Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review of Jesus Christ Superstar at Paramount Theatre

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Jesus Christ Superstar. The lyrics were by Tim Rice and the music was by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It was directed and choreographed by Ron Kellum. The music directors were Kory Danielson and Tom Vendafreddo. It was about Jesus (Evan Tyrone Martin) in the weeks before his death and Judas’s (Mykal Kilgore) thoughts before he betrayed him. It is about Jesus’ followers Peter (Gilbert Domally), Simon (Mark J. P. Hood), and Mary Magdalene (Felicia Boswell) and what they want from him and who they think he is. It is about the priests Caiaphas (Lorenzo Rush, Jr.) and Annas (Avionce Hoyles) plotting against Jesus to give themselves all the power. It is about devotion, politics, and belief. I think this is a really great show; it has so many great songs and actors. I really loved it!

The first song is called "Heaven on their Minds" and it is sung by Judas. It is about how all of Jesus' followers will soon find out that he is not who they thought he was. Judas thinks Jesus is a good person, but he doesn't think he is the son of God. Judas reminds me a lot of Aaron Burr in Hamilton. He is the person who causes the death of the main character, but he is also the narrator. He isn't really the villain because he didn't really assess or understand the situation correctly. Judas admires Jesus, like Burr admires Hamilton, but then he is also envious of him and doesn't agree with everything he says. It seems like Judas is actually trying to save Jesus from something, so it is almost like he knows how the play is going to end, kind of like Burr in Hamilton. I thought Kilgore did such a great job with the song. He hit those high notes like a boss, and it was so awesome to listen to. He definitely makes you care a lot about Judas and what happens to him in the end--even though everyone knows it is not going to work out too well for him.

"The Last Supper" is when you really start to see Jesus' vulnerability and that he is not just a messiah: he is an actual person. He and Judas get into this huge fight about betrayal and how Judas is going to betray him. Judas thinks that Jesus has too much power. He calls him a jaded mandarin because he thinks that he is drained and as a result is laying around with his power instead of using it to change the world. And then Judas storms off and he sings this amazing high note that the audience went crazy for.

"Gethsemene" was a really great song. This is the scene where you really see Jesus break down. He's not just scared; he's terrified and doesn't know what to do. Which shows that even the people we look up to most aren't fearless. The song is basically about how he's scared of dying, but he knows that he has to. He is very brave, but he still contemplates if there is any way he can get out of this or get through this well. I felt so much for him during this song. He seemed to be feeling every line. It was so heartbreaking and beautiful to watch.

The song "Could We Start Again Please" was about Mary, Peter, and Judas asking Jesus if they can start again because they feel sorry for what they have done to him and want to save him. I thought it was super moving and it was sung very well. It is saying I want to go back because everything is bad now, which is a familiar feeling--wanting to turn back time so everything that has broken apart can be made good again. There is a connection between this song and "Everything's Alright." "Everything's Alright" is sung by Mary Magdalene to Jesus and it is about how everyone should just calm down and relax, but later in the show "Could We Start Again Please" is when everyone realized that it's not alright now, and we need to go back.

I absolutely loved Herod's Song! Herod (Hoyles) was so fabulous and oh so evil, and his song was so catchy. He is basically demanding Jesus to make a miracle, and then making fun of all the miracles he has performed. He would say stuff like, "Water! Wine!" like "Look I can do miracles too! And I can be a jerk to you at the same time!" It is a cruel thing to do, but it was really funny to watch as part of a big musical number. Whenever he would hit a high note, all of his attendants would ooh and ah and it was pretty funny. His dance moves were flawless, and so were his background dancers and their costumes (by Theresa Ham)! I absolutely loved this scene!

People who would like this show are people who like retellings of old stories, amazing singing, and hilarious Herods. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is a lot of fun to watch and it feels super meaningful. It had great actors and the singing was amazing. I loved it!

Photos: Liz Logan

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Review of Aladdin (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Aladdin. The music was by Alan Menken, and the lyrics were by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Chad Beguelin. The Book was by Beguelin based on the Disney film. It was about a young man named Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) who lives in Agrabah and one day he meets the princess Jasmine (Isabelle McCalla). Her father's (JC Montgomery) advisor Jafar (Jonathan Weir) and his sidekick Iago (Reggie De Leon) decide he is a threat to the throne, but they also discover that he is the only one who can retrieve a magic lamp because he is a "diamond in the rough." Aladdin finds this magical lamp and meets the Genie (Anthony Murphy) who will grant him three wishes for (almost) anything he desires. It is about keeping your promises, duty, and staying true to who you are. I thought that this was a really amazing and spectacular show. The music, the acting, and the effects were all so great. I had so much fun watching it; I had a smile on my face the whole time.

Aladdin and Jasmine have such an adorable relationship. I've always really loved Jasmine, and she is my favorite Disney princess from that time period because she was the most feminist at the time. She seemed so powerful and sassy in this production and I absolutely loved that. Aladdin was also super great. He was charming but he was still a flawed character. A lot of times in Disney movies the flawed characters are just the villains, but Aladdin is flawed but still a good person--that is why they call him a diamond in the rough. They sang a song called "A Million Miles Away" which was all about wanting to get away from your problems. I think that was a great song because even though they have very different lives in terms of privilege, they still both had very difficult lives. I thought it was very moving because you could see the pain they had both been suffering.

"Friend Like Me" was so full of crazy unexpected spectacle. I thought that was amazing. There were fireworks, magically appearing and disappearing foods, people who gloriously appeared out of pillars, and tap dancing! What more could I ask for in a show! I wasn't completely sure how they could recreate all the animated elements of that song in the movie on stage, but they did--maybe even more beautifully because it was happening in front of your eyes! My favorite part was probably the medley of Disney songs from other movies that the Genie sang as part of "Friend Like Me." He did this whole pop star thing where he was like, "Now, I want to bring down the house a little bit," and he started singing "Tale as Old as Time" from Beauty and the Beast. Everyone started applauding so much; it was very funny. The Genie was such a great presence on stage; he really made you love the Genie. He is supposed to be so charismatic and lovable, and he certainly was!

There were three characters that were not in the movie, Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Phillipe Arroyo), and Kassim (Mike Longo) who were Aladdin's friends. I think they were a great addition to the show. They have been around with Aladdin ever since he was out on the streets. They were good comedy for when the Genie wasn't around and they had a different kind of humor than the Genie. They are more comedy inside of the story and physical comedy, whereas the Genie is more verbal comedy and talks to the audience. My favorite song with the friends was "High Adventure." It was about the three guys going to rescue Aladdin from Jafar's clutches. There were some really good physical comedy moments, like when they were running in slow motion and then there is just a guy walking past normally looking at them like, "What is their deal?" Also, when they meet Jasmine's three attendants (Mary Antonini, Olivia Donalson, and Annie Wallace), they are stunned by their beauty and they flirt with them a little bit, which is a very funny moment. I wish the three attendants had had their own song, like Babkak, Omar, and Kassim did, because I would have liked to know more about their lives. And I wanted to know their names!

People who would like this show are people who like adorable royal couples, fantastic spectacle, and slow-motion running. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It was so much fun to watch, and I absolutely loved it!

Photos: Deen Van Meer

Ada Grey Interviews for You: Isis Elizabeth of The Wiz at Emerald City

I had so much fun talking to Isis Elizabeth from Emerald City Theatre's The Wiz. Here's our interview!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review of Porchlight Music Theatre's Marry Me a Little

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Marry Me a Little. The music and lyrics were by Steven Sondheim and it was conceived and developed by Craig Lucas and Norman René. It was directed by Jess McLeod and the music direction was by Austin Cook. It is a compilation of many of Sondheim's songs in the context of two neighbors falling in love. I think this is a super fun show; I love Stephen Sondheim's work and I thought the performers (Cook and Bethany Thomas) were really lovable, talented, and had great voices. It wasn't just fun, it was also emotional at times, and you do come to care about the characters.

