a giant metal dodecahedron that they move around with their own hands. A dodecahedron is a mathematical shape with 12 faces. The character is a person who helps Milo, Tock, and The Humbug find Digitopolis and the faces are really faces meant for talking and eating and smelling. Each face has a different expression. I thought that the character was cool before this but this made it even cooler because it incorporates the circus elements. You see the different faces because the actors move with the dodecahedron.

So Milo, Tock, and The Humbug are going to the tower in the sky to rescue the princesses. But first they have to defeat a bunch of demons. Because they have to. One of them is the Terrible Trivium (Krey) who just makes people do tedious work so they will never get to the princesses. Mwahahaha. This Terrible Trivium was on stilts which makes him even more threatening. I thought it was great how the Demon of Insincerity (Haines) was adorable but also kind of terrifying. He reminded me of an old-fashioned Furby. He basically was this puffball puppet with long arms and a little bill mouth and puppy eyes. If you imagine this it is the most adorable thing on earth but it is evil because it just tells lies that people would want to hear.

People who would like this show are people who like 12-faced mathematical shapes, eating words, and adorable demons. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is funny, true to the book, and circus-filled! I had a lot of fun seeing it with my friend Maggie, and I think you will have fun taking your friends too!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Monday, October 20, 2014

Review of Step Up Productions' Dead Accounts at The Den Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Dead Accounts. It was by Theresa Rebeck and directed by Jason Gerace. It was about a man who loved Graeter's ice cream named Jack (Steve O'Connell) and he had come back home to his parents' house in Ohio because he's having trouble back in New York. He wasn't welcomed home with open arms by his sister Lorna (Emily Tate) because he had bought a little (actually a LOT) too much of ice cream. Food can help you feel better about yourself, but it can also make you feel worse. And he needs to feel better about himself because he did something bad, but I won't give it away. You have to go and see the show! This is not just a play about food; it is about mixed feelings, childhood, and money. People should definitely go see this show. I had so much fun because it had a lot of puzzles and it is fun to play with the ideas.

The show started out with a scene between Lorna and Jack. This was when Jack had just arrived and she was super mad. But he didn't want her to be mad so he started to try to make her feel better with ice cream. But she was on a diet. Jack thinks about food as something that can make him feel at home and like he is not a bad person and like he is back being a kid like when he lived back in Ohio. Lorna thinks that ice cream is something that will make you feel that you wish you had never done that because then you'll be fat. But I think that she is sort of a cynic for that. She worries too much about what she looks like. But we shouldn't just stuff our faces; we should eat when we want to eat or feel like we should eat. And you also can have too much money. If you have just enough money that people won't think you are rich or poor, people will leave you alone. Lorna sees the world as a place to try to be a better person, even if that makes you sad, and Jack sees it as a place where you can eat and have fun and spend money a lot. Nobody really has the best of lives in this play, so the audience has to puzzle out what is the best part of each person's life.

The relationship between Lorna and Jack's friend Phil (Bradford R. Lund) was basically that Phil had asked Lorna on a date in high school but then never asked her out again. So she thought she'd done something wrong, but he was just scared that he'd done something wrong. When two people want to be together but both of them think they've done something wrong to the relationship, that is not a good thing. Jack and Jenny (Elizabeth Antonucci) also have a messed up relationship but not in the same way because Jack and Jenny don't think that they did something wrong. They think that each other did something wrong. I don't feel the same about both relationships. I think Jack and Jenny should get a divorce, but I think the other two should start dating because they actually haven't done anything wrong. Phil and Lorna's relationship is a kind of a puzzle because you have to assemble it just right for them to be able to get together.

