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

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review of White Christmas at Drury Lane Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called White Christmas. The book was by David Ives and Paul Blake based on the movie written by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, and Melvin Frank. The music and lyrics were by Irving Berlin. It was directed by William Osetek. The choreography was by Matt Crowle and the music direction was by Roberta Duchak. It was about a man named Bob Wallace (Sean Allan Krill) and his best friend Phil Davis (Matt Raftery) and they both fall in love with two different sisters Betty Haynes (Gina Milo) and Judy Haynes (Erica Stephan). And they are trying to put on a show in a little inn in Vermont to help General Henry Waverly (Don Forston) because they served under him in the army during World War II. Now he owns an inn and they are helping the General get more people in his inn. It is about love, friendship, and how everything is better when you're dancing. I thought this was a really good show and it was so much fun to be at. I'm a huge fan of the movie. (I used to try to reenact scenes from it with unsuspecting five-year-old boys; and of course they ran away from me.) The show was mostly true to the movie, and I really loved it.

I loved the "I Love a Piano" song. I thought it was really good and catchy. And I loved the tap dance, led by Phil and Judy. It was so impressive; they all were so coordinated with each other's movements and they were so fast! I was inspired. It was fun that I knew some of the moves because I take tap, but it is also super exciting for anyone to watch. The costumes (by Robert Kuhn) for this song were super cool and exciting. I loved the train on Judy's dress. It was so pretty. You wouldn't expect that kind of thing for a tap number, but there it was! The costumes were piano colors, black & white, and they were all different patterns. This number shows what the show they are putting on will be like, and it adds a lot of spectacle to the show and shows you it is going to be very cool and exciting.

One of my favorite songs in the entire show is the song "Snow" because it is so peppy and funny. I loved the snoring man (Devin DeSantis); he was so funny and I loved how he would just sit up and start singing this beautiful melody. The entire scene was really funny. Bob Wallace saw a bunch of people carrying skis onto the train car. But he just thought they were all idiots because he thought the train was going to Miami, which is where Bob and Phil were scheduled to go, but then two love birds (Phil and Judy) came along and decided they needed to go spend more time together in Vermont where Judy was doing a show. And they needed to spend more time together with snow! My favorite line is "I want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow." It is so ridiculous because you'd just be freezing! It is so funny.

There was one woman in the show, Alene Robertson who played Martha, who I would call the Ethel Merman of Chicago because she was so good at belting and she was so funny and amazing that I couldn't take my eyes off her. I loved how she said how Ethel Merman had told her to be quiet! But sometimes Martha makes some bad decision; like hiding bills from people is never a good idea because they usually need to know about them. "Let Me Sing and I'm Happy" was super belty and fun and it showed Martha's capability of being able to be an innkeeper and an amazing performer. And the performer showed great capability of being funny and a good performer. Then the song was reprised later by Susan (Maya Lou Hlava), the granddaughter of the General, and I thought it was very good. I thought it was really funny to see this cute tween doing something that a fabulous middle-aged woman did in the last act. And as the song goes on, Martha starts to realize that this is her song and I thought she was going to get up and yell at Susan, but she just gave her a hug and that was really sweet.

People who would like this show are people who like fabulous belters, amazing tap dancing, and washing your hair with snow. I think people should definitely go see this show. It was so much fun and it definitely got me in the holiday spirit even though I saw it just a few days after Halloween!

Photos: Brett Beiner

Monday, November 9, 2015

Review of Chapter Two at Windy City Playhouse

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Chapter Two. It was written by Neil Simon and it was directed by Jessica Thebus. It was about a guy named George Schneider (Brian McCaskill)and his wife had just died. And he was really really sad and he thought he would never be able to love anyone ever again. But of course he was wrong. His brother Leo (Peter DeFaria) had tried to set him up with a lot of different girls, but then finally he introduced him to someone who was not entirely insane, Jennie (Amy Rubenstein), and then they fall in love. But of course when you are in love you rush to conclusions way too fast, which is what happens. This play is about love, jumping to conclusions, and being truthful. I thought this was a really fun show. I also saw Barefoot in the Park pretty recently which is written by the same person, and I could tell because of the kind of plot and the style of writing. I love his shows; they are so funny and clever.

The look of the show is very realistic looking. It looked like two apartments (set design by Scott Davis) that had very different styles. George's apartment showed that he was very learned and that he liked old-fashioned things. Jennie's apartment looked very modern and chic. It tells you that they are very different. But there is no wall separating them which shows that there could be a chance for them. Also their costumes (by Melissa Torchia) showed a lot about their relationship. Jennie was always in very sunny, happy-looking outfits. George's outfits were very dignified and he was kind of like a freshly-pressed-suit kind of guy. Leo wasn't dignified or distinguished; he wore mix-matched patterns and larger glasses. I really liked his look; if I was a boy that is what I would wear right now. Some of Faye's outfits showed that she was trying to be all super-sexy and sometimes the effort that she made was just so funny and amazing.