This play is about two people falling in love unexpectedly, so it is no wonder they have so many duets together. Two of my favorites were "Bang" and "Two Fairy Tales," both from A Little Night Music. I really liked the song "Bang." It was all about the noise that The Man's piano was making upstairs. They were clearly overreacting to the situation; they acted like this was war. They actually said "This means war!" in the song right after The Woman had banged on the ceiling of her apartment. I found that very funny. If he hadn't been playing so loud, they wouldn't have met, which means it was kind of a good thing. The song "Two Fairy Tales" was kind of their bonding song where they bonded over their childhood stories that they used to read. I thought it was really sweet, and I really liked that song. They were basically connecting the two stories, so they sounded like one crazy fairy tale with two different endings. One has a happy ending and one doesn't, so when you put them together you get a kind of bittersweet ending. And that is exactly what happens in Marry Me a Little. The story is about happiness and heartbreak in the same relationship.

The first song The Woman sings, "The Girls of Summer," is a very seductive song, but it is kind of about how dumb these seductive girls are. The Woman is the girl who isn't a girl of summer. The girls of summer get their hearts broken and don't remember anything by fall, but The Woman has protected herself from getting her heart broken, but then she didn't have much of a summer at all; she hasn't gotten her heart broken because she hasn't been in love. Another song that she sings later on in the show is "I Remember Sky." It was all about the times when things were better. She is going through some hard times with The Man, and she is remembering when things were better for them. I thought this song was really beautiful, and it was really moving how her beautiful acting and beautiful singing made the whole effect of the song so huge and meaningful. She also had more hilarious songs, like "Can That Boy Foxtrot." I think it was so funny because of all the tricking that she would do of the audience by making them think she was about to say something that she wasn't. So she would say "Boy, can that boy fffff--oxtrot." And everyone thought she was going to say a different word, but she never did, which was pretty hilarious.

The Man also had some really great solos. "If You Can Find Me, I'm Here" was all about how he wanted to be alone but if you want to find him he is at this undisclosed location. And he was so furious as he was playing the piano, which was really interesting to watch. He seemed like he'd gone off the deep end, which is understandable because of the situation he was in. He can barely find himself even, like he's saying "Don't look for me, because I can't even find myself." "You Are the Best Thing That Ever Has Happened" was not technically a solo, even though it was mostly sung by him, because The Woman has a few interjections. It was such a sweet song, but it was actually more bittersweet because they had broken up. He was reminiscing on when they were truly happy, but he is actually pretty angry at her at the same time. He sang this song with so much intention and love and loathing at the same time and that was very heartbreaking. I think that is a very relatable feeling.

People who would like this show are people who like combining fairy tales, fatefully loud piano playing, and fff-oxtrotting. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It has so many great songs sung by two great performers. I really loved it!

Photos: Brandon Dahlquist

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review of NightBlue's Tarzan: The Stage Musical

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Tarzan. It was based on the Disney film adapted from the story "Tarzan of the Apes" by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The music and lyrics were by Phil Collins, and the book was by David Henry Hwang. It was directed and choreographed by Kevin Bellie and the music director was Michael Kaish. It was about a man named Tarzan (Jomar Ferreras) who had been raised by apes since he was a boy (Jean-Eduard Rodriguez). Then a expedition comes to his jungle and he meets a girl named Jane (Rachel Juncker) and they develop a very close bond. It is about finding out who you truly are, remembering your roots, and doing whatever it takes for love. I enjoyed many of the performances in this show. It is not my favorite script for a musical, but I thought they did a good job with what they had.

I thought that Tarzan and Terk's (Juwon Tyrel Perry) relationship was really adorable. They seemed to have such a close friendship, which was really sweet. And it was so sad to see how much Terk didn't want Tarzan to go with Jane, because they were such close friends. They have a song called "Who Better Than Me?" that they sing twice. The first time it is Terk saying "Who better than me to become your mentor and friend?" and the second time it is "Who better than me to help you get the girl and help you be able to live among the humans?" I think that song worked really well for both of those situations and it was really heartwarming to see them reprise the song with a different meaning. Instead of Tarzan beginning his life with the apes, he is going away from it. Terk also had another really awesome song called "Trashing the Camp," which was mostly scat singing. And I was tapping my foot the whole time.

Tarzan's relationship with Kala (Khaki Pixley), his adoptive mother, is very close. It shows how important the relationship between a mother and her son is, even though they are not from the same species. That shows you that love has no boundaries and that love is love. I think that is a pretty good moral to a story. They sing a song together, "You'll Be in my Heart," that is all about how she is always going to protect Tarzan. The second time they sing it, it almost made me cry. It was really moving to see a relationship between a son and mother that was so close and to see them leaving each other.

Tarzan and Jane's relationship was really cool to see grow throughout the course of the play. They had a very pedagogical relationship, meaning that they would teach each other things. The song, "Strangers Like Me," that they sang together, was really cool and crazy catchy. I'm still singing it. It is about how they want to know everything about the other person's culture. They respected each other's culture more than the other people on Jane's expedition, especially Clayton (Garret Haley), who wanted to kidnap gorillas and sell them to circuses. Tarzan and Jane's relationship was also super charming and adorable. I thought how they acted with each other on stage seemed really natural.

I'm not sure this was a good movie to make into a live musical because it is literally a story that is about a man and his family of apes and it is kind of hard to represent those apes well on stage. I think the actors did as well as they could be expected to do, but they still have to speak and sing, which does not make them seem like apes. In the movie it worked because it was all animated. It is adding on another layer of disbelief to have them be played by humans when you can see their bodies. Talking animals are fine in a animated movie, or even on stage, but you are supposed to be noticing all the cultural differences between apes and humans in this show, and how they should all be treated with respect, but it seems sometimes like just humans and humans in different costumes. The moral of the movie is that we should treat all living things with the same respect, even if we're different. But I felt like the differences got lost here without animation or real gorillas.

People who would like this show are people who like crazy-catchy songs, adorable relationships, and scat-singing apes. I think this was a fun show. It had some awesome songs and performers.

Photos: Drew Peterson

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Review of Artemisia's Visiting

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Visiting. It was by Ed Proudfoot, and it was directed by Carrie Lee Patterson. It is about a young woman named Penny (Sarah Wisterman) who is suffering from manic-depression and her family has been hiding something from her: that her Aunt Lauren (Julie Proudfoot), who also has depression, is really her mom. But Penny still wants to have an actual life outside the hospital, so Penny and her family have these picnics where they talk about what they should do. When they get there they seem like they are just going to sit around and talk, but every time there is more to the picnic than that. It is about family, depression, and taking risks to have a better life. I thought that this was a really heartbreaking, effective, and beautiful show.

This play was very sad to me because of the pain you could see all the characters were feeling. Penny and Aunt Lauren are very close to each other even before Penny knew they were mother and daughter. They are not just sad because of their own depression but because of the other's suffering because they feel so close to the other and feel responsible for each other. Rachel (Millicent Hurley) was the woman who raised Penny and was always known to Penny as her mom, even though she was her mom's sister. Her pain was because she felt like she had done so much for Lauren and Lauren still wasn't completely better. And she thinks of Penny as her own daughter and she is worried about her daughter killing herself. And her pain is also because she misses her own mom so much. Holly (Carin Silkaitis) is the rebel sister of Rachel and Lauren. She lives in Chicago, while the rest of her sisters stayed in Indiana, and she is not afraid to speak her mind. She wants everyone to listen to her. She doesn't seem like a person who would feel a lot of pain, but by the end you see her kind of broken down. Even though Holly is really mad at Lauren, they still have a really strong bond, and you really see Holly regret her choices about how she speaks to her sister. Carol (Maggie Cain) is the wife of the sisters' brother. She is very religious and almost too sweet. I think she is the happiest of all of them, because she seems kind of oblivious, but she has her own problems with her marriage. I think the writer wanted all these characters to seem very vulnerable and relatable. But they are all still fighting to have normal lives and they try to help each other out even though they all have their differences.