There is a funny scene where Jenny was on the phone with her lawyer/boyfriend. And she is telling him all about the bad things in the house like how they have weird silverware and mounted plates up on the wall. And then the mom Barbara (Millie Hurley) walks in and Jenny doesn't see her. Barbara stands there in the doorway for a long time. It was funny because of the mother's expression when Jenny was talking about the plates. And Jenny is finally done talking and then the mom starts to rant about how those are beautiful plates and stuff like that. Jenny is being mean about the stuff in the house because they don't live in a giant mansion with a giant garage and a beautiful garden with fountains like she does. But they have made their own little place where they feel comforted. Barbara likes her own house because it makes her happy and she thinks it is beautiful. And outside in their yard where the trees are planted is where they always like to be because it reminds them of when they planted those trees in their childhood. And also the mom knows that Jenny doesn't value her mansion more than they value their little house.

People who would like this show are people who like puzzles, surprises, and ice cream. I had a lot of fun at this show and I think that it was a great experience to have because I had never seen a play like this before. It was so great. It makes you think about morality, relationships, and dairy. I think people should definitely go and see it!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review of Goldilocks and the Three Bears at Emerald City Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It was directed by Ernie Nolan. The music was by George Stiles and the book was by Anthony Drewe. It was about a little girl named Goldilocks (Mary Margaret Roberts) whose father (Martin James Hughes) was making a new road but it would go right through the three bears's (Claire Kaiser, Blake Reddick, and Tommy Bullington) house. One day, Goldilocks came upon the house. She had run away from her dad because she couldn't chop wood with him. And she basically vandalizes the house. Most of you know the story. I think this could be a fun show to take little kids to because I think it was a good pace and length for kids under 5.

I thought that this show had problems with associating gender with certain things. If you take your child to go see this show, you should talk to them afterward because when you leave the show it leaves you with two different perspectives on what women are good for. One of them is a song that Goldilocks sings about being a girl and how she can do anything. And I thought, "Yeah! That's right! Girls can do anything!" But then in a song a little bit before, the bears were singing a song about porridge--which I thought went on a little too long--and then the boys are asked to make their own porridge. But then they try to make porridge and both fail miserably. That is sexist against men and women because it suggests that women are only good for one thing, cooking and doing all the housework. It is sexist against men because it is like, "Cooking is women's work. Men can't cook!" (I imagine that being said by a commercial announcer from 40's radio.) I thought we dealt with that a long time ago! I think it is great how women can do housework but men can do the same, and both of them can also have other jobs. Whatever people do, their work should be cherished and not taken for granted.

I thought that it was great that this play decided to deal with environmental issues, but the little kids I think wouldn't have gotten it, only the kids coming that were like 6 and over would have gotten the clues that they were talking about environmental issues. The play suggests that people are killing animals to make big city roads and more pollution. But I think a three year old doesn't really understand about death and bulldozers that could knock down trees and kill birds. And if they do, this play would just make them sad. The play doesn't think that people should just not make roads; it thinks that people should plan them out so they cannot kill animals. That is a good idea, but I think it is more appropriate for older kids who can actually deal with the idea of animals dying and actually think about it.

I liked it when Goldilocks ripped off her skirt and there were pants under it. I thought that showed how she was a girl who was ready to go out and explore. And I thought it was cute how she had a bear backpack that she would turn around to show things. The costumes (by Megan E. Turner) were pretty cool overall. I liked Mama Bear's outfit because it looked like something from Marilyn Monroe's time. I also thought it was cool how they taught the kids how to actually make porridge. They told them all the ingredients and they also showed you how to cook it. Then the children can go home and make porridge, and it will remind them of how much fun they had.

People who would like this show are people who like animal rights, cute bear backpacks, and porridge. It is getting hard for me to think about what I would think about this show if I were five, but I think that little kids would probably like this show a lot. Older kids might want to wait to see BFG at Emerald City, which I am very excited to go and see!

