Monday, December 28, 2015

Ada Grey's Top 10 Plays, Top 5 Musicals, and Top 5 Kids' Shows of 2015

Once upon a time I reviewed one hundred and eighteen shows. This has been a great year for lots of different kinds of shows. I saw some great musicals and I saw some great kids' shows and I saw some great plays. When you went to see a kids' show, you could have seen an adaptation of Disney's The Little Mermaid or zoo animals doing Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (Lions in Illyria). You could have seen a musical about a sci-fi convention (Fanatical) in a small festival or a huge Broadway tour about gentlemen murdering people (A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder). You could have seen a creepy show about a murderer at the Columbian Exposition (Holmes vs. Holmes) or a creepy show about The Simpsons (Mr. Burns). You could have seen a funny show about con artists (Trust Us / Screw You) or a funny show about women thinking about cheating on their husbands in ridiculous ways (Fallen Angels). You could have seen a classic Shakespeare play with a magical twist (The Tempest) or an adaptation of a classic Ibsen play with a lot of modern references (Ibsen's Ghosts). You could have seen an exciting noir show with gun shots and duct tape (The Sweeter Option) or a show (Inana) about trying to keep an artifact safe (without duct tape). You could have seen a show about a family just beginning that has some problems (Barefoot in the Park) or about a family that has been around a long time but is just getting to know who they are (Marvin's Room). I'm really looking forward to seeing more shows next year!

Top 10 Plays

Theater Wit's Mr. Burns (Photo: Chalres Osgood) 

Barefoot in the Park
(Step Up Productions)

     People who would like this show are people who like adorable couples, funny arguments, and knichi.

Fallen Angels (Remy Bumppo)

     People who would like this show are people who like Frenchmen, suspiciously talented maids, and profiterole food fights.

Holmes vs. Holmes (E.D.G.E Theater)

     People who would like this show are people who like the Columbian Exposition, murder mysteries, and tea fights.

Ibsen's Ghosts
(Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company)

     People who would like this show are people who like dramatic stories, intimate spaces, and swearing pastors.

Inana (TimeLine Theatre Company)

     People who would like this show are people who like artifacts, suspense, and lingerie that your wife won't let you see.

Marvin's Room (Shattered Globe Theatre)

     People who would like this show are people who like courageous women, soap opera weddings, and awkward dancing gophers.

Mr. Burns
(Theater Wit)

     People who would like this show are people who like The Simpsons, cheesy commercials, and funny scary stories.

The Sweeter Option (Strawdog Theatre Company)

     People who would like this show are people who like noir, action, and literally instant coffee.

The Tempest
(Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

     People who would like this show are people who like amazing magic, conjoined monster twins, and alcoholic beverages.

Trust Us / Screw You
(The Neo-Futurists)

     People who would like this show are people who like card castles, con pranks, and exasperated ATMs.



Top 5 Musicals
A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder (Photo: Joan Marcus)


Fanatical (American Demigods at the 2015 Chicago Musical Theatre Festival)


    People who would like this show are people who like science fiction conventions, awesome music, and awkward women trying to seduce their heroes.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Porchlight Music Theatre)

     People who would like this show are people who like comedy tonight, not-good-at-math courtesans, and Beaker eunuchs.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder
(Broadway in Chicago)

     People who would like this show are people who like charming murderers, amazing music, and identical D'Ysquiths.

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

     People who would like this show are people who like Miami Sound Machine, festive dances, and bar mitzvah conga lines.

Plastic Revolution
(The New Colony)


     People who would like this show are people who like old-fashioned commercials, Tupperware, and insanely long scarves.



Top 5 Kids' Shows

The Secret Life of Suitcases (Photo: Anne Binckebanck)

Lifeboat (Filament Theatre Ensemble)


     People who would like this show are people who like    , suspense, and friendship.


Lions in Illyria (Lifeline Theatre)


     People who would like this show are people who like hugs, candy, and pirate monkeys.

The Little Mermaid
(Chicago Shakespeare Theater)


     People who would like this show are people who like mohawked fish, tap-dancing seagulls, and amazing evil octopus ladies.


The One and Only Ivan (Lifeline Theatre)


     People who would like this show are people who like gorilla best friends, elephants with human spirits, and adorable Bob dogs.

The Secret Life of Suitcases
(Ailie Cohen Puppet Maker and Lewis Heatherington at Stages, Sights & Sounds)


     People who would like this show are people who like walking suitcases and eating spaghetti on the beach.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Review of The Heir Apparent at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Heir Apparent. It was by David Ives adapted from Le Légataire universel by Jean-François Regnard. It was directed by John Rando. It was about this man named Eraste (Nate Burger) and he was in love with this girl named Isabelle (Emily Peterson) but he was not super rich, so he went to his uncle Geronte (Paxton Whitehead) who he had been taking care of. But he does not want to give the money to Eraste, even though he owes him the most. The story is about Eraste and Geronte's servants Crispin (Cliff Saunders) and Lisette (Jessie Fisher) trying to show Geronte how good a person Eraste is so he can get the money and marry Isabelle. As you may imagine, hilarity ensues. I thought this was an interesting show and it was fun, and I hadn't seen anything like it before.