I thought it was interesting how they used just a picnic table and screens for the set (design by Eric Luchen), but it worked for everything: the hospital, the house, and the rest stop. There was one section where they used blinking lights (lighting design by Rebecca A. Barrett) and an alert sound (design by Kallie Rolison) to show that Penny has escaped from the hospital. They also use blinking lights when she is having her treatments done. I think they use the blinking lighting in both instances to signify the danger she is in. When she escapes from the hospital she is in danger because she might kill herself. The play doesn't completely show them solving that, but she is alive in the next scene so you assume they did. The treatments are dangerous because they might not work and it will be a lot of pain for nothing. I thought the language was super interesting. It was very poetic but it wasn't Shakespearean. It was very realistic at the same time. They would talk to each other like real people who were in reality, but a reality that was altered by the strange lens of depression. I think this is a really good choice for this show because it gives you a sense of the strangeness of what the world seems like when you're depressed, and that is really effective. The set also helped give you a sense of that strangeness because it was all mellow colors that didn't really draw your attention to the set but to the story, which makes it more audience inclusive.

I liked that the message of the show was that people with depression should not deny themselves the happiness of raising a family just because they have a disease. But they need their family to get through it all. I think the final scene where all the women of the family have gotten together was super heartwarming. The whole play shows a blend of the depression and the happy moments, which I think make each of the happy moments more effective. There was one moment when they brought out the cake for Penny's birthday, but they didn't bring a knife to cut it. So they all started to pass the cake around from person to person. I thought that was a super heartwarming moment. But it was also kind of sad because of the sad thing they had just been talking about. Even though it is a sad moment and they don't have what they need, they are making do. Even when things are hard, there can still be cake...and Carol's flying chicken tea towel that she made for Penny.

People who would like this show are people who like picnics, heartbreaking and heartwarming stories, and flying chicken tea towels. I think people should go see this show. It is a beautiful story. I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Kat Tushim

Friday, April 14, 2017

Review of Shattered Globe Theatre's For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called For Peter Pan on her 70th birthday. It was by Sarah Ruhl, and it was directed by Jessica Thebus. It was about a group of siblings--Ann (Kathleen Ruhl), Wendy (Eileen Niccolai), Michael (Patrick Thornton), John (H.B. Ward), and Jim (Ben Werling)--whose father (Doug McDade) was dying. They are reflecting on how easy it was when they were kids, and then they all went back to the days when they were little and pretending to be in Peter Pan. It is about family, not wanting to grow up, and reflection. This is such a moving play and it is funny too. I thought it was great.

The first main section is in a hospital room. They are all there waiting for their father to die. They are all at different levels of dread and do different things to kind of calm themselves. Ann is doing a crossword puzzle; the guys want to watch football; Wendy kind of wants to pamper her dad--she is massaging his feet. They are all trying to be calm and they are all trying to make the best out of the situation. I think when a person dies they would never say, "Everyone should be sad for years." That's why I think it is okay for people to be trying to make the best out of the situation like people in this show are doing. They want their dad to die happy, but you can't really tell if that happens, which is kind of a sad thing to think about.

The second section of the play takes place at the family house. They are all sitting around telling jokes as part of celebrating their dad. And they are also getting pretty tipsy while they are at it. And their father as a ghost keeps walking into the room and his children can't see him. And he is just going about his day: making his Metamucil, eating a grapefruit, and petting his adorable dog. (I think that dog should win a Jeff for most adorable dog in a play.) When they say "Dad, if you are here, give us a sign," he knocks the lid off a tin. And everybody is like "Well, that was weird," but they don't really pay much attention. I thought that was interesting because they didn't have this big discovery: ghosts are real! Instead they just go back to their conversation. Wendy believes very strongly in a higher power. And Ann is the opposite of that. Everybody else is kind of on the fence about it, and they get into a heated discussion about why they do or don't believe in a higher power. I think that was very interesting to watch because they had all different opinions even though they were part of the same family. I kind of want to hear a podcast with all of them because I thought all their opinions were interesting.

The third section was all based on Peter Pan, with Ann playing Peter and everyone else playing their namesakes, except for Jim who was Captain Hook and Tinkerbell. The lines were much more simple in this section because everything was simpler when you were younger and more oblivious to everything. I liked how they acted like they were in the Peter Pan stories until they all realized what their responsibilities were at home as adults. I think that when older people don't want to grow up it is because they are afraid of dying. And they have just been reminded about all of that because of their father passing away. Thematically Peter Pan is all about not wanting to grow up. And all of these adults are grown up, and there is kind of no turning back from that now, but they still want to keep from getting older. I think the reason why this play is so moving is because all of them are haunted by the inevitability of death. Even though some of them say they aren't, I think they all secretly are. This section felt sad at moments of course, but overall it was amusing to watch because it was kind of a spoof of Peter Pan.

People who would like this show are people who like Peter Pan, moving stories, and adorable dogs. I think people should go see this show. It is such a different and interestingly beautiful play.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Monday, April 10, 2017

Review of Mary Poppins at Mercury Theater Chicago

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Mary Poppins. It was based on the stories of P. L. Travers and the Walt Disney film. The book was Julian Fellowes. The original music and lyrics were by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman. New songs and additional music and lyrics were by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. It was directed by L. Walter Stearns. It was choreographed by Brenda Didier and the music direction was by Eugene Dizon. It was about the Banks family, George (Kevin McKillip), Winifred (Cory Goodrich), Jane (Sage Harper when I saw it; Pearle Bramlett at other performances) and Michael (Casey Lyons when I saw it; Peyton Owen at other performances), who wanted the perfect nanny. And then one flies from the sky, and that nanny is Mary Poppins (Nicole Armold). She teaches the whole family to take everything with a spoonful of sugar, basically not to be so pessimistic. It is about family, not worrying about respectability, and enjoying life.

I absolutely loved Armold in the role of Mary Poppins. She was so poised and upright but never stiff. She was gently sarcastic in a humorous way. Everything she did, she did with some flair. You can understand why everyone loves Mary so much, as you can see in "Jolly Holiday" and basically any song where Mary Poppins steps outside. Whenever Mary was around, Bert (Matt Crowle) seemed dazed and it was adorable. They had great chemistry on stage. You also kind of feel bad for Bert because Mary likes him back but she is like a goddess so she can't really have a mortal boyfriend. Maybe she has love interests in every town she goes to like Zeus.

My favorite song was "Brimstone and Treacle." I thought Miss Andrew (Holly Stauder) did a really great job with the vocals. Most of the time I really love villains in musicals and this is no exception. She rocked the part and made me want Miss Andrew to have more stage time. When she has her showdown with Mary Poppins in the reprise, it is like they are polar opposites. Good vs. evil, sugar vs. treacle, and rum punch vs. brimstone. It was so cool when they faced off. When you think of Mary Poppins you don't think of epic battles, but there sure is one. Mary Poppins and Miss Andrew both had flair, but different kinds. Miss Andrew's was more like terror flair.

I usually really like productions of big musicals in smaller spaces; you feel closer to the characters and you feel more of the action. The danger with doing Mary Poppins that way, though, is that the magical elements can seem fake. I felt like the cake in "Spoonful of Sugar," the hatstand and mirror from Mary's carpet bag, and the birds were all victims of unmagicalness. There was also a moment where the ensemble was using lights to be stars. The whole ensemble was dressed in black except for their faces. I think that if they had worn masks it might have been more magical because you wouldn't see the floating heads. Floating heads can be magical, but I don't think that's what Mary Poppins had in mind when she took the children for their final goodbye in "Anything Can Happen."