Photos: Johnny Knight

Friday, October 10, 2014

Review of The House Theatre of Chicago's Season on the Line

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Season on the Line. It was by Shawn Pfautsch and directed by Jess McLeod. It was about a theater company that was not in very good shape because the person who was directing Moby Dick, Ben Adonna (Thomas J. Cox),which was supposed to be their grand production, was a little insane. Actually, a lot insane. He was insane because he didn't think about what was good for the theater company very much. He just thought about what was good for himself and the production. And I think this play taught you that you shouldn't think too much about the reviewer if they are scary to you because then you will try too hard to make it good and then it will be bad. And if the reviewer even seems nice, you should do your best not to be scared. You should make art because you want to. I thought this show was very cool because there are not that many shows about what it is like to be in a theater company. It shows you that it can be very hard, that it is not all happy happy fun times, but it can also be an experience that can change a person, like the Narrator (Ty Olwin) changes from not knowing anything about theater to feeling like he is a pro because he has experienced almost everything that could possibly happen in the theater.

I thought it was cool how the set (by Lee Keenan) looked like an old swimming pool because that was what the theater was supposed to look like. It was cool how there was a hole in the swimming pool that was basically the entrance to the stage. The set told you that this was a theater company that needed help because their backstage and front stage both looked like old swimming pools. I thought that would have been a cool set even for just Moby Dick.

I liked how the meetings seemed actually like production meetings and meetings of actors. This play is about what it is like to be backstage or onstage at a theater. There are a lot of things that are unanswered in even the tenth meeting. Like the costume designer Valerie (Jessica Dean Turner) seemed like the nicest character, and she found out that all her costume ideas were going to be trashed because of Ben. Every designer had their ideas trashed either by Ben or by Faye (Tiffany Yvonne Cox) who was basically a pretty strange woman who came around showing everyone this paper flower, which was supposedly going to be the set. But nobody knew how it was going to work because they didn't have enough money. And they couldn't make it electronic. This shows you that their company needs help because their only help is this crazy woman.

They had a bunch of different types of directors to show you what it is like to have different directors and to experience them one after the other. Elizabeth Fricke (Marika Mashburn) was very nice and funny and she treated her actors and designers all like she'd known them forever. She was happy to accept other people's ideas. Peter Trellis (Andy Lutz) was a director who wanted to get things done but had a slightly short temper. But he wasn't so mean that people hated him. He wants to make every person that he is with feel like they are awesome and cute or beautiful. He starts every rehearsal by saying something like, "this looks like a very attractive crowd of actors!" He is not very confident about himself so he needs help from people. I think that Elizabeth was much more confident about herself than Peter, but we still haven't gotten to the worst director. Ben Adonna was basically the scariest director that there has ever been because he wanted everything to be perfect and exactly his way. No one could have any say about it except him him him him him Faye and him.

I thought that Joao (Christopher M. Walsh) was really funny because he had all these different hand signs and he was so serious about them. It was just so funny. One time the stage manager Day (Maggie Kettering) told the narrator what Joao meant, but I think he was actually insulting her. I thought the stage manager character was a great character to have in a show because most people don't understand how hard a stage manager's job is. So now, I want to give a shout out to Brian DesGranges who is the real stage manager for this show! The stage manager's job is so hard because anything the director can't do it is the stage manager's job. She has to fix the costumes if the designer isn't around and take care of all the actors' problems. And if they have an evil director named Ben then the stage manager's job is the worst!

The benefit scene was very funny because of this giant speech that Ben had and when Nan (Allison Latta), who was an actress and like a managing director, started talking to him like "Ok, I think that is enough" he just kept going and going about how awesome his production was going to be. Then her face just went into fear and then he would glare at her, but then he would be done.

The lighting designer's name was Ashley Salt (Mary Hollis Inboden) and I liked how she seemed very serious about her job. But she was also a funny character. I loved when she brought in her mini light system to show to everyone and it changed different colors and everyone was like "Oh! That's very cool! Lovely!" and they kept going on like that. She acts all nice when she is around other people, but when she talks to the audience she seems really angry!

There was a character named Kaku (Danny Bernardo) who was basically a bartender and an actor in The Great Gatsby. He was also very nice to everybody. I think he was kind of in love with the narrator, but maybe he was just really good friends with him and loved him when he was drunk. He was special because he never lost hope really even when Ben was being mean to everyone.