There were so many very funny things in this show. There is one time when Isabelle is so upset because she is going to have to marry someone who is not her own true love, but somebody who is more gross and more for her mom (Linda Kimbrough). And she throws herself into this circular cushioned bench that looks like a donut and falls face first into it, crying, and her skirt floofs up. And it was so hilarious. Another funny thing that Isabelle did was whenever she would leave Eraste they would turn into this big cheesy soap opera and say a bunch of things in French and just run away. And I loved it. There was also a time when Lisette and Eraste were trying to pull off pretending to be servants to Crispin, who is disguised as Geronte. And he makes them do so many crazy silly things in front of Scruple the lawyer (Patrick Kerr), like telling them to chew up this paper. And when people look away, they spit out the paper and it is hilarious. When Isabelle, Eraste, and Crispin all dress up as pig ladies to fool Geronte that his niece is a pig lady, it was so funny. Crispin comes out at one time, but then the others don't know he is dressing up as a pig lady, so each of them decides on their own that they are going to dress up as pig ladies, and they all keep coming in but as pig ladies in the exact same costume. Eventually they scare Geronte so much that he runs away into the other room because he is too scared of all the pig ladies that are coming.

Geronte transforms over the show into a different personality. He becomes a different person overnight. I thought that is was amazing how much he could alter how he acted in such a short amount of time. That made me like the second act a lot better than the first act because it was really fun to see the transformation and also how people reacted to the transformation. And also, everyone thought that he was dead! So that is also a pretty big change. I thought the people's expressions when he came out for the last time in the second act were hilarious. Their mouths dropped. This play is mostly ridiculousness, but it does show you that people can transform overnight. Just by thinking over their decisions, one can become a better person. Everybody does become better people by the end, but along the way they are worse people because of greed and selfishness.

The language was a not a normal talking language, but it wasn't Shakespeare either. It was more like listening to a rhyming poem with crass humor in it. Most of the language was not appropriate to the time period of the play and I wasn't a huge fan of that. I do understand that they did that because it was a twist on the language of someone who wrote like Molière. I think they wanted the audience to get more of the jokes. I feel like that did happen, but I just didn't feel like I was transported back to that time and I expected to be because of the beautiful set (by Kevin Depinet) and the fabulous costumes (by David Woolard) and the way that they spoke. So when I wasn't, I felt kind of like they told me what they were giving me but then didn't actually end up giving it to me. It didn't ruin the play for me, but it was something that didn't make the play better for me.

People who would like this show are people who like crazy transformations, French soap operas, and pig-nosed nieces. I thought this show was fun and I enjoyed it. And I think if you are prepared for the language to be different from what you expect for the time period, you might enjoy it even more than I did.


Photos: Liz Lauren

Review of Kokandy Production's A Kokandy Christmas

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Kokandy Christmas. It was directed by Michael Potsic and the music direction was by Aaron Benham. The arrangements were by Potsic and Benham. It was basically a concert with stories told by the actors: Emily Grayson, Christina Hall, Garrett Lutz, and Sasha Smith. I didn't see Jaymes Osbourne, but he's usually in it too. I really enjoyed myself. You get to tap your foot along with some of your favorite Christmas tunes. I really liked it.

I thought the stories were all very intriguing. Some were touching and some were funny, but they all captured the Christmas spirit and showed what Christmas meant to the individual people. The story Sasha Smith told was very funny and touching because she sat under the tree with her N'Sync album and her Barbie, crying because those were the two things she really wanted. I thought that was hilarious. But the touching part is that her mom would drive around with her looking at Christmas lights and singing Christmas carols to her and she fell asleep listing to her mom in the dark but lighted night. I thought that was very beautiful. Christina Hall's story I really liked because it was all about her family going to get their Christmas tree, but they lived in Texas so there was no snow. So they decided to get this coating of fake snow on their tree, and then the people in the neighborhood would stop by and say how beautiful it was. And I thought the point of the story was that one small thing can bring a whole neighborhood together. Emily Grayson also had a very moving story because she had been going through some hard times. And she doesn't usually celebrate Christmas, but one time she walked into a Christmas tree lot and realized that Christmas is not just a holiday that other people celebrate; it is something she could feel too. Garrett Lutz had a story about watching Christmas movies with his family, but one year he couldn't do that because he was at college. So he just watched with his friends. And that showed that if you still have your traditions, no matter where you are, it will still make you feel at home.

I really liked the music. One thing that I liked about it was that they always made at least a small little twist on your favorite Christmas songs. "All I Want for Christmas is You" was super funny because it was like a confession at the wrong time. Garett Lutz is trying to sing his song and then Sasha Smith comes in and is trying to seduce him with her Christmas song. And his reaction is kind of like, "Not now, please." But then they start dancing together and it is so hilarious. I loved the song "River" that Emily Grayson sang. I felt like her voice was so perfect with the song. It is about everybody having a lot of Christmas cheer except for you, and you are trying to get away from all the happiness because you don't feel the happiness and you wish you had a river you could skate away on. "The Little Drummer Boy" was the normal song but with a twist. Every time they got to a certain part of the song, the drummer (Scott Simon) would go crazy and play really fast, but then he would get glared at by the bassist (Ben Dillinger) and piano player (Benham). And it was kind of like Animal from the Muppets. I thought it was hilarious.

People who would like this show are people who like Texas Christmas trees, Christmas songs, and N'Sync and Barbies. I think people should definitely go see this show before Christmas. It got me in the Christmas spirit and I really loved it. It made me feel like going and decorating our Christmas tree, eating cookies, and watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special!

Photos: Samuel Rose

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Review of Strawdog Theatre's Robin Hood and Maid Marian

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Robin Hood and Maid Marian. It was based on The Foresters by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and adapted by Forks and Hope. It was directed by Matt Pierce. It was about a man named Robin Hood (Caleb Probst) and he was in love with a woman called Maid Marian (Kelsey Shipley). But on his thirtieth birthday he was banished to the forest by Prince John (Andrew Bailes). Maid Marian's problem is that her father (Amber Robinson) is going to lose his land because he can't repay the money he owes the Abbot (Addison Heimann). So then her and her dad run away to the woods to wait for the return of King Richard (Stuart Ritter) and of course she runs into her one true love. Robin Hood is in the woods stealing from the rich and giving to the poor with his band of Merry Men: Much (David Fink), Will Scarlet (Austin Oie), Friar Tuck (Lee Russell), and Little John (Suzanne Ziko). I really liked this show. I thought it was really fun. It had great fights (by Sam Hubbard) and I thought the music (by Oie) was really cool and I was really into the story.