People who would like this show are people who like spoonfuls of sugar, gentle sarcasm, and epic nanny battles. The singing and the performances are great, and I think this is a really fun script.

Photos: Brett A. Beiner

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Review of Cavalia's Odysseo

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Odysseo. It was created by Normand Latourelle. It was a show that includes two of my favorite things: horses and circus. I thought it was such a fun show to be at. It was such an interesting and awesome concept to have horses being adorable, people doing tricks off of the horses, people up in the sky on a lyra, and people doing crazy backflips all in the same show. I felt like the entire experience of the show was really enjoyable.

I really liked the "Village Celebration" in act one. It was so fantastic to watch. They had people (Anton Savytskyi, Maksym Ovchynnikov, Pavel Skyba, an Lucas Altemeyer) on stilts jumping over hurdles. And they were doing these flips that were so awesome. How high they would get off the ground was just so crazy. Even though they had these flexible jumping stilts, I still thought it was impressive not just because they were on stilts but because it was clear that it took a lot of practice. The acrobats (Alseny Bangoura, Sékou Camara, Mohamed Sylla, Mohamed Conte, Alseny Sylla, Alhassane Sylla, Younoussa Sylla, Michel Kamono, and Balla Moussa Bangoura) also were so amazing. The amount of backflips they would do! It was amazing; I don't know how they did it without getting sick on stage. I know about spotting, but how fast they were doing them was just out of this world. It was crazy. They created such an awesome relationship with the audience. They responded to applause so genuinely and that made the audience love them even more. They had another number as well called "The Call of Africa" and they did this whole call and response singing and had the audience singing and clapping along. It was so awesome because they did all of their acrobatics and the audience applauded for them for like five minutes. Also, the "Village Celebration" included horses (Utah, Drago, Quetzal, Quartz, Melchor, Motion, Fadista, and Tutor) and their riders (Amelie Bauza, Jérémy Gutierrez, Steven Paulson, Benoit Drouet, Jonathan Gil Delgado, Arnaud Attou, Batraz Tsokolaev, and Guillaume Dubrana), and it was so cool. The horses were also leaping over the hurdles. It was cool to see how people in stilts, people not in stilts, and the horses could all jump over the same hurdles.

They had this huge carousel that was lowered from the ceiling in "Carosello." They had these poles with fake horses on them. The performers (Altemeyer, Moniz Gmach, Uys DuBuisson, Elisa Penello, Samuel Alvarez, Julissa Panus, Ovchynnikov, Skyba, and Savytskyi) would hang off these poles and they would hang off of them upside down and sometimes they used no arms and it was just mesmerizing. They also would do tricks together; one would hold the other by the hand and they would be responsible for the other not falling. It was cool how the carousel was rotating the entire time so you could see what everyone was doing. I also really liked "The Angels" which was all done on silks. The performers (Jacqueline Ward Kehrwald, Panus, Penello, and Karolina Melska) were carried in on horses (Juglans, Licenciat, Bello, and Gavilan) and they were lifted up off the horses and became these angels. They had long wings that hung down to the ground; those were the silks. That was another time they used rotation but this time it was from the sky. They were so high off the ground that you were kind of worried for them, but they were angels, so I guess they probably wouldn't fall.

"The Great Adventure" was so amazing. It was this dancing horse named Omerio with a woman (Elise Verdoncq) on his back. At first all you see is a silhouette of them on the hill. And the horse dances and it was so majestic and pretty. And then the lights come up and you see them. The entire thing was like a flood of beauty. (That is the cheesiest thing I've said on this blog, but it is also true.) You see they had flooded the front part of the stage in the dark, and it was so beautiful. And Omerio went down to the water and started doing the same tricks he had been doing on land in the water. And then they had these white horses (Gus, Frosty, Nezma, Gee-Gee, Chief, Bravas, Shake, Pearl) run through the water and it was so beautiful to see their manes flow and the splash of their hooves in the water. It was so glorious that it made me and my mom almost cry. It was really pretty.

People who would like this show are people who like mesmerizing acrobatics, dancing horses, and human carousels. This is such an amazing show to see. I really enjoyed being there and I hope a lot of people get to see it.

Photos: Cavalia

Friday, April 7, 2017

Review of Griffin Theatre Company's In to America

Once upon a time I went to a show and I was called In to America. It was by William Massolia, and it was directed by Dorothy Milne. It was about the immigrant story in the United States and how American history is the stories of immigrants. It is a compilation of a lot of real life stories given mostly in direct address to the audience and occasionally using other actors to play other characters in a scene. I think this is a really interesting and important topic for a show. I think this show is very educational and moving. I liked it.

There were a lot of very moving parts of this show. There was a woman from Afghanistan named Asia Rahi (Rasika Ranganathan) whose home was destroyed. And she decided to leave with her children. But one of her daughters had an asthma attack and she needed to get some air so she lifted up her burqa, and the guards started beating her and the son distracted them but he didn't get away from them. I think that the brother was so brave to have done that. It is so sad because if they had gone at a different time or if she hadn't had the asthma attack, everything could have worked out better. I'm sure Asia Rahi loved all her children equally, so to lose one child for another must have been terrible. Mao Hiet (Scott Shimizu) was from Cambodia. He talks about his escape, where he loses some of his family members and is shot at by the Khmer Rouge. At the end of his story, it is not a happily ever after for him even though he has survived. He says he doesn't know why the U.S. didn't help save millions of lives. There was a man from Syria (Omer Abbas Salem) who talked about how a bomb had hit his house and his son had to carry out parts of his mother and sister so they could be buried. I think the saddest part to me was how his son kept writing "Mom" in his notebook over and over again. I can't imagine how terrible that would be and I really wish I could have done something about that. The play shows an instance where it is too late to help (in Cambodia) and then it shows an instance where we can still do something about it (in Syria) to suggest that the U.S. can still help there. (My mom and I found this list of charities that actually help.)

Even though a lot of the experiences in this show are sad ones, I think the show still has a lot of inspiring moments. During the Great Migration, John H. Johnson (Christopher W. Jones) went from Arkansas to Chicago for schools and resources available to African American people. He later founded the Johnson Publishing Company, and I think that is super inspiring to see this story of a kid moving somewhere so he could go to a good school and then getting a great job and starting his own publishing company. Susie King Taylor (Anesia Hicks) went to a school that only taught thirty children and it was in an free woman's house. The free woman was teaching a secret school for African American children in the south during slavery. I think that teacher is so inspiring because she stood up for what she believed in, that everyone should have an education, and she actually made a difference with the kids. There was a woman named Lilly Daché (Elizabeth Hope Williams) who immigrated from France in the 1920s, and she was looking at all the things in the city. And a taxi driver gets really mad at her and tells her to wake up and then she does and looks at all the amazing things around her in the bustling city. She said she felt like she was discovering America. I think that is a really beautiful line. If you don't look up, you won't discover all the strangely beautiful stuff around you. And later in her life she becomes a fashion designer.