What I found was that Barefoot in the Park is pretty similar to this show, so similar that they might actually be the same characters in the future, just with different names. It seems like Paul might be George and Corie might have been his dead wife Barbara. Jennie is a lot like Corie too in that they are both kind of dippy but Jennie has a job and Corie doesn't. Jennie is older than Corie, so you see a lot of the similarities, but they still are different. George is also very strict to his job like Paul. Both Leo and Victor Velasco are kind of flirts, and they have really big personalities. They are both sweet and don't seem like womanizers at all, but they are. Faye (Amy J. Carle) is kind of like Corie's mother; both of them realize they have to loosen up, but Faye realizes that she has to stay true to her husband while she loosens up because she is not relaxed when she is cheating on her husband. Both plays are about the first few days of marriage and trying to make things better. Both of them are comedies with dark moments. And sometimes the dark moments are dark comedy moments.

Faye and Leo were the comic relief. When you were worried about George and Jennie's relationship, Faye and Leo would make you laugh. The thing is that the other characters are funny too, but not in the same way. Leo and Faye are funny in a more classically comical way, like how they both want to cheat with each other but they are both really bad at it. That is like some classic comedy right there. George and Jennie kind of have a how-stupid-the-thing-they-are-fighting-about-is kind of comedy, which is a darker comedy because it isn't like slip-on-a-banana-peel comedy. Faye and Leo are more like that because they keep getting caught at cheating by the same person and it is more ridiculous and less actual-real-life-problems comedy. I loved how they kept getting caught and they would just have this moment where they would all see each other and then Faye and George would make up silly excuses that were just so insane. It made me laugh. It was how they said them that was so funny.

People who would like this show are people who like Barefoot in the Park, hilarious cheating, and mix-matched clothes and relationships. I think people should go see this show. It is funny and has a very intriguing plot. I really liked it.

Photos:Michael Brosilow

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane at Chicago Children's Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It was adapted by Dwayne Hartford based on the book by Kate DiCamillo and it was directed by Stuart Carden. It was about this china rabbit named Edward (Patrick Budde); well, his name was Edward at first. He switched gender, he switched owners, and he switched his ideas about a lot of different things. He had a lot of different owners (Melanie Brezill and Kelvin Roston, Jr.) and a lot a scary and bad things happened to him. He learns how, even though losing someone that you love is hard, you should still love people. And everything kind of goes in a circle back to where he started. I thought this was a really really great show. It was so touching and beautiful, and I really loved everything about it.

The production looked like they were telling you a folk story in a barn (set design by John Musial). I think that was perfect for the story because it was about a traveling rabbit who goes a lot of places all around the country. Edward (designed by Rachel Anne Healy) and all of his outfits stuck out because the colors were so big and vibrant. He was so beautiful and shiny up on the stage. He looked like real china. All of his outfits were so creative and cool and he looked exactly like what I thought Edward Tulane should look like. And I loved the pocket watch. It was so beautiful and so magical. It really added a lot to have everything seem so magical and it really was so perfect. There are beautiful and magical things, but they happen in everyday life, and the look of the production shows that to you. There was another beautiful puppet (designed by Emily Breyer) as well. It was a dog named Lucy (Brezill) who was one of the various owners of Edward. She was made out of sewing patches, so original and cool, and it went with the ordinary country theme.

The person telling you the story is the Grandmother (Jessie Fisher) who gives Edward to his first owner, Abilene (Brezill). And then she starts to take a disliking to Edward because he doesn't know how to love yet. Her grandmother is very dark all the time and does not tell very comforting bedtime stories. They are all about a princess that turns into a warthog! She tells that story as a cautionary tale to Edward that he should always love people. I loved the shadow puppets that they used while the grandmother was telling the story. Jessie Fisher switched her characters a lot, like when she told the really scary story as the grandmother then a moment later she was the much nicer character of the narrator. Everyone (except Edward) in the show played a bunch of different characters. You got to see their voices and the way they move change on the spot and that was really cool to watch. One moment Melanie Brezill was a sick girl and the next moment she was a very angry cook. Kelvin Roston Jr. was very different when he was playing and adult from when he was playing a kid. He didn't make fun of children--no one in the show did--when he was pretending to be one, and I really loved that. His body changed from being kind of slumped over as Bull and then being more energetic and peppy as the kid Bryce.