Little John makes a big fuss over very little things in his relationship with Kate (Kaitlyn Majoy), like who kisses who first when it really doesn't matter as long as you kiss. Kate makes a big fuss about Little John almost killing Maid Marian on accident, but that makes much more sense. I liked how Little John was played by a woman because I had never seen that before and it kind of changed up the story and made it a little more "now" because women can get married to each other now. It also made Little John seem like less of a sexist and made him look more like he was just dumb about relationships. So you started to enjoy him more and how funny he was instead of being like, "Oh my god." I liked how it was a discovery moment when Robin Hood kisses Kate and I had forgotten Kate and Little John's agreement that if he saw her kissing another man that they could get back together. And I didn't take it in for a second, and then I realized their agreement and I was very happy.

I really liked the Old Woman scene. Robin Hood went to this Old Woman's (Emilie Modaff) house and he asked to use her clothes so he could disguise himself because Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham (Christian Stokes) were coming. And Robin Hood's rendition of the old woman was so hilarious I almost died. And when they came in, the Old Woman would scream at the top of her lungs from behind the sound booth and scare the crap out of everyone, and it was so hilarious. And when they discover that Robin Hood disguised as the Old Woman had a bow and arrow on "her" back and can shoot as well as a tie-fighter, they realize that it is Robin Hood and then they go into an awesome, really action-packed battle. All the animals (like the birds they shoot at in this scene) are played by people. The birds wore penguin hats (costumes by Raquel Adorno), and later one of them wore an eyepatch. (You'll have to figure out why on your own. Go see the show.) I thought the animals were hilarious.

Robin Hood and Maid Marian are a really cute couple. They seemed to really love each other. There are so many obstacles in their way, but love overcomes them all. I liked that Maid Marian was super sweet and generous and kind and smart, but she was also a total badass. And Robin Hood takes from the rich and gives to the poor, has an awesome group of friends, is a really good shot, and loves to party, and he is also a total badass. I also really loved their performances. They were both very witty and clever. I also loved the music that they danced to together when they danced at his birthday party. I would have loved to have gone to that birthday party.

People who would like this show are people who like stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, screaming old women, and birds with eyepatches. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It was my favorite Forks and Hope show so far. I really loved it.

Photos: Tom McGrath

Review of 20% Theatre Company's Little Women

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Little Women. It was adapted from the novel by Louisa May Alcott by Timothy Good, with script adaptation by Emma Couling, Phoebe Gonzalez, and Lindsay A. Bartlett. It was directed by Couling. It was about four sisters named Jo (Charlotte Ostrow), Beth (Serena Pomerantz), Meg (Emily Green), and Amy (Rachael Barry), and their father was away at the Civil War. Life was hard for them because they didn't have much money. The story is mostly about Jo and about her writing and her trying to take care of her sisters. I think this show is about sisterhood, choosing an artistic line of work, and discovering things about yourself. I thought this was a good show. The acting was good and I felt like the story was very well adapted. It was amazing that they made such a good show in such a small and not-super-adaptable space.

The girls started this club called the Pickwick Club and they all dressed up like men and would put on these hilarious posh accents. Then they sat around and read the journal that they had written. Eventually they had Laurie (Christopher Ratliff), who is Jo's best friend and has a crush on her, join the club. I thought it showed how the sisters' relationship was; instead of just being miserable and being in poverty, they had fun and played games at home. It also showed how Jo's writing was very exciting and that her other sisters did not share that talent. Beth just wrote a recipe called "The History of the Squash"! I thought that that was really hilarious. And when Jo said that Beth did not have to have a speaking part in the play, Beth hugged her and was so happy. That tells you that Beth is very shy and doesn't really like to perform. This was one of my favorite scenes. I really liked it.

Jo had two men who were after her, Laurie and Professor Bhaer (TJ Anderson). She was very popular in that sense, but she was not a flirt at all. They like her so much because she is not shy at all. You can talk to her and she will most definitely talk back. She is not stuck up, but she still has an opinion and she is also very smart. Laurie is kind of a prankster, and she wants a more honest kind of man. Professor Bhaer and Jo have a lot of the same interests, like books and writing, and they like the idea of seeing the world. And they both like teaching. Professor Bhaer teaches her that she doesn't have to write what the papers want; she can write what she wants to write, which is stories more about her and more based on what she is like and her life. I don't think Laurie is a terrible choice at all, but he's just not right for Jo.

I think that they balanced the humor and sadness very well. They didn't have you bawling throughout the entire show, but you weren't laughing the entire show either. I thought it was funny when Meg would just be going about her work and doing something that wasn't a big deal and then the tutor Mr. Brooke (Nathan Dunn) would walk in and she would immediately freeze what she was doing and smooth out her dress, and I thought it was hilarious. That is so true; that is exactly what you do when your crush walks into the room. It was very sad when Beth was talking about how she wasn't afraid to die. And it was also really sad when Amy found out Beth had died, and she was with Laurie, and he tried to comfort her. I found that really moving too.

People who would like this show are people who like Pickwick clubs, moving stories, and the history of the squash. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think this theater company should have way more people at their shows because I really enjoyed this and Fugue for Particle Accelerator.