I thought this show also had some funny and heartwarming stories. Like one of my favorites was about a woman who had come from Japan, Riyo Orite (Jennifer Cheung), and she was making biscuits for all the men who worked with her husband. She has only just learned how to make biscuits because they didn't really make them in Japan. And the biscuits turn out to be so hard that they call them dogkillers. There was also a heartwarming story about a man from Ireland, Emmanuel Steen (Sean McGill), and once he got to America he was so excited to be there, and he sees a hot dog cart and ice cream sandwich cart, and he tries both of them and thinks they are amazing. It is so sweet to see somebody get excited about foods we see everyday and experience them for the first time. There was a woman named Lupe Macais (Juanita Andersen) who had a funny story about crossing the border from Mexico to get to America that was sweet at the end. Basically she was kind of over-prepared because she had this coach who was terrified for her and gave her so much information at once, which was very funny to watch. But once she gets to the border, they just let her go through without talking to her. The look on her face is just so giddy but also kind of relieved. I thought that was so sweet. I really liked that scene. Another really sweet moment was about this woman from Italy, Elda Torini (Katie Campbell), who had come to America after World War II had ended and was waiting for her boyfriend who had been in the American army. She didn't care that everybody else had to wait in the line. She just ran through. She didn't care that it was snowing; she didn't care that she had high heels on. She just ran to him, and a few days later they got married. I thought that was such a sweet story.

People who would like this show are people who like moving stories, secret school, and hot dogs. I think that people should go see this show. These are beautiful, moving, and important stories of the immigrant experience.

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Review of Remy Bumppo Theatre Company's Born Yesterday

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Born Yesterday. It was by Garson Kanin and it was directed by David Darlow. It was about a woman named Billie (Eliza Stoughton) whose boyfriend, Harry Brock (Sean M. Sullivan), wants her to be more proper because he is rich and in Washington D.C. So he hires a tutor, Paul Verrall (Greg Matthew Anderson), who instead of teaching her how to be proper helps her learn to think for herself. It's about knowledge, doing what's best for you, and earning what you get. I think this is a funny and great play. I really love the message of the show. I think that a lot of women in the '40s when this play was written didn't see women learning in plays, books, and movies, so I think this play is very meaningful.

I think that the message of the show is great. It is basically that education is important to fulfill your duties as an American, like voting and understanding the government. I think the evolution of Billie is a really interesting one to watch. She evolves from someone who just follows around a boyfriend and mostly values having things to someone who is a intellectual person who reads books and has conversations about current events. She starts to read the paper and learn what is happening in the real world and not just in her bubble. Also her ideas on love change. She thought that relationships were more about attraction, but now it is about attraction but also having conversations and enjoying time together. I like how she doesn't transform into someone who is completely different; she still has her accent and her sassy personality. But she uses her knowledge to make herself actually happy by getting a life she wants to live instead a life following around Harry who treats her like crap.

There were a lot of funny moments. One of my favorites was when Harry and Billie were playing gin rummy and Billie kept winning and got amazing hands. She was also taking the whole game really seriously. You can also see in Harry's eyes that he was slightly mad how much she was winning. That was pretty funny to watch. I also thought it was funny when the lawyer, Ed Devery (Shawn Douglass), was stumbling around drunk. He seemed like he didn't even know that he was intoxicated. When anyone seemed to notice that he was, he just thought they were weird. Also, when act two started, you see Billie reading the paper, and when she takes down the paper you see that she is wearing glasses. I think that's really funny because she had been strongly against glasses. It seems they have grown on her.

Money is a really big topic in this play. It means a lot of different things to different people. At the top of the show you see Helen (Maggie Clennon Reberg), the maid, talking to Paul about how it dumb it is how rich people pay for really expensive hotel rooms. She is telling him this as she makes up the fancy room that costs two hundred and thirty five dollars. She would have to work for months to spend one night there, which I think is pretty crazy. It shows you how some people by doing the wrong thing get rewarded, and some people can do the right thing and work hard and all they get is eighteen dollars a week. On the other side of the spectrum we have Harry; he thinks that money is the meaning of life. In Harry's mind, his money shows that he is powerful. He thinks he got rich without any help and by working hard, but he wasn't working hard honestly. He was taking what belongs to others. And now that he is rich, he thinks he should be able to make all the rules. He is bribing Senator Hedges (Brian Parry) to be able to make even more money than he makes already which was already a huge amount. It kind of reminded me a bit of how Trump is trying to make life easier for rich people but not for poor people. And it is already harder for poor people! Billie at the beginning of the show also thinks money is the best thing ever. But as the story goes on, she realized that you don't live life for money; you live it for knowledge.

People who would like this show are people who like stories of change, intoxicated lawyers, and gin rummy. I think that people should definitely go see this show. I think it is such a great story and it is so relevant for today. I loved it!

Photos: Johnny Knight

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review of Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles (Broadway in Chicago)

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles. It was created by Steve Landes, Joey Curatolo, Joe Bithorn, Ralph Castelli, and Mark Lewis. There wasn't really a story or a plot, but it was exactly like the videos I have seen of real Beatles' concerts. They got a lot of the unique characteristics of John Lennon (Landes), Paul McCartney (Curatolo), George Harrison (Alastar McNeil), and Ringo Starr (Aaron Chiazza) just right. I thought this was a super fun show. I have been a Beatles' fan since I was six, and I would have loved to go to a Beatles' concert. Sadly, by the time I was born, there were only two Beatles members still alive. So it was really fun to get the chance to see what it was like to see them on stage.

I think it is really cool how much they captured the personalities of the real members of the Beatles. Paul has a lot of energy and is most of the time moving. He is always smiling and has great stage presence. John is more focused on the music that he is playing than on the fans--until the song is over. John and Paul would talk to each other on stage, which showed how close they were. George seems to have his own thing going, but he still goofs around a bit. I was really happy that Ringo got to sing a song ("With a Little Help from my Friends") in this concert because he is literally in the background because he plays the drums, but if it wasn't for Ringo there would be no rhythm, which you really need for a band. You see them all evolve over the years. At the beginning they are literally all wearing suits and their performance style was more straightforward. Then we get to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and they are much more carefree because they know what they are doing. They kind of know that they can be crazy and it will be thought of as the most awesome thing ever. They've gotten the idea that they are famous by that point!

I really liked how similar the songs were to how they sounded on the album and in the real concerts. In this show, Mike Beyer played all the instruments that the Beatles didn't usually play in concert, so that you could have something that sounded like the album arrangement. I thought that the guitar solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was absolutely amazing. It was crazy how good it was; seeing it live rather than hearing it recorded was so amazing because you get to see him actually playing the guitar and how fast he's playing. I'm so happy they played "Eleanor Rigby" because that is one of my favorite songs. I think that one sounded the most similar to the album track to me. I also thought it was really cool how during "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" they used projections from really old movies. They reminded me of, and might have been from, A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès. I guess ladies in the sky were a big thing in the early 1900s! I thought it was super cool how at the end they involved the whole audience in singing "Hey, Jude." It was great to sing all together. The Beatles were all about peace and love and equality, which I think is something that we really need now. Everyone was really together when we were singing, and I thought that was really beautiful.

People who would like this show are people who like nostalgia, rock and roll, and community. I think that people should go see this show. It is so fun to be at and I loved it.

Photos: Richard Lovrich

Review of The House Theatre of Chicago's The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz. It was based on the story by L. Frank Baum. It was by Phillip Klapperich and it was directed by Tommy Rapley. It was about a young woman named Dorothy (Kara Davidson) who was trying to find what she wants to do with her life, gets blown away by a tornado, and meets a lot of new people who become her friends. She also makes some enemies that she will have to defeat to get home. It's about growing up, loss, and building relationships. I think this is a really great show. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry. Altogether, it's an awesome show.