I think that I would love to see a Great Gatsby with Mickey (Abu Ansari) in it because even if you didn't see him actually act on stage as Gatsby, you saw him rehearse and he was great. They cast him as Gatsby because they wanted to make a change to make Gatsby not white. It seemed like a great idea because when they say, "We're all white here," if people look at the waiter, who is not as significant a character, then it wouldn't show how much Gatsby is discriminated against.

Amos Delaney (Shane Kenyon) was basically a movie star who came to be in the shows because he used to be a good friend of the company. But he is also a professional jerk. He thinks he should be treated like the biggest hero on earth, which he is not at all. He also basically turns into a four year old through the middle of the play because he discovers that he is not who he is pretending to be. So he starts over by being a little kid again, so he can start over his life and be like he used to be. You feel like at the beginning that he is hopeless and that he will never get better and he will always be a jerk, but at the end you actually feel sorry for him.

The reviewer Arthur Williamson (Sean Sinitski), also known as the white whale, basically everything in the play depends on him because if he doesn't give the shows a good review it is the end of the company. I think that it is good that reviewers have power but not that they can have so much power that by giving a bad review everyone would be without a job. I think it is true, as Arthur Williamson says, that you want to be true to your readers and be true to the theater company, but you can't always do both. Arthur Williamson was a sympathetic character because you saw it was hard for him to be kind to everyone. I can say "people who would like this show" about anything because even if I don't like a show, maybe other people would like it. I try to find the best things possible in the shows to put in my reviews. And there has never been a time in a show where I couldn't find something that was at least mildly good.

People who would like this show are people who like reviewers, theater companies, and paper flowers. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I really enjoyed this show because it was funny but it was also sad because the theater company in the play is on its last legs and you know it. I think that people who aren't familiar with what it is like backstage will learn a lot from this show and love it, and I think people who do know a lot about theater will also love this show because they will recognize certain aspects of what their own experiences have been like.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review of Upended Productions' Alice.

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Alice. It was created and curated by Noelle Krimm. This doesn't just take place in a normal theater; it takes place all over Andersonville. I really really had a lot of fun at this show. I felt like I was about to go on an amusement park ride when I was waiting for it to start. You didn't know at all what was going to happen next. You didn't know what was going to be around the corner or anything. You could see a crazy card man or you could see a little bunny bucket with candy in it. I think this was a great way to do Alice in Wonderland because usually you are just watching people on an adventure, but in this case you are actually being the Alice on the adventure. I loved this show so much! It may make your feet tired, but it is totally worth it!

I will be talking about a bunch of different things, but I won't give everything away. I'll just be doing little snippets about each chapter. I thought that the Hostess Bunny (Dina Marie Walters) was a great character to follow. Not everybody will get to follow her, but I'm positive that all the others are also very good. I thought the Hostess Bunny was great because she was very hilarious because her best friend was a housework and cooking book! I felt a little bit that I could die at any moment around her because there were graffiti and signs around that said, "Don't Trust the Bunny" and "Don't Follow the Bunny" and she would cover up the signs and be like, "Don't look!" She seemed very innocent and very nice but sometimes in movies and stuff like that the nicest people are the most cruel.

The Dodos were a bunch of birds who liked to squirt water in their faces when they weren't working. They squirted water in their faces because they didn't want to go extinct. It reminded me of the pool of tears that Alice gets washed into. They kept saying "yes" and "no" or "do" and "don't," but the funny thing was even when they said "don't" they would still spray water in their faces. And then we had to run around and answer questions and I thought that was pretty fun!

The Bills (Greg Allen, Brittany Anderson, Taylor Bailey, Niki Dee, and Christopher Lewis) come around sometimes and do card tricks for you or give you notes that help you along your way. If you have not read the book or seen the movie (what is wrong with you?), Bill is a lizard who comes and helps the White Rabbit get Alice out of the house when she is giant. I loved the Bills because they were very very very surprising. I think without the Bills it wouldn't have been as fun because it wouldn't have been as thrilling to walk from one location to another without them surprising you or your bunny. And it is fun to see your Bunny's reaction to them.

