Monday, July 6, 2015

Review of The 2nd Annual Chicago Musical Theatre Festival Opening Night

Once upon a time I went to three shows that were part of The Chicago Musical Theatre Festival: American Smoothie, Fanatical, and How to Run for Mayor. I think this festival was a very good idea. It is fun to see brand new musicals that no one has ever seen before! I thought the performances were mostly really strong and I really really loved one of the musicals and it was called Fanatical. It was a really funny and interesting story and plot line and the music and lyrics were so new and unpredictable and I'm still singing them because I loved them so much.

How to Run for Mayor was directed by Aaron Aptaker who wrote the music and lyrics. The book was by Gilbert Tanner. It was about this girl Kim (Grace Palmer) who just got out of college and she didn't have a job so then she decided she would run for mayor, but just as a joke. But then people started to take it seriously and thought she was really running for mayor against Rahm Emmanuel (Trent Eisfeller). I thought that it was kind of mean the way they portrayed Rahm Emmanuel, like he was just a sissy and they made fun of him going to Sarah Lawrence and dancing. I think it is ok to make fun of someone for making bad decisions about schools, but that isn't mostly what they did. I do think it was good that Kim learned that she should put other people in front of herself sometimes. I'm not really into politics, so this might have been more fun for me if I had been.

American Smoothie had a book and lyrics by Nick Jester and music by David von Kampen. It was directed by Emma Couling with music direction by David Kornfeld. It was about these workers who worked at an office for a place called American Smoothie. There was a man named Brian (Brian Elliot) who was in love with one of his co-workers whose name was Brie (Katy Fattaleh). Also Brian worships John Grisham (Sarah Sapperstein) and has a really weird roommate (Katie Sherman) who has her own puppet game show. Chad (Jonathan Wilson) was a guy who was supposed to be too perfect, and all the ladies were supposed to be obsessed with him. I thought it was funny how perfect he was, but then he turns out to have a terrible dark secret! There is this quite strange relationship between two of his co-workers Samantha (Cami Rene Philgreen) and Jerry (Michael Palmenderi), and Samantha has a bird fetish so they have strange bird relationships with each other. I thought Philgreen did a very good job with this very strange role because the thing is she made her character so lovable even though she was so very very weird. People who would like this show are people who like insanity! It was so crazy and weird that you couldn't really believe it! I think this show could be a little bit shorter because there were some songs that didn't seem to have anything to do with the story, and the ending was almost too weird to handle. Sometimes the show was so weird it was funny, but sometimes you were like, "What did I just watch?"

Fanatical was presented by American Demigods and directed by Kate Staiger with musical direction by Ellen Morris. The book was by Reina Hardy and the music and lyrics were by Matt Board. It was one of the best plays I have ever seen. It was funny. It was well-written. It had an awesome plot line. The songs were so well-written and clever and fun. I thought everyone had an amazing voice and their characters, even if they didn't have a lot to do, were always detailed and interesting. It was about this science fiction convention for this tv show based on a comic called Angel 8. It is about all the problems that happen during the convention, all the romances that might not work out, and about being a fan and being proud of it.

There was this really funny song that Trix (Kat Evans), basically the manager of the convention, sings when she is trying to distract her hero, Scott Furnish (Rory Leahy), the writer of the tv show. The funny thing is that she is so bad at acting sexy to a man, and she is using terrible grammar, like she says "I want to make sex at you," but she means have sex with you. And she does these really awkward sexy moves, like she's trying to like show how skinny and beautiful she is, but she actually just ends up looking like a robot. I thought that was really funny. It was one of my favorite songs. It was so hilarious, even though the chorus was not really rated G.

There is also this undercover reporter from this magazine for tough men who don't like nerds named Craig (Stephen Garrett). But then he falls in love with one of the nerds who is there, Andra (Charlotte Ostrow). She is basically the main character and she loves Angel 8. She is dressed as a character from the show and that makes her feel more secure about herself. And you find out how much she loves that character in the song "You Should See Her Fly." I thought that song was really pretty. And there is a love triangle between Craig and Baxter (Michael Carten) who are both in love with Andra. It was not like a lot of love triangles, because you liked all the characters and the two men end up being more the same than you think in the first place, so they are both pretty good options. Baxter, I thought, seemed like one of the sweetest characters. "Me Slash You" was a song that he sang all about how he and Andra should date. I thought it was really funny but also kind of sad because he's like, "Well, I'll just keep on trying!"

I also really liked the song Bernard (Jeffrey Bouthiette), Jillian (Sarah Inendino), and Lizette (Annie Passanisi) sang about their favorite parts of Angel 8. It was fun but also sad because it was about their favorite parts of a show that got cancelled. I think this song really showed what people felt like when Firefly was cancelled after one season. Even though I watched it many years after it came out, I was still really sad it had only one season. It is important to share your favorite parts with people so then other people can share their favorite parts with you. If you remember something you love, it always makes you feel better. And when you share it with other people you get to show what makes you a fan. And then you listen to the other people and put all your ideas into one big thing. That is what the fandom means. Everybody should have their favorite parts; it is the law of being in the fandom. There was also a song about fan art and fan fiction that showed you their devotion to Angel 8 and how they build off this one idea that they love. They are still expressing themselves even if it is not all their very own idea.

People who would like Fanatical are people who like science fiction conventions, awesome music, and awkward women trying to seduce their heroes. I think people should definitely see this show. It is amazing, hilarious, and I wish I could see every show of it. There are only three performances left: July 11, 15, and 19. (Don't think I took my pretty little time writing this. There were only 5 shows total!) I hope there is a remount of this so that everyone can see it!

Photos: Braden Nisen

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