I think that the visual aspects of the show were spectacular! The flying monkeys (Elana Elyce, Ben Hertel, Carlos Olmedo, and Tina Muñoz Pandya) were so awesome to watch and, at the same time, kind of terrifying. They would fly (choreography by Ryan Bourque) over the audience, and it was so cool! I also really liked the costumes (by Mieka van der Ploeg). I especially loved the witches' outfits. The Witch of the West's (Anji White) dress seemed like it was ripped and falling apart but still strangely beautiful, and the gloves were so awesome, and the way she moved her fingers in them added to the creepiness. Also I loved how Glinda (Amanda de la Guardia) looked so regal and the trees on her cape were so cool! Both of the witches had trees on their dresses, which I thought was really awesome. The Wicked Witch's dress looked more like roots, the part that doesn't get seen but does everything for the tree. And that might be the reason she became evil: that she had always been in the shadow of Glinda. I thought the boots Dorothy gets from the Witch of the East were so awesome because they answered a age-old question I always had: "Shouldn't there be blood on those shoes?" And the answer is: "Yes, there should be." It makes Dorothy look like so much more of a badass. I mean, Dorothy was already a badass in this show, but the boots just added to it. I also think that the puppets (designed by Jesse Mooney-Bullock) of the Kalidah, the crows, and the wolves are so cool. They looked like they were made from twine, and you can see the puppeteers inside the Kalidah. It's cool how you can see the actor using the puppet and emoting what the puppet is feeling.

I think that all of the main characters' monologues were so amazing because they really let you see what the characters were thinking. And that just made you love the characters more. I really loved Toto's (Joey Steakley) speech. It was so sweet and after this speech you absolutely adore him. You thought he was cute before, but now that you know what he is thinking, he is a more awesome and developed character. He was saying how much he loved Dorothy and how she rescued him from being killed because that's what they would've done to him if she hadn't adopted him. The Scarecrow's (Christine Mayland Perkins) speech was also really great. It was basically about how she had discovered that the Wizard of Oz (Benjamin Sprunger), the mayor of the munchkin land, and the man who had rescued them from a giant beast using a horn were all the same person. That kind of proves the Scarecrow really does have a brain. I thought that was hilarious because it acknowledged that the same actor was playing all of those parts. I think that's pretty funny. The Lion's (Michael E. Smith) speech almost made me cry. I can't tell you the reason why I was crying. You have to go see the show to find out. He was so upset and feels responsible for what had happened; that was really heartbreaking to watch. One of the speeches was not really a speech: it was a song. The song was sung by the Tin Woodsman (Jeremy Sonkin). It was about how he missed his old life when he could feel love. It was great how he got a band of Munchkins (Elyce, Hertel, Olmedo, and Pandya) to play the music for him. It was awesome.

There were a lot of very sweet and funny moments in this show. After Dorothy had been locked up by the Witch of the West, she got a mysterious phone call which happened to be from the Lion. No one ever knows how he got her number and called her, and I thought that that was absolutely hilarious. She asks him how he got her number, but he just says, "There's no time for questions," which basically avoids the question completely, but that makes it more hilarious. I think my favorite moment, which falls into the sweet moments category, was when the Tin Woodsman was saying goodbye to Dorothy. She says something along the lines of, "You have a heart now." And he says, "What if you're my heart?" And my heart just broke. I am going to have to go see the Wizard to get a new one. I ship Dorothy and the Tin Woodsman so much. Tinorothy for life.

This play is okay for kids, but it is not aimed at kids and some younger kids might get a little freaked out especially if they think they know what the story is going to be like. I think that parents should definitely go on the website and read the parent's guide because kids have different tolerances for sad things and darkness.

People who would like this show are people who like badass boots, actually flying monkeys, and mysterious lion phone calls. I think that people should definitely go and see this show. I think it is so fun, amazing, and dark. I loved it!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Friday, March 31, 2017

Review of Emerald City Theatre's The Wiz

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Wiz. It was adapted from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The book was by William F. Brown, with additional material by Tina Tippit. The music and lyrics were by Charlie Smalls. I saw another production of The Wiz and I really liked that one, but it was very different from this one. This one is more appropriate for younger children because it is much shorter and it has made some of the grown-up themes less prominent. It is about a girl named Dorothy (Isis Elizabeth) who has been swept away to a magical land where she meets new friends on her way home. I thought this was a really fun show. I think it is really great that they have a version of this wonderful musical aimed at children.

I went to see this show with a three-year-old friend and a fourteen-year-old friend and we were all rocking out to the Scarecrow (Leon Evans), Tinman (Jar'Davion Brown), and Lion (Miguel Long) songs. The Scarecrow was so clueless, but in a lovable way. I thought his dancing was really fun to watch; he does a bunch of acrobatic moves, which I thought were amazing. Even though the lyrics of his song "I Was Born on the Day Before Yesterday" are actually not always so happy, the song is still upbeat and the Scarecrow still seems to be content with parts of his life, if he could just get away from the crows. In a kids' production it might be kind of strange to have the Tinman be attracted to Dorothy, so they made the song "Slide Some Oil to Me" seem more friendzone-y. I think that was a really good idea. This Tinman still sang a great song, but it was more appropriate for kids. The Lion is such a fabulous, sassy character and his song "Mean Ole Lion" is so hilarious and amazing. The young child I went with seemed kind of freaked out until the Lion was done roaring, but then she became more comfortable during the song.

I thought that Glinda (Aziza Macklin) was fabulous. Her dress (costumes by Kate Kamphausen) was gorgeous as well as her singing. I also loved Dorothy's dress and her voice. I noticed that in this production they cast the same actor as Glinda and Aunt Em. So when Dorothy and Glinda meet at the end, the connection they have is kind of like Dorothy's with Aunt Em. I thought that was really sweet. In the Kokandy production they cast the same person as Aunt Em and Evilene. I think both of those choices make sense. I think seeing Aunt Em turn evil might be strange to a kid because a younger child looks up to their caretakers much more than a teenager does. But the choice makes sense for the Kokandy production to me because it is more about the teenage experience of going away from home and thinking that your mother figure is sometimes like the Wicked Witch of the West.

People who would like this show are people who like kid-friendly productions, lovable scarecrows, and friendzone tinmen. This is a super fun show to see with kids. I liked it a lot.

Photos: Austin D. Oie

Review of Born Ready at The Factory Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Born Ready. It was by Stacie Barra, and it was directed by Wm. Bullion. It was about a woman named Marion Kroft (Eleanor Katz) and she had been a child star and once she wasn't a child anymore she got her own variety show. One day a new dancer named Harriet (Clara Byczkowski) arrives and they find out she is very funny and has a lot of talent so they give her a part on the show. Over time, Marion and Harriet develop a meaningful friendship that shapes Marion into a better person and puts Harriet on the same path to fame that Marion was on before, which isn't completely a good thing. It is about what it is like being a woman in show business, chosen family, and the difference between t.v. and real life. I thought the show was really fun and an awesome look at t.v. shows in the 1950s.

I really liked the commercials. I thought it was funny how they were all strangely suggestive. I think my favorite ones were the one for cereal and the one for ladies' "body wash." The cereal one I thought was very funny because the dancers--Betty (Rachel Craig), Lois (Aimee Binder), Shirley (Libby Conkle), and Harriet--wore cereal boxes, which is not a very natural thing for dancers to wear. The announcer (Eric Roach) talked about having highly processed grains like it was a great thing, which it certainly isn't in this time and age right now. They had these fans they used for the commercial for feminine wash, and I found that very funny because they used the fans to make some very strange, but appropriate-for-what-I-think-they-were-selling, shapes. It was funny how the commercials would interrupt some of the most serious moments with a bit of hilarity. The commercials made you feel like you were actually there at Marion's show.

One of my favorite scenes was when Evelyn (Mandy Walsh) was first introduced. She was a reporter who basically spread all of the gossip about all the stars. She reminded me a lot of Rita Skeeter from the Harry Potter books. What is happening is that Harriet and Marion are being interview by Evelyn with Sam (Timothy C. Amos), Marion's husband, there for moral support. From the second Evelyn walks in you can tell that everyone else in the room absolutely hates her. But it is kind of like her fuel how much everyone hates her. I thought that it was really funny all the loathing glances that everyone in the scene would have towards each other. And also whenever they would have a sip of their drink, they would just give each other the most disgusted side-eye and I loved it so much.