Photos: Ashley Ann Woods

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review of Remy Bumppo's Fallen Angels

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Fallen Angels. It was by Noël Coward and it was directed by Shannon Cochran. It was about these two women, Julia (Emjoy Gavino) and Jane (Eliza Stoughton), who had been married for five years to two men named Fred (Fred Geyer) and Willy (Jesse Dornan). And they had been dreaming of Maurice (Joshua Moaney) who they had each fallen in love with before they were married. Maurice is from France and has just written both of them postcards saying that he is coming to visit them. They are super excited about it, but then they realize they are both married now. I don't really blame them for wanting to go with Maurice. Their husbands do seem kind of boring. It is about friendship, fantasies, and fighting your instincts. I thought this was a really great show. It was very very very very funny.

One of my favorite scenes was when Julia and Jane were waiting for Maurice to arrive. They were waiting for Maurice and trying to make it look like they ate like Kings and Queens everyday, but they end up eating like slobs, by just picking up the steaks on a knife and gnawing on them, because they didn't have any forks which is exactly what you need for steak. They have kind of starved themselves because Maurice hasn't shown up yet and they have drunken themselves into oblivion. And when they are drunk they try to walk down steps in high heels and they immediately collapse at the same time at the top of the stairs. Also they started throwing profiteroles at each other and they made a clunk on the ground which I thought was hilarious. Then they get tangled up together in the phone wire because they think it is Maurice and those gags were all hilarious. One time Jane sits on the edge of the couch and just falls completely backwards and I couldn't stop laughing. And it is really funny when she gets mad at Julia for stealing her shoes, but Julia did not steal her shoes. They were in plain sight but she didn't see them because she is insanely drunk.

Saunders (Annabel Armour) was their maid---or was she? She was a very mysterious maid because she had all these talents--like knowing how to play the piano and sing, knowing everything about golf, and being a nurse in the war--that you wouldn't have to know to be a maid. And she had a great hangover remedy too. She was also hilarious and she kind of pretended the house was her own. She kind of sometimes neglected her job and would just play the piano for awhile or go upstairs with a strange man for awhile. I wanted to see the maid's blonde hair. There is a blonde hair in the coffee and Julia is very weirded out by that, and Saunders starts tugging at her black-haired wig. It would have been funny if she took off her wig and blond hair fell down to her toes. I really wanted that. Having her in a wig made her even more weird than she was when you found out all the weird things she knows how to do or does. It would have been cool if you found out that she was actually a secret agent or something.

The last scene was so funny. I don't want to give too much away, but at the end the expression on the husbands' faces when they realize how dumb they are to have let their wives go out of their sight with another man was hilarious. They just were talking nicely and then something overcame them at the exact same time and they realized how dumb they were. This play is hilarious and not really serious, but it also teaches you a lesson: that relationships are precious things and you don't want to ruin them. So don't neglect the man or woman you are with or they will neglect you for a French person.

People who would like this show are people who like Frenchmen, suspiciously talented maids, and profiterole food fights. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. I absolutely loved it. It was very funny and clever. The acting was great and it was so fun to watch!

Photos: Johnny Knight

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Review of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. The book was by Douglas McGrath and the words and music were by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was directed by Marc Bruni and the music director was Susan Draus. The choreographer was Josh Prince. It was about Carole King (Abby Mueller) who became an amazing singer-songwriter starting in the 60s. She is a very big inspiration to a lot of women, and if you see this musical she will be even more of an inspiration to you. She goes through so many very hard times, but she always gets through them and she keeps writing her beautiful music. I thought that this was an amazing show. The music is so lovely and the acting is fabulous; you just feel all the things the characters are feeling.

The idea of the show is that they would have little intervals between the scenes about writing the songs to show the song they were writing in a performance. I thought it was super cool how they made that part of the show. There was a song called "On Broadway" that was really really good. I loved how Cynthia Weil (Becky Gulsvig) was so obsessed with Broadway and Broadway musicals. And she named a song she wrote with Barry Mann (Ben Fankhauser) "On Broadway" so she could still have some of what she wanted even though she was writing pop songs. The Drifters (Josh A. Dawson, Paris Nix, Noah J. Ricketts, and Dashaun Young) had this amazing dance to go with the song. I see why they were called The Drifters because they kind of glided around the stage. There was another song called "The Locomotion" that Carole King and Gerry Goffin (Liam Tobin) wrote together which their babysitter Little Eva (Ashley Blanchet) ended up performing which I thought was hilarious. That shows you that they meet a lot of really talented people and they don't even realize it until they give a song to their babysitter and it becomes a hit. All the other songwriters are like "Why are they so lucky? Why do they keep getting hits out of their babysitter?" I felt like the dance that went with it was super cool too. I've seen it before online but it was super cool to see it live. There was kind of like a conga line but you were making your arms move like the wheels of the train. I thought it was a really fun song and dance.

Carole King had a group of friends who were songwriters, including her husband Gerry and Cynthia and Barry. They would all hang out together, but sometimes things would go wrong between Gerry and Carole because they were going through a really hard time in their relationship. They had gotten married when they were very young because they were in love but also she was pregnant. He's finding that he feels like he doesn't belong with Carole anymore even though it is pretty clear that he does. That is one of the things that makes this play super sad. At the beginning you really like Gerry, but at the end you just feel sorry that he made such stupid mistakes and he missed his chance at an amazing life. Even though this story is sad, there are also some very inspiring moments like when Carole tells Gerry that they are over and she finally realizes that she can't change him and if he is just going to hurt everyone so much she doesn't want to be with him anymore. People should be inspired to stand up for what they want and what is right. There is a song called "It's Too Late" that I think comes out of what happens in that scene. And I felt like it was a very beautiful song and, with the inspiration of it, it made it very sad but also happy because you could see Carole King would probably live a better life without him. That big change in her life also lets her express herself more and she doesn't let herself stay behind the scenes. She shows the world that she is not just a songwriter but also an amazing singer.