There was a part where a man who is basically a chapter (David Kodeski), you came to him and he was sitting reading his dream diary. I thought that was really cool because then you are supposed to send him letters about your dreams, but he didn't actually like people telling him about dreams, but he was kind of the bearer of dreams. His dream was how there was a giant dog and he threw a stick and it came back and made him very very mad. The dog is from a chapter in Alice in Wonderland and so is the rest of his dream. I thought the shop (Wooly Mammoth Antiques and Oddities) was very cool because there was a giraffe and a skeleton was right behind me and there were actually people in the shop staring at all of us.

The Caterpillar (Clifton Frei) was in a bar (Simon's) and he considered himself "a small one." So then he talked for a very long time, kind of nonsensically, about being a small one. And he made diagrams out of lollipops which he had been unwrapping and not eating. So the caterpillar was kind of a drunk, and it is sort of appropriate because in the book the caterpillar is smoking something. And that is something people do a lot when they are drunk.

There was a section where you were supposed to sit down and watch a movie (by Logan Kibbens). And there was this grown man just swinging back and forth. And there was a baby, which seemed to be unattended, swinging nearby. In the movie there was no baby that turned into a pig and I think the baby was supposed to be swinging behind us being not taken care of. I thought the movie was very strange, in a good way. Sometimes when they do these kind of insanely strange stories they don't make them strange enough. I liked how it seemed to be out in the desert in the middle of nowhere and the cat (Maesa Pullman) was out there playing an accordion and just kept smiling.

There was a tea party which took place someplace--well I won't give it away--but took place somewhere a tea party wouldn't take place. I loved the surprise of that. Because you look where they are and then you are like "What the…?" and I looked away for a second and looked back and they were still there. Then you start having a conversation with them. And they start talking about bad boyfriends and stuff and I thought that was really cool. And they all did this one breath and the one breath was all together and then they did a few dance moves and they all lay down. They all lay down because they couldn't take it anymore and it reminded me of the dormouse falling asleep at the end of the tea party.

Then you walk into this room where they tell everyone to go in and visit the queen. And so you do. And by the time I was first in line I was hyperventilating like a puppy because I know the story of Alice in Wonderland and I know that the queen is not supposed to be a nice guy. Then you went and teared up paper and stuff like that because they asked you to and you had to do what the queen asked. And the first thing they ask you is, "Do you play croquet?" and I said "Sort of" because I played it once and I know the concept of it.

The next thing is the school under the sea. Striding Lion did this part. I saw them do American Me and Remember the Alamo and I thought those were both amazing. And I thought this was also very cool because it seemed like it was a modern dance school. I liked how they asked some of the people to come up and do the dance moves. They asked my mom and she said it should have been me because I know how to dance. But I think that their point was that no one in the school could learn anything very much because the moves were so hard and they showed it once. Then the teacher got so sad that we had to go comfort her by pretending to be waves. And then they would each sing a song about homework. I thought that was pretty funny how homework songs would cheer her up!

Then we went to visit Chad the Bird (Josh Zagoren) who was at the court. And I thought it was funny because he said: "I was looking for my keys, and nobody helped, and they were all humans just like you. So you are all guilty!" But then I won't give away the ending, because that was too funny! When my friend Clara and I were watching Chad the Bird, we turned around and the card man was standing right there and we just freaked out. When would glance back every few seconds, but then one time when we looked back he was about to look right at us and it was so funny.

Then there is the ending scene by Sophisticated Cornbread (I love that name and it makes me very hungry for some sweet cornbread) where there is the King of Hearts, the Queen of Hearts, and a few executors who just halt you. And then they have you stand under important or unimportant and my whole family stood under important, but then my dad had to go to unimportant even though I thought he was very important. But then something terrifying happens, but I won't tell you what it is. It is not too terrifying for kids, but it was just surprising.

People who would like this show are people who like bunnies, insanity, and lollipops. I think should definitely see this show. It is so funny, and I had so much fun, and I think you should bring all your best friends to it because they will have a lot of fun. It is basically like you get to go on the experience of going to Wonderland with your friend.

Photos: Johnny Knight