Another scene I loved was the scene when Byron (Tim Newell), who was the television executive, was talking on the phone and his secretary Irma (Christy Arington) walked in and she just was so excited that the Christmas decorations had gotten in. And then she immediately goes into decorating mode, decorating his office without really caring about him being on the phone, but then once she tires to move his phone while he's talking on it for decor reasons, she feels super bad about it. I thought both of these characters were really hilarious. I loved how there was kind of this easter egg near the end where you see Irma smoking and not really giving a crap. I feel like she is saying "I've worked for this guy for years and I'm still working for him--I deserve a smoke." Basically the whole show is promoting smoking as a thing to clear your sinuses and relieve your stress. And Irma seems to have caught on to the trend.

Dottie (Allison Cain) was the costume lady and she basically raised Marion. She really seemed like the only completely sane person in the entire show. She seems to always be there for everyone, except if they get on her nerves. Then she'll put a pin in your costume. When Harriet starts acting like Marion, Marion turns into her Dottie. I really liked how this play was about women's relationships. I think there are some very sweet relationships in this show like Dottie and Marion and Harriet and Marion. But they are not just sweet; the relationships are also hard for them because when something goes wrong for one of them the other one feels like they need to help. Both of the relationships have changed by the end and it is really hard to see them change. I think it was good because it was heartbreaking and that made you feel closer to some characters and farther apart from others. I have to be vague because I don't want to give away the ending.

People who would like this show are people who like meaningful relationships between women, dancing cereal boxes, and Christmas decorations. I think that people should go this show. It is so much to fun to watch. There are so many great surprises in the show and I really liked it.

Photos: Michael Courier

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review of WildClaw Theatre's The Woman in Black

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Woman in Black. It was by Steven Mallatratt, based on the book by Susan Hill, and it was directed by Elly Green. It was about a man named Mr. Kipps (Robert Koon) who was trying to stop a curse that has been following him for years. So he hires an actor (Priyank Thakkar) to reenact Mr Kipps' past experiences. It is about facing your fears, paranormal activity, and terror. This is such a chilling show! I really loved it.

The first thing that you see is Mr. Kipps and the actor playing around with the first lines of the story that Mr. Kipps has written to help him overcome what the Woman in Black has done to him. The actor has come to teach him how to perform a compelling story. The first scene I think is quite funny because it is Mr. Kipps' first attempt at performing his story and he is reading it like it is A Christmas Carol. The actor is trying to get him to really perform the story and put his heart into it, but Mr. Kipps is scared to talk about this subject. Each time Kipps reads the first lines, it gets more cheesy and actor-ly, and I thought that was funny to see the actor who is coaching him get more and more annoyed with Kipps. But this isn't the plan they end up doing in the end because Mr. Kipps has the actor play Mr. Kipps as a young man and Mr. Kipps plays all of the people he meets along his journey. Mr. Kipps does end up being a good actor, maybe overdramatic at times because the people he is playing are dramatic. The play gets more intense as it goes on, so this first scene is vital because you get to see the relationship between Mr. Kipps and the actor before any of the creepy stuff starts happening.

There were a lot of really chilling moments. I saw the movie and I thought it was scary, but this was scarier because everything was so up-close. Whenever anything terrifying happened it felt like it could reach out and get you. I feel like the set (designed by John Wilson) added a lot to the entire experience. Even before you get into the theater you are slightly scared that something is going to jump out at you because there is this long corridor with red curtains and lamps and you don't know what is behind the red curtains. When you get into the theater you see all these mirrors and torn-up wallpaper and also a really old-fashioned stage and a door on the stage that looks very ominous for some reason--it just seems like something could come out of there or there is something you don't want to see behind that door. But the first time something really surprises you it is from behind you which is very unexpected and a good jump scare. Also they had a coat rack on stage that scared me sometimes because I thought it was a person. It gives you a short moment of thinking things are different than they are. And the mirrors reflect what is happening on stage, but sometimes you catch it out of the corner of your eye and you think that there is someone moving next to you. I thought the sound (designed by Sarah D. Espinosa) was really scary because it seemed to come from different part of the theater. It made you very alert. I thought it was super cool how they had gas lamps (lighting design by Emma Deane) around the stage and they would flicker occasionally, but not so often that you knew when it was coming which it made it all the better. I liked all the technical elements of this show; I thought they melded together very well to make a chilling experience.

One of my favorite moments was when the younger Mr. Kipps played by the actor was exploring the house and he walked into a room whose door had been locked the time before when he'd been there. And the door throws itself open and he sees a child's room and there is a rocking chair rocking back and forth. I loved this moment in the movie as well. I think it is so visually stimulating and just gives you goosebumps. It is so creepy because it takes something that you usually feel comfortable with and makes you not feel comfortable because it feels so empty. There is another point in the show where they use empty space but it does make you feel more comforted. They only use sound to represent a dog named Spider who is there to keep the younger Mr. Kipps company in the house. You know where the dog is because of where the actors are petting and looking and where the sound is coming from. You know the dog is adorable because of how much love Mr. Kipps is showing to Spider. The dog is very happy and energetic, but once anything paranormal starts happening it immediately goes into action mode and that is how you know something is happening. You kind of get a warning. You feel like the dog is protecting Mr. Kipps and you.

People who would like this show are people who like rocking chairs, invisible dogs, and being scared by coat racks. I think that people should definitely go see this show. It is super fun and creepy and I absolutely loved it.

Photos: Clark Bender

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Review of Route 66 Theatre Company's The Source

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Source. It was by Gabrielle McKinley and it was directed by Jason Gerace. It is about a man named Vernon (Cody Proctor) and a woman named Oona (Kristina Valada-Viars) who were both asked to go on a mission to meet with the source of leaked documents. They end up forming this bond over these days that they are together waiting for the source. It is about secrets, trust, and devotion. I thought this was a really awesome and interesting show. It was like a live suspense movie and I absolutely loved it.

I think the relationship between Oona and Vernon is very touching, but at the beginning it certainly isn't. They start out as enemies, but then they eventually become caring friends. I think that this is kind of of a traditional trope in spy stories and stories where people are trapped or stuck with each other. It wasn't predictable though because they played it for so long that they didn't really like each other. There weren't signs all around saying "They actually like each other." They really get to see who the other person is and then they start to like each other. It is believable because the acting, the directing, and the writing all work together to make a really intriguing and meaningful relationship. The way that their lines at the beginning kind of snap back and forth between each other make them seem witty but not too cruel to have a relationship after. The characters are exhilarated by their discussions, so they pick fights. So the fights become kind of a source for passing the time with playful human interaction. But they also talk about their own lives and what they think about them. It makes a very meaningful relationship that you are very invested in.

I think that this play is generally really intriguing and engaging. But I feel that it was sometimes unspecific. You never really know what they're trying to find out. The writer might have done this to make it up to the viewer what the subject of the papers is. It makes it slightly discombobulating for me to have the people in the story know what is going on but not me. As they discover things, the audience doesn't always get told what the content of the discovery is. The play is about the relationship between the two characters, of course, so not having the specifics makes the audience focus more on that. I think that relationship is a really great one to watch, but I really wanted to know everything about the papers and the source too.

Suspense is a very big factor in this show because the entire time there was the looming presence of someone unknown. Sometimes the writer and director build up the tension right until you say, well I guess nothing is going to happen, and then they get you. My response was jumping up in my seat and trying to keep from screaming. Some people would curl up in their seats and hold on so no one could take them away. And some people would actually scream. I thought it was really fun and funny to watch and also to get scared so many times right when you let down your guard. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I've never been so scared of a Rubik's Cube in my life. You are interested in the relationship so much that you kind of forget that they could be killed at any moment, and then when you are reminded of it, it is even more terrifying because you've grown to love the characters even more than you did before. I think the ending is actually beautifully choreographed and terrifying because at this moment there is no one that you can see on stage and then one mysterious thing happens and then another and then the lights go out without you really understanding, but that is what makes you think about it a lot later.