I felt like Cynthia Weil was the comic relief but she was also Carole King's best friend. She would not just have the comedy lines, she would also try to help Carole in any way possible because it seemed like she really loved her. I loved this one scene where Barry and Cynthia had first met. They are writing a song and they have stayed up all night and they both say that they want to keep it strictly professional, but then it is clear that they don't! Her personality was very outgoing but she was also very competitive. I love when she comes in complaining about how she and Barry aren't selling any songs but Gerry and Carole are selling songs that are hits with their babysitter. She was inspiring too because she was such a good friend and she wrote such good lyrics that people still love today.

People who would like this show are people who like inspiring stories, beautiful music, and talented babysitters. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think it is an absolutely gorgeous story. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry. I loved it!


Photos: Joan Marcus

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review of Paramount Theatre's A Christmas Story

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Christmas Story. The book was by Joseph Robinette. The music and lyrics were by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul based on the movie by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, and Bob Clark. It was directed by Nick Bowling with music direction by Tom Vendafreddo. It is about a boy named Ralphie (Michael Harp) and he really wanted this BB gun for Christmas. But his parents don't really want him to get one. He is trying to deal with bullies (Ricky Falbo and Reid Patrick Tomasson) and he is also having trouble not being influenced by his dad's (Michael Accardo) language. He is trying to subtly hint to his mom (Danni Smith) and dad that he really wants a BB gun and to get that he has to be good and not say anything bad about people and stay out of fights so that he can get that BB gun. It is about family, wanting something that you can't have, and the hard age of nine. It was very funny and the musical numbers were amazing. And the dances were awesome too.

"You'll Shoot Your Eye Out" was a great musical number. It was very funny and it was set in the 20s, which I thought was super cool. The costumes (Sally Dolembo) were really awesome and the way they danced (choreography by Rhett Guter) was super cool. I thought that Ralphie was amazing at tap dancing. I take tap dancing lessons so it was super fun to watch him bust out his moves. I loved it when Ralphie started tapping faster and faster until you could barely see his legs anymore. I liked how the schoolroom (set design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec) was transformed into the wild west in "Ralphie to the Rescue" and into a 20s nightclub for this song. They would change the door and move around the desks and they would also project on the chalkboard different things. You get to see inside Ralphie's head and you see him project what he thinks his teacher (Ericka Mac) is being like, which is mocking him about what his parents have been saying. They have been saying he'll shoot his eye out with a BB gun.

I thought it was hilarious how the dad thought the lamp was a major award. He shouldn't have even gotten it for himself, because his wife answered all the questions. And she doesn't even like it, so....she should have a say in it, duh! But it's still a good number! It was super funny to see all these girls dressed up in lampshades coming out and doing the can-can. If you know the story, you know the lamp is not the most appropriate of lamps, because it is a fishnet-stocking-wearing leg. And i find that so hilarious. I just love how much he admires it. I love the kind of ridiculous song where someone, in this case the dad, is super excited about something he doesn't need to be excited about.

There was a song called "Up on Santa's Lap," which was about all the children at Higbee's department store, which is like the Macy's of Indiana, waiting to see Santa (Mark David Kaplan). And Santa is not the "real" Santa; he is some drunk that they probably found on the street and said, "Put on this Santa suit. We lost our real 85-year-old man." I love those movies and t.v. shows where they are trying to cover up that their Santa isn't the "real" Santa and is a drunk. (And smells like beef and cheese, like in Elf, or in this case smells like whisky.) The slide was very cool. I loved how the kids would start down the slide looking very happy and at the bottom they would look very disappointed and sad. I was wondering, "What's inside that slide?!" I loved when the brother Randy (Theo Moss)just ran away screaming when it was his turn to meet Santa. I find that so true. There are so many kids, when you go to see Santa with your little cousin, who just run away screaming. Santa is pretty scary, especially if he has a flask...or a knife.

People who would like this show are people who like great tapping, scary Santas, and sexy dancing lamps. I think people should definitely go see this show. It is not for really little kids, but it is a fun family musical, and you will laugh your butt off watching it.


Photos: Liz Lauren

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Review of A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Christmas Carol. It was by Charles Dickens, adapted by Tom Creamer, and it was directed by Henry Wishcamper. It was about a man named Scrooge (Larry Yando) who was very rich and his partner Marley (Joe Foust) had died. The Ghost of Marley goes to Scrooge and tells him that he'll be visited by three spirits. Marley and the ghosts all warn him that if he continues his selfish ways, he will have chains on him when he dies. It is about changing so that you can show more kindness, forgiveness, and charity. I think that this is a really great show. It is so touching and funny, and it gives you goosebumps.

This show was pretty scary at some parts, but it would still be okay for most kids. It is important for it to actually be scary because the Charles Dickens' book is not all fun and games. When Marley comes out of the painting it is super scary because it just looks like a normal painting and then when you take a second glance at it you see what Scrooge sees. When the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (J. Salomé Martinez and Kareem Bandealy) was on stage that was also very creepy because it looked like this giant version of the Grim Reaper, which is even creepier than the smaller Grim Reaper. The director has these ghosts jump-scare you because they tell Scrooge the worst news, which is that if he continues being an ungenerous person that he will not be remembered fondly. In these moments, you feel fear when Scrooge does. The fear scares Scrooge into doing things he thought wouldn't work out well, like being kind and being generous and being free spirited. He was afraid before that if he did those things he would lose all his money, but now he is less fearful of that because he is more afraid of messing up his life than of not having all the money in the world.

There are a lot of very funny moments in this show. Scrooge is a very very funny character. Before he is changed, you laugh at how ridiculously cold-hearted and cheap he is. After he is changed, you laugh at how giddy he is. And he laughs too. He is kind of like a kid in a candy store, but the candy is Christmas spirit and making up for the wrong things he's done. It is happier after his change because when you laugh at someone, it can be mean, but when you are laughing with someone, it seems more like a family. And now we are family with Scrooge; he has made a connection with the audience. Close to the end of the show, Bob Cratchit (Ron E. Rains) comes to work late and he is expecting for Scrooge to get super mad when he sees he is late. So he is going as quietly as possible, and it turns into this entire comedy routine. I thought it was very funny when he got his scarf stuck in the door, and he had to go and retrace all his steps, and scootching the chair back was where he got caught. He got past all these crazy-hard obstacles, but he couldn't get past scootching the chair!

There were so many touching moments in this show. There are families going through hard times and you keep having more sympathy for Scrooge. Like when you see the terrible school that young Scrooge (Aaron Lamm) went to and how he was mistreated, but then you get to see his sister Fan (Paige Collins) and how she loved him even though his parents had kind of neglected him. And another moment where you feel sympathy for Scrooge is when Belle (Kristina Valada-Vlars) breaks off their engagement because she can't trust him to want to raise a family instead of just making money. I think at the end he should go and get old-person married with her because I think she would really like this Scrooge even more than the Scrooge she knew at first. Also, when Scrooge has his reunion with his nephew Fred (Anish Jethmalani), it is super touching because Fred has always loved Scrooge even though Scrooge has made it clear that he doesn't feel the same way. When they hugged, it brought tears to my eyes because you wanted it for a while; you wanted him to apologize to the people he had hurt, and the hug was so beautiful because it seemed like an actual hug, not a quick stage hug. They seemed like they actually meant it.

People who would like this show are people who like creepy Christmas stories, scarf comedy, and family. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was beautiful, funny, and amazing!

Photos: Liz Lauren


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review of Rough House's Sad Songs for Bad People: A Puppet Play

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Sad Songs for Bad People. It was co-directed by Mike Oleon and Jeremy Ohringer. The text was by Claire Saxe and the play was devised by the performing ensemble. This was a puppet show but it wasn't like a slapstick comedy puppet show; this wasn't anything close to that. It was a sad-song and scary-song puppet show. But then there were little pieces of comedy because sometimes the way people died or what they did was so ridiculous. I thought it was super exciting, and I saw puppets (designed by Grace Needlman and Cammi Upton) in a brand new dark and scary and funny way.

My favorite song was "Step It Out Nancy" by Robin and Linda Williams. It was about a girl named Nancy (Kay Kron) who had been betrothed to a man she didn't love because she was in love with a cowboy. In this song they used one-dimensional puppets and shadow puppets, and I thought it was cool to see the transition from one kind of puppet to another, and sometimes both at the same time. They had canvas that they flipped over for each new scene, like it was a drawing pad, and it would create new characters and new scenery. This song was really awesome because the woman in the song didn't let people just take things from her. She wanted to fight for things. Even though she couldn't control who she married, she still was very powerful.

There were two people named Jam Jam (Sean Hughes) and Whiskers (Andrew Yearick) and they were the musicians for the play. I thought it was awesome that they had live music. It also added a comedy act because while the sets were being changed they would do this short little comedy act. And it usually went wrong somehow, like someone wouldn't get the joke or somebody would get into a argument about what the joke meant. And I thought that was very hilarious and it made the set changes more entertaining and gave you a break from bawling about the sad songs.

There was this medley called "Teen Tragedies" which was three different songs ("The Hero," "Nightmare," and "Leader of the Pack") about scary accidents that happened to teens and they put it all into one story. There were three different girls (Kron, Maddy Low, and Saxe) who had these tiny bodies but huge heads. And the heads were people's heads but the bodies were puppets' bodies. Seeing that weirds you out, but in a good way. At first it is pretty funny, but then when you find out one of them killed somebody, it is very creepy. It is like thinking that Littlest Pet Shop toys are going to come kill you in the night. I loved how they put two accidents, which was a bus accident and a motorcycle accident, and they put them together and made them one big 'palooza of death and gore. So there were mashed-up songs and mashed-up people.

There was this song called "The Curse of Millhaven" by Nicholas Edward Cave, which was all about this girl (Oleon) who was the curse of Millhaven because she had a taste for murder. I loved the puppets. They looked kind of like a little kid's drawing and that made it even more creepy. Creepiness level: 100%. Everything seemed so nice and then it all went wrong when you saw the other side. Like the houses looked like nice colorful houses, but when you turned them around there was a dead woman inside.

People who would like this show are people who like creepy murder songs, powerful women, and figurative and literal mashups. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is a small company that should get noticed, and I really loved this show.

Photos: Kaitie Saxe, Zach Sigelko.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Review of Sherlock Holmes at the Oriental Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Sherlock Holmes. It was written by Greg Kramer based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was directed by Andrew Shaver. It was about a man named Sherlock Holmes (David Arquette) who was a detective and he had assistant named Watson (James Maslow) and they go on a bunch of different adventures involving murder, drug dealing, and false information. Their client is Lady Irene St.-John (Renee Olstead). This play took a lot of things from Sherlock Holmes stories, but it still didn't feel like I was watching one of the Sherlock Holmes stories come to life because they kind of just threw a bunch of ideas at you really close together without making a compelling story. I really love Sherlock Holmes stories, but this one wasn't really for me.

The story wasn't easy to follow because they kept going on different missions in the middle of other missions. And then they would go back to the missions, and it was hard to tell what they were really investigating. The show seemed way too long, so they could have compacted it and had fewer stories in it. In Sherlock Holmes stories there is humor, but it is quirky and dark humor. In this play it was more goofy, falling-down kind of humor, which is not the kind of humor that I want in a show about Sherlock Holmes. The humor in the stories comes from the weird ways Holmes figures out crimes in an insanely smart way and it also comes from how Holmes snaps into a different personality just like that and how Watson over time just sees that as normal, which is pretty funny. But the humor wasn't very complex in this play. Sherlock Holmes' personality was also very different in this show from what it says in the books. Sherlock Holmes' personality in this play is very different from what I expected. I expected him to be smart, funny, cunning, and being able to switch personalities and moods on the spot. I expected focused energy, not jumping up and down kind of energy. This Sherlock Holmes seemed more like a Mad Hatter character than Sherlock Holmes because he was very one-noted, chipper, and smug. He did have some darkness, but not the kind I wanted from Sherlock Holmes.

Mrs. Hudson (Barbara Gordon) was one of my favorite parts of the show. She was very funny and she was exactly what I though she would be like. She was very motherly but like a boss, which is so fabulous and amazing. There was this cab ride where Holmes and Watson and Lestrade (Patrick Costello) were being driven by Mrs. Hudson to capture Moriarty. Mrs. Hudson had the deerstalker cap on and then Sherlock Holmes tried it on and I thought it was cool that that was kind of a sneak peak of what his classic outfit would look like in the future. I did like how they had other strong female characters like Lady Irene and Orchid (Ana Parsons). They both were powerful and had a big parts in the play, which they do have a lot in the Sherlock Holmes stories. But because these characters were doing a lot of the broad humor that was a big part of the play that I didn't care for, I didn't end up connecting with the characters a lot.

People who would like this show are people who like slapstick, sassy landlady cab drivers, and unusual takes on classic characters. If you don't care much about adaptation, you will probably like this show better than I liked it. I hope that they can make some improvements for the show because everybody loves Sherlock Holmes and they have some female characters with a lot of potential.

Photos: Brian To

Saturday, November 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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



Photos: Austin D. Oie Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Kelsey Jorissen

Friday, November 27, 2015

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

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





Review of Griffin Theatre's Pocatello

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Thursday, November 19, 2015

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

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




Review of The Nutcracker at The House Theatre of Chicago

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

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

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

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

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Review of The Long Christmas Ride Home at Strawdog Theatre Company

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Long Christmas Ride Home. It was written by Paula Vogel and directed by Josh Sobel. It was about a family that was not getting along very well because the father (Ed Dzialo) was not a very good husband or dad and the mom (Loretta Rezos) was so worried about the dad that she couldn't be a very good mom. They have three kids. The youngest was Claire (Kristen Johnson) and she was very curious about what things meant and about what was happening in her family. The boy in family, Stephen (Sam Hubbard), was very interested in the culture of Japan. And Rebecca (Sarah Gitenstein) was very concerned with how she looked and tried to be very very stylish. It is about family, truthfulness, and forgiveness. I thought this was a really great show. It was very beautiful but very sad, and I really enjoyed it.

They use these puppets (designed by Stephanie Diaz) mostly for the kid characters. The puppets were very beautiful, but they had no faces, which kind of showed how the kids were kind of emptied out by stress and worry. The kid characters were actually a very big part of the story. They start out the play in this terrible situation and then you get to see them as grown-ups too. They aren't puppets as grown-ups; they are live action. I felt sorry for the kids because their lives are sucky at the beginning, and then terrible too in the middle, and for one of them the middle is the end. But it wasn't all hopeless; by the end it showed that there is a little bit of hope in the world. Even if your life is terrible, sometimes there is still a little glimmer of hope.

I thought the Minister character (John Taflan) was really funny and ridiculous. And I absolutely loved his character; he was like a cool minister because he went to Japan and he was really interested in their art. And all the adults are like, "What? This is boring." But Stephen is very interested and intrigued by it because it is just something completely new to him. It was like a new opening in his life, like seeing something new that he liked and that was different from where he was and where he lived. He didn't like his dad and he didn't like the way he had been treated as a kid by his dad. The place where he grew up gave him bad memories so when he thought of Japan it was kind of like a getaway. Another getaway that they had was with the grandparents. The grandparents (Taflan) were very sweet but not very good at giving gifts. They gave them mittens, a hat, and a scarf from the hat. And I noticed that they wore the hat, the scarf, and the mittens even when they were grownups. They kept wearing them because it was a symbol that someone actually did love them, unlike their dad.

Not a single kid in the family is good at being in a relationship because they were trained so badly by their parents in what a relationship should be. Rebecca was cheating on the man she lived with and she had just become pregnant as well which showed a lot about how she had been influenced by her parents' decisions. Claire actually seemed like she could have had a good relationship if it wasn't for her girlfriend cheating on her. She was more like her mother and she chose a bad person for her. Each of the kids as a grown-up is left out waiting at the door of the person they are in love with. I think those scenes are in the play to show how this family is bleeped-up because of the terrible things their parents did in the first place. They are so close to being with the person that they love but then the person that they love is so far away from them in a metaphorical sense.

People who would like this show are people who like cool puppets, sad but hopeful stories, and presents from the trash. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was very interesting, fun, and lovely. It is a very dark but funny Christmas story.

Photos: KBH Media

Friday, November 13, 2015

Review of E.D.G.E Theater's Holmes vs. Holmes

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Holmes vs. Holmes. It was written by Bill Daniel and it was directed by Orion Couling. It was about H.H. Holmes (Bill Daniel) who was a real murderer in the late 1800s during the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He would seduce young women and make them trust him and then he would murder them...just like a polite gentleman always should do! And Sherlock Holmes (T. Isaac Sherman) is trying to help Frank Geyer (Lucas Thatcher) investigate his murders. So it is a half-true, half-made-up story. This was a really fun and scary show. Some people might think you can't make a really scary show in a small theater, but it makes it even more scary because you are so close to the action. I thought it was well-written and well-acted and it was so blood-curdling and amazing. If you think it will spoil the show for you to find out who dies, than read the review after you see the show. Spoiler alert: almost everybody dies!

The look of the production was very cool and creative and resourceful (set design by Peter McManus and lighting design by Benjamin Dionysis). They had these boxes (by Katelin Thomas) that were on the top of these screens and the boxes would light up with scenes from the Worlds's Fair. My favorite one was the Ferris Wheel; it was so beautiful and neatly crafted. And it was even kind of eerie, which I love. And on the screens, people would stand behind them and light would be projected on it so you could only see the shadows and that was very cool and creepy and very artistic.

All the women that H.H. Holmes murders had their own story and eventually they all wanted the same thing: justice. I liked how all the women had power when they were dead, even though when they were alive they didn't have that much power. Minnie Williams (Erin Gordon) was a very peppy and happy kind of girl and she fell in love with H.H. Holmes. She seemed so sweet and nice that it made it especially sad. Clara Loverling (Sarah Wisterman) was H.H. Holmes' first wife and he seduced her at a party and then he asked to marry her a few seconds after he met her, which I don't think it is very smart to accept that invitation because probably it won't go very well. She probably did it because here was this really smart and charming guy that her parents would approve of and she was probably like, "Well, here's my chance. Let's go." Back in that time, women didn't have many options for work so it would be easier for her if she could just stay home and not have to earn money. Julia Smythe-Connor (Alexandra Cross) was one of the most sad stories because her life was just ruined by this guy and she didn't even notice. It was all happening behind her back and she didn't even have a chance to defend herself or her kid Pearl (Lucinda Lodder Lindstrom). I liked the symbolism of the victims giving their ribbons to Lady Columbia (Genevieve Lally-Knuth) when they died. The ribbons symbolized the connection between the women because even though they all had different patterns on their outfits (costume design by Emma Cullimore), they had the same ribbon. And they were leaving a small bit of them behind.

Everything was very very suspenseful, and you didn't know if someone was going to die in the next few seconds or not. And also, H.H. Holmes was so creepy, I couldn't believe it! It was just his facial expressions and how he killed people. I might have nightmares about that character trying to kill me! The fights were super cool and scary too. Moriarty (Richard Eisloeffel) trained H.H. Holmes to murder people in the "right way," but then Moriarty gets mad at him about the way he kills people and gets into a fight with him with an umbrella sword, and I thought that was really cool. In another cool fight, Sherlock Holmes comes in using a vocal disguise so people don't know that it is him. But then H.H. Holmes realizes that Holmes is Holmes. And then they engage in a one-third verbal, one-third hurting each other, and one-third tea fight. It was so cool! My favorite move was how H.H. Holmes shoved the tea up in Sherlock Holmes's face.

People who would like this show are people who like the Columbian Exposition, murder mysteries, and tea fights. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I thought it was so intriguing and scary. I really enjoyed it!

Photos: Jennifer Frankfurter

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review of New Kid at Adventure Stage Chicago

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called New Kid. It was written by Dennis Foon and it was directed by Julie Ritchey. (This play had two different casts. I'll mention the person I saw first and then say the other person's name too.) It was about a boy named Nick (Chris Acevedo/Seanna Wong) and he had just moved from the Homeland to the United States. The Homeland can really be any place you imagine it to be, as long as it is not America. Then he gets bullied by Mog (Carri Stevens/Annamarie Giordano), but his friend Mencha (Raymond Hutchison/Christiane Schaldemose) helps him through everything and is really nice to him. And also his mom (Andréa Morales) also helps him and he helps her with people in the town so she can learn English better. I thought this was a really fun show. It made me think a lot and it was really interesting and cool.

The language that the people who were from America used was really awesome. It showed you Nick's perspective because he was speaking English and the American language sounded like gibberish with little words that kind of sounded familiar. And it was super fun and exciting to try to figure out what all the words that they were saying meant. Like hockey is schlamschtick which is hilarious because it kind of is just slamming a stick against the ground. You knew what it was because they started playing hockey. And gibba may actually sounds like "give it to me" and they would put out their hand so that they could have it. And cronkit meant broken and the word reminded me of gears springing out of a robot. It showed that even though you might be clueless about a new language at first, eventually you get used to it and you'll start understanding it.

The issues seemed very real. It made me feel bad for Nick when he was getting bullied. He doesn't know how to speak their language so he is very confused at first when they talk to him. When he takes his friend Mencha home to meet his Mom, his mom thinks Mencha is a bad person, even though he is a good person, because of her experiences of people yelling at her because she is different from the other people in the city. But then she realizes that not all people who are not from Homeland are bad because he becomes nice to her and likes her food and also Nick said he was ok because he stood up for him. When she gives him pudding, it was really funny how he ate it. He just started out really scared, and the he ate it and ate it and said "More, please." That shows that if you try something new you might like it. The play seemed also to be saying that prejudice could even come from people who had been prejudiced against. I think that is right, and a lot of time shows and movies don't realize that. That doesn't mean the mom is bad, it just means she goes with her instincts, and when she sees that kind of person she tries to protect herself. I'm glad that she learned that not all people who are not from Homeland are bad.

People who would like this show are people who like delicious pudding, new languages, and schlamschtick. I think people should definitely go see this show because it is funny, interesting, and a fun and complex thing to bring your kids to. It only runs until November 21st, so hurry and see it!


Photos: Johnny Knight