When Edward was thrown off the boat was a very moving scene because there was nothing he could do to save himself. Even though he had a mind, he still wasn't able to save himself from sinking and the whole time he was on the bottom of the ocean he said that it was really unpleasant. And that makes you see that he really does have feelings. I think one of my favorite families that he went to was the fisherman Lawrence (Roston) and his wife Nellie (Brezill). I felt like they seemed like really sweet people but they had a lot of bad things happen to them. One of them, was their daughter's (Fisher) attitude! Why would she just throw out her parents' things? That's not for her to decide! One of the most moving scenes for me (spoiler alert!) was when Sarah Ruth (Brezill) died because she was so sweet and she didn't deserve anything that was happening to her; she was just an innocent kid. And Bryce took care of her so well and he helped her in every single way possible. I was sad for him because he had tried so hard to keep her well and alive, but it was just too hard for a tween to handle.

People who would like this show are people who like china rabbits, moving stories, and warthog princesses. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. It is a great show for everyone. It was beautiful. I loved it!

Photos: Charles Osgood

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's How the World Began

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called How the World Began. It was by Catherine Trieschmann and it was directed by Keira Fromm. It was about this woman named Susan Pierce (Rebecca Spence) who has just moved from the city to a small town in Kansas. She is pregnant and she teaches science. There has been a huge tornado recently and she comes there to help them because she feels sorry for them. She was working with a very troublesome student named Micah Staab (Curtis Edward Jackson) who refuses to see that she didn't mean to say that people who believe in in God are dumb. She doesn't want to say they are all dumb; she just doesn't believe in God. But she does need to learn how to accept Christians as people and not just ideas. Micah's guardian, Gene Dinkel (Keith Kupferer), is trying to excuse Micah's rudeness by explaining what he is trying to say. But Micah doesn't like the idea of himself being spoken for. This play is about beliefs, science, and respect. I thought that this was a really great play because it makes you think a lot about what you believe in and how other people can influence you so much. I wasn't able to see it until closing weekend, but I hope they do a remount because it was very successful.

I think that Micah seemed like a troubled kid. Something really bad had happened to him when the tornado came. And he lost his parents. To make his life even more hard, his guardian is too overprotective and doesn't think Micah should fight his own battles, which I think he should be able to at this age. I find his story really sad. One part of his performance that I thought really drew me more into the story was that whenever the tornado drills would happen he would get so scared that he would just hide under a table. He is very religious and he thinks that if anyone offends God that God will take it out on the entire town. I'm not sure whether Catherine Trieschmann believes in God or not because it seemed like after Micah had told Susan that if she offended God something bad would happen, something bad happened. That kind of indicates that she does believe in God, but then sometimes she seems to put everything into Susan's perspective, but Susan doesn't believe in God. I really like how she is not just making the story from one voice; she is making a point about both ways of thinking: that both make sense to the people who think them. As long as no one hurts themselves or other people because they have different religions, then it is okay to express your opinion. Since there is no way to know when you are alive, then everyone can believe what they want.

Susan seems to be the main character and you follow her perspective the most and it is mostly about her problems. She is going to have a kid and I think that it must be hard because she is going to have to be a single mom but she is going to raise him in a little town so he is away from his father and she feels like it is more safe. I think that she is a good person a lot of the time and I can understand why she gets so angry when the person she is talking is not using any empathy and is not seeing that other people can believe different things than he does--which is not the right thing to do. The right thing to do is to listen to the people around you. But that is not what she does either, which is why it makes everything so frustrating and interesting, because you can't choose sides. Each person has a point and each person is being kind of an idiot about something. Her point is that everyone can have their own beliefs, but she says a lot of very hurtful things to Micah about his religion. So, you aren't really sure if she actually has empathy.

Gene is more toward the believing-strongly-in-God side, but he is less pushy about it. This makes him seem like a nicer person. The thing is a lot of people would choose Gene's way of doing things, but there are some unlikable things about him too. He sugarcoats everything and tries to say people's opinions for them. It is good to be a peacemaker some of the time, but don't step into people's arguments and talk for them. He thinks that it is really easy to cure their argument, but it isn't. There needs to be a conclusion; he can't just bring her a pie and make everything better. He is trying to have empathy, and I think he has the most empathy of anyone in the show because he is actually trying to see things from other people's perspectives. He does just believe what he believes, but he does try to see what other people think. He wants everyone to get what they want, but then he doesn't do so well with that. It is not until he leaves them alone that they actually talk to each other like they are both humans. At the end Micah gives Susan money for her and her baby and Susan tries to comfort him when there is a tornado. But that doesn't mean that they both believe the same things, it just means they are starting to try to accept that there are different kinds of people in the world and try to treat them like humans.

People who would like this show are people who like interesting stories, being able to see different perspectives, and pie. This was a really great show. I loved watching it. I was so dragged into the story. I found it really interesting and I am still thinking about it.

Photos: Michael Brosilow