People who would like this show are people who like developing relationships, suspense, and scary Rubik's Cubes. I think people should definitely go see this show. I think it is an awesome experience and I really loved it.

Photos: Rob Zalas

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Review of Kokandy Productions' The Wiz

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Wiz. The book was by William F. Brown and the music was by Charlie Smalls. It was directed by Lili-Anne Brown. The music director was Jimmy Morehead and it was choreographed by Breon Arzell. It was based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. It was about a girl named Dorothy (Sydney Charles) who was blown away from her home town to a new land called Oz. She meets many strange people and things along her way back home. It's about journeys, being happy with yourself, and home. I think this is a super fun and amazing show. I'm so glad I got to see it!

I really loved the song "Ease On Down the Road." I've already listened to it many times since I've seen the show! I've been rocking out in my room. I am even listening to it while I'm writing this review! It was super funny when Lion (Chuckie Benson) had just joined the group of Dorothy, Scarecrow (Gilbert Domally), and Tinman (Steven Perkins), and he started trying to dance the dance that everyone had been doing for the first two incarnations of this song. He was just kind of stumbling around looking at everyone else's feet, which would be anybody trying to do this because they wouldn't have had any time to learn this dance. I guess he was not easing on down the road--more like awkwardly sliding down the road in a hilarious way It was poking fun at the magic that usually happens in a musical when someone just learns a dance with no practice. I think what made it especially funny was how this entire play was generally very magical, but when the Lion started not knowing the dance, that broke a convention. The show kind of says to the audience, "You thought we were going to do that again, but nope!"

The witches and wizards were hilarious! I thought that every single one of them had such a different personality. Some were girly; some were evil; some were doing drag, and some seemed just really high. The first time any of them entered the room they had so much flair! For example, when the Wiz (Frederick Harris) entered, it was with a cloud of smoke--literally. When he walked on stage he had like this Beyoncé walk where he put one foot in front of each other, but just elongated it as much as he could before he took the next step. Also Glinda's (Anna Dauzvardis) wig looked a lot like Nicki Minaj's, and she was generally fabulous looking! She seemed like a perfect beauty queen. I thought it was so funny when Addaperle (Angela Alise) walked on stage so wobbly. With those shoes I wouldn't have blamed her, but she also seemed intoxicated in some way, shape, or form. So was the rest of her fan club! And last, but not least, Evillene (Nicole Michelle Haskins). She was just flawless but so evil. And really dehydrated...get it? Her song "Don't Nobody Bring Me No Bad News" was so fabulous and she also kind of terrified me at the same time, which was appropriate for the character.

I really loved the four heroes: Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion. Each has a theme song that is insanely memorable. I really loved "I'm a Mean Ole Lion" which was basically trying to scare everyone away, but instead it made everyone in the audience absolutely adore the Lion. It is so full of attitude, but by the time the song ends you see he is as scared as anyone else. I think you learn a lot about the Lion in this song or at least what he pretends to be. Also the Tinman had a pretty amazing song, "Slide Some Oil to Me." It was very slick (haha) and jazzy. He was clearly a player. He seemed to be flirting with Dorothy. I think that's really funny because the Scarecrow seemed pretty defensive about how the Tinman was coming on to Dorothy. "You Can't Win" was the Scarecrow's song. It was about basically how in any situation there is no good outcome. It sounds like a pretty depressing song, but it isn't. It is a very peppy- and upbeat-sounding song, even though they are singing about how everything sucks. Dorothy and the Scarecrow had this really cute bit. The Scarecrow was talking about saving up for a brain, and Dorothy had to break it to him that you can't buy a brain. But I guess later he does get a "brain" but he gets it for free! Great deal! Dorothy had a really gorgeous song called "Home" and her voice is absolutely beautiful. It was about how hopefully if time slows down enough she'll be able to take things in and as a result be happy with her life. I think that is a really good message and it is a really beautiful song.

People who would like this show are people who like magic roads, player Tinmen, and wobbly witches. I think this is a amazing show it was so much fun to watch. I absolutely loved it!

Photos: Michael Brosilow

Friday, March 17, 2017

Review of Filament Theatre's The Van Gogh Cafe at Fannie's Cafe

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Van Gogh Cafe. It was adapted by Andrew J. Lampl from the book by Cynthia Rylant. It was directed by Julie Ritchey. Menu development was by Chef Tony Golec and Stephanie Rybandt. It was about a cafe in Flowers, Kansas, run by Clara (Aissa Guerra) and her dad Marc (Les Rorick), where a lot of very strange occurrences happen. It is about family, how food brings us together, and magic. The interesting thing about this show is it was basically dinner theater where the dinner was centered around the events and food in the play. I thought this was a really fun show. I think it is a great outing for the whole family and I really liked it.

I thought the food was very delicious. I was surprised that it was because usually the theater is the main selling point in dinner theater. But in this case they were both equally good! The first course was a veggie muddle which was basically potatoes and other vegetables in a creamy cheesy garlic sauce. I think that was delicious. The lemon meringue pie was absolutely scrummy (as Mary Berry would say). It was very tangy and it was very firm, which was good becauseI don't like runny pies. The crust was really good and crisp and flaky. All five courses were tasty, but I think my favorite was the blueberry muffin, though I did have a problem with the size. They said in the story they were supposed to be mini. But I did see a preview so they may have changed the size since then. I thought the muffin was very delicious. I had to bring some of mine home because I can't eat too much in a short period of time, and they were still good the next morning. When I finished it I was sorry there wasn't more. "Why?!" I shouted to the blueberry muffin gods!

I thought that the "Lightning Strike" scene was hilarious but kind of dramatic because Marc got struck by lightning, but apparently the lightning was very artistic lightning and it made him want to write a bunch of poems. He writes these poems that seem to tell the future, like he wrote one for a woman (Lindsey Dorcus) about yellow flowers and then later she got yellow flowers from an admirer (Rejinal Simon). And because of the lighting strike the kitchen starts cooking for itself, which was a lucky thing because we got the delicious lemon meringue pie out of that.

Another element that I really liked was how they used direct address. I am not usually a really big fan of direct address but this time I thought that the whole experience was already so inclusive of the audience that it was actually a really good idea. At the beginning of the story, Judy Jones (Kristina Loy) was right behind us and would touch our chairs and talk directly to us, which I thought was really cool because it made you feel like you really were at the Van Gogh Cafe. I think if this had been a production on a regular stage, I would not have liked this element so much because it would have seemed artificial, but in this case it was welcome. Another thing near to the beginning that I liked was how they gave out animal ears to people so they could play the stray animals that had come to get food. I had already come adorned in puffball ears and my dad got to play a dog which was a hilarious moment in my life because I don't think I've ever seen him in public wearing dog ears, though I think it suited him very well!

My favorite scene was "The Silent Star." I thought that it was really heartwarming. A silent film star (Simon) has come to the Van Gogh Cafe because it is in a former theater that he used to perform in. Marc has been a fan of this star for years and they have a very long conversation about his movies, which you don't get to hear. I would have liked to have heard more of that conversation because I am very interested in silent movies and I love them. Then we get to the kind of sad part which is where the silent star dies because he has come there where he started his career to end his career. And now he gets to be reunited in death with his friend (Alex Ireys)--or maybe more than a friend--who had also performed with him a long time ago. And they started waltzing together which I thought was very sweet. I thought this scene was a nice change from the light nature of most of the other scenes.

People who would like this show are people who like artistic lightning, silent movie stars, and lemon meringue pie. I think this is a really really fun show. I thought it had great food and a great story and I really enjoyed it.

Photos: Filament